Council has released a new set of documents that underpin the planning for the Elsternwick South ‘masterplan’. Accompanying these documents is the invitation to provide feedback via the Have Your Say web link.

All of this sounds marvelous! Except that we have to wonder whether:

  • This is the ‘best’ way to conduct ‘consultation’ and
  • What ‘value’ the Have Your Say survey really has

The Elsternwick South area is pivotal in that the current proposals, together with the overall Structure Plan for the northern areas will change the face of Elsternwick forever if implemented. The vast majority of residents have already made it clear that:

  • 12 storeys is unacceptable
  • Overshadowing is an issue
  • Traffic is an issue
  • Lack of open space is an issue

The newly published documents are supposed to address most of these concerns. But do they? And do the surveys come within cooeee of asking residents what they think about the proposals themselves? Or are they merely a set of feel good questions that everyone can agree with whilst parading as genuine ‘consultation’?

Here is what could and should have happened if council is genuine in wanting informed feedback from the community.

  • Given the significance of this area why has council not produced a simple, objective, ‘Discussion paper’ as the first step in the consultation process that outlines all the pros and cons of the various aspects and the recommendations? As it stands now, those residents interested in the issue will need to read, analyse and comment on well over 200 pages of new documentation. This is on top of what has already been published, making the grand total of recent documents dealing with this area to well over 486 pages. If we include the ‘past documents’, then we are approaching close to 1500 pages. https://www.haveyoursaygleneira.com.au/elsternwick-urban-renewal-south-masterplan/documents. How many residents will bother?
  • The Have Your Say and survey questions need to be directly addressing the efficacy of the proposals in these reports. They don’t! Instead we get the following which isn’t asking the vital question ‘Do you think these road closures will address the parking and traffic concerns? Please explain”.

  • The 4 proposals concerning road closures would now appear to be set in concrete  and residents are simply asked to ‘prioritise’ them. Yes, we do get the ‘other comments’ section but unless residents bother to read through the documentation carefully, and analyse what is proposed, then we suspect that most comments will be easily ignored. No choices are provided to residents regarding rat running in neighbouring streets. Nor is there any question relating to residents’ views on parking, safety, etc. In short, the focus is entirely on St James Parade.

  • The first part of the survey is basically nothing more than motherhood statements. Of course no one in their right mind would be in favour of creating rat runs, or endangering safety, or be indifferent to congestion, etc. Again these have to be ‘ranked’. Why? Surely it can be assumed that the entire list of ‘problems’ is something that needs fixing. The question is again, do the reports and recommendations actually ‘fix’ any of them? Does the ranking then mean that the end result of the strategic planning will only seek to address the top 5 priorities and ignore the rest? Or will we get the argument that a ‘balance’ has to be achieved and we can’t do everything? More importantly, how many of these ‘problems’ are remedied via the report recommendations? Couldn’t council have produced some neat little table that displayed such information in a clear and accessible manner?
  • The other survey option is titled ‘tell us your ideas for resolving these issues’. Please note that again there is no connection with the report recommendations. Simply pie in the sky questions that could apply to anywhere and not specifically the sites under investigation.

It is surely time that council got its act together and produced some consultation techniques that were genuine, meaningful, and truly intended to seek the best results. Time and again we have had councilors apologizing to the gallery for their poor consultation methods but nothing has been done to remedy the situation. We continue to get sham consultations, (or no consultation as with aged care) and processes that are simply there to endorse what has already been decided.

We have not commented on the documents themselves at this stage. All we will say at this stage is the irony that council’s consultants chose to use as part of their standard for traffic generation the Woolworth’s traffic assessment that accompanied the latter’s application! Then to top it all off, there is a further reduction in the standard because council aims for a 60% reduction in car use! Thus we get this gem:

Therefore, if this reduction rate is applied to the peak hour generation rate of 0.4 trips per dwelling, a generation rate of approximately 0.19 trips per dwelling could be adopted for the apartments within the proposed Elsternwick Urban Renewal Area South development. 

What this means of course is that every apartment will only produce 0.19 trips per peak hour instead of the 0.4 trips that date back to 2002 guidelines. Unbelievable hocus pocus!

Residents’ antennas should also be raised at the potential ramifications of this sentence:

……given the 60% public transport target, it could be realistically be proposed that 25% of apartments in the renewal area would have no parking spaces.

So with 1500 dwellings proposed (and no justification for this number) are residents to assume that developers will be given the gift of nearly 400 apartments with no parking spots?

