OCA comments on the Table Bay district plan

To the Table Bay District Plan Officer 

City of Cape Town  



District SDF Comment: For the Table Bay Planning District  

The Observatory Civic Association welcomes the opportunity to comments on the Draft Table Bay District Plan 2021.  

  1. By way of commencing our comments, we refer to two other submissions: 
  •  The submission of the Two Rivers Urban Park Association whose submission draws attention to contradiction in the way the District Plan provides for development of the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) itself and the lack of time available to make meaningful input, and there requesting more time to submit comments. We support the TRUPA submission and believe that this process of developing a District Plan require more consultation, as we explain below. There are too many contradictions within the plan and some key gaps which warrant another round of consultation which we expect the City to undertake in terms of its mandate under the Municipal Services Act.  
  • The submission by the Observatory Improvement District, which sets out a number of issues and concerns. As we explain in our comments below, we broadly support most of these inputs, but not all. We attach as Annexure 1 the points on which we support the OBSID’s positions.  


  1. Our general concerns with the Plan are related to the following: 
  • There are material contradictions between different parts of the plan which require more explanation, refinement and revision. We explain these areas of contradiction below.DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 2  
  • There are important information gaps in the plan. In particular, the plan makes no reference to three heritage applications in process with regard to the Two Rivers Urban Park, all three of which will have major bearing on what the District Plan for the area should be for the future. We believe the omission of this information is serious flaw to the plan and is part of the reason why further consultation is needed. For example, it is absurd to be thinking about planning for a precinct that may, in a year or two’s time, be declared a National Heritage Resource or a UNESCO Heritage Resource.  
  • Thirdly, the technical report makes only ONE mention of spatial justice throughout the plan. We believe, therefore, that the emphasis on technical efficiency and compliance with the law is insufficient in the sense that a plan has to speak to the lived experiences of residents of Cape Town and the area and the values they hood. We believe the values that should inform the plan are not evident and there is no description, for example, of how the vision for the Table Bay district was arrived at, nor whether the experience of communities informed that vision.  


  1. The concept of the Urban Inner Core is described in the plan but appears to be assumed to be homogenous in its application which is not the case – while investment is encouraged within the Urban Inner Core, any development in those areas must be consistent with other policies. That is not made clear in the plan and opens the opportunity for misinterpretation of the Urban Inner Core concept, as we haveexperiended. 


  1. Page 26; para 3.2: The District Spatial Vision is elaborated with an emphasis on technical criteria that are easily measurable. For example, it appears that the “needs” imagined in the Vision statement are material needs (transit, economic opportunities, real estate) whereas the questions of identity and belonging are invisible in this vision. It is not clear to us how the consultation process happened, nor led to this statement since it is heavily slanted to the technical requirements of municipal law. It does not mention spatial justice, restorative justice nor peace building, for example, all elements that one might expect to see in aCitycommitted to redress and inclusivity.  


  1. Page 28; Para 4.1: We agree that areas such as Langa, Kensington andFacretonare parts of the district requiring special investment as part of a commitment to equity. Such investment needs to avoid the problems associated with gentrification that have plagued investments in the Salt River and Woodstock areas.  


  1. It is unclear what “proactive measures to avoid gentrification” (Para page 29) will be included in the district plan when it appears to provide no tools for such measures. In fact, the reliance on the UDZ, for example, might well exacerbate gentrification. It would be helpful to see some tools provided that will counter or prevent gentrification. 


  1. Para page 29: The Plan proposes as a general principle, theprioritisationof brownfield developments over greenfield developments for good reasons. However, the general principle is DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 3 not carried through in the rest of the plan, since, for example, a focus is made on TRUP (a greenfield site) as a Strategic development site for mix-use development whereas the plan made no mention of the Ndabeni land owned by the City (brownfield) as a Strategic development site. This is one of a number of inconsistencies in the plan.  


  1. Para The Plan refers to ‘social justice goals’ which theCitycan advance, but it is unclear what is meant by such social justice goals other than housing delivery. For example, providing better protections for people living on the street is also an important social justice goals but not the same as incremental housing development. Recognising heritage and cultural identity linked to the indigenous Khoi people is also a social justice goal but not cited in the plan. We think a much more expansive recognition of how social justice, spatial justice and equity is required in this plan. It is not just about providing more houses for poor people, important as that objective is.  


