GE Transport


The vast majority of Glen Eira residents live in our neighbourhood centres. Yet it is these very centres which have no protection against overdevelopment in the commercial and mixed use areas. Making matters even worse, it is these areas which are now being exploited since the major activity centres are basically already built out and land is far more expensive. So, if any reader should happen to live in Ormond, McKinnon, East Bentleigh, South Caulfield, North Caulfield, Patterson, Alma ‘village’, Caulfield, Gardenvale etc. then they had better get used to having high rise dominate their landscapes.

Thus far we already have either applications or permits granted for the following:

  • Multiple 7 s in Caulfield North
  • Multiple 7 storeys and 9 storeys in Caulfield South
  • Six and the potential for 10 storeys in Ormond
  • 6 storeys in McKinnon
  • 7 storeys in Bentleigh East
  • 9 storeys in Gardenvale
  • 12 storeys in Caulfield East heritage zone

Our neighbouring councils such as Bayside, Kingston, and even Boroondara have nothing of this for their neighbourhood centres.  Our council however sees fit to delay and delay so that by the time anything of value is produced it is far too late to put a stop to such development. If these suburbs already contain 7, 8, or 9 storey buildings it becomes impossible to then argue that the height limit should be 3 or 4 storeys.

Making matters even worse is that residents have been lead up the garden path again by our councillors and administrators. The 2016 Planning Scheme Review consultation produced results which were unequivocal and which this administration acknowledged at the meeting in the auditorium. Our notes from this meeting included the following comments:

MCKENZIE: because we can’t do everything at once we want you to tell us where you think the relative priorities are….the order we should be tackling some of this’

TORRES: ‘key messages’ and ‘themes’…today we believe there is a strong need to develop structure plans for our activity centres…..’there is a growing call from the community in this environment to better manage development in our activity centres….. It’s not one size fits all….not every shopping centres is the same.….strong representation from residents from the Bentleigh area….there are calls for height limits in our other shopping centres…., SO WE BELIEVE THAT STRUCTURE PLANS CAN DELIVER THAT SHARED VISION

SMITH: structure plans mentioned at every workshop; 3 structure plans in the municipality within the next 5 years; we envisage that these will continue throughout our activity centres after that initial 5 years …….; preferred character statements will allow us to set out (what we want) for a precinct…..decvelopment controbutions scheme…..’a lot of that work has already been done’

FACILITATOR: opportunity to prioritise urban villages and your neighbourhood centres

 Structure planning for ALL ACTIVITY CENTRES was the message that came through loud and clear. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been since the 2018 Planning Scheme Review work plan. Instead of structure planning, our neighbourhood centres and local centres will only have ‘guidelines’ and possibly ‘urban design frameworks’.

At last council meeting a public question was asked about these neighbourhood centres and how work will be progressed. The language council used in response confirms once again what their intentions are. What is unacceptable of course is that this council refuses to come out in an open and transparent fashion and tell its ratepayers that THERE WILL NOT BE STRUCTURE PLANS for these areas. Instead it becomes a game of semantics, obfuscation, and deliberate deceit.  Here’s the question and response.

What is even more disconcerting about council’s intentions is that:

  • Guidelines and/or urban design frameworks, or even Neighbourhood Centres Policies are NOT mandatory
  • These documents are generally viewed as ‘Reference documents’ at best and hence have very little statutory weight in any decision making by both council and VCAT
  • The starting date is 2021 for Caulfield South. Add on another couple of years before anything materialises and the suburb could well and truly be gone. How long for the other suburbs is the $64 question – perhaps never?
  • The ‘one size fits all’ that was decried by officers in 2016 is now firmly in place with the so called objectives of the city plan.

CONCLUSION

What we therefore have is a council determined to ignore public feedback and to allow our neighbourhood centres to become quasi major activity centres. Even worse is that this council refuses to be up front and commit to a clear statement that is truthful, accurate, and details exactly what is intended!

The following application will now certainly test our councillors’ bona fides when it comes to Heritage!

The site is in 2 heritage overlays including an aboriginal heritage overlay. It is also under a SBO (special building overlay for flooding). Of course, this site is part of the proposed Selwyn Street Cultural Centre so we can expect that various interests have and will continue to play a part here.

