NEWS | CAPE TOWN 

De Lille threatens to sue professor over Bo-Kaap spat

Fabio Todeschini accuses mayor of causing “crass development-at-all-costs culture”

Photo of Bo Kaap
One of the Bo-Kaap’s colourful streets. Photo: Kim Alvelius
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Mayor Patricia de Lille has threatened to sue architect and UCT emeritus professor Fabio Todeschini after he publicly accused her of being the source of the city council’s “crass development-at-all-costs culture” which is harming Cape Town.

Todeschini, a former director of UCT’s school of architecture and planning, and patron of the Urban Design Institute of South Africa, made the comments in an article in the latest issue of Architecture SA Magazine about the City’s approval of a massive R1bn, 60m-high building on the edge of the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town’s heritage conservation area.

Todeschini wrote: “It is more than ironic that the mayor of this city, the very person who will ultimately decide on this appeal [against the approval of the building], is the very source of this prevailing and crass development-at-all-costs culture that is tending to do great harm to our city.”

The apartment building that would take up a city block between Longmarket and Shortmarket Streets, was strongly opposed by the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association, which collected 1,000 signatures opposing it. Heritage Western Cape said its massive size would have a negative impact on the nearby heritage areas such as Heritage Square, Riebeeck Square and Bo-Kaap. Neither the Cape Institute for Architecture nor the Urban Design Institute of SA supported the building proposal.

Despite strong public opposition, the City’s municipal planning tribunal gave it the thumbs up. Several appeals against the decision were lodged, but De Lille, who makes the final decision on appeals in consultation with her advisory panel, turned them down.

Todeschini’s comments in the article were first made in his submission to the mayor’s advisory panel as part of the appeal hearing. He told the panel – and later repeated it in the magazine article – that he wanted to place on record in the public interest that officials had been told by the mayor to “say yes” to development applications.

“The currently prevailing dominant culture within the ranks of officialdom at the municipality of Cape Town, where senior planning and other officials have been instructed by the mayor to simply say ‘yes’ to development applications, is deeply undermining the exercise of professional responsibility, development control and local government growth-management of the built environment. This culture is patently tending to result in professional officials becoming compromised ethically and not being able to do their jobs effectively,” Todeschini wrote.

He wrote that he knew of very able professionals in the city council who felt compromised and intended to leave their jobs because of this.

Asked to comment, De Lille said that after Todeschini’s “very serious allegations”, she had written to Kevin Gadd, president of the Cape Institute for Architecture, asking for proof of the allegations. The Institute, De Lille said, had written back to say that its management committee had met to convene an inquiry into the matter that would be conducted by its ethics committee.

“If he continues making spurious allegations, we are going to sue him,” De Lille told GroundUp. Asked whether she had instructed officials to simply say yes to development, De Lille replied: “Lies, bring the evidence.”

Asa Gordon, the executive officer of the Cape Institute for Architecture, confirmed that the inquiry committee had met last week and handed the matter to the ethics committee. “There have been no findings yet.”

Todeschini said a full response to the institute had been prepared and would be filed shortly.

See also: Battle over different visions for Bo-Kaap.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article said Todeschini’s article appeared in Architecture and Builder Magazine SA. In fact it was Architecture SA. We apologise for the error.

Letters

Dear Editor

Fabio Todeshini's comments are 100% correct about the city and mayor steamrolling all heritage decisions with a pro-development (at all costs) attitude.

SAHRA should take back its delegated authority because the city is not acting responsibly or within the law. The mayor needs to be reprimanded in this and several other decisions and have her authority given to a neutral structure.

We should all stand by the Bo-Kaap and Prof Todeshini.

Dear Editor

The boundaries of Bo-Kaap have been compromised before, from Jarvis Street all along High Level Road and down into Long Street. We were down-sized by the Apartheid regime and now further boxed in by the DA - selling our prime property which rightfully belongs to our offspring and was promised to them in 2003.

What a shame De Lille. We have now lost our faith in you and your shameful party. We say no to these skyscrapers. We deserve the name Bo-Kaap with all its attachments and as a fully fledged #HeritageSite.

We will fight for it and we all stand by the Professor!

Dear Editor

Having worked in CT as an architect for 18 years, with many interactions with heritage officials, I cannot believe that this would have been approved by any of them.

It certainly appears that this application has either slipped through the cracks, or has not been handled according to procedures.

We have high respect for the fellow Professor and stand by him.

Dear Editor

It would appear that ratepayers no longer have a voice.

In 2015 rate payers in Noordhoek overwhelmingly voted against the proposal for a tenth restaurant in a 5km radius from Noordhoek common. The application was rejected but within 12 hours notice a mayoral visit was announced for 8am the next day and by the following day the application had been approved by Mayor de Lille.

One wonders how many cases there are in total of this nature and why she ignores the views and votes of the local residents whom it will affect?

Dear Editor

I weep for my beloved country.

So much beauty is demolished for financial reward. We're losing beautiful buildings in our metros and even in our small villages. Much is lost to the blight of mining - think Transkei and Wakkerstroom. Many of us thought that some sanity would prevail in Cape Town.

Dear Editor

If Melanie Gosling wants more material along this line from us out here in the north, she's free to contact me.

There's the Galleria development and the N1 off-ramp that wasn't. There's the Tyger Valley Centre Phase 3 height departure justified by a policy document that isn't approved by council and out of line with the policy document that is approved. There's also the Engen training centre in the residential road that was approved against overwhelming objections on spurious grounds, reported to the Public Protector and never was built.

She should also have a word with Simon Mantell of Mantelli's Biscuits. She should also look at the new rules for planning appeals and I think she'll find they all end up in the mayor's office.

Dear Editor

It is sad that this Bo-Kaap issue is not the first. It is one of many instances where the CoCT is proposing or supporting development that will compromise the City's heritage and character and (in the case of Philippi) its food supply. It is widely known that the City's own planning departments get overruled by the powers that be. But job security means that this knowledge has to remain hearsay. Good on you Prof Todeschini for standing up tall!

Dear Editor

It would be in the interest of the City, its heritage, and its ratepayers if the Public Protector is requested to investigate the activities over the past few years of the Cape Town City Council's Land Department and the mayor's role in land and development decisions.

Dear Editor

What about the developments in Bakoven that needed high court intervention, and the steamrolling of the Maidens Cove development? All completely against public interest.

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