Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DP, The Box of Pandora For The City!

“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” … Jane Jacobs

When it come to DP i.e. Development Plan which is directly related to the City who better than Jane can have authority to comment on it! The writer of “Death & Life of Great American Cities” has been my big inspiration for topics related to our city & when the most awaited thing in the decade has happened, once again I took rescue at Jane for getting right quote to start my sharing! Actually what better thing could have been happened to the city as sanction of DP i.e. Development Plan finally got through from State Govt! That too with a sweet surprise i.e. for old limits & new limits of PMC (the term itself is old now) will have same DC i.e. Development Control rules! So at last the joke has been corrected, I said joke because PMC i.e. Pune Municipal Corporation must be only one of its kind for last nearly twelve odd years running the city with two sets of DC rules. The villages like Baner & Dhyari which were merged some twelve years back were having different rules while old city limit areas were having different rules for building new buildings! This was leading to much confusion which finally can be cleared with entire city working with one DC rules. Again joke is DC rules have been arrived or cleared but DP i.e. Development Plan is yet to be received so it will take some time to study actual impact of the DC & DP on city’s real estate as well entire development as a coming Metro & not just City or Big Town. Even in DC also there are gray areas like BDP i.e. bio diversity park reservations as I think now political party want to take any clear stand about it, not at least till PMC elections which are just around the corner i.e. in Feb 17! And the 260 pages documents is being claimed as giving clarity to city planning & practical & logical approach & what not but let’s see what & how it will be affecting real estate in totality on first look!

The best part of publishing DP is its timing; I always respect Hon CM for his wisdom & by choosing the time to publish or clearing whatever you call it the DP he ensured that with PMC elections in just few days no political party of leader will be interested in making any fuss about the contents of the DP. Leave apart from studying the DP, here no one even took any time to comment on DP barring few select names, as most of political personalities including their bosses are busy in securing their future by getting party ticket, so who cares at such time for city’s future. Sure on lines of the fraze, “Sar salamat to pagdi pachas” we can now say “Corporation Seat salamat to DP Pachas”! I really wonder about future of this city as no elected member spared any time to assess the impact of provisions made in DP on city. Rather that could have been great agenda for the upcoming location i.e. to correct the lacunas if any (there are many); as well revel the plans how the DP is going to be executed by PMC which in nutshell is responsibility of elected members also. Though never they accept it & conveniently put it on shoulders of administration is different thing! But at least on this front the so called NGO’s as well organizations like CREDAI & MBVA ie representing builders should take lead, study the DP & make common man aware about its importance so as they can ask the PMC election candidates about DP, is what I expect as a citizen of this city! Though as usual its being painted as DP is high-jacked by the builders as so much millions of extra FSI will be generated & things like that but then one thing I never understand of media as well these so called NGO’s, as we want more affordable homes & we have limited land & we won’t increase FSI, then from where these more numbers of affordable homes will come? But at the same time lets understand DP is not just real estate, DP is backbone of city for next twenty years & right from providing homes to every kind of infrastructure is going to be governed by DP so not only real estate but all industries including hospitality & IT also has got their future tied with DP. But unfortunately all industries other than real estate keep away from DP & its making as well execution part & high time that they too should take active part about DP & its implementation policies!

Real problem is how many people have actually understood the DP & its provisions in first place? As first the DP has been made by PMC & then it’s said to be scratched by the committee formed by State & then what has been sanctioned is mix of both & in addition it’s said that provisions from extended areas DP also has been taken in account & this new version of DP will be in force for entire city! Now that certainly raises many questions as there were many conflicting provisions in new & old city limits & major was provision of 15% amenity space on any plot coming for development in extended areas DP let’s call it as new DP. While the old city limit wasn’t having any such provision of amenity space up to plot size of 3 hectors & hardly there are any such size plots left in old city limit! And it’s this 15% amenity thing which has become major hitch in planning the projects especially on smaller size plot, so now it’s being applicable to old city or its been removed needs to be clarified. Also what is the use of this amenity space isn’t been clarified as thousands such spaces are in possession of PMC already & which are laying idle rather are being used for all wrong purpose making nuisance to surrounding residences is a fact! Also what about the builders who has already bought the plots & the development is yet to start, doesn’t this inducement of the 15% amenity space or 0.75 FSI thing will be a big obstacle for such projects? Same is the story with redevelopment of projects where final plot numbers has not there i.e. plots for which no open space or amenity space has been left in lay out, in old city limits!

