De Waterkant residents claim city officials, developers make life hell
(This article was published on 22 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Residents in wealthy De Waterkant village are battling to get a property developer’s sympathy, protesting that a proposed building will negatively impact on their lives.
De Waterkant is on the border of central Cape Town, right next to Bo Kaap, and its heritage properties along cobble streets are sought after.
But it also contested space as property developers seeking financial returns are maximising whatever land they find by using it for multi-use complexes, such as Cape Quarter on Somerset Road.
De Waterkant residents Deon Redman and Krisjan Rossouw, who own a property right opposite a proposed Tower Asset Managers (TAM) property on Napier Street, say encroaching developments are making their lives hell.
TAM owns the Cape Quarter building and plans to add more apartments to this building opposite Redman’s semi-detached house.
Redman said they were made aware of the proposed 28-metre high building only when they saw pictures of it.
He said residents who move into the new apartments “will be living my life with me”.
“They will be looking into my house. It’s a total loss of privacy,” said Redman.
The new building would also block any views he may have left from his house.
Apart from building up, TAM confirmed it would also create parking areas underground, meaning excavating under their neighbour’s properties.
“It’s being developed to the absolute maximum,” said Redman.
He said squashing more people into De Waterkant would add to existing congestion as the “streets can’t cope with the traffic”.
“We have shops and offices in the area. The parking underground is already not enough for the people who work here. Now they want to build 57 new apartments,” said Redman.
Gary de Klerk, who has lived in De Waterkant for 24 years, said they were “very concerned about the height, bulk and size of the building”.
“Construction while it is happening will also affect residents,” said De Klerk.
“We are concerned that the area’s heritage is not being respected. The City of Cape Town is letting this go ahead too quickly and smoothly. It’s as if they are just allowing objections but it’s already a done deal.”
Another resident, Francesco Uys Rootenberg who owns various properties in the area, said city officials have shrunk the De Waterkant’s original Heritage Protection Overlay Zone to “exclude areas targeted for development”.
“De Waterkant is one of the last authentic areas of the city that has not been desecrated. It’s a place that attracts people. It’s a heritage and economic asset,” said Uys Rootenberg.
“It has small streets. It can’t have this massive infrastructure around it.”
Uys Rootenberg accused city officials of “applying the rules case-by-case instead of looking at the bigger picture”.
“I don’t think the officials care. I would challenge them on the vision we have for Cape Town to make it more livable. They need to create livable neighbourhoods,” he said.
“People in big apartment blocks don’t know their neighbours. We know our neighbours and we speak to each other in the street.
“They should respect the neighbouhood and put a building there that will fit in with it.”
Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the city’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, did not offer a lengthy response to queries and concerns raised.
“Due process is being followed and the matter is yet to appear before council for decision,” he said.
“The application has been advertised for public participation and the closing date for comments was 20 May 2016 (Friday).”
TAM meanwhile said it too was playing by the rulebook. It said the building would be “primarily residential units above the existing mixed-use building already consisting of retail, restaurants and offices and which will have minimal interventions”.
It said a “public meeting was held where stakeholders could express their opinion on the development”.
“This part of De Waterkant is dominated by offices and the addition of residential units will create a friendlier, safer neighbourhood particularity at night time,” it added.
“Tower sees this node as an exciting growth node in the Western Cape and is planning on investing a further R300m on its properties to the benefit of its shareholders and the community.”