October 15, 2006

Safdie Plan

So decision is nearing over the controversial Safdie Plan for adding 20,000 dwelling units to the west of Jerusalem . Adding 20,000 units is not what ails the plan , the city does face a serious shortage of residential units which eventually leads to the young secular population of Jerusalem to drift away . The problem is that the plan takes up 26 sq. km of forests , green areas and archeological sites . Read the story about it in
haaretz .

According to a number of studies the city is capable of taking in the planned 20,000 units within the current municipal boundaries . In fact according to the study prepared by Sustainable Jerusalem , compiled by urban planners Uri Barsheshet and Yael Hammerman, the city is capable of absorbing 58,000 additional housing units . Urban densification can help the city in many ways .

  • Adding to the existing housing stock would offer more oppurtunities for the young population to buy/rent affordable housing

  • Densification would allow for a more efficient public transport system. The city at the moment is spread up making it difficult to have an efficient public transport .As a result the more and more people rely on private vehicles .

  • The municipality at the moment is quite iefficent in providing services to the city . Spreading the municipal limits would only spread their services thinner.

According to the Israel Union for Environmental Defence

Quality of life in Jerusalem has been deteriorating due the current municipality's failure to maintain cleanlines and to provide municipal services. Only focused investment in making Jerusalem a liveable, pleasant place to be will stop the tide of residents moving away to other towns. Construction of new neighborhoods to be run by the same municipality that is disappointing residents today will only exacerbate urban woes in Jerusalem.

But clearly there are vested interests in this plan . The municipality is interested inseeing the plan through as it increases its clout over areas not under it's jurisdiction at the moment . Ehud Olmert , the erstwhile Mayor of the city , sees he project as a major accomplishment of his tenure , no way is he going to be swayed out of his grandiose vision . A plan of such a magnitude means a tremendous amount of money changing handss , no wonder the construction industry is so much in favour of it . And last but not the least , there is nothing heroic or glamorous about densifiction , everyone wants a Haussman or a Corbusier who with a deft stroke of the brush can create a city out of nowhere . But before we do that we should take a look at Safdie's Modiin and think again if we want another housing project that pretends to be a city .

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