Not in my back yard to Yes in my back yard

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Biz Property - Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in prop­erty de­vel­op­ment. He is the group chair­man of Bukit Kiara Prop­er­ties. For feed­back, email [email protected]­ Food for thought ALAN TONG [email protected]­

SIXTY years ago, while I was study­ing in the Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney, I read an ar­ti­cle in the press of a lady liv­ing at Red­fern, a sub­urb just after Cen­tral Sta­tion, com­plain­ing about a pro­posed high-rise de­vel­op­ment op­po­site her ter­race house.

“I have stayed here for the last 50 years. Now you want to build build­ings here which will block my views.”

Be­cause of such com­plaints, the then city coun­sel­lors ac­ceded to her de­mand.

Red­fern be­came a semi-slum over time de­spite be­ing lo­cated within 3 km from the city cen­tre. In­stead of Red­fern, peo­ple were com­pelled to live fur­ther away from the city, even­tu­ally even in Par­ra­matta, which is lo­cated 30 km or 40 km away from Syd­ney. Red­fern should have be­come part of the cen­tral zone in Syd­ney, just like our KL Sen­tral is to Kuala Lumpur City.

To­day, Red­fern is fi­nally catch­ing up with de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, the pre­vi­ous re­stric­tion has ham­pered its growth. To­day, it is too dif­fi­cult in some cases to pull down old low-rise build­ings for re­de­vel­op­ment.

The NIMBY (Not in my back yard) think­ing dis­played by the old lady men­tioned above was one of the main rea­sons for Red­fern’s de­cline into a slum back then.

As­sum­ing that there is no pop­u­la­tion growth in the city, then not de­vel­op­ing the city would be fine. If how­ever the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing, the city will also need to grow.

This re­minds me of the feed­back and dif­fer­ence of opin­ions to­wards the Kuala Lumpur City Plan (KLCP) 2020 gazetted on Oct 30.

The first draft of the KLCP 2020 came about in 2008. It was fur­ther en­hanced from ideas that came about from the se­ries of World Class Sus­tain­able Cities (WCSC) In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ences held every year since 2009 and co-or­gan­ised jointly by the Real Es­tate & Hous­ing De­vel­op­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (Re­hda), Malaysian In­sti­tute of Plan­ners (MIP), and Malaysian In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects (PAM).

The pur­pose of the con­fer­ence was to help plan­ning au­thor­i­ties, de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als, Res­i­dents Asso­ciations and the gen­eral pub­lic un­der­stand best city prac­tices around the world.

From the ideas and con­cepts pre­sented, KL de­vel­oped the River of Life project, en­hanced MRT net­works, cov­ered walk­ways, bi­cy­cle lanes, and other plans to lead the city de­vel­op­ment. KLCP 2020 was fi­nalised in 2012. Un­for­tu­nately, it was not gazetted by the pre­vi­ous regime.

The new Fed­eral Ter­ri­to­ries Min­is­ter was then left to make the tough call to gazette the KLCP 2020 now in or­der to pre­pare for the KLCP 2040.

The min­is­ter con­firmed that there are gaps in the cur­rent plan and so­lu­tions to rec­tify these gaps would be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion in the draft KLCP 2040, which will kick off and hope­fully be gazetted be­fore 2020.

No plan is ever per­fect. The City Plan is that way too as it has to take into ac­count the many stake­hold­ers with dif­fer­ing views. If ev­ery­one’s de­mands are to be sat­is­fied, the plan would likely never be gazetted. The min­is­ter and plan­ners of the day must be given the man­date to take care of the greater good of the city.

If we want a city to grow, we need to cater to its fu­ture needs. The story of Red­fern serves as a good les­son on how not to do it.

It is al­ways ex­pen­sive for a city to sprawl and will surely de­stroy more green space. When we clear green lungs for de­vel­op­ments out­side of the cur­rent city area, the new pop­u­la­tion will have to stay in the city fringes.

How­ever, when they travel by car to their work­place in the city, it trig­gers traf­fic jams and leads to a mas­sive loss of pro­duc­tive time. As and when the city ex­pands to ab­sorb more green lungs, the vi­cious cir­cle will re­play it­self.

Let’s look at Hong Kong. De­spite be­ing one of the cities with the high­est pop­u­la­tion den­sity in the world, it is blessed to have more than 75% green­ery.

Due to its’ moun­tain­ous ter­rain and rocky ad­join­ing is­lands, Hong Kong has only de­vel­oped 23.7% of its to­tal land mass. The 76.3% which is dif­fi­cult to de­velop on has re­mained green.

Of the de­vel­oped land, only 6.8% or 76 sq km is used for res­i­den­tial pur­poses to house a pop­u­la­tion of seven mil­lion.

Spe­cial at­ten­tion should be given to its high-den­sity de­vel­op­ment and ex­cel­lent pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem, all of which have brought im­pres­sive growth and vi­brancy to this modern city. The city re­mains one of the green­est cities in the world be­cause of its ver­ti­cal ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment.

High-rise res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in Hong Kong were built with­out spread­ing too far from the city cen­tre. They are also placed near trans­porta­tion hubs and com­mer­cial ar­eas for ease of mo­bil­ity.

The Hong Kong city model should serve as an in­spi­ra­tion to our own city plan. No one plan is for all. There will al­ways be many opin­ions but a de­ci­sion must be made to ef­fect the plan so as not to sti­fle growth.

Any city plan should cater for long-term growth. How­ever, the de­tails can be re­viewed along the way. We need to cater for growth in a more sen­si­ble and sus­tain­able way.

As men­tioned ear­lier, we should bal­ance the views of in­di­vid­u­als against the greater good of a city. It is time to change our think­ing from NIMBY to YIMBY (Yes in my back yard) to­wards de­vel­op­ments that will cater for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

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