Why Stuart Gardyne should actually read the proposal.

Over coffee this morning, I happened to come across an opinion piece by Stuart Gardyne on Stuff regarding Shelly Bay. In my earlier years, I had thought to take up a career in architecture (heck, I’ve even read “The Fountainhead”), so when I saw his piece, I was immediately interested. Unfortunately, I was also supremely disappointed. As an architect, and citizen of Wellington, he should know better. But unfortunately, he’s decided to comment on things that he apparently hasn’t bothered to research.

Which is a bit weird, because the proposal that he’s talking about in his opinion piece was in fact prepared by his company, as commissioned by the developer. Perhaps he just hasn’t really read it? Or maybe he hasn’t read the supporting documentation?

Unfortunately though, in his opinion piece, he throws out quite a few actual falsehoods (or alternate facts), so deserves a response. Oh where to start?

Cycling: “the road to Shelly Bay will be genuinely improved to allow cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike to share it”

Nope. The road in the proposed development is essentially the same width it is now. In a few places it will be made a little bit wider to conform to the 3m/lane requirement, but that’s it. There will be no cycle lane, and cycles will have to share the road with 4-6 times more cars. Speaking of which, just after his comment on cycling, he proclaims:

Traffic: “Yes there will be a likely increase in traffic.”

“Likely” is a nice euphemism. Even the developers weren’t daft enough to ask us to believe that there won’t be a traffic increase. Their numbers have traffic going from 1200 trips to 4700 trips. I’d say that’s pretty darned likely an increase.

Infrastructure: “I have a simple message: you’re not. The developer is paying, just like they do in every other city”

Nope again. He really should read the council proposal for the development before he says these things. You the ratepayer are on the hook for at least $10 Million. Possibly a lot more. C’mon Stuart, it’s actually in the proposal! I admit, the Council tried quite hard to hide it, and didn’t mention it anywhere in their headlines for the proposal, but it’s there. (see: The ratepayer gets screwed. Again.)

Also interesting in his opinion piece, is that he never once mentions that the proposal that he’s talking about was generated by his company.

Honestly folks, I could go on, but I feel a little bad about flogging the dead horse that is Stuarts’ opinion piece, so we’ll just leave it there.

Stuart, apologies, but I’m hugely saddened that an architect of your standing has thrown this out there.

 

Blow Out

Yesterday, I talked about some management lessons from the film “Deepwater Horizon” that Wellington City Council would be well advised to follow. Curiously, this conversation surrounded car parks and traffic levels, and one might be wondering the significance and connection.

It all has to do with that pesky wellhead cement pressure test from the film. It’s here that I think we’re in trouble. Of course, by wellhead pressure, what I’m referring to is traffic along the entry road. The traffic levels that are quoted in all the City Council documents, are all referring to a report that was paid for by the developer. It’s nice of them to pay for this, and indeed proper, but that sort of report makes me a bit suspicious. It feels like the sort of report that potentially could have been skewed to indicate whatever traffic levels and parking requirements the developer thought council would accept.

The fact that they are telling us there will only be 4700 vehicles per day, when right now, the un-developed area is experiencing 1200 vehicles indicates to me that we’ve got a pressure measurement error somewhere. Particularly as there appears to be no factoring for the complete lack of public transit options, the limited parking options, and the distance to amenities precluding biking or walking.

When this error is too big, it’s going to blow. With huge environmental consequences, just like Deepwater Horizon.

What I expect is going to happen, is that the vehicle count is going to be so far off that the entry road will have to be widened. In the process, the wonderful, rough-hewn, largely unspoilt coastline is going to get concreted in. The lovely old trees along the road will all be cut down. What little fishing was left there will be a thing of the past, and any thought of preserving the little blue penguin breeding will be gone for good. You’ll still be able to bike along there, but the experience will be vastly diminished as you’ll be biking along a concreted in roadway with little natural beauty remaining.

The developer, of course, doesn’t care. By the time the pressure check reveals the problem with the wellhead, they’re long gone, laughing all the way to the bank. As the infrastructure spend by the council is completely un-capped, just like a blown wellhead, it’s going to haemorrhage cash and environmental damage for years to come.

We, the citizens of course, will be picking up that bill. It’s not just a fiscal bill either, it’s an enormous environmental and social bill as well.

Shelly Bay is an area that’s unique, and deserves our special attention – it has the potential to provide an amazing, natural landscape for all of Wellington to enjoy. By pushing through un-notified consent of a dense urban development of such huge and potentially destructive nature, our City Council has done the citizens of the eastern suburbs a huge disservice.

We need to tell the council that their proposal is foolish on many levels, and not in the public interest in any way, because once this potential public resource is gone, it’s gone for good.

We need to make sure this wellhead doesn’t blow out.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017!!

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

Flawed Thinking: Car Parks, congestion, and everything else.