  1. The Two Rivers Urban Park is mentioned in multiple places throughout the plan as it should be since it is a key feature of the urban landscape for the district. However, it is evident that the Plan is (a) not consistent in how it treats the TRUP; (b) incomplete in the informants needed to plan for any development; (c) does not take into account any of the previous planning processes undertaken through theCityfor the TRUP. As a result, the way in which the TRUP is included in the plan is extremely problematic. We therefore believe the plan needs a lot more consultation to ensure a coherent and credible framework for how the TRUP is dealt with in the plan.  
  • Firstly, there is a Provincial and a National Heritage grading process underway for the TRUP, which is not mentioned in the plan. Any development in the TRUP (such as articulated in para as “Two Rivers precinct will need attention to determine current capacity and future demand for public facilities and green open spaces. These facilities will need to be optimised to take account of land scarcity” and “ensuring multifunctional high-quality spaces provided amenity where densities are continuing to increase.”) cannot proceed from scratch as if there is no heritage grading involved in the area. The area is also slated for nomination as a UNESCO Heritage Site and for inclusion in the Presidential Heritage project, the Khoisan National Liberation Trail.  
  • Secondly, in the 2012 district plan, the TRUP was included as an urban destination, but is now removed from being listed as such (see, for example, Figure 9 where the TRUP is no longer evident and Table 9 where TRUP is not mentioned as an Urban destination place). However, Paragraph notes the importance of supporting tourisms and enhancing destination places and heritage resources. Moreover, the development guidelines in table 9 on page 77 speak to supporting development of places which will promote and enhance tourism and recreation. Since TRUP is eminently a place with unique identity and important heritage assets (as confirmed in the TR LSDP HIA process by Heritage Western Cape), and since TRUP is in line for provincial, national, and potentially UNESCO recognition, we are puzzled as to why the District Plan omits TRUP as a destination site. DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 4  
  • Similarly, many of the provisions of paragraphs to speak to the importance of green infrastructure, open space management and restoration and protection of riverine corridors and biodiversity areas; Similarly, Table 10 recognises TRUP as part of a green corridor; similarly, the development objectives and supporting guidelines on page 120 identify the importance of enhancing ecologically sensitive areas and historically significant sites. Table 5 of the Implementation Plan (page 28) clearly identifies TRUP as an environmental priority area. However, Table 11 page 94 frames TRUP as an area for Catalytic land development. The guidelines for such areas include support for a high intensity of mixed-use development. This is not compatible with the provisions relating to green infrastructure. Moreover, if the City is still retaining the idea of an “ecological system stretching from Table bay to False Bay”, that coast-to-coast green strip, as stated on page 120, then it is unclear how this intensified development of TRUP can be compatible with these guidelines.  
  • Moreover, the guideline on page 83 refers to existing site development plans for these precincts. It is striking that no mention is made in the Plan of the City’s co-design process which generated a Manifesto for TRUP which framed how development might be suitably accommodated given the importance of green infrastructure. We believe this is a major gap in the plan and should be revisited. We have included the TRUP Manifesto as Annexure 2 and the Planning documents are available from the Province and a presentation available in this link.  
  • The narrative on the Special Development area, also fails to recongise the TRUP as having a significant footprint within a Conservation and Biodiversity priority zone and much of the Black and Liesbeek River Corridors as Ecological support areas as outlined in Table 2 of the Technical Report. These classification impose much more restrictions on what development is permitted than what is envisaged in the development of Strategic Site where TRUP is listed (Page 125 Para For example, for a Conservation and Biodiversity priority zone, tourism and biodiversity conservation is considered reasonable but even then is preferably located in a buffer zone outside the support area. However, a strategic site encourages increased density and bulk, a mix of land uses which may be quite incompatible with other policy directives.  
  • We also note a commitment to ‘rehabilitate the Liesbeek and Black River Systems … to improve ecological functioning and recreational opportunities.” In that regard, a study by Delft University researchers specifically examined how the Liesbeek River to the West of the River Club can be exactly rehabilitated to improve ecological functioning and recreational opportunities. Our submissions of this report in the River Club EA process and the appeals against the EA and the site’s rezoning appear to have been completely ignored by the planners, so we are submitting this to the District Plan process to point out how, given the importance of rehabilitating natural rivers, it makes no sense to infill a river.DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 5  


  1. In general, the Plan appears to limit heritage to mostly tangible heritage. In a number of places, the importance of Open Space as a heritage signifier appears lost. For example, the connections between river and mountain are mentioned but not the importance of open space visual connection to the mountains which are an important aspect of the TRUP environment. 


  1. The Plan does not give adequate guidance as to how to resolve conflicts between completing principles. For example, Para, in encouraging a more compact for of development, make the point that green infrastructure that supports climate resilience and provides ecosystems goods and services should not be compromised by development but in the same section, also argues that higher residential densities should be promoted. This is a potential conflict and the plan gives not guidance on how this should be resolved. In practice, we have seen that where Environmental Management officials have argued against a particular development precisely because of the need to preserve green infrastructure for climate resilience and provision of ecosystems goods and services, their comments were ignored infavourof arguments related to densification. The Plan will be toothless if it continues to allow such discretion in planning processes.  


