Old PJ neighbourhood under threat from businesses

Businesses operating illegally on residential lots.

PETALING JAYA: Residents of one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods are upset with further commercialisation of the area, especially with used-car dealers being allowed to operate in residential lots unmolested for the past 20 years.

Now there is a proposal by the city to zone a row of houses for limited commercial use, causing the Taman Kanagapuram Residents’ Association (TKRA) to get further upset.

Association chairman Dr B Kishore said: “A majority of the businesses here are used cars dealers, and they are not supposed to operate from a residential lot.

“It is against the law, but yet, more than 20 years have gone by and they are still here, growing bigger by the year.”

“Now with this plan to convert the whole Jalan 18/14 into limited commercial areas, we are worried that these businesses will continue to lord over the area,” said Kishore.

The city council has even added used-car dealerships into the list of permitted businesses under the limited commercial zoning.

“That is wrong. We urge the MBPJ to review their decision and come clean on the reason behind this conversion and exemption made for the used cars dealers.

“Taman Kanagapuram is a freehold residential area. They cannot simply commercialise the area,” said Kishore.

Taman Kanagapuram Residents’ Association chairman B Kishore and former chairman S Selvaratnam (in maroon).

Taman Kanagapuram is one of the oldest housing estates in Petaling Jaya, opened in the 1960s. It was known as Section 1B, coming after Section 1A (Taman Carey) and encompasses about 122 bungalows. It was later renamed as Section 18.

The estate was established by the Jaffnese Co-operative Society who bought the land for the Ceylonese community, many of whom served in the civil service.

“They set a seven-year embargo, during which only Ceylonese were allowed to make purchases. Only after seven years they opened it up to the public, but even so, there was a strong 95% population which were still Ceylonese.”

Those living there now are pensioners and their homes represent their life savings.

The mushrooming of businesses in a once prestigious housing estate does not bode well for citizens.

Businesses operating illegally on residential lots. (TKRA pic)

“The undeniable effect is the depreciation of property values. Prices here are lower by 50% compared to the surrounding areas,” Kishore said.

“To make things worse, Taman Kanagapuram has lost its ambience as a low density residential area,” he said. Now it is frequented by people who don’t live there, including foreign workers and operators of heavy vehicles.

“This is due to uncontrolled mushrooming of businesses operating illegally on residential premises, majority of them being used-car dealers, which means huge trailers come by quite often to deliver used cars to the showrooms and cause massive congestion,” he said.

Kishore said the residents have taken up their problems with MBPJ, state assemblymen and executive councillors, to their MP and right up to the Menteri Besar’s office.

“But up to this very moment, what could have been resolved easily with a stroke of a pen, has not been done,” Kishore said. “A more sinister undertone has emerged that suggests that these businesses are thriving with assistance from the authorities.”

The association’s former chairman, S. Selvaratnam, said the businesses have multiplied over the years.

Since 2005, TKRA has continuously lodged numerous complaints to the local council and the assemblyman.

Old folks home. (TKRA pic)

Before 2012, the authorities had issued compound fines and even took to court errant owners who operated businesses illegally on these premises.

“But after the Pakatan Harapan government took over, we were shocked by the plan to have the houses fronting the main road to be rezoned from residential to limited commercial, against the aspirations of the residents,” he said.

“Why are these businesses staying put despite being told to move out?

While the battle continues, new businesses are popping up, in addition to to the used cars dealers and nine old folks homes.

“Even a court order is in place for one of the businesses to vacate the lot, but the court order has not been exercised,” said Selvaratnam.

Six more new businesses have opened here, among them a bed and breakfast hotel, workshop, car servicing and parts shop, furniture shop, a pet hotel, car sales centre, as well as a church catering mainly to foreigners.