There’s a great scene in a movie called “Deepwater Horizon”, where Mark Wahlberg’s character is talking to the BP representative played by John Malcovich, and he quips “It’s flawed thinking. It’s hope as a tactic.” It’s a great line, as it presages the disaster to come in the film, and precisely nails the entire cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Now I’m not saying that the proposal for Shelly Bay is going to be a disaster of that magnitude, but the sheer amount of hope being put into this by the Wellington City Council sure indicates that there might be problems that they’re trying to ignore, just like the folks at BP were trying to ignore.

When in doubt, I always loop back to the numbers. I suspect the Wellington City Council is a bit sick of me talking about the numbers, but to engineers and managers, they’re golden nuggets, the things that determine success or disaster.

Well, the developer has a few interesting numbers: they have 350 dwellings, each with 1 car park. There are also 122 public car parks available for the ratepayers who might want to enjoy the remaining small public space. Sounds good so far, until you do a well-pressure-check on the car parks. According to the last census there were 1.3 cars per household in Miramar. If you do the math, which is always tricky for developers and council types it seems, that’s 455 cars, of which 105 will need to be occupying the public car parks.

It looks like to me then that the poor public is only going to enjoy just 17 car parks when the residents are home (don’t even start talking about their guests). So when you hear about this being a gated community with everything but the gates, it sounds like a pretty accurate assessment.

When asked about this, the designers of the development mumbled about the downward trend in automobile ownership. Good! So maybe, indeed, we get a few car parks opening up, which is nice.

Yet, if fewer people are owning cars, how are they getting around? The City Council very specifically mentioned that there were to be no new bus routes, so… again, how are people getting around?

Wellingtons’ weather isn’t quite good enough for cycling all the time, and worse still, the road in and out is going to be difficult for cyclers, and is quite long for just popping out to the shops (it’s the reason why it’s enjoyed immensely by recreational cyclers!)

The developer seems to think that everyone is going to use the ferry, but that only works if the weather is nice, and you happen to want to go only to downtown or Eastbourne. So what about the rest of us? Well, the only real choice would then be something like Uber, or a taxi.

As soon as you do that, you’ve now just nearly DOUBLED the number of car trips these residents will be making: a car has to come pick them up, drive them into town, drive them back home, then that car has to leave the development. There will be some overlap between the in and out people, but as an upper bound, you’re talking 2X.

Which is important. Because the trip number ties into that infrastructure cost. And more importantly, the environmental cost. And the cost to cyclers. But that’s tomorrows’ tale.

Unh-uh. Hope ain’t a tactic Wellington City Council.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017!!

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

Island Bay 2: The Shelly Bay Disaster – Act 1

It was a dark and stormy Monday evening when David Chick, Wellington City Councils’ harried Chief City Planner scurried from one Wellington disaster to another. Well, okay, it wasn’t particularly stormy evening for Wellington, but it was definitely dark when Mr. Chick left a barely advertised presentation of the Shelly Bay development plan to local businesses.

The poor advertisement should have been the first clue that something was wrong, but in truth, the disaster had begun many years ago, mere kilometres away, in a formerly idyllic community called Island Bay.

Here, in this comfortable sleeping town, a monster had rolled through, a monster that had little thought for the locals, little regard for the local businesses. This astonishing monster could reach out and suck the life out of the community at a moment’s notice. The monster that called on this community was invulnerable – it had no need to listen to anyone, because it knew what was best for everyone. People huddled in small circles, fearful to even mention the monsters’ name: “Wellington City Council”

And now, that monster is back. This time, it has set its’ arrogant eyes on the sleepy, idyllic Shelly Bay…

Coming soon to a bay near you: “Island Bay 2: The Shelly Bay Disaster”

 

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

Concrete Jungle

The real difficulty that I have with this development, is not the concept of development itself, but what has been put forward by the developer. The buildings that are in the plan are massive tilt-slab style, 27 meter high dense urban (prefab?) housing.

To me, that’s the rub. The eastern suburbs, with the exception of the monstrosity that is the airport carpark (yes Infratil, we understand the only way a monopoly is able to increase it’s revenue and cost to the public, is to increase its asset base) is a laid back, mostly one or two story,  low density housing space. I don’t know about you, but part of the reason I live here, is EXACTLY BECAUSE of this fact. If I had wanted to be crammed wall-to-wall with my neighbours, I would be living in downtown Wellington, or perhaps, London.

So when I saw that they were planning to put 350 dwellings in a space of 4.5 hectares, I was aghast. According to the last census, Miramar has a density of 3.7 dwellings per hectare. The proposed Shelly Bay development will have 77 dwellings per hectare, nearly twenty times the density of the local neighbourhood. To put this into perspective, London, one of the densest, most congested cities on the planet, has a density of approximately 125 dwellings per hectare.