One could of course ask whether any ‘cultural’ zone smack in the middle of a heritage overlay needs an 8 storey building for an ‘arts centre’ and ‘offices’. Worth remembering that council fought tooth and nail to apply a heritage overlay on the ABC studios recently. This is well worth watching we suggest.

All councillors deserve an academy award for their performances last night. There was ‘passion’ with a capital P, so much in fact that at times it became cringe worthy. Residents really need to ask themselves – ‘what was actually achieved last night’ and did we witness anything other than another exercise in smoke and mirrors?

CLIMATE EMERGENCY

Davey did manage to get her most important motion up. This was to work on the Environmental Sustainable Policy (ESS) and to set a goal of cutting corporate emissions by 2025 and community emissions by 2030.

Sounds wonderful! But is it simply more of the same since nothing will happen for at least another 18 months given that there is no funding for anything new in the current budget! We are going to have to wait for the 2021/2 budget to see anything materialise and even then it could take months and months before any project is up and running. We did not get one single word about how much anything would cost nor which priority actions that will be pursued first down the track. It will all depend on the new ESS strategy and putting some money into the NEXT BUDGET!

Put simply, words and actions are miles apart. If we are indeed facing an ‘emergency’ then action is required NOW as it has been for years and years. We reiterate the following:

  • Why has it taken 4 years of doing nothing regarding a WSUD or ESD policy to emerge in our planning scheme?
  • Why haven’t the schedules to the zones been revamped so that permeability requirements are increased?
  • Why has nothing been done regarding basement sizes in our GRZ areas and the conditions for planting canopy trees?
  • Why are we still delaying any controls on tree removal on private land?

We also had the spectacle last night of Silver stating that he wasn’t happy with some of the wording of the recommendation(s) in the officer report. Fair enough! Then why didn’t he outline his misgivings and move a motion to amend the wording? Why pretend that abstaining (which was the flavour of last night) was not a vote against when the legislation clearly states: for the purpose of determining the result of a vote, a Councillor present at the meeting who does not vote is to be taken to have voted against the question [Local Government Act, 2020: Section 61:5(e)]

We also take issue with Sztrajt and his ‘passion’ on the importance of declaring a ‘climate emergency’. This will ‘send a message’ to all levels of government; it will inform the public, it will show how serious the community is and that Glen Eira is not the odd man out. Wonderful, except why isn’t this same passion applied to over-development and the ruin of our suburbs, especially the neighbourhood centres? Why can’t this same public statement be made on behalf of a community who don’t want our streets turned into high rise wind tunnels. Instead we get silence from the council lot!

The Budget

The spin doctors were really out in force on this item. Esakoff read out her version of the budget/SRP that contained no details whatsoever as to the plan to borrow $60 million. She merely used the term ‘borrowings’ once; nor did we get any summary of which services would be cut back. (For instance the massive reduction in library collection funding).

Not a single word from any councillor was directed to HOW MUCH our charges had increased. Yes, we were told 2% but that does not tally with what the actual numbers in the budget state – ie an average increase of between 12 and 15% on some major items.

And then there’s the rush to pass the budget, when councils have been given until August 31st to set their finances. How is it possible that council can state that it is currently unsure of the full financial impact of COVID and with the same breath draw up a budget that is so open to change? Or is this merely another tactic that council can later use when they delay project after project?

CONCLUSION

There is much, much more that needs to be said regarding last night’s meeting. What is very clear is that this council has no intention of changing its goals, its modus operandi, and its insistence on being as vague, and as uninformative as it possibly can be – both via the written and spoken word.

Yes, the legal requirements are met, but that is all that happens. Remember that this council has NEVER adopted any recommendations made by residents to its draft budgets. Once published everything is set in concrete unlike so many other councils who are now really seeking community responses to their planned projects and priorities.

For all the talk about ‘community’, Glen Eira councillors do not know the meaning of the word in our view. If they did, then the manner in which this council operates would be entirely different and far more transparent and accountable!

