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Blogs - Alan West

 

 

Goodbye Concrete Gods.

July 9th. 2018

Over the last decade, concrete has been pouring forth all over Port Philip, and the rest of Melbourne. A rapidly advancing tide of beige lava spewing from the infernal vent of the greedy developer dollar making machine.

Under the guise of "progress" and catering to the need of a rapidly growing population, developers have managed to paint themselves as the good guys in the eyes of local councils, State Gov't and VCAT.

Allowing them to often play the game of whipping up low grade developments for top dollar. Then to take the money and run, leaving locals with the long term problems of high rise, low quality ghettos in waiting. An inordinate percentage of which have suspect inflammable cladding and poor workmanship and design.

Well all this is coming to an end.
A few years of respite is at hand. The efforts of local activism guarding the remnant character, vibrancy and old world charm of Port Phillip, is now being backed up by the mighty dollar. The profit incentive has been shaping Melbourne and now it will continue to do so in a different direction. The only thing that stops this concrete onslaught dead in it’s tracks is a downturn in the market. In Sydney and in particular Melbourne, prices are beginning to fall and the demand for apartments is waning, especially for off the plan. The tightening of bank lending to investors is also putting a drag on demand, along with overseas buyer restrictions and resistance. Softening in the market is a signal that a downturn is imminent.

For awhile this will put sway to the incessant invading hordes of developer vandals. At least for a few years, until pouring concrete once again becomes an easy earner.
It breaks my heart to see Bauhaus “neo-detention camp style” concrete bunkers rise upon the rubble of beautiful old buildings.

Currently what is occurring is the normal rolling along of the economic cycle.
It started with rapid population increase, low interest rates, and loose bank lending. All levels of gov't supporting rapid development as a quick fix to maintain growth after the end of the easy days of the Mining boom. The party can't, and never does last forever.

There is good and bad for everyone in this market downturn. An opportunity will now arise for first home buyers to take the place of investors, rents should ease and finding a place to rent may also be easier. Fitzroy St will sag along, as it has done in the other half dozen downturns over its existence. At the moment, she is empty, lonely and grotty. I fear a last ditch developer appearing out of nowhere. Selling a “visionary” solution of bringing in people to Fitzroy St by going eight stories all the way to the beach. Something residents and council could easily fall for, but in reality just another quick “take the money and run” deal. Leaving Fitzroy St as a concrete canyon to the bay. Still empty and lonely, just like the Docklands around Vic Harbour.

There are a couple of local, last to leave the party, concrete stragglers in the pipe line that could see the light of day, the 26 stories at St Kilda junction and the Novotel remake. Hopefully that’s about it for the immediate future.

So, it’s good night to the concrete gods for now,

Alan West
www.friendsofstkilda.com.au

Further reading:

Apartment resale issues
Sydney Melbourne property busts

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Yikes! bikes, lanes and footpaths.

May 7th. 2018

*General Victorian road rules for bicycles on footpaths:
The bicycle rider 12 years old or over, must not ride on a footpath. 2 exceptions:
1) an adult (18 years or older) supervising a child under 12
2) the rider has a disability which means it’s difficult to ride on the road.
In any event, no faster than 10kph.

The above rules would be news to many bike riders, and seemingly not worthy of consideration by a lot of the rest.

In St Kilda, footpaths are full of bike riders and the bike lanes empty.
Maybe it would be safer to walk in the bike lanes, rather than use the footpaths.
Cyclists often don’t stop at red lights, collide with pet dogs and pedestrians, and frequently are abusive when told to slow down.

Local problem areas:
• The shared path, on St Kilda beach Bay Trail between the Seabaths and Donovans.
A separated bike path and footpath should be reinstated, as it was for many years. The requirement to dismount and walk your bike in congested areas is mostly ignored. Pedestrians, bikes, rollerblades and skateboards do not mix in these areas.

• The Esplanade, Jacka Blvd & Fitzroy St intersection, a real mess, with bikes going every which way on pedestrian paths!

• Fitzroy St
The two way bike path is a Kafkaesque planning disaster, with another bike path on the other side of the street as well, and yet the footpath is frequently used by speeding bikes.

• Canterbury Rd./Mary St entry to Albert Park.
Bicycles flow in and out of the park across Canterbury Rd at the pedestrian lights, onto the foot path, then down Mary St. A nightmare for pedestrians, with bikes travelling well over 10kph and they silently come up behind you. If you sidestep, bam, a bike right on top of you from behind, going at a hefty pace.