One might wonder, what’s the harm? Well, for me, it turns out there’s a lot of harm – the quality of life that I’ve aspired to, is one where we aren’t all crammed together, that we don’t need to be living at each others’ doorstep.

By sneaking Shelly Bay through HAASHA (Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013), which allows the council to grant consent with no consultation with the residents of the area, our council has cleverly given carte-blanche to turn a natural, relaxed neighbourhood into a concrete urban jungle. Of course, for this particular developer, this is just the beginning, with high density housing planned for the top of the hill as well.

So just like the biking and fishing along Shelly Bay Road, if this development goes through, we can happily say goodbye to our sleepy relaxed neighbourhood, not just because of the traffic lights.

I don’t want the quality of my neighbourhood altered in this manner, and am frankly incensed that the city council is colluding with developers to degrade the quality of my life, and the quality of my neighbourhood. Developers, who I will also note, don’t live here either, and one of whom appears to live on 4.2 hectares all by himself. Apparently he doesn’t like dense urban housing either.

Shame on you city council, Shame.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

So about those traffic lights

Last night, I sat in on the very poorly notified meeting given by the council and the developer that was an attempt by them to inform local business owners about the impacts on the Miramar peninsula.

Quite a few interesting things were said, but one of the more salient bits for those of us living and enjoying the eastern suburbs came from a traffic engineer. A question from the audience about the intersection at the cutting generated a little waffling about redirected lanes to improve flow. When pressed further, the engineer admitted that they’ll probably need to put in one or two(!) traffic lights to deal with the increased traffic.

Welcome to gridlock!

One of the most disturbing aspects of this entire development is this continuous attempt to rush decision making while providing minimal information, and no real consultation with the public who will be affected. Worse, is what is happening now, when these same people are trying to obfuscate information and avoid answering questions. When councils and developers do this, it’s invariably because they know that the local community is going to dislike what’s going on, and they’re trying to make it happen anyway.

I say to folks: call the council on this one – if they want our approval of the sale of our land, if they want our approval of an uncapped infrastructure spend pulled from our pockets, they need to provide us with all the information in a clear concise way. No waffling, no attempt to redirect to a flackey, just simple, verifiable information, and an actual clear plan.

The council is supposed to represent your interests. Hold them up to that standard. They clearly aren’t doing that now.

(As an interesting side note, your two visible council members last night, Simon Marsh and Chris Calvi-Freeman were once again huddled in the corner with Ian Cassels and the rest of the Wellington Company contingent. They may be eastern ward councillors, but they’re quite clearly not on your side – it appears they’ve been bought, hook, line, and sinker by the developers.)

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

The ratepayer gets screwed. Again.

The last few weeks have been quite interesting for the Shelly Bay development. We’ve found out about the city council ignoring requests for information:

Ombudsman launches ‘urgent’ investigation into Wellington City Council

There have been a a few drop-in question and answer sessions at Shelly Bay, that I suspect were an attempt to assuage the concerns of locals, but have only actually served to inflame them. We learned that all parking will be removed on Shelly Bay Road, so that anyone wanting to have a fish, or enjoy the afternoon sun on the beaches there won’t be able to do so any more. That cyclists currently enjoying the relaxed and native ride along the road will have to compete  with construction trucks, or be run off the road for the next 13 years, and will have to deal with a load more traffic after that. So we’re going to have to say goodbye to one of the cycling jewels in Wellington as well.

And then there’s this gem which showed up at the last drop-in (of which there were only two copies available for viewing by the public)

Wellington City Council Shelly Bay FAQ

What I immediately noticed, was more details of the dodgy infrastructure deal emerged. You know, the deal where you, the ratepayer are supposed to deliver $10 million in pure profit into the developers’ back pocket.

Well, it turns out that this isn’t the deal at all. The development company in fact dictated to the council that they would only pay for up to $10 million, that the costs would be 50/50 up to that limit, and that the ratepayer would have to pay for anything else.

Yes, that’s right, if the infrastructure costs balloon to $40 million, you the ratepayer will be on the hook for $30 million of that. What happens if the road needs significant widening, yup, you’ll be paying for that. New reservoirs? Yup, you’re paying for that as well.

When asked about the cost of the infrastructure at the last meeting, the Councillors in attendance (that would be Simon Marsh and Chris Calvi-Freeman for the record) admitted that no detailed planning had actually been done, so there really is no idea what the real cost might be.

So there it is, a development creating what amounts to a gated community of million dollar plus housing, to be subsidized by at least $10 million of your rates, and maybe much, much, more.

I think this is a travesty; that this is yet another case of government privatizing profits while socializing costs, and that the City Council should say NO to this deal and the sale of the land on principle.

Are you listening Paul Eagle?

Don’t forget to get your submission in by 5PM Monday August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

 

UPDATE: the FAQ mentioned above is now on the council website as well:

Wellington City Council Shelly Bay FAQ