 

Gazetted today:

Question after question has sought answers to what is really going on with our neighbourhood areas (activity centres) that do not have any controls on height in the commercial and mixed use zoned shopping strips.  Council’s response has been consistent: not enough ‘resources’ (presumably this means staff), plus not enough money. That they are flat out on the structure plans for Bentleigh, Carnegie, Elsternwick, East village, Caulfield  and recently added, Glen Huntly. Well, Bentleigh and Carnegie are now on the desk of the Minister awaiting permission to advertise. East Village is done and dusted as far as rezoning is concerned, and Caulfield is largely work being done by the Victorian Planning Authority. Yet, residents are still being told that controls for South Caulfield in particular are at least another 2 years away.

Nor have residents been able to get any clear response from council as to their ultimate objective. Language has varied considerably over the past 18 months. We have been told that ‘structure plans’ are in the vision. Next this becomes mere Urban Design Guidelines or a Design & Development Overlay. There is absolutely no guarantee forthcoming that our neighbourhood centres will have structure plans.

As for the delay in introducing even the most minimal controls, we do not for one second buy council’s excuses. Our theory is:

  • Council has always envisaged Glen Huntly Road from Kooyong to Hawthorn as being one single precinct – ie the expansion of the South Caulfield activity centre. Only stern opposition in 2002 prevented this from occurring.
  • Delaying controls facilitates the pro development agenda. We now have at least 5 applications in for Caulfield South (including one in Caulfield) that sit between 7 and 9 storeys and literally hundreds of apartments. Once these get their permits, probably within the next 8 months, it will be almost impossible for council to argue that the building heights under even a structure plan should be 5 storeys! We speculate that this is totally deliberate on the part of council.

The other question of course is WHY? What is the real reason that council is so gung ho on more and more development – especially when Glen Eira is well and truly above its housing needs to cater for population growth? Why have they caved in so easily on removing the mandatory height limits in Bentleigh & Carnegie and substituting ‘discretionary’ height limits? Yes, it is very easy and convenient to have Wynne as the scapegoat and put the onus on government rather than themselves. When other councils can fight tooth and nail for their residents in terms of pushing for greater land use control, knocking back panel reports, or sending out thousands of mail to their residents, our council distinguishes itself by either total silence, or complete acquiescence. The tragedy is that our councillors have all been complicit in this agenda.

Logic would suggest that there must be some ‘pay back’ or ‘benefit’ in adhering without question with government that is given greater priority than residential amenity, sustainability, and general welfare of constituents. We can only hypothesize, but suggest:

  • More dwellings, with miniscule restrictions on development, amounts to more incoming revenue.
  • More revenue is required for the grandiose schemes of at least $52 million to ‘redevelop’ Carnegie swimming pool; $5 million for a library that was ‘redeveloped’ less than 3 years ago; and the list of projects goes on and on. Please also keep in mind that residents have not been privy to any business plan (that is, if they even exist!!!!)
  • A quid pro quid with government so that grants increase? (ie the nonsense of the Inkerman Road safe bicycle track)
  • Also on the cards is the flogging off of council land to developers in order to proceed with high rise/multi level car parks. Envisaged by Monash to cost around $18 or so million for one. And all the while pathetic little done about procuring more and more desperately needed open space.

We certainly are not privy to the discussions that have occurred behind closed doors with state authorities, and even between councillors. What we do know is that strategic planning in Glen Eira continues to be a disaster. Residents can no longer accept excuse after excuse about the lack of money and resources that council claims is behind its ‘do nothing’ agenda. This excuse must be seen for the furphy  it is, especially when planning applications are down, and council’s staff numbers continue to climb, plus rates and charges also continue to climb. Residents need a council that will put ratepayers before large developers!

Last night’s council meeting showed the first public sign that maybe things aren’t as hunky dory within this councillor group as they would like us to believe. The feathers were definitely flying with Delahunty, Davey and then Athanasopolous getting up on their high horses to implicitly criticise and condemn Esakoff.

All of this related to the ‘debate’ on the Parking Strategy. Esakoff, as is her right, spoke against the strategy. Mind you, she spoke for just on 10 minutes without getting a time extension. So much for the meeting procedures, eh? The bone of contention related to her use of the term ‘social engineering’ (twice in this 10 minute speech).

Here is the full audio of what she said:

Delahunty then rose to object to the terminology. This was followed up by Athanasopolous’s Right of Reply (see below).

