City planning boss weighs in at Tokai meeting

* TRA committee members, Pam Gorre, chairman Don Kourie, Terry Simon, Julian Tomkins, David Slingsby, Caroline Tebbutt, councillor Penny East, Liz Johnston and guest speaker Pierre Homer Hoffa.

Anyone who has applied for planning permission will have come across Pierre Homer Hoffa. If you haven’t, check the paperwork, his name is sure to be there.

Mr Hoffa is the City’s section head for land-use management.

He was guest speaker at the Tokai Residents’ Association annual general meeting at The Range on Tuesday November 13.

In his usual dry, unemotional way, he skimmed the surface of issues pertaining to land use. He did, however, deftly side-step the council vision for the development of Tokai.

Mr Hoffa has worked for the City of Cape Town for 20 years. He originally studied land surveying and went on to study town planning. He lives in Rondebosch and works at the City’s offices in Plumstead.

He and his team deal with land-use applications – everything from carports to blocks of flats – from eight districts, from Rosebank to Simon’s Town and Hout Bay. The head office is in Cape Town CBD.

He spoke about the dramatic changes he had seen in land-use planning over the years and the key role transformation played.

“The issues we see today were never envisioned in the past. But people still want their area to stay the same. There has been much change in the social and political environment and we need to move with the times. No one area is an island. Each area has a knock-on effect. We need to talk about transformation,” he said.

The current city layout was unsustainable and low-density urban sprawl was bad for the environment, he said.

“Spatial justice is paramount in the city,” he said.

Densification was needed along urban transport corridors followed by efficient public transport.

“South Africa, along with San Francisco and Australia are terrible in terms of low density, vehicular kilometres, and being water guzzlers. Research has shown that high density means using less… water, energy, carbon.”

Green technologies had moved from the fringe to the mainstream as the message about climate change had started to sink in.

A concern was raised at the meeting that if low-cost housing came to Tokai it would overburden existing infrastructure, and Westlake Village – where homeowners have added shacks to their houses – was cited as an example.

It echoed a sentiment expressed at several civic meetings from Wynberg to Kirstenhof in recent months – residents want assurances that if low-income housing is built, it is done to plan and is legally compliant, with occupancy restrictions and a no backyard shacks added on.

Mr Hoffa said inward migration to cities was an international trend with huge changes in wealthy and middle income environments.

“Changing household sizes at all income levels, people living longer to 85, 90 and more, more divorces meaning two households, getting married later or not getting married. This leads to the need for development density and a decline of large properties people cannot afford with maintenance, security, water issues,” he said.

The removal of the urban edge, he said, was something that could affect Tokai.

The city recently approved a revised Municipal Spatial Development Framework. The 2012 plan was to allow medium- and long-term growth within the urban edge and along two northern growth corridors, whereas the 2018 plan promotes inward growth.

When Mr Hoffa is not wading through hefty planning applications you can find him climbing mountains. He has been a Mountain Club of SA member for most of his life.