  1. We are puzzled somewhat about Table 2 which lists only the Salt and Black Rivers as associated with wetlands. Since theLiesbeekand Black Rivers are intimately connected and the 2012 Planning regarded their maintenance as co-dependent, we are surprised it is not part of the Environmental Management guidelines for River Wetlands and their associated buffers.  


  1. Note on page 64, the national heritage sites listed in Table 2 omits the South African Astronomical Observatory. 


  1. The discussion on Transport-Oriented Development is extensive in Table 5. However, as is clear in the table, intensification of land use along these sections is appropriate only if consistent with other policy guidelines. With reference to the Berkeley Road extension contained in the plan, we wish to draw the City’s attention to the fact that the confluence of the Black andLiesbeekRivers, which is in close proximity to the likely extension is a site of high heritage importance for the Khoi. Moreover, original Vaarschedrift crossing is in the vicinity and this is also an important element of intangible heritage. However, none of this heritage importance is mentioned in the plan. For example, the development objective on page 120 for the Berkley Rd extension make no mention of the heritage implications. While the Berkeley Rd extension may have been a strategic intention of the City and its planners for some time, the facts of the matter are that the declaration of a national Khoisan Liberation route in the vicinity and national and provincial heritage status will require any such extension to be subjected to very careful evaluation. It is therefore not a given even if it is a policy intention. Moreover, since there is no stated plan to extend IRT transport through the Berkley Rd extension, it will be road carrying almost entirely private vehicles. It is unclear whether that will achieve the policy intention of the transport grid when better public transport is essentially the only sustainable option for expanding our transport systems. A busy flyover surmounting a critically important heritage site is not a desired outcome of socially just or spatially just city planning. DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 6  


  1. We welcome the commitment to Non-Motorisedtransport but as many of our members can attest, the current NMT system is not safe or reliable for cyclists to use in theCity. We do hope that a meaningful NMT system can be effected for the District.  


  1. On page 74 in table 6, we note the proposal for home occupation and micro-enterprise promotion along Lower Main Rd in Observatory. The Civic would welcome such support from theCityto build small businesses as it would support for informal traders (page 75). We would like to engage the City and get support from the City to do so.  


  1. On Page 130, table, Spatial development objectives related to the Observatory/Salt River/TRUP area speak to improving the public realm in support ofquality builtenvironment. As an objective this is good but the supporting guidelines fail to mention the importance of heritage protection and the HPOZ as a planning tool. In our experience, there have been multiple approvals of developments by the city that have harmed the historic fabric and residential character principally because of the discretion given to planning officials when balancing different policies – the HPOZ appears to have no teeth in this regard – this is a serious problem unrecognised in the District Plan. It is important that if a quality built environment is intended, then the HPOZ and the heritage inputs of City officials needs to be given greater emphasis. Otherwise, this objective is simply words on paper. Protecting the historic fabric and residential character of Observatory is a laudable objective and one we ardently support but the table provide no supporting guideline that is enforceable – which should be the HPOZ.  


  1. Further, with respect to supporting medium-risk and medium to high residential densities in relation to transit oriented development page 119), we can agree that it is sensible. But we have not seen such densities being supported along major transport corridor but large building inserted well into the heart of Observatory with no obvious attention to these criteria. 


  1. There are various strategies proposed to ‘persuade’ private developers to contribute to public goals. While in principle this is an important objective, we have some concerns about the feasibility and appropriateness of some of these strategies. 
  • For example, the plan that private developments would be ‘encouraged’ to provide SMMR/informal trading spaces (page 119) appears to be completely wishful thinking unless supported by some kind of enforcement or incentive. The behaviour of developers in Observatory has been entirely self-serving and we doubt that anything more than a minority would consider such a provision unless forced to do so or unless it was in their self-interest;  
  • In that regard, we do not think that the UDZ is a particularly useful incentive mechanism. It has been used in Observatory to encourage relatively wealthy first time buyers to DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 7 obtain tax relief to purchase high end apartment in development which provide no injection of affordable housing stock for Cape Town. Reliance on the UDZ to achieve redress or spatial justice is misinformed. The UDZ should be radically restructured to take away the incentive that allows the rich or the relatively rich to get richer.  
  • There are no guidelines for how much inclusive housing must be present in high end developments; and there is no enforcement capacity. So, the ‘encouragement’ of affordable housing provision again appears wishful thinking unless there is some accountability or enforcement or penalty.  
  • On page 40 of the Implementation Plan, it is suggested that developers should be subsidised through awarding developers additional rights in the form increased height and bulk. This is, in essence a subsidy of private developers to comply with a policy and it is local communities who are being asked to pay for that. If there is a policy on inclusive housing, then all developers should face an obligation to meet the requirements. We disagree fundamentally that affordable housing can only be created by allowing developers to build bigger and denser. That will damage the fabric of the urban context. Rather, the playing field for developers should be determined by policy and it should a level playing field for all developer to understand that to profit from the developments requires a business model which either yields lower profits or which they pass on to buyers who can afford higher rentals or purchases. It is unacceptable that the price of such incentives is passed on to neighbouring communities. There is nothing in our constitution which says that a property right is sancrosanct. The City can and does impose limitations on property rights and can do so in the public interest. Mandating a portion of developments above a certain size/bulk to have a mandatory minimum of affordable housing is both morally justified and legally feasible.  


