Partnering over parking

2016-04-05 06:00
 Formalised parking is on the cards for the Muizenberg beachfront, as the council and the Muizenberg Improvement District hammer out an agreement. PHOTO: nicole mccain

Formalised parking is on the cards for the Muizenberg beachfront, as the council and the Muizenberg Improvement District hammer out an agreement. PHOTO: nicole mccain

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Formalised and controlled parking may hold the answer to safety concerns at Muizenberg beachfront, locals believe.

This as the Muizenberg Improvement District (MID) and the City of Cape Town enter discussions on a jointly managed parking area.

There have been numerous reports of harassment and alleged illegal activity over the last few years, according to Muizenberg Ratepayers’ Association chairperson Robin Solomon.

“On the whole, the car guards do not add any value to visitors’ experience of Muizenberg beach. On the contrary – they often harass visitors and some are allegedly involved in petty crime and drug dealing. As such, they undermine all the community’s efforts and investments in the beach front,” he says.

In 2012, a “Beach Buddies” programme saw car guards who had passed security clearance approved to work at the parking lot.

However, the project was not registered with the City of Cape Town and was dissolved.

Residents now say they would either like to see the car guards removed and a reasonable fee charged for parking, or the vetting of an approval of car guards working there by local police.

MID chairperson Steven Frankal says the organisation has “grappled with the problem of informal car guarding at the beachfront parking area” for five years now.

“The MID receives regular complaints from our community about the safety threat posed by informal car guarding on the beachfront. We also monitor social media discussions which detail endless complaints and concerns about personal safety. The feedback clearly demonstrates the view that locals and visitors frequently feel vulnerable and unsafe; residents post about muggings, being harassed for money and other alleged criminal activity,” he says.

MID has lobbied since 2011 to deal with the “undesirable situation”, and has attempted to intervene through hiring additional law enforcement officers, introducing community based projects to manage the car guards in a more structured way, private funding for additional security along the beachfront and ongoing engagement with City officials, Frankal says.

“The MID would like to see a collaborative agreement between the City and the Improvement District that allows for the parking area to be formalised and controlled, creating a safe and secure parking environment to benefit all visitors. The MID is currently engaging with City role players with a view to reaching agreement on putting a jointly managed parking area in place,” he says.

However, not all car guards are problematic, with one who apprehended a thief that was breaking into a car and flagging down local police, says Gary Kleynhans, owner of Gary’s Surf on the beachfront.

Charlie Mbambla regularly apprehends suspects who attempt to steal bags and is trusted by the locals to safeguard keys and wallets, he says.
“There are two elements within the car guards. Some are tik monsters, while others like Charlie are reliable,” he says. “Formalising the parking is going to be tricky, but there needs to be some form of screening. Most car guards are self appointed – they just buy a bib and chase the others off.”

Johan van der Merwe, Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, says currently car guards do not have City permission to operate in the area.
There are no specific bylaws regarding car guards, explains JP Smith, Mayoral committee member for safety and security.
“However, they are subject to the same laws as other residents, including, for example, the Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Nuisance Bylaw,” he says.
This prohibits harassment, the blocking of parking spaces and aggressive begging.

The proposal is to provide a formal parking service to the area that will result in the removal of informal car guards, and the provision of formal security for visitors and their vehicles and better management of the traffic congestion within the parking area, explains Van der Merwe. The City is looking towards formalising all aspects of the parking area with a focus on formal security from 07:00 to 23:00 daily.

“A draft agreement has been prepared and a meeting is scheduled to look towards finalising a management agreement between the City and the Muizenberg Improvement District regarding this matter,” he adds.

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