Exiting premises is also fraught with danger. You have to treat stepping onto the footpath as if you were crossing a road, looking up and down for speeding bikes. Walking along the beachside footpath of Canterbury Rd to Fitzroy St, you must be forever vigilant, needing eyes in the back of your head.

Placing official signs at hotspots around St Kilda, with notification of fines for illegal footpath bike riding, as per the current law, would be a good start. Then areas like the Mary St /Albert Park bike rat run could do with an enforcement blitz. Warning and/or fining a few bikers might do wonders, especially in regards to safety for vulnerable young kids and elderly pedestrians.

~ Do we need another pedestrian to be killed by a cyclist, as happened in Jacka Blvd. St Kilda just over a year ago, before authorities decide to educate and convince bike riders to obey the law ?

Happy promenading

Alan West

* Vic law

* RACV

~ St Kilda pedestrian death

Further info

 

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Repair Cafe

April 2nd. 2018

In this throw away world there is a glimmer of hope.

Since November last year, the Repair Cafe has been operating the 2nd Sunday every month at the Eco centre in Blessington St St Kilda.

You walk into the repair room, it is a hive of activity.

People sitting, eagerly waiting their turn, to present the broken items at their feet or on their laps.
In one corner someone sitting at one of the repair tables. Viewing with anticipation the disembowelled bits and pieces of a fan motor before them, seemingly randomly scattered over the work bench. Magically, it ends up reassembled, with a knowing smile from the repairman, a return smile of gratitude from the owner and the whirring of a fan saved from landfill.

At the other end of the room, women with decades of sewing experience hunched over sewing machines, running up a split in a dress. A lamp flickering intermittently at another desk. A radio/amplifier, top removed exposing all the intricacies of a miniature urbanscape. An old art deco toaster having a dead mouse extricated, by a white rubber gloved hand, reminiscent of a surgical procedure.

Time runs at a quick pace in here. The outside world with all it's troubles seems far removed. For in this room there is hope. Things are actually being fixed.
No future promises, nor rhetorical blame gaming someone else.
This is old school, roll up your sleeves and get it done. No kicking the can down the road. As a result an overall happy vibe emanates throughout the room. Even when the occasional non fixable item appears, there is still gratitude for the attempt.

With over a half dozen or so motivated repairers, ranging from retired engineers to stay at home mothers with years of sewing experience, just about anything will be attempted. Even electrical appliances that are designed not to be opened, can often be repaired.

The prime objective of the day is to save on landfill. To repair everything from a cuckoo clock to sewing up a hem on a dress. Everything is to be salvaged if possible. A note is taken of the weight of each repaired item and at the end of the day it is tallied and the total weight saved from land fill is triumphantly read out loud.
It is a rewarding moment.

If you are a City of Port Phillip resident, bring down your household items in need of repair and we will have a look at them for you. Enquiries John Hillel 9807 9653.
There is no charge, but donations to the eco centre are gladly accepted.

I am one of the repairers, see you there soon.

Alan West

 

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The AirBnB fallacy

March 8th. 2018

Their PR image. - AirBnB is integral to the modern sharing economy, a disruptor to the hotel industry business model.

Well there is so much more to this story.

The majority of AirBnB Melbourne city listings are entire homes/apartments. They are causing untold disruption to normal residential housing, communities, culture and the rental market.
Far more than just disrupting the hotel industry.

Basic philosophy , “primum non nocere“ - first, do no harm.
A very old tenet, reaching back through history, religions, the plethora of schools of thought, medicine, and common law.
Has 21st century living forgotten this basic decree ?

Everything seems to focus on money and what we must get away with and turn a blind eye to, all in the pursuit of profit.

~In Melbourne there are 20,400 listings for AirBnB.
Of which 12,430 (60%) are entire homes/apartments short term lets.
Port Phillip, has 1,923 entire homes/apartments listed, (73% ).
Most of the disturbance complaints from surrounding neighbours, especially in apartment blocks emanate from entire lets.

I do not begrudge the home owner who lets out spare rooms and remains living on the property, hosting their visitors. It is a different scenario with the entire rent outs, with well over 30% being absentee owner, that are causing most of the liveability problems. Available year-round to tourists, not fully legal, gentrifying neighbourhoods, reducing available normal term rental stock and displacing established long term, vulnerable renters.