We urge all readers to carefully consider these documents and to make your views on the consultation process itself known to this council.  It’s well and truly time that residents stopped accepting a process that is anything but adequate and appropriate.

Tonight’s speakers on the Selwyn Street/Gordon Street closures had one thing in common. Each and every speaker was strongly opposed to council’s plans. What came through clearly was:

  • Council’s failure to consult with the major stakeholders, including some of the Jewish organizations.
  • No real consideration for businesses in the area and the imperative to provide loading zones
  • How the neighbouring streets would cope with increased traffic
  • How a reduction in parking spots will only exacerbate the already limited parking
  • The failure to provide decent traffic analysis of wider area prior to deciding on the current design

Questions remain as to what will now happen. For example: councilors can accept the current plan, reject it, or will we find that some modifications are made and this will be decided on at the April 30th Council meeting? If changes are made and a decision is also expected at the end of April, then does this mean that the community will not have the opportunity to comment on the changes?

This issue is another example of not only poor consultation, but poor planning. When will this council learn that they cannot produce half baked plans devoid of all essential data to justify their plans and expect residents to swallow this hook line and sinker. How much has this fiasco cost thus far? How much have the hired guns cost? Has any officer actually set foot in the area or has this design been done via a desktop analysis? And why can’t these councilors put a stop to this nonsense right now and order officers back to the drawing board and insist that proper consultation begin immediately with all those impacted?

We urge all readers to listen to what was said. It is illuminating and a harsh indictment of a council that has no idea of how to inform, consult, and listen to its residents.

Another Special Council Meeting is set down for this coming Thursday (6.30pm) in order to hear submissions on the proposed partial closures of Selwyn Street and the one way redirection of traffic in Gordon Street.

What we have here is another appalling example of council’s failure to adhere to its own resolutions, its abject failure to advance ideas based on comprehensive analysis of the wider area, and to provide the community with consultation information that is consistent, accurate and timely.

We acknowledge that these latest plans (an earlier version was first published) are probably an attempt to put a spanner in the works of the proposed Woolworths development. However this does not excuse a council that is reactive rather than proactive. We repeat some of our previous comments:

  • Why was Elsternwick left out of the interim amendments for Bentleigh & Carnegie in 2017 when it is also a MAJOR activity centre?
  • The ABC Woolworths site was purchased in March 2017 for $45m. Council knew what was about to happen! You don’t spend that amount of money and only go for a supermarket!
  • The idea for a Jewish Cultural Centre has long been on the cards. Being granted at least $1m by government mandates some decisive action! The problem with the ‘action’ is that it is ill conceived, poorly researched, and as always, bereft of empirical justification.
  • Where is corporate memory in all of this? One submission from the Holocaust Centre complains bitterly that council’s plans fly in the face of the permit conditions granted to the Centre less than a year ago.
  • Why can council resolutions disappear into the ether and not be enacted? For example, the council resolution of 27th November made specific reference to the following: that Council receive a further report on the draft detailed design prior to community consultation. This has not happened! Nor has the following been produced: a comprehensive traffic impact assessment and mitigation strategy based on the endorsed Precinct Plan. Most reasonable people would expect that a ‘comprehensive traffic impact assessment’ would include far more than Selwyn Street, Gordon St, and Glen Huntly Road. As many of the submissions point out, ramifications for St Georges, Glen Eira Roads, etc. are not even mentioned.

Of the submissions themselves, the overwhelming majority are opposed to the closures, especially in turning Gordon Street into one way. Even more telling is that many businesses oppose these designs and the Jewish organisations themselves aren’t happy.

What sway this opposition will have remains to be seen. Will councillors have the guts to order the planners and traffic management staff to go back to the drawing boards and start again? We doubt it! What is clear however is that council has a lot to learn in terms of its consultation practices, and the professionalism of its planning/traffic department.  It would appear that council first makes the decision then scrounges around for anything that would support the decision. The cost in terms of money, and community angst is never considered.

Permits for:

  • 68 Bevis Street, Bentleigh East. 3 storey, 22 dwellings
  • 554/556 Inkerman Road, Caulfield Noth. 3 and 4 storey, 24 dwellings

The Inkerman Road application is interesting since the site is zoned GRZ1 (ie supposedly 3 storeys and a 10.5 metre height limit). Since council’s schedules do not specify the number of storeys, and the land slopes, this application for a part 4 storey was deemed to be okay. We point out again that for all of council’s structure planning and quality design guidelines, the schedules largely remain intact. No changes to site coverage, permeability, etc.

