More KL folk take on City Hall to save suburbs from development

by Gan Pei Ling, 18 Nov 2017 © The Malaysian Insight

RETIRED civil engineer Frank Yeh and other residents in the newly set up Protect Taman Desa Coalition have never been activists in their lives.

But plans for new projects in their Kuala Lumpur suburb of Taman Desa — 13 new developments in all, including high-density condominiums — made them decide to step up last year.

“It’s too much, way too much. The roads are already congested and the water pressure is low. This is not sustainable development. The authorities should improve the local infrastructure before they approve more development projects,” Yeh told The Malaysian Insight.

The coalition is backing a suit filed by 11 residents against Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for approving a project of three condominium blocks – The Address, on Tenaga Nasional Bhd reserve land.

The suit was filed in March and the court will hear on November 29 the developer’s application to be made a party to the suit.

“We’re not against development per se. We are against overdevelopment. The existing infrastructure in Taman Desa is inadequate to support these new projects.

“Since 1977, there has only been one bus route servicing Taman Desa. The main water pipes are old and rusted. Existing roads also need to be re-tarred,” said Yeh.

He said current public amenities such as a small community hall and a few fields in the neighbourhood were insufficient to cater to the needs of the existing population of 38,000 people.

The Address — to comprise 649 units in three blocks between 34 and 42 storeys high — is to be built on a site marked for utilities and not for development. Furthermore, according to the KL Draft City Plan 2020, the site was supposed to be gazetted as a green lung.

If built, the condominium would increase the area’s population density from 60 people per acre to 650 per acre.

The other dozen projects in the pipeline for Taman Desa will add more than 7,000 affordable homes and condominium units, 48 shoplots and 168 office units to the neighbourhood.

“This is not just Taman Desa’s problem. Overdevelopment is happening all around us,” said another Taman Desa resident M. Gunasekar.

He was shocked to find out recently that a 52-storey high condominium will be built on a 1.3 acre plot of land, previously a playground, behind his home at Armada Villa, Danau Desa.

The Protect Taman Desa Coalition is holding a press conference to voice their concerns about the project today.

“I’ve been trying to help solve other people’s problems all my life. Now, I’m a victim. I couldn’t protect my own backyard,” said the businessman, who helped gather nearly 1,000 residents to submit their individual objections to DBKL against The Address last year.

No paradise in suburbia

The Protect Taman Desa Coalition is not the first suburban community in the Klang Valley to speak up against development that threatens their quality of life. As developers seek new spaces in already congested areas for more projects, residents have begun to fight back.

Residents in the affluent Taman Tun Dr Ismail housing suburb have become increasingly vocal in opposing projects they fear will congest the neighbourhood further and encroach on the only two green lungs in their area: Taman Rimba Kiara and Bukit Kiara.

The residents took DBKL and the mayor to court this year for approving a high-rise housing project in Taman Rimba Kiara. The Kuala Lumpur High Court granted the residents’ leave for judicial review in August 2017.

In 2015, Petaling Jaya residents foiled the Selangor State Development Corporation’s (PKNS) plan to develop a field and sports complex it owned in Kelana Jaya into a sports city.

The Petaling Jaya City Council had came under fire for altering the field’s status from recreational to commercial without going through due process in 2011, and eventually cancelled the developer’s application in 2015.

In 2011, Subang Jaya residents defeated Sime Darby Properties’ bid to build a 350-unit condominium and extend its medical centre on 7.7ha of the 29.39ha Subang Ria Park.

The Selangor Town and Country Planning Department Appeals Board rejected Sime Darby’s application for planning permission on the ground that the park was gazetted in Subang Jaya’s local draft plan for recreational use.

Philip Phang, a retired accountant and another spokesperson of the Protect Taman Desa Coalition, said DBKL should have consulted the residents before approving the development projects and altering recreational land for commercial purposes.

The residents had to find out about the development projects through their own research and are funding the campaign to rally and inform other residents out of their own pockets.

“Have they (DBKL) taken into account the wellbeing of the people they are entrusted to protect before approving these projects? The development process was not transparent. The residents are also being deprived of amenities they rightfully deserve,” said Phang.

He has lived there for more than four decades and has watched Taman Desa transform from a green neighbourhood, with fresh air and morning mist, to its now congested state, with high-rise condominiums being built and traffic jams to no end.

“We know this is going to be a long battle. We’re going up against an institution (DBKL) and, indirectly, the developers, but somebody has to do it for the sake of future generation of Malaysians as a whole,” said Phang.

“Nothing is safe if this goes on. You may think you’re buying a house next to a green lung, but 10 years down the road it may turn into a condominium.

“We want to warn potential buyers to think twice,” said Yeh.

He said another group of residents from the Taman Desa Residents’ Association are also running a campaign against the development projects, in collaboration with DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok.

“We decided to set up our own group and run our own campaign as we want to remain independent and non-partisan,” he said.

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