THE city of Petaling Jaya (PJ) faces a myriad of problems as a result of urban development. With 97.2 square kilometres under the jurisdiction of the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), the council has its hands full dealing with issues brought about by development.
Lack of space (©Svilen Mushkatov / sxc.hu)
High-rise development brings about an increase in population and traffic density, which causes increased stress for the residents. Residents staying near schools curse irresponsible parents for parking vehicles right in front of their gates, resulting in heated confrontations. Suddenly, the home is not so peaceful anymore.
Is this what the town planners envisioned for the ratepayers of PJ when it was first developed?
A brief history
When it was founded in 1953, PJ was originally designed to be an enclosed township, at the order of Sir Gerald Templer, to keep the urban Chinese population from assisting the communists.
As the years went by, the communist threat waned. With Kuala Lumpur (KL) slowly becoming overly congested with slum areas, PJ expanded its borders to become a satellite township that catered to the residential needs of the urban folk in KL. These parts would have unimaginative names starting from Section 1 all the way to Section 22. Section 15 is missing though — would anyone with knowledge of this care to share why PJ does not have a Section 15?
As PJ became more vibrant, newer housing estates were opened in the form of SS1 (Kampung Sungeiway) to SS26 (Taman Mayang Jaya). The MBPJ also incorporated the PJS areas in the south (Kampung Medan), where a lot of squatter colonies were forming, and was tasked with redeveloping the area.
(© Rodolfo Clix / sxc.hu)The MBPJ also opened up more areas in the north for development with the naming convention of PJU1 to PJU10 (including Bandar Utama, Kota Damansara, and Bandar Sri Damansara). The MBPJ also lost some areas (Sunway Pyramid and Subang Parade) in 1997 to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) when it was formed.
The history lesson is just to give readers an idea of how big an area MBPJ oversees.
Coming back to the vision for the city, PJ has housing areas, factories, and business centres. All have different needs that must be catered for with proper planning guidelines. These guidelines can only be achieved through consultation with the local community to ensure that the rights of the people who are already staying there are taken into account.
Unfortunately, only parts of PJ received this plan-and-consult treatment. The RTPJ1 (Rancangan Tempatan Petaling Jaya 1 or Petaling Jaya Local Plan 1) was done in 2003 for some of the older parts of PJ with strict guidelines on what sort of development is and is not allowed.
A new plan for the rest of PJ, RTPJ2, was never implemented as the exercise was done just before the 8 March elections this year, and the plan has not been approved.
The plan remains in limbo at present because of the incompleteness of the studies that were done. There are no specific guidelines and recommendations of what is and is not allowed.
Whether these plans exist or not, development must still go on. For areas covered by RTPJ1, the strict guidelines prevent property developers from proposing ad hoc plans that do not gel with the surrounding areas. Some may think that areas not included in the RTPJ1 are fair game for them to propose just about any sort of development.
(© Sigurd Decroos / sxc.hu)
This is not true. No development can occur without the approval given at the MBPJ full board meeting. And there are rules to be observed before such an approval can be given.
For example, a traffic impact assessment report must be submitted. The MBPJ engineering department has to make recommendations on the additional drainage and road infrastructure needed to cater for the upcoming development. Feedback needs to be obtained from the other authorities like the Malaysian Highway Authority or the police for whatever concerns they may have. A meeting must then be held with residents in the surrounding area of the development to seek their approval for the impending project.
Rules, what rules?
Such assurances do not stop the residents from worrying though, especially when the council seems incapable of adhering to the rules that are in place. A recent development in Ara Damansara has the neighbouring residents fuming. Meanwhile, the MBPJ officer could offer no black-and-white explanation to state assemblyperson Dr Nasir Hashim on where the approvals were coming from.
Section 19, which has not had floods for almost 20 years, is now flooding along the Jalan Harapan road reserve due to development projects on Jalan SS2/72.
Jalan Universiti, which is under RTPJ1, has allowed several business activities to occur that are against the plan’s guidelines. Residents living along those areas are, of course, not pleased. The list goes on.
It is not only the residents who are complaining about the lack of rules. The billboard industry, whose structures are dependent on town planning approvals, was equally incensed that rules and regulations seem to be thrown out the window. Gan Kok Beng of Ganad Media openly accused council staff of being on the take.
(© Kamil KantarcÄ±oÄŸlu / sxc.hu)
There are no short-term answers to the issues raised, which will recur in other parts of PJ until the system is rectified — which won’t be anytime soon.
Instead of concentrating on the policies, MBPJ councillors are busy dealing with the problems caused by a deeply flawed system. The public is simply too used to the previous system where a phone call to a political party is supposed to settle everything. And if it doesn’t, the usual “I won’t vote for you in the next election!” line follows.
All I can say now is there’s a big mess to clean up.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak is stressed out due to the incredible number of complaints coming his way that he cannot solve. He can only offer an apology on the council’s behalf.