BALANCING the needs of a residential community and a business entity in the same area is part of the work I do as a councillor. One such issue involves the illegal parking around the Damansara Specialist Hospital and the traffic nuisance it represents for the SS20 Damansara Kim residents.
There are no morals to this story, save those readers conclude for themselves.
A little background
The issue of illegal parking around Damansara Specialist Hospital has been a long-standing one since the hospital was first built. As the hospital expanded, so too did the number of customers and the number of visiting relatives, which in turn caused more traffic problems.
To address the acute shortage of parking space, the hospital proposed to build a three-storey car park on its premises. The residents living in the surrounding areas went up in arms at the project as the proposed building would be too near their homes and could potentially strip their right to privacy.
The project was then halted.
When I was made a councillor in 2008, I was given the task of fixing the problem. After meeting some resident representatives, one of the proposals the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) decided to undertake was to create additional parking bays at the green area along Jalan SS20/10 just outside the Damansara Specialist Hospital.
A public hearing to get consent for the creation of additional parking lots was held for the residents and the hospital management, and to discuss any other related issues.
In the lead-up to the public hearing, some residents proposed that the hospital be allowed to build their multi-storey car park project. These residents lived away from the proposed car park site and thus, had no problem with it. In fact, they deemed it a good solution to resolve the issue of illegal parking in the area.
As such, during the public hearing, I enquired if the residents would be open to the idea of allowing the hospital to once more build the parking lot. Many residents were openly angry at the proposal and shouted at me, while the persons who had originally pushed for the idea kept extra quiet.
I took the insults and harsh words in stride, and told the assembled residents that I would have the minutes reflect their view that the hospital would not be allowed to build any extension to their parking lot. The minutes, I said, would also reflect that there was no objection for the proposed parking lots to be built at the MBPJ’s expense.
Two years later
Two years later, the greenery was cleared and the new parking bays built. But the illegal parking problem remained. I was recently invited to once again meet the hospital management and residents to discuss the problem. The residents proposed many ideas to help deal with the traffic issue, some feasible while others not so.
I had representatives from several MBPJ departments with me at this meeting who took note of the requests. But I also had to remind residents about the limited resources at my disposal in fulfilling their requests.
During that discussion, the hospital management once more approached the subject of a multi-storey car park. The management even presented some concept designs to solicit feedback from the residents.
I had not known beforehand that the hospital management would do this. Neither were their plans submitted to the MBPJ for consideration. As the proposal was unofficial, I saw nothing wrong with allowing the presentation. While some residents were clearly agitated, I reminded them that they were under no obligation to accept the plans and that the hospital was only seeking feedback.
As expected, no sooner had the hospital’s architect finished the presentation, the objections came and the idea once again was aborted.
The day after…
One day after concluding the meeting between the residents and the hospital, I received an e-mail from Petaling Jaya Utara Member of Parliament Tony Pua’s political secretary.
The political secretary wanted to know if there was any truth to an allegation by a Damansara Kim resident — who was not present at the meeting but had talked to those who attended — that I was conniving with the hospital management to force the car park project on the residents.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak would like to explain that the new parking bays outside the Damansara Specialist Hospital were made on a road reserve, and that it isn’t possible to build a multi-storey car park there. Contrary to the popular belief that road reserves are only meant for road widening purposes, which Jalan SS20/10 would most likely never need, a road reserve is also used for placement of utility pipes and lines that an area may need in future.
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