Social engineering originates from social science and the term was first used in the 1890’s. In this context of social and/or political science, dictionaries provide the following definitions:

Wikepedia: means of influencing particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale

Oxford: the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behaviour of a society.

Webster: management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society

Collins: is the use of planned measures, for example, measures that affect people’s social or economic position, in order to create a desirable society.

One could quite reasonably ask: Does Glen Eira Council practice social engineering? When we look at recent policies and strategies developed by this council, then the answer is clear. Yes, council does engage in ‘social engineering’!

Here are some recent examples:

  • Waste reduction and food scrap containers.
  • Parking strategies
  • Bicycle strategy

The stated objective(s) of all of the above endeavours are to bring about behavioural change. To basically introduce programs, policies, and laws that will ‘encourage’ people to moderate their behaviours. That’s the purpose of the current Parking strategy – to get more people to use public transport and the Inkerman Road fiasco is supposedly to get more people riding bikes. Providing food scrap containers and changing what can go into green bins is another example of trying to influence behaviour.

We are not discussing the value or efficacy of these programs. What we would like to know is how on earth Delahunty, Davey and especially Athanasopolous can get up on their high horse and protest vehemently about the ‘language’ that Esakoff used. This strikes us as hypocrisy of the highest order. More to the point, it raises the question of WHY this outrage and why now?

For Athanasopolous to bring up Pol Pot, Stalin, and presumably Hitler in what amounts to a personal attack on Esakoff is quite unbelievable. We are not in the business of defending Esakoff. However in this instance, the response to her use of the term Social Engineering is way beyond the pale, especially when council is the supreme agent of its own social engineering which is often accomplished in the face of stern opposition from residents. May we even suggest that by ignoring community opposition, such actions would resonate beautifully with Stalin and his aberrant version of ‘social engineering’.

Council has released the results of its community consultation on the proposed Parking Policy and set out several recommendations for councillors to adopt.  However, the tradition of drowning residents in so called ‘data’, coupled with conclusions devoid of real supporting evidence continues with analyses and recommendations that would fail any grade 7 mathematics exam/test. Dubious assumptions that then become the foundation for subsequent recommendations abound. We can only suggest that had the initial questions been more water tight, and unambiguous that the ‘results’ would be far more credible.

The resulting policy/analysis purports to present data from two distinct surveys. A general one that was freely available online to the entire community, and a second ‘survey’ that was directed to the 450+ registered users of Community Voice. (CV) Of these latter 450+ community representatives,(CV) council only received 190 responses. For the community wide survey there were 592 responses. Thus, the ratio was 3 times as many ‘answers’ from the wider community as there was for the Community Voice survey. Yet incredibly, far greater credence is given to the CV responses time and time again in the accompanying officer’s report and in the recommendations put forward to council. Here are some examples:

When considering if the proposed introduction of a fee is fair/reasonable for resident car owners in Glen Eira a majority of respondents to the community survey either disagreed or strongly disagreed (76 per cent). This was reinforced by 18 letters/emails an 9 phone calls to Council which explicitly referenced issues around permit fees. Concerns and questions were expressed around the fairness of the proposal and a perceived entitlement to free permits under Council rates. When considering if this approach is fair/reasonable for the wider Glen Eira community the majority of respondents who disagreed or strongly disagreed reduced to 53 per cent. 

Community Voice members were also asked the same question. When asked if this approach is fair/reasonable for resident car owners in Glen Eira a majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed (54 per cent). When considering if this approach is fair/reasonable for the wider Glen Eira community this majority of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed increased to (62 per cent). 

And the final officer recommendation is: Officers recommend retaining the residential permit fee structure as consulted within the draft Parking Policy (Attachment 2- Residential Parking Permit System, section 3.3.6).

Also extremely important in analysing any of this data is the makeup of the various groups and how their circumstances might have influenced their responses. For example: we are told that the vast majority of respondents from the community wide survey were in possession of residential parking permits (440 out of 576 responses). For the Community Voice participants only 48 out of 190 had these permits. Thus 76% versus 25%!!!!! Secondly, we need to consider the physical attributes of the various suburbs that these participants live in and their probable parking arrangements.