Then there is issue of keeping balcony open as well considering stair cases & common passages in FSI; I think we are going one step forward & two steps back on framing DC rules with such provisions! Take example of balcony, last so many years balcony enclose is allowed & leave apart premium it used to generate for PMC but with every sq ft counting why waste space in keeping balconies open? As imagine a room size of 10ft x 10ft with 4ft wide balcony to it & a room with 10ftx 14ft with balcony enclosed; the clients will anyway going to enclose the balcony which was happening back in 90’s & that’s why balcony enclosing was allowed with charging premium. Now again forcing the developers to keep balcony open with repeat the story, not only the flat holders will have to burdened with that expense but the entire buildings elevation gets damaged as individual flat holder will get the balcony enclosed as per his budget & whim! Now the Govt will say doing that is illegal, well it was illegal earlier also but tell me how to stop it after giving possessions to the respective residents?
Same is story with considering common passages & staircases in FSI which are very essential for proper ventilation as well to control the movements of occupants within the building. These too have been freed from FSI & charged with premium so as people can provide wider passages & stair ways which is aesthetically as well safety aspect very important. But now again these will become narrow to save on FSI, I wonder what logic our planners have applied for such reverse stance on such vital issues in building planning!

Most confusion is about Metro corridor & four times FSI & it was not enough so even the four times FSI has been declared (I am not sure about exact provision) along the infamous BRT corridors also. For a while keep away the issue of burden it will create on existing services of infrastructure & focus on logic behind this. Main aspect  which is being pushed by the authorities is making Metro viable & utilize the lands available to its maximum potential making homes available at cheaper rates! To my knowledge there are nearly fifty two odd proposed BRT routes all over the city, is that mean entire city has got four times FSI? I must say, even the builders wouldn’t have dreamt it! Rather in PCMC present provision is such that no one wants to build along BRT due to heavy premium PCMC charges for this additional FSI & demands 50% more parking area in the buildings along BRT route, making it impossible to plan the building. One logic I am failing to understand rather two logics, when its Metro & this FSI as well parking provisions in the DP & that is to increase FSI make the city congested just to make Metro viable, isn’t it wrong thinking? We should decongest the central part of city & give more FSI in suburbs than chocking the already dying city. And then we are ready to give four FSI to ensure Metro runs in profit but the stringent parking (read ample) provisions will make the occupants of these building buy more vehicles, so what’s the purpose of Metro then? As we want to make them travel by Metro or public transport then we should provide less parking place under & within the buildings than making more space for vehicles, which will curb the use of vehicles. This is what cities like Singapore has done & implemented successfully & we are doing exact opposite way as usual! Again this added parking provisions will make the building construction cost go high & end user will be burdened with this cost is one more aspect of such DC rules! Can our planners take a note as making homes affordable if its target then just increasing FSI won’t help, practicality of planning also should be taken in consideration!

Strictly speaking from real estate side all such & many more provisions in DP will be mainly hitting to the land deals which have happened but the projects are yet to be started as in many cases the viability of the project might come in to problem! Also just provision of giving liberal FSI won’t make the home rates go down in overnight, as who will tell the land lords to demand less when their land potential has been increased! Already right from redevelopment keen societies to individual bungalow owners, many deals are kept at hold by the owners considering the rise in FSI policy & expectation of getting more returns in bargain. Ultimately the developer is just a middleman meeting two ends named land lord & flat holder, especially in last few years that’s the reality of the real estate! Rates of flats will come down only if the builders don’t get succumbed to the rat race of buying plots on any cost & by not eyeing hefty profits in future which won’t be there! One more thing is in dilemma  & that is application of this DP & DC rules; as half completed projects where TDR or road FSI is yet to load on above floors, how the new margins or balcony enclose issues can be implemented on just remaining floors? Same is true with widths of common passages & stair cases, so there should be provision to apply these rules only where all new rules can be implemented in totality i.e. fresh proposals, that clarification govt has to issue to PMC.

These are just tips of iceberg named DP as the documents needs to be studied in depth & before it’s too late we have to cure the mistakes or errors whatever we call it in time! Not that all provisions are wrong & impractical, there are many good changes which will play important role in long term such as removing two stair case provision for buildings up to seven stories, giving more liberty for planning buildings on smaller plots & many such. Remember no one will say, keep changing the polices everyday but when we are speaking about twenty years of development then we should be flexible enough to make the necessary changes in the policies to accommodate the practical needs of the industry & do it fast! If we are expecting a better lifestyle for every citizen from the DP then the need is practical approach to the DC rules & provisions in DP or else it will be like presenting box of sweets to a diabetic person & asking him to be happy with the present, such will be the situation of real estate & home seeking citizens of the city!

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.


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