Clifton property development alarms residents

Cape Argus: Tuesday May 19, 2015

Plans for the sale of prime municipal land in Clifton – including the sites of the Glen Country Club and Bungalow restaurant – to a private sector developer are at an "advanced stage", but there will still be opportunities for affected communities to comment before a tender process is finalised.

The city wants to sell or lease portions of four erven in Clifton for an underground parking garage, a residential village with a boutique hotel and a commercial space with an anchor retail tenant, while also mooting upgrades to recreational and sport facilities in the area.

But the project has been slammed by residents and lobby groups in the area who are concerned that the proposed developments could be detrimental to Clifton.

Janey Ball of action group Clifton Organised said the draft conceptual framework published in February was somewhat vague. Soon after the deadline for submissions on April 4, a full mayoral committee meeting was convened on site on Friday.

"It seems clear that this development process is being driven through the corridors of the city with great haste and it is extremely worrying that council, at this early stage, is being asked, at month-end, to grant inprinciple approval for the sale of certain portions of the land."

Ball said the "impetus" for the development was the refurbishment of the garages at Clifton. But now residents are being asked to consider a development that will include 40 bungalows, 880 parking bays and a boutique hotel on the legally protected Clifton Scenic Reserve. "The approach we are taking is in no way intended to be obstructive nor are we anti-development. We simply wish to be part of a transparent process that considers all inputs. "We are also mindful of the privileged position our community enjoys and mindful too of the city's need to optimise returns on all possible investments. Accordingly we are committed to working with the city to achieve a 'win-win' situation from which all parties can emerge content," said Ball.

During the public participation process earlier this year, objectors complained that the proposed sale of this prime Atlantic Seaboard land would deprive residents of the free use of this valuable coastal asset. There were also concerns about the impact of the development on a protected heritage site.

Many of the 90 comments lodged during this public comment period related to whether the city had followed proper planning processes.

One resident noted: "Why is the mayor fast-tracking and driving the sale of land used freely and for over a century by families from across the Cape Peninsula for the benefit of a private developer who is behind the scenes and unnamed?"

The Bungalow Owners' Association said on its website: "We believe the statutory process has not been properly followed – except for the Municipal Finance Management Act 56/2003 and the council's bylaw relating to the Management and Administration of the City of Cape Town's Immovable Property published on February 28, 2003 Section 4 – no feasibility studies have been carried out, and no market research conducted as yet. The reported land values are, in our opinion, completely understated."

Another objector said: "It would be a short-term, completely unsustainable project which would ruin the long-standing attractiveness, sustainability and tourism in one of the most popular and beautiful areas in our country."

There were also concerns about traffic congestion in the area.

But speaking at yesterday's Subcouncil 16 meeting, Clifton's ward councillor Jacques Weber took pains to assure affected residents and other associations that their concerns would be considered before any plans were finalised.

"This is just one of a few stages of public participation. Development in this area is needed and welcomed."

Subcouncil chair Demetri Qually said: "This is a major development that will require the creative and participative involvement of all stakeholders. People don't want to see a significant asset disappear."

The erven in question are currently being used by restaurants and sports clubs, and as parking lots. One of these establishments is the Glen Country Club, which the city has described as a "run-down eyesore in this prestigious coastal precinct".

In the report considered at the subcouncil meeting, Neil Eybers of the city's finance directorate said the precinct upgrade project had initially focused on the redevelopment of the Clifton garages located next to the public parking area for Clifton's fourth beach.

But this "footprint" was expanded following an internal decision that the whole precinct would benefit from an upgrade that would inject "much-needed investment" into the area. This decision forms the basis of the draft development framework.

"Other problems and challenges in the precinct relate to safety and security, limited public access to the coast, insufficient parking for visitors to the area, the lack of a precinct identity and opportunities for further private sector investment," said Eybers.

The sale or lease of the land will be done through a competitive process and the successful bidder or bidders will have to work within the approved design framework.

Portions of the residential properties will be sold, while the management of the sports facilities will remain the responsibility of the clubs, he said.

The report referred to the "rationalisation" of the active recreational facilities in the precinct, including the potential development of a covered bowls green, and upgrades to the cricket oval and tennis courts, Maiden's Cove picnic area and the inclusion of a walkway along the coastal edge. The project will possibly include the relocation of the Bungalow restaurant, formerly known as La Med.

Eybers said all other city policies, such as the scenic drive policy, would be considered during the approval process, and residents would again have an opportunity to comment.

The city would also invite affected parties to comment on an updated map and plan for the area in the next 10 days.

Once council has approved the sale or lease of the properties, the urban design framework will be presented to affected parties for comment. When this is finalised, the city will call for tenders for the sale, lease or development of the facilities in accordance with the design framework. The successful bidder will need to get the necessary statutory approvals for the developments.

Eybers said the council would derive "significant financial benefit" in the form of the sales price and lease income, as well as the rates and taxes. It's been reported that the sale could be worth about R100 million. The council-owned garages will be redeveloped by the private sector at no cost to the city.


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