The worst situation is where a home/apartment is booked through AirBnB for a weekend party. (known as air party bookings).
The poor neighbours have to contend with the coming and going at all hours, of unknown rowdy people in party mode. No one taking any responsibility for party goers behaviour, or their impact on neighbourhood amenity. A nightmare in apartment blocks.

I feel for people who have bought apartments, mortgaged to the hilt and now find themselves next door to a full time AirBnB, being run primarily for profit with little consideration for others. Strangers coming and going instead of regular faces would be unsettling.
Most apartments are not designed for this type of occupancy. Common areas become over used and not properly cleaned by visitors. Public indemnity insurance policies for the whole apartment block can be compromised due to the commercial nature of just one AirBnB, or the insurance fee increased to commercial level for all residents.
The nuisance factor, young travellers are well know for loud music and revelry to all hours. The whole AirBnB short term rental business model operating with absentee owners is opportunistic. It shifts the burden onto neighbours who lose peace and sanctuary, common areas, and feelings of security. All solely for the benefit of the owner, living at a safe distance elsewhere and apt to ignore or feign all knowledge of such events when presented with complaints.

Apartment block communities should have the power to restrict short-term letting in their building, protecting bona fide residents. State gov’t and local councils should help stamp out the abuse of AirBnB short term, absentee letting.

*“The City of Sydney has lately changed its original stance on Airbnb and is now in favour of owners having the final say on whether short-term lets should be allowed in their apartment buildings“.

I can remember back in the 70's when short term renting in residential blocks was not permitted, both here and in Sydney. Somehow this has all evaporated into the ether and at present is open slather, with little or no protection for legitimate residents.

Further reading:

AirBnB horror stories from America

* The City of Sydney -

Current Melbourne AirBnB listings

Happy renting
Alan West

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St Kilda Triangle update, an important and divisive issue.

 

Feb 4th. 2018

Amended version, as it missed the SKN December print run.

The secretive deal that allows Apple to build a Mega store at Federation Square, has highlighted the vulnerability of our very own St Kilda Triangle.
The latest CoPP framework is modelled on the Fed Square’s cultural charter and committee of management. These proved useless in protecting Fed Square against the commercial and political influence of a multinational.

With a flick of the State Planning Minister’s pen, all Council’s consulting work and future planning can be overwritten. If we acquiesce to a backroom deal like Fed. Square proceeding without planning permit oversights or community consultation, then this will set a frightful new precedent for the Triangle.
The process at Fed. Square is already threatening to be a vote loser for State Labor.
With the state elections due on November 24th. the Triangle should be safe until then.

Over the last decade there have been 3 major St Kilda Triangle vision plans drawn up for Council consideration.
Citta Masterplan 2007 (Red document).
* St Kilda Triangle 2012 (Orange document).
~ Masterplan 2016 (Purple document).
Referring to these documents by colour, avoids unnecessary complication.
The Red document in 2007 actually formed into an agreement with CoPP and a contract with Citta was signed for redevelopment of the Triangle.
This was the plan that upset many locals due to the designed massive overbuild and destruction of the Grassy slopes located between The Esplanade and Lower Esplanade.

Rallies, protests and marches were organised. 2,000 people came to a council meeting to display their opposition. Tensions ran high.
The campaign is well remembered, as the "Triangle Wars."

As a result, the council at the time was unceremoniously dumped in the 2008 elections. The new council paid out Citta with $5Mill of rate payers’ money, to unwind the Triangle contract, along with Citta being granted a sweet Palais management contract for 5 years, as final settlement for the whole unwinding of the deal. The Global Financial crisis was also afoot at this time, and some believe this, beyond other considerations, killed the project. Allowing Citta an easy way out by accepting the pay out and walking away from the initial contract.

Following all this kafuffle, and after things had settled down somewhat, in 2012 the Orange document was drawn up.

Compiled from an extensive consultation process, directly engaging a broad spectrum of over 900 people. It put forward a minimal build, with defined maximum heights, and was the result of the public’s outright rejection of the Red document’s overbuild, and planned destruction of the Grassy slopes.

We now come to the Purple document.
It mysteriously appeared around 2015 and was managed and steered by some members of the 2012-16 council, to supplant the Orange document.

In 2016 this succeeded and the Purple document was endorsed by council. Not the current sitting council we have today, but the prior council of 2012-2016. Note only two councillors from the prior council were re-elected into the current council of 9 members.

