LETTER | Dear Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, MP for Petaling Jaya Maria Chin Abdullah, state assemblyperson Rajiv Rishyakaran and Petaling Jaya mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain,
We, the residents of Petaling Jaya, urge the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to extend the public consultation process which was closed on Aug 20. We urge MBPJ to hold proper town hall sessions to explain the proposed changes to Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172) as indicated in:
Zoning changes to commercial status are irreversible and should be made in consultation with residents.
As we are the ones who will have to live with the long-term impact of traffic congestion and competition for existing infrastructure, our collective feedback should be sought well before any zoning changes are made, and not merely soliciting feedback from residents within a 20-metre radius.
When MBPJ is proposing changes that will dramatically alter the physical landscape of Petaling Jaya with the addition of 60-storey towers, it is highly unacceptable that MBPJ merely hosts a month-long viewing of such documents on its premises during office hours and expects working residents to digest these documents, each totalling some 300 pages when they visit MBPJ on their lunch break. As it is, a considerable amount of time has to be taken even to read through documents like these at home.
It is critical that stakeholders of PJ, i.e. residents and businesses, understand the impact of MBPJ’s proposed amendments. MBPJ must provide stakeholders with a more interactive platform – such as town hall meetings (available live online) and online forums – so that stakeholders may better understand the proposed amendments as well as to enable MBPJ to hear their objections, if any.
We also question why MBPJ – located in a state under Pakatan Rakyat/Pakatan Harapan leadership since 2008 – no longer holds town hall meetings to explain proposed amendments to the local plan, particularly amendments of this magnitude.
Now that PKR leads the federal government, should stakeholders and members of the public not expect any more public engagement and dialogue for local council issues? Or is it that the local government no longer entertains feedback from residents?
Putting up notification banners with so much text that motorists cannot read, defeats its purpose. Most of all, the practice of displaying the documents in MBPJ is not only highly antiquated but also grossly inadequate to reach out to stakeholders and residents.
The full burden of viewing the documents, whether online or in MBPJ only during working hours (weekdays) limits it to far fewer segments of the public being informed.
This, in turn, means far less active participation from residents and a negligible understanding of proposed plans for their own city; let alone the ability for the few who have been informed to pose meaningful questions or objections.
Is it MBPJ’s main objective to deter objections and adopt said proposed amendments easily?
Also, can MBPJ advise on what are its processes for handling objections? Are these processes open and transparent? Are objectors notified of the outcome of their objections?
It is also unclear at this juncture why residents/ratepayers are not given access to learn more about all objections raised by other PJ residents.
Surely if the process for objections is transparent, then residents should be allowed to weigh in on those objections, especially if the matter is of general importance and not just limited to one segment of PJ.
This year, the retail space occupancy rate decreased to 80.2 percent in the first quarter and the office occupancy rate and average retail within Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are expected to continue their downward trends.
As it is, we already have sparsely occupied buildings in Petaling Jaya.
Given the country’s economic climate, MBPJ needs to ask if we need skyscrapers in the heart of PJ. Furthermore, there is already something similar that is being built in Section 13, 3km away from the proposed PJ Sentral.
We also question the lack of diversity of buildings approved for development by MBPJ throughout Petaling Jaya.
It is not enough to just show us proposals to change zoning to commercial status. Such proposals need to be supported by current traffic impact assessments (TIA), environmental impact assessments (EIA) and social impact assessments (SIA).
The project may have been approved more than five years ago so any assessment made before then would be out of date by now.
The TIA, EIA and SIA should be made accessible to PJ stakeholders when seeking our feedback, because requests for such documents via the Freedom of Information enactment are ignored by MBPJ.
Issues that involve development should be handled in a clear and transparent manner. As committed and responsible residents – who also want to see the city sustainably developed – we ask that MBPJ engage its residents/ratepayers more holistically, and help us understand its vision for PJ and accept our feedback.
For example, in embracing sustainable development, what plans do MBPJ and the state government have to improve and increase the existing infrastructure?
Instead, what we see seems to be merely the wholesale changing of zoning without the due diligence of undertaking professional studies and allocating budget with proper planning to firstly improve the existing infrastructure and also to show that the rezoning serves the needs of PJ stakeholders – which may not necessarily be more commercial developments.
P.S. A copy of this letter was sent to the mayor on Aug 20 via email, but to date, no reply or acknowledgement has been received.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.