Sea Point land sale: School will have affordable housing units for staff - court hears

2019-11-28 16:12
This file image shows Reclaim the City holding a public meeting outside the Sea Point Methodist Church where they discussed the sale of the Tafelberg property.  (James de Villiers, News24, file)

This file image shows Reclaim the City holding a public meeting outside the Sea Point Methodist Church where they discussed the sale of the Tafelberg property. (James de Villiers, News24, file)

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The Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS) plans to include 44 affordable housing units for staff who will work at the school, the Western Cape High Court heard in a challenge by housing activists who want the entire site to be turned into social housing.

"You don't have to be Jewish to use it," said advocate Paul Farlam SC on behalf of the school.

The affordable housing could be for school staff, from teachers to cleaners.

The school agreed to buy the property for R135m with the intention of flattening Wynard Mansions which used to be the flats for live-in staff at the Tafelberg Remedial School before it moved off the site.

Farlam said before it was the Tafelberg Remedial School, it was the Ellerslie Girls High School which was built in the 19th century. The main building, its trees and playground are protected because it is a heritage site.

Mansions to be demolished

This means there are restrictions on what can be built on the site and how much of the property can be used.

The PJJDS intends restoring the building for continued use as a school. It will demolish the mansions, which used to house 12 staffers, to build 44 new affordable housing units.

The PJJDS will also add a restaurant and a day hospital that anybody can use, and later a Jewish home for the aged.

Farlam said of the site on Main Road: "It is very splendid."

Judge Pat Gamble peered over his spectacles as he sat with Judge Monde Semela who is also presiding.

"We drove past it last week and saw it from all angles," said Judge Gamble. "We also looked at the Helen Bowden site."

That building once housed nurses from Somerset Hospital.

Farlam pointed out social housing sites were supposed to be 2ha or more but the Tafelberg site is around 1.7ha.

Heritage status

"Restrictions on the site due to its heritage status would render a significant portion unusable.

"If social housing is built it would have a commercial aspect to include retail properties for cross-subsidisation. This would mean more parking on top of the parking that would have to be provided for the residential units."

Farlam said there would also be height restrictions on the site which would limit how many social housing units could be built.

Social activist groups Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi are challenging the Western Cape government's decision to sell the 1.7ha plot known as the Tafelberg site in Sea Point for R135m to the day school. 

They feel the site is in the ideal place to help redress apartheid spatial planning that saw mostly white people living in the inner city, with black, coloured and Indian residents being pushed out of it.

They also noted no social housing units have been built in central Cape Town in the past 25 years and the provincial government and City of Cape Town had merely been "talking the talk" by presenting various projects that were "in the pipeline" without actually doing anything.

Farlam submitted the affordable housing the day school would build would not cost the government a cent.

"Having the day school there would actually bring money into the government's coffers, and would benefit the social and cultural cohesion of the community."

He said the Western Cape government was currently being charged R500 000 per month in rates by the City for a property that was derelict.

Farlam added security would be tighter than, for example, St George's Anglican Cathedral near Gardens, but it would not be "exclusive".

"It's something that's good for the site, it's good for Sea Point, it's good for the city," he argued.

The case continues.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  land
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