  1. On page 121, the Plan proposes as an objective, improved access to publish facilities and upgrade of the public environment in civic spaces and to that end lists as a supportingguidline, the idea that the plan should enhance the identity of Observatory as a local civic precinct and support community service provision in the Malta Park area. We do not disagree with these ideas but we believe very strongly that this should happen via a participative co-design process in which theCity and local stakeholders are able to jointly develop a precinct plan for the Malta Park and Hartleyvale areas. In fact, our Civic has already asked for the City to initiate such a process and have been told that we will contacted when the time is right. Well, the time is right now because a District Plan is being adopted and we do not want a district plan written for us, about us and to us, without our participation – particularly for the Malta Park and Harltleyvale precincts which are zoned largely for Community use. So, we would like to see as a supporting development guideline here a commitment to a co-design process with local communities – not just Observatory but also nearby community such in Salt River and also the amateur sporting codes currently using these fields but having to compete with preference being given to commercial sports clubs who get first preference on these fields.DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 8  


  1. There are a number of strategies we do not agree with nor think wise: 
  • We do not agree with the strategy of permitting heritage exemption areas (page 40 of the Implementation Plan) unless it is limited to new development areas only, otherwise, discretion of the part of planners will creep in and allows waivers in areas that are not appropriate.  
  • Similarly, we do not understand how exclusions from a National Act, NEMA, can be permitted by planning processes at a District level. We therefore do not support this exclusion (page 41) not think it wise or legally permissible.  
  • We also are worried that some of income generation strategies will work against the idea of an inclusive City. The idea on page 41 that landowners might pool land and contribute a portion of land to sell to fund public infrastructure seems to be a recipe for the rich (who own land) to preferentially buy services from the City. That can only be a recipe for reinforcing inequality in an already highly unequal City. It seems entirely contrary to the Vision proposed for an inclusive and more equitable society.  
  • We are also concerned that a “streamlined land use application process for priority areas” (page 42) may lead to short cuts on public participation and on statutory processes and would only support this if the plan made clear that all such processes would not escape normal processes under law for public participation, as prescribed in the Municipal Service Act. There is nothing wrong with trying to speed up or make more efficient administrative processes but these should not come at the expense of due process.  


  1. There are also some key elements omitted from the plan. 
  • Page 125 Para 6.1.6 deals with new developments and strategic sites. We are puzzled as to why Ndabeni, which is a site where the City owns substantial tracts of land, and which the 2019 TR LSDP cited as a possible development area, is not listed as a Strategic Site in the plan. It is located potentially close to a rail link and it not far from the Voortrekker Rd development corridor. So it is missed opportunity and we wonder why it has been omitted from the Plan.  
  • The Implementation Plan refers in paragraph to promoting resilient food systems. We did not see any clear and structured plan for promoting urban food gardens in the district. Given high level of food insecurity generally, aggravated by the COVID-19 epidemic, one might have expected to see more explanation of how the plan was going to encourage urban gardening as a food security measure.  
  • Under income generation in the Implementation Plan (page 41), we would like to propose a different perspective on income generation. Rather than it being about DCAS Award Winner, 2018 for Most Active Conservation Body; NPO number: 174 – 174 NPO 60 Trill Road, Observatory, 7925; phone 082 731 0830 9  


  1. Interim arrangements: While the policy proposes withdrawing the Observatory Plan and the Two Rivers Urban Park Contextual Framework Policy 2003, the District Plan is insufficiently detailed to provide clear guidance if these plans are withdrawn. Until such time as new sub-district/local plans are in place, we do not want to see an absence of any planning framework. Our experience is that bad decisions are when there is discretion left to planning officials to make decision in the absence of clear guidance. There the District Plan should provide for an interim period where the existing plans stand until news plans are in place. 


  1. Lastly, we concur with the OBSID submission that the Plan fails to capture the cultural heart and civic attributes of Observatory, even though it proposes in principle to protect the historic fabric and culture of Observatory. We therefore attach Annexure 3 which is a statement of the OCA’s vision and mission, developed collaborative over the past years with Observatory residents andorganisations. 


Thank you for the opportunity to comment.  

We expect that further opportunities will be provided given the complexities of the documents, the contradictions that are apparent, and the information gaps which undermine the informants for proper planning.  

Yours sincerely  

Leslie London Chairperson