The following screen dump does have these percentages (not numbers we note).

One could quite reasonably question the value of the above data given the following:

  • East Bentleigh has the largest proportion of single detached dwellings in the municipality. Presumably a large percentage of these homes would also have onsite parking and therefore parking is not necessarily the problem it is in other areas. This is reflected in many of the Community Voice (cv) responses.
  • The Community Voice responses were significantly lower in those suburbs where parking is an acknowledged problem ie. Elsternwick/Gardenvale; Caulfield North/East. Where higher (ie McKinnon and Murrumbeena) the issue is not so urgent.
  • What valid conclusions can then be drawn from such numbers? We posit very little!

What irks us the most however is the following.

Please note:

  • Are we comparing apples with oranges?
  • What is this supposed to prove when the community wide survey includes both ON and OFF street results and the Community Voice simply lists ON STREET?
  • Comparing the two graphs reveals NOTHING as to the real numbers parking on the street. Interestingly 37% of the Community Voice people also park cars overnight on the street.
  • Why wasn’t the identical question asked of the Community Voice participants? ie do you park on or off site?

The most contentious argument in the entire policy rests on the following statement and its accompanying table:

When considering car ownership and access to permits the draft Parking Policy, the community survey shows that out of 493 permit eligible households,182 accessed more residential permits than they have vehicles. This indicates that as many as 37 per cent of current permit holders who completed the survey are accessing more permits than they need.

Even if we accept these figures, the questions keep coming. Permits are currently linked to specific cars. Residents have to fill out a form and provide a license plate number. Thus, how is it possible that someone with 2 cars should have 4 permits? Doesn’t council check what they are applying for? Are residents lying and making up license plate numbers? Have respondents confused ‘residential’ permits with ‘visitor permits’ in their responses? To then conclude that the parking policy is aimed at these drivers in particular and the aim is to change ‘behaviour’ is laughable. Behaviour will only change once there are adequate options. No figures are provided as to how many of these 37% of permit holders even have access to on site parking. Nor do we know where they are located. Assumptions on top of assumptions should never be the basis for policy!

Other assumptions are also worth commenting upon. Here is an extract from the report that focuses on the proposed charge for the second and third parking permit:

To understand the impact of permit fees an assessment (Attachment 4) has been undertaken on the car ownership and access to permits data provided within the draft Parking Policy community survey. To assist with this assessment the following assumptions have been made:

  • A minimum of one car will be parked off-street. Therefore, charges for permits will not begin until a household owns 3 cars.
  • A fee for a third permit has only been applied to those households within the bus only(Bentleigh East) precinct.
  • Approximately 18.4 per cent of residents in Glen Eira are aged over 60 years.Therefore, a concession rate has been applied across 18.4 per cent of households.

As a result of these statements, we can reasonably ask:

  • On what basis can the assumption be made that one car will be parked ‘off-street’ – especially since there is no correlation with where these residents live, nor how many of these permit holders do in fact have off street parking available?
  • Why conflate the NUMBER of residents over 60 in the municipality with the number of households? Surely there must be 60+ residents who live together and not in single member households?
  • Is this simply a ploy to assure ratepayers that council is not gouging more and more from our pockets when we are told that revenue will only amount to $149,099 per annum? And even this amount is likely to be less because council goes on to state: However, due to the introduction of a fee, it is expected that a portion of the community will change their parking behaviour (including utilising off-street parking such as driveways and garages, or parking in unrestricted areas). This has been estimated at 30 per cent. When applying this behaviour change reduction, the total amount raised from permit charges is estimated at $104,369 per year. No explanation has been given as to why there is this assumption of 30%. Nor are we told anything about the likely lack of parking in the proposed ‘unrestricted areas’ if these streets become the only option for parking.

There are literally countless assumptions made throughout the report. To comment on all of them would require many more pages. The bottom line is that residents deserve better. Survey questions need to be precise, unambiguous, and clearly related to unearthing data that is valid, relevant, and consistent.

Until this council learns to produce genuine consultation, and to produce reports and analyses that actually tells the real story, residents of Glen Eira can have no confidence whatsoever in any consultation that this council undertakes. More to the point, they can have no confidence that their voices are being listened to.

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