Some concerns surrounding the Purple document are that it returns to the overbuild inherent in the old Red document and also threatens to attack the Grassy slopes once again with concrete.
Incredulously, this new Purple document uses the same architects (ARM Architecture) as in the Red document, a plan that was clearly rejected by the broad community in 2008.
One wonders at this coincidence, and in architecture circles, the Purple document is known and spoken of, as the ARM Masterplan.
The direct consultation of only 400 odd people was less than half the 900 consulted in the Orange document.
There have been lingering suspicions that those invited to consult were filtered with a weighting towards developers, architects and industry types.
The Purple plan also includes a scalable approach, where maximum heights are not set, and open to "the requirements of future users and tenants". The eventual building behind the Palais will surely magically "scalable" itself way above the Palais' highest point, swamping it. Other smaller buildings on site also will climb up to the highest stretchable reach. Making view line studies redundant. All courtesy of the magic potion "scalability", which means "the capacity to be changed in size or scale". Developer translation - means as big as possible, and then just a little more, both vertically and horizontally.

This Purple document is not as kosher as some would have you believe. There is doubt over the process being a broad spectrum consultation, and the scalability issue is wide open to abuse.
On close inspection, this Purple document looks more like a return to the old infamous Red document, than some inspired visionary masterpiece.

Luckily there is no Council budget allocated this financial year for Triangle planning. Over the last 20 years, $20 Mill of our ratepayer money has been loosely spent on grand visions with architects, planners and consultants reaping a good little earner.

Late last year an amendment to a motion passed in council put a halt to Triangle planning, including background work, for 2 years. That must have irked some of the behind the scenes, Purple document steering people, but there is no rush.
The Triangle can earn $1,25 Mill a year just operating as a car park, with some winter activation when parking demands are low, and earn back some of the $20 Mill squandered on the professional visionaries.

Who knows, a Triangle vision may be born through people frequenting winter activation events.

I have a firm belief that the Grassy Slopes define the Esplanade promenade. If they remain untouched, and well kept, their beauty will last for millennia. Within decades vistas as such in major cities will be lost or crowded out with concrete.

The slopes and views will become a rarity and a tourist attraction in itself. This natural formation is in no need of interference from contemporary planning fashion makeovers.

A thousand years from now, the Grassy Slopes will be just as beautiful as they are today, even more so. Pseudo self-elevating visionary "but I am a creative" intervention not required.

* Orange document:
stkildatriangle.com/st_kilda_triangle_2012.htm
~ Purple document:
http://www.stkildatriangle.com/masterplan.htm?source=Masterplan

further reading:
For an in depth Triangle Plans comparison, see Krystyna Kynst’s analysis- https://www.dropbox.com/s/xwqi1ksmj4sajkn/TrianglePlansComparisonKK.pdf

Alan West

 

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The Espy

 

January 9th. 2018

The Espy opened for trading in 1878 and has proudly sat on that elevated bayside corner, a St Kilda landmark, a cultural icon ever since.
She has gone through many changes over the last 140 years. The most dramatic being a whole complete front ground floor addition of the big bay window, front stairs and bar to the side.

In the mid 1980s, songwriter Mike Brady's consortium bought the block, bounded by the Esplande, Pollington and Victoria Streets, wanting to develop an 18-storey tower behind the pub. As a result of a huge community outcry and the hard fought campaign by Save St Kilda, steered by Kate Shaw, the council imposed a six-storey height limit on the site. This knocked Mike’s dream on the head. Next in line, Carlton and United Breweries purchased the site in 1995 from the Brady bunch.

On August 1997, the Becton Corporation purchased the whole block, with big plans for redevelopment including a 38 storey apartment tower.
From 1997 to 2003 the Espy was in mortal danger of being demolished by Becton. The long drawn out battle with the Esplanade Alliance eventually saw a local victory and a special planning amendment passed by CoPP, that enshrined a ‘cultural use’ for the Espy and safety from the bulldozers. The 38 storey monstrosity was reduced to the current 10 story development, that awkwardly sits behind the Espy as we see it today.

In 2001 Becton put out to tender the lease for just the Espy Hotel . The Lewis/Comey/Esplanade Alliance bid was pipped by former nightclub operators Paul Adamo and Vince Sofo (previous Chevron nightclub owners). They attempted to sell the lease in early 2014, but did not receive a suitable offer. They closed the hotel suddenly on Sunday 17 May 2015 and it has remained closed since, with the Gershwin room used occasionally for special gigs.
Renovations commenced, progressing extremely slowly until coming to a complete halt.

