City alienates residents with land sale plan

Residents in Wiener Street, Goodwood, say a City of Cape Town plan to sell off a large tract of open public land in their neighbourhood “makes no sense” and goes against the community’s wishes.

A board advertising the auction, set for Wednesday April 19, has been put up on the land, which covers several plots and stretches over Wiener, Paarl and De Villiers streets. Residents say the open space is enjoyed by young and old who play, exercise and walk their dogs there.

A group calling themselves Concerned Goodwood Community told Northern News they had got wind of the plan two years ago and had made their opposition to the sale known to the City.

They sent 39 objections and a petition to City manager Achmat Ebrahim after the plots were advertised for sale in a bulk ad in October 2014.

Wiener Street resident Salie Behardien said the land was a safe space for children to play as neighbours could keep and eye on what was happening there.

“It doesn’t make sense for the City to go ahead with this sale. I estimate they’ll make R2 million plus rates from this sale. But they have the whole neighbourhood now against them,” said Mr Behardien, whose house faces the open space.

Another resident, Alan Cornwell, said infrastructure, such as the drains, was already battling to cope and couldn’t support more homes.

Mr Behardien agreed, saying: “Winter is coming, then you’ll see how it looks here.”

The residents fear the land will be developed with high-rise buildings, intruding on their privacy.

Petro du Toit has lived next to this land for 34 years. It’s where her children played, and she kept an eye through the kitchen window. Now she does the same for her neighbours and their children.

“If they put flats up, my privacy is gone. Then I can’t swim in my pool. My children grew up on the ‘veld’, and I would just keep an eye through the window,” she said.

They said an influx of people would hurt their property values. The City had promised to sell only four plots now, but they “don’t trust” what the City is telling them.

“They are creating a concrete jungle. What about the development of the youth? We live here. Where must my children play? Must they cross the road?” said Mr Behardien.

Residents say the park further down Wiener Street, across Milton Road, is not safe as criminals hang out there.

Resident Sandy Rogers has lived in her house next to the Behardiens for 25 years. She too said the field was popular with young and old alike. “Parents don’t have to come because they know it’s safe,” she said.

The residents question why the City is selling the land when the plot next to resident Ms Rogers’s house is vacant with no plans to develop it. They says it makes more sense to fill that gap than take away the space so many use.

“We understand the need for development. Instead of taking away the space we enjoy, there are other spaces,” said Mr Behardien’s wife, Zureena.

Stuart Diamond, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, said Cape Town was a rapidly growing city that needed to address urbanisation.

The City had large tracts of open spaces, it was looking at “rationalising”. He said the City had met residents and initially considered 21 properties for disposal. “However, after robust discussion, we took residents’ comments into consideration and decided that we will only dispose of six of the 21 properties,” he said.

The City said empty plots in the area sold for between R400 000 and R600 000.

Residents, however, are not convinced. They fear the sale of the six plots is only the beginning and the rest will be built on later.

They offered alternatives to the City, including a proposal that the plot between Joubert and Wiener streets be put up for sale, because it was small and not often used.

Mr Diamond said residents could give their input again during the rezoning process.

Residents said they would “not have wool pulled over their eyes”, saying the community had been “left in the dark”.

* Residents have started a Facebook page to raise awareness of their fight.