Worthy of keeping a close eye on, is the following from the minutes of the Local Law committee. This could be ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ for residents.

For quite a while now, council’s reporting of the open space reserve in the monthly financial report has opted to camouflage what is really happening. This can only be deliberate and is another example of the lack of transparency in Glen Eira. We are supposed to believe that the ‘kitty’ currently contains $20m. Yet, we are not privy to how much of this total has been spent on ‘development’/’upgrade’ of open space. Hence how much is really left in the open space reserve?

By way of contrast and transparency, we highlight how these figures were reported previously and ask why the change?

Finally, here is what we don’t know about the Open space levy:

  • Has the levy been insisted upon for every application for 3 or more subdivisions? If not, why not? See one of our earlier posts https://gleneira.blog/2018/06/08/open-space-favours/
  • What percentage of the levy has been spent on the acquisition of new open space and what percentage has been spent on ‘development/upgrading’?
  • What ‘land contributions’ has council accepted instead of a financial payment and where are these located?
  • How much of the following ‘promises’ has council kept and why can’t this be disclosed to the public?

Tonight’s Special Council Meeting on the aged care sell off voted 5 to 3 (Esakoff absent) to proceed with the Expression of Interest process. Those supporting the sell off were: Hyams, Silver, Sztrajt, Cade, Athanasopolous. Delahunty, Davy and Magee voted against. Remarkably, Magee spoke for the process continuing, then voted against!

Several things should be noted and we urge all residents to carefully listen to the ‘debate’.

  • The con job was in full swing with Hyams, Silver, Athanasopolous, Sztrazjt, Cade and even Magee, now arguing that the resolution was NOT TO SELL, but merely to test the waters as it were, in order to see if there’s anyone out there who could provide a better service! Time and again the gallery was assured that if no such organization was found then there would be no sale. That old council shibboleth of ‘first step in the process’ was repeated ad nauseum.
  • Hyams merely summed up the officer’s report but without a single word on financials. He did however comment that council had undertaken a comprehensive ‘communication and consultation’ program via its advertising, letters to residents, media releases, etc.
  • The only councillor to even come close to addressing the lack of open and transparent consultation was Athanasopolous. His argument was that when Monash and Kingston decided to sell their facilities and engaged in an ‘open’ consultation process with their residents, that this lead to a ‘ton of anxiety’!!!!!!! How much ‘anxiety’ has council produced by its secrecy when residents and workers are notified by an impersonal email?
  • Athanasopolous also distinguished himself by arguing that for the past 15 years council had not in its budget processes made any financial provision for the long term management of its aged care facilities. Such a statement could be interpreted in several ways of course. Either council has never placed aged care high on its list of priorities or, it has failed in its duty to consider long term outcomes given that its strategic resource plan has a ten year time span. There is another possibility here too. Maybe, just maybe, if residents had a say on what should be the priorities for council budgets, aged care would have been high on their list?
  • Delahunty and Davey did argue that the potential findings of the current and ongoing Royal Commission were important and until council had the final recommendations how could they possibly know which provider would be the ‘best’? They advocated that the Expression of Interest process be delayed until the findings were made public . These are expected to be delivered in mid 2020. Hardly a long time to wait we suggest!

There was much said by the various councilors which was literally cringe worthy. If anyone truly believes that council is only ‘testing the waters’, then they have no idea of how this council operates. You do not go to the expense of lawyers, committees, probity auditors, valuations, etc. unless you know damn well you will sell. All the rest is sheer garbage designed to cover their arses for the lack of proper consultation. For example: the gallery were informed that several of the facilities required major physical upgrades. So? Perhaps the community should be asked whether or not they believe that a certain amount should be spent in order to maintain these facilities? When millions are spent on playground upgrades that the majority don’t want, or concrete plinths in parks that amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, then questions as to waste, incompetence, and priorities, deserve an airing!

Please listen to the statements once they come up on council’s website.

Residents slam ‘nonsensical’ bike route through their ‘hood

By Carolyn Webb

March 31, 2019 — 5.30pm

Caulfield North residents have slammed plans for a bicycle super-highway to go through their neighbourhood.

Some locals fear it will endanger pedestrians, remove parking and even affect property values.

They have formed the Save Inkerman group to oppose a three-kilometre leg of the proposed trail from Dandenong to Melbourne’s CBD, saying thousands of cyclists whizzing by each day could reduce access to their own driveways.

Glen Eira council has yet to settle on a design for its section of the trail.