Around mid 2017 the Espy lease was sold yet again, to (privately owned) Melbourne based hospitality group Sand Hill Road, who have extensive experience operating hotels since 2000.
This time the Espy's fortunes have changed hopefully for the better, with a new lease of life.

Sand Hill Road have kept the plans close to their chest, but include building a large beer garden with lots of glass near the entrance. A circular stage in the front bar near the stairs leading to the first floor, and a host of other rumoured changes. I visited the premises a couple of months ago. Except for the Gershwin room the rest of the place was totally gutted, ready for renovation. Thankfully the inane, half completed remodelling of the the front bar ceiling started by the previous owners, is to be removed. The bay window had the top third obstructed by the construction to support the planned 1st floor terrace. It will be removed by the current operators and the front bar brought back to original ceiling height. I have confidence the current group will make good for the Espy and she has been saved just in the nick of time. That 1st floor terrace design was totally insensitive.

The new works are due to be completed on schedule, and a planned re-opening well before xmas 2018 is on the cards.

The old saying about the Espy was that in the last 3 decades or so, the faces changed but the clothes remained the same. The old days of most patrons wearing black because they could extend clothes washing times has passed. The Espy having gone through the old Jazz, Swing, Pub Rock and Roll eras looks like now coming out on the gentrified side.

Hopefully there will be enough of the old girl's spirit left that we can go in and order a drink. Stare out the bay window, get all nostalgic with a lump in our throat.
Wash it down with a bevie and realise it is now time for us baby boomers to pass her on, like she was passed on to us by the prior crew of Espy characters.

Long may she stand, and I'll be one of the first to hit the bar and raise a toast………

to the Espy !

further reading:
St Kilda Historical Society - http:// stkildahistory.org.au/ history/espy-hotel

Happy New Year
Alan West

 

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The St Kilda Triangle.

November 16th. 2017

Over the last decade there have been 3 major St Kilda Triangle vision plans drawn up for Council consideration.
Citta Masterplan 2007 (Red document).
St Kilda Triangle 2012 (Orange document).
Masterplan 2016 (Purple document).
Referring to these documents by colour, avoids unneccessary complication.

The Red document in 2007 actually formed into an agreement with CoPP and a contract with Citta was signed for redevelopment of the Triangle.
This was the plan that upset many locals due to the designed massive overbuild and destruction of the Grassy slopes located between The Esplanade and Lower Esplanade.
Rallies, protests and marches were organised. 2,000 people came to a council meeting to display their opposition. Tensions ran high.
The campaign is well remembered, as the "Triangle Wars."

As a result, the council at the time was unceremoniously dumped in the 2008 elections. The new council paid out Citta with $5Mill of rate payers’ money, to unwind the Triangle contract, along with Citta being granted a sweet Palais management contract for 5 years, as final settlement for the whole unwinding of the deal. The Global Financial crisis was also afoot at this time, and some believe this, beyond other considerations, killed the project. Allowing Citta an easy way out by accepting the pay out and walking away from the initial contract.

Following all this kafuffle, and after things had settled down somewhat, in 2012 the Orange document was drawn up. Compiled from an extensive consultation process, directly engaging a broad spectrum of over 900 people.
It put forward a minimal build, with defined maximum heights, and was the result of the public’s outright rejection of the Red document’s overbuild, and planned destruction of the Grassy slopes.

We now come to the Purple document.
It mysteriously appeared around 2015 and was managed and steered by some members of the 2012-16 council, to supplant the Orange document.

In 2016 this succeeded and the Purple document was ratified by council.

Some concerns surrounding the Purple document are that it returns to the overbuild inherent in the old Red document and also threatens to attack the Grassy slopes once again with concrete.
Incredulously, this new Purple document uses the same architects (ARM Architecture) as in the Red document, a plan that was clearly rejected by the broader community in 2008.
One wonders at this coincidence, and in architecture circles, the Purple document is known and spoken of, as the ARM Masterplan.
The direct consultation of only 400 odd people was less than half the 900 consulted in the Orange document.
There have been lingering suspicions that those invited to consult were filtered with a weighting towards developers, architects and industry types.
The Purple plan also includes a scalable approach, where maximum heights are not set, and open to "the requirements of future users and tenants". The eventual building behind the Palais will surely magically "scalable" itself way above the Palais' highest point, swamping it. Other smaller buildings on site also will climb up to the highest stretchable reach. Making view line studies redundant. All courtesy of the magic potion "scalability", which means "the capacity to be changed in size or scale". Developer translation - means as big as possible, and then just a little more, both vertically and horizontally.

