KUALA LUMPUR: For almost 10 years now, Marie Kay and her neighbours have been fighting to keep their Bangsar Utama locality from turning into a commercial site, an endeavour complicated by the discovery of a change in zoning.
Speaking to FMT, Kay, who is in her 50s, said they found out in 2010 about talk to rezone the neighbourhood from residential to “major commercial”.
This is just one level before the “central business district” zoning category.
Under the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020, the entire residential area including Jalan Abdullah, Lengkok Abdullah and Lorong Abdullah, is now categorised as “major commercial”.
But Kay says residents are pushing for the government to return the neighbourhood to its original residential status under the 2040 plan.
She speculated that the area had been rezoned to make way for luxury apartments and office units on Jalan Abdullah.
“This is a quaint neighbourhood that is rich in history and culture. But more importantly, it does not have the capacity to take on such massive development,” she said.
Jalan Abdullah borders the National Institutes of Health (NIH) complex on Jalan Rumah Sakit Bangsar, which in turn borders Bukit Persekutuan.
In November 2012, SP Setia subsidiary Setia Federal Hill entered into a privatisation agreement to undertake the development and construction of a new integrated health and research complex for the government in Setia Alam, Shah Alam.
In exchange, the government agreed to swap the 51.57 acres of prime land in Bangsar occupied by the NIH, where the group plans to embark on a mixed-commercial development of luxury residential and office units.
Kay said no proper consultation had been done with the residents before the agreement.
“The Kuala Lumpur City Hall did arrange for us to meet with SP Setia in 2014, but it was called off,” she said.
“Suddenly now we find out that this entire area has been rezoned.”
Another resident who called herself Kiara said in a recent briefing on the development, government officers had told them they should consider vacating the area soon.
“They said remaining here, we are like a sore thumb to upcoming developments,” she said.
But Kay claimed that houses in the area are all built on freehold land.
“They cannot just ask us to vacate,” she added.
Kiara meanwhile said the government should appreciate the neighbourhood, which includes houses that have been there for decades.
B Loga, who moved to Bukit Persekutuan in 1963, said the residents had fought off development several times already.
She recalled plans by IGB Corporation to build high density condominium blocks on a parcel of land bordering the Kedah, Negeri Sembilan and Perak palaces.
Plans by another developer to build on the plot of land housing the Jalan Travers police station were also stopped by the residents in 2008.
Bukit Persekutuan is one of the last sizeable forest areas in the city centre, housing government bungalows built in the 1950s and 60s.
Loga said she was worried that the mega project by SP Setia would affect the hill slope which is categorised as Level 4.
“This is a 45-degree hill slope,” she told FMT. “Construction of that nature would jeopardise the landscape and affect residential areas in the vicinity.”
Adding that there is a water bed running beneath the hill, she warned of possible mudslides and soil erosion which she said could lead to a tragedy similar to that of Highland Towers, where a tower collapsed on Dec 11, 1993, killing 48 people.
Another resident who wished to remain anonymous asked how SP Setia had managed to claim small parcels of land which are part of Bukit Persekutuan, when landownership falls under the federal Department of Lands and Mines in the Prime Minister’s Department.
“The hill remains ungazetted as a green lung. That is our greatest worry, that developers will slowly take up more land and before you know it, the whole hill will be gone.”
On Wednesday, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad was reported as saying that the government would not cancel the agreement entered into with SP Setia’s 50%-owned unit in relation to the Setia Federal Hill development in Bangsar.
He said the government could not afford to breach the agreement as doing so might affect investors’ confidence.