But it has proposed a route heading north-west from Caulfield Station along Normanby Road, and then west along Inkerman Road and Inkerman Street to Hotham Street.

The council could not say whether parking spaces would be removed, but that is a key concern of the community group.

Lenny Gross said he would have to close his delicatessen, Lenny’s, on Inkerman Road, and his mental health wellness centre next door, if parking spaces in front of them were removed.

‘‘If they take those spots away from me, I don’t have a business,’’ he said. ‘‘The reason people come to me is because they can park out the front.’’

Robyn Taft, who lives in a street off Inkerman Road, said the plan was ‘‘about the council being seen to be green. I think they don’t really care about the residents’’. Ms Taft said any restriction on parking would make it ‘‘a lot harder for people to go about their daily lives’’, including elderly people walking to synagogues and shops. ‘‘We support safe bike paths. There is a bike path here [marked bike lanes along Inkerman Road], and perhaps more can be done to make it safer. ‘‘But for people trying to get in and out of their properties, it’s going to be very difficult, particularly if there’s going to be a potential several thousand bikes an hour at peak hour going up and down here.’’

Real estate agent Rochelle Butt, who owns two properties on Inkerman Road, including her home, said the new bicycle plan was ‘‘nonsensical’’. She said property values could be be affected if residents can’t park on the street and side streets would be overloaded with cars.

The council wanted everyone to ride bikes, but that wasn’t realistic. ‘‘My mother’s 82 and lives around the corner. She’s not going to visit me on a bike,’’ Ms Butt said.

The protesters want the bike path to instead go north-west up Normanby Road from Caulfield station, following the tram line along Dandenong Road, then on to St Kilda Road via Wellington Street.

But Bicycle Network senior policy adviser Garry Brennan said the Inkerman route was the most direct and cyclists could join it from Balaclava, Alma and Glen Eira roads.

Making the street greener could have flow-on benefits like increased real estate prices.

Keen local cyclist Herschel Landes favours the Inkerman Road route, saying bike current bike lanes are too narrow, increasing the risk of ‘‘dooring’’.

He said encouraging people to ride bikes would ease traffic congestion, be useful for small trips to shops and provide a quick route to Monash University Caulfield campus on Dandenong Road. Mr Landes, a prominent Richmond retailer who helped run the Melbourne-wide No Clearways campaign in 2008 to 2010, said Dandenong Road had too many trucks and cars to be an alternative. Using the tram reserve would mean removing foliage, while cyclists would encounter major road crossings.

Ron Torres, the City of Glen Eira’s director of planning and place, said the Inkerman Road corridor aimed ‘‘to take pressure off our roads by providing a safe and convenient opportunity for more people to commute to work by bike’’.

Residents have until Monday to submit an online feedback form about the plan to Glen Eira council.

Source: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/residents-slam-nonsensical-bike-route-through-their-hood-20190331-p519ef.html

COMMENT

Here is another example of council’s incompetence in conducting what it euphemistically calls ‘community consultation’. First off you publish a document telling residents that their parking will disappear. Next you get officers to door knock people and tell them the same. Not at any stage do you provide any  specific details such as: proposed design, how many car parks will disappear, cost, stats on numbers of bike users, numbers of cars, etc. Then you scramble to undo the damage you have created via the Silver request for a report.

As we’ve said above. Genuine consultation can only begin when residents are privy to valid information. Otherwise it is all a sham and an ungodly waste of ratepayers’ money. The result is a divided community and plenty of ill feeling. Congratulations councillors on achieving another black mark.

Finally we should point out that no other Integrated Transport Policy that we have read has the temerity to say that they are aiming for a 50:50 reduction in car use. These other councils would apparently work on the basis of reality and not spin or pipe dreams!

Council has published the agenda for next Tuesday night’s Special Council Meeting. The recommendation is to ‘sell’ by proceeding with the Expression of Interest process. What a surprise!