This Purple document is not as kosher as some would have you believe. There is doubt over the process being a broad spectrum consultation, and the scalability issue is wide open to abuse.
On close inspection, this Purple document looks more like a return to the old infamous Red document, than some inspired visionary masterpiece.

Luckily there is no Council budget allocated this financial year for Triangle planning. Over the last 20 years, $20 Mill of our ratepayer money has been loosely spent on grand visions with architects, planners and consultants reaping a good little earner.

A few weeks ago an amendment to a motion passed in council put a halt to Triangle planning, including background work, for 2 years.
That must have irked some of the behind the scenes, Purple document steering people, but there is no rush.
The Triangle can earn $1,25 Mill a year just operating as a car park, with some winter activation when parking demands are low, and earn back some of the $20 Mill squandered on the professional visionaries.

Who knows, a Triangle vision may be born through people frequenting winter activation events.

I have a firm belief that the Grassy Slopes define the Esplanade promenade. If they remain untouched, and well kept, their beauty will last for millennia. Within decades vistas as such in major cities will be lost or crowded out with concrete. The slopes and views will become a rarity and a tourist attraction in itself. This natural formation is in no need of interference from contemporary planning fashion makeovers.

A thousand years from now, the Grassy Slopes will be just as beautiful as they are today, even more so. Pseudo self-elevating visionary "but I am a creative" intervention not required.

*Orange document - http://stkildatriangle.com/stKildaTriangle2012.htm?source=St+Kilda+Triangle+2012
*Purple document - http://www.stkildatriangle.com/index.htm

further reading:
For an in depth Triangle Plans comparison, see Krystyna Kinstís analysis- https://www.dropbox.com/s/xwqi1ksmj4sajkn/TrianglePlansComparisonKK.pdf

Happy Summer
Alan West

 

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Happy 1st. Birthday Council

October 12th 2017

The new Council is now approaching one year old. Just growing out of the crawling stage, standing on two feet and starting to walk right up to issues such as Australia Day, the Carlisle St drinking problem, plastic bags, marriage equality. Council is and should be more than just R, R & R. Rates, roads & rubbish. Being involved in moral and ethic issues, and advocating for and on behalf of residents is for the betterment of us all.

With regards to Australia Day, I do not want to attempt to speak for first peoples, but for myself. I am a 4th. Generation Australian, with British ancestry on both sides. In the way my ancestors colonized this land, I am both embarrassed and concerned. Australia Day should not be celebrated on the day that Cook landed and declared Terra Nullius. On June 3rd.1992, the High Court of Australia decided that terra nullius should not have been applied to Australia, (Mabo case). Maybe that day is a day to celebrate as Australia Day, definitely not 26th. of January.

Back to our Council. A current audit is being conducted of local buildings and spaces of local significance not covered by heritage protection. This has just begun. There seems to be a bias towards old pubs, but hopefully they will also include some of the beautiful old buildings which CoPP has yet to place on the Heritage overlay register.

I am glad problems are now being tackled front on. I have faith in this council's moral bone fides. Which should hold them in good stead for resolutions in alignment with residents needs and wants.

Who, lets not forget, voted them in to represent us in the first place.

There seems to be a growing, humanising culture developing in this new council.
Personally it feels like it is emanating through the Mayor's office, a couple of Greens and another councillor or two, assuaging the whole complex into slightly less defensive positioning and a willingness to listen. Maybe the message got through from the conflict and turmoil last year, which surrounded the PTV tram works in Fitzroy and Acland St, and the Palais Theatre kafuffle. Both of which were not handled that well at all by the prior council.

I am not a council apologist, and local government cannot please everybody, but there sure has been a massive change.
The new structure, where we have 3 councillors per ward (rather than 1) has increased consultation amongst themselves, with residents and businesses, and the council as a whole.

With this, things can only improve. I dream for a proactive council.

Happy 1st. Birthday Council

Alan West

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CoPP that, happy anniversary.

September 7th 2017

The first anniversary of our new city council is close at hand.
Last October, we voted in a pastiche serving of some new, some incumbent, and some Lazarath soufflés with greens on the side.
I must say what a pleasant result it was, being unchained from the prior, somewhat troubled council.

Readjusting to three wards with nine councillors has been handled well. Three councillors per ward instead of only one, certainly injects diversity and more consultation.
The presence of 3 Green councillors is welcomed and has certainly brought in a more environmentally weighted influence.
Personally, I would have also loved to see one or two full blown "card carrying" social democrats voted onto Council.
I find their basic tenet "people and planet before profit" refreshing and quite an attractive ballast to keep democracy afloat.
Council meetings would have been more entertaining with the pot being stirred more often and social democratic attitudes added to the brew.
Over the river in Yarra & Maribyrnong the socialist councillors certainly are proactive, at times creating robust and fiery council meetings.

I know a majority of our councillors well, and they are hard working and tackle their duties responsibly.
With all due respect, overall our current council seems to be lacking fire in the belly. They seem more motivated towards putting out small fires. A reactive, rather than proactive posture.

In fairness, it would be remiss not to mention some of the council achievements in its first year.
e.g. Live streaming Council meetings, The Gay Pride Centre, Gatwick resident relocation taskforce, reducing winter parking fees in Pt Melbourne, St Kilda and Elwood, Acland St Mall activation, completion of Palais refurbishment, Gasworks theatre upgrade, facilitating the Seabaths VCAT win, and the most laborious - completing the Council Plan (integrated for the first time with the budget ).
Also their advocacy work - Fishermans bend, ban on plastic bags, marriage equality, emissions reductions and possibly Australia Day celebration considerations.

Meanwhile there are burning local issues to be tackled.

This council is slated to take us into the next decade. What will Port Phillip look like in 2020 ? Downtown Docklands, interspersed with a Chadstone by the sea and a Gold Coast urbanscape. Another Box Hill by the bay ?
Hopefully we remember past lessons learnt and don't become totally ravaged by the incessant invading hordes of greedy developers. It would be marvellous to see a few councillors actually become proactive, to stand up and make some noise about protecting our municipality

Every time I look around Port Phillip, I see another piece of blue sky lost, a bit of beach taken over. Another new backpacker bar. A Bauhaus box erected on the rubble of a lovely old building.
Go down to the Library at the Docklands, any day or night and walk around the neighbourhood for an hour. Do we want that to happen to us in Port Phillip ?

Happy Equinox

Alan West

 

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Who does the pot of gold belong to ?

August 7th 2017

The Seabaths has been sitting on public land in one form or another for the last 157 years.
A hearing was scheduled at VCAT for the end of August. The operators applying to take over half the public space on the rooftop, build on it and have a liquor license for 300 people.

July ended with the operators of the Seabaths unable to produce a signed Coastal Consent notice as promised. This caused a cascading event. CoPP denied the application and the VCAT hearing became invalid.
A win for locals who faced the loss of public space, with no reciprocal public amenity offered that out weighed this loss.

As a result of local activism to save the rooftop, a few anomalies in the planning and decision making process around Seabaths applications were unearthed, including the confusion about coastal consent mentioned above.

Another is the current application for the Seabaths 543/2017:
"Buildings and works comprising construction of two roofed external bar structures/alcohol service areas (ground courtyard and mezzanine "deck" levels) in association with existing licensed areas for Republica and Captain Baxter tenancies (retrospective)".

Note this is retrospective, and involves yet again public space (the courtyard) ie. the two bars have already been built prior to obtaining a building permit.
Normally if you built a chook shed in your backyard without a permit, the council would make you tear it down.

It seems this does not apply to businesses on the foreshore, even when public space is involved. A rule for us and a rule for them.

I am also concerned with the culture of loose council lease arrangements on the foreshore and environs.
Agreements are signed and then neatly filed away, gathering cobwebs and dust. At times misplaced or completely lost. Sometimes only conducted with a nod of the head.
Meanwhile council officers move on, gaining employment elsewhere, new ones take their place. Agreements become forgotten or malleable over time, aided by insufficient governance/compliance.
This allows an easy pathway for lessees to conveniently forget obligations agreed to as part of their negotiations to influence rent and concessions sought.

One of the worst situations is the West Coast Pavillion (again on public land) paying the princely sum of $1 per year rent for the complete building.
Another, the Metropol reneging on a lease agreement, (using safety as a pretext) to close the public toilets to the public, but coincidentally safe enough to allow the bar on the otherside access and use.
I assure you there are others, the mind boggles.

Happy Spring

Alan West

 


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