Issues invoked by the submissions are ostensibly ‘answered’. For example:

  • On the lack of community consultation, we are told: Officers have set out in this report the communication and consultation process conducted which included extensive advertising and opportunities to discuss the sale issues. The process undertaken also meets the statutory requirements for the sale of Land as outlined in the Local Government Act. Thus, no explanation, no apology, no justification as to why community consultation was not undertaken prior to any decision!
  • On whether the new owner will provide the same quality of care, we are told: Officers note in this report some of the constraints that are likely to impact on the future provision of quality care in Glen Eira’s aged care service. Officers are aware of many other aged care providers that provide quality at an equivalent or higher level than Council’s current service. Council’s commitment is that Council will only sell to a quality aged care provider that has a proven ability to provide quality aged care with high employee and resident satisfaction levels. In short, a regurgitation of previous generalities.
  • On the impact on current aged care residents, we are told: Officers are mindful of the potential impact on residents during this process. Council has committed to keep all 173 beds within the municipality and any new provider will be required to uphold the current residency agreement. Impact on residents can in part be mitigated by a strong transition process and the selection of a quality provider. In addition the option for staff to remain with the new provider may also assist in ensuring continuity of care. We note the lack of ‘guarantee’ on future staffing, nor how many current staff will be employed by the new owner. Also not a word about any new residency agreements.
  • On potential Royal Commission findings, we are told: Officers consider that while it is likely that the Royal Commission will publically identify poor performers, the quality of a rigorous assessment processes will ultimately provide Council with sufficient information to make a sound selection decision. Literally an incredible statement given that council has no idea what the findings will be and how these findings may impact on all providers!
  • On loss of community amenity and ownership, we are told: Officers are aware of the range of community views in regard to Public or Private ownership of many services. Officers note, however, that many submitters assume that Council will sell to a ‘for profit’ provider, however, many aged care providers are not for profit providers. The assessment panel will assess each provider against a comprehensive set of assessment criteria and choose the provider that most closely meets the criteria.The problem with this answer is that one single not for profit provider will not be able to afford to purchase all three facilities. That means that at least one, if not two, and probably all three, will go to those private FOR PROFIT businesses!
  • On including a ‘resident representative’ on the sale process, we are told: Officers have discussed with legal and probity advisors the potential of having a family or resident involved in the process or on the evaluation panel. Advice provided is that this will give rise to probity and conflict of interest concerns. This says it all, despite the possibility of including resident ‘expertise’ prior to the finalisation of the detailed assessment criteria. In other words, no resident in on selection and worse still, no ‘detailed assessment criteria’ still exists. If this isn’t putting the cart before the horse, we don’t know what is!

Following this attempted response/rebuttal to issues raised in the various submissions we get a long diatribe on current conditions in aged care. We are informed that:

  • Aged care will become increasingly more ‘complex’
  • There will be increased ‘scrutiny and regulation’ so only larger and ‘highly specialised’ carers can cope mainly because they have ‘economies of scale’.
  • Another ‘reason’ why council can’t continue is that they don’t have an aged care board or specialist aged care finance staff to assist in management and governance arrangements. Perhaps council could answer how an ‘aged care finance staff’ is different to the systems and financial oversight that currently runs open space levies for example? In addition council has risk management policies, fraud policies, etc.etc. How have they managed for 40 years? Besides, maybe if council wasn’t so top heavy with ‘directors’ and the public relations staff, then more staff could be hired in those areas that residents consider vital?

Basically we’re told that council doesn’t have this and doesn’t have that. Plus extraordinary claims are made for existing ‘specialist’ private providers such as: Many areas of research in palliative care including conducting translational research projects to embed evidence into practice, including the development of sophisticated pain guidelines, anxiety and depression pathways and advanced care planning. Of course not one such provider is mentioned and neither is the fact that dementia care research is, to the best of our knowledge, not the current or primary function of our three facilities.

Nor do the financial stats provided tell even half the story. It is significant that this section of the report is a bare 2 sentences and the figure of a $1.88 million loss in 2017/18 is only the tip of the iceberg, since this figure EXCLUDES on costs such as corporate overheads. Nor does it tally with the Annual Report where a loss of $3.1 million was cited. Our belief remains that the sell off is nothing more than a cash grab.

If as certain councillors have argued, no decision has as yet been made, then why have legal and commercial firms already been appointed?

Finally, the listed criteria is a hodge podge of jargon and generalities. Residents still do not have a clue as to what these conditions will be, nor in fact, the real reasons behind the decision to sell.

In the end we still have no answers to the following:

  • What guarantee can council give that all staff who want to remain will be able to do so?
  • What guarantee can council give that in 5 or 10 years time these properties will not be turned into apartments?
  • Will the criteria and the tender offers be made public?
  • How much of the sale monies will go into general revenue and how much will actually be spent on the ‘disadvantaged’ in our society?
  • And the most crucial question: Why can’t the community decide whether or not it wants to subsidise aged care? When other councils now include resident juries in determining budget priorities, Glen Eira remains determined to exclude and ignore the community as much as possible.

We urge everyone to read this document since it encapsulates everything that is awry in Glen Eira.