Cape Town - Olive Brown has an abiding memory growing up in District Six – weekends were set aside for the beach. “Instead of sitting in a cinema, we would go to the beach. My father taught us to swim and we just loved it. It was so beautiful and so safe.”
She says the choices were limited for people of colour to visit along the Atlantic in those days: Oudekraal, Sea Point Tidal Pool and Maiden’s Cove – known then as “fourth beach” – were the only options.
Now a grandmother living in Athlone, Brown has continued the tradition and takes her grandchildren to the beach on weekends.
They mainly go to Maiden’s Cove as the tidal pool has been demolished and the “entry fee at Oudekraal is prohibitive”.
“It is expensive if we all go – around R120 for the day. And Maiden’s Cove is the only place you can still braai along the coastline.”
But she is terribly concerned about plans to develop the area around Maiden’s Cove.
On Thursday the city presented its proposed “design vision” for land between the Clifton bungalows and Camps Bay, including Maiden’s Cove, the Glen Country Club, sports oval and the existing city-owned parking facility.
“I’m really cut up about it. It takes me back to the apartheid era when things were just taken from us.”
In a letter she wrote to the Cape Argus about her concerns Brown said: “I find it unthinkable that local government would be so insensitive and sell off the only free recreational area available along this coastline.”
She wrote that the coloured vote was the reason the DA was in power in the Western Cape.
“Evicting (that’s what it amounts to) those who have for generations enjoyed Maiden’s Cove, is reminiscent of the inhumane forced removed of people from District Six.”
But Ian Neilson, the city’s mayoral committee member for Finance, said it was “foreseen that the general public will have free and enhanced access to the public areas along the shore, and that similar, but relocated, sporting facilities to what is available at present, will be incorporated into the development”.
He said the city regarded the property as being under-utilised and providing somewhat limited access to the ocean front for residents and visitors.
“The city wishes to see the enhancement of this area to make the beach, ocean and recreational facilities more accessible to all Capetonians, while protecting the natural vegetation, strengthening local and international tourism potential and unlocking investment opportunity to potentially drive job creation.”
The proposal includes the construction of 34 bungalows, retail facilities and a double storey underground parking garage with about 700 spaces under the bowling green.
Neilson said that there were no buyers as yet.
“Once the urban design framework is completed, a portion of the land, with development constraints, will be offered on public tender.”
He added that the city had received positive feedback in general, but the prevailing input had been that strong development parameters must be put in place for any potential redevelopment of this site.
“The city has also been urged to ensure that conservation and heritage matters are attended to as priority considerations.”
But Chris Willemse, chairman of the Camps Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association, said Neilson was on record saying the city had consulted stakeholders.
“But this was before the two major stakeholders – ourselves and the Clifton Bunglalow’s Association – had officially responded so I’m not sure who they consulted.”
Willemse said there was concern about the lack of public participation.
“We feel the city is just on a box-ticking exercise and this will be steamrolled through.”
There have been reports that mayor Patricia de Lille is backing the project and it is already a done deal.
Willemse said the plan kept changing from a “development, to a vision, to we’re just playing around and nothing definite has been decided”.
“Yet every time we see it, it has morphed into something bigger.”
He said the association would like to see a proper environmental impact assessment and traffic assessment to understand the limitations to a site that was both a national monument and a provincial heritage site.
Willemse said an official complaint had been lodged with the city for advertising last week’s meeting so late.
It had been advertised on the Friday before the public holiday, which meant many people missed it.
“One of their officials arrogantly said they only needed to give seven days but it was in fact only six days.”
He said it was decided that the meeting would be for information only and another properly advertised and constituted meeting would be held in about 21 days’ time.
In an opinion piece published online recently Judith February, with the Institute for Security Studies, wrote: “Given the tooth and nail fight to retain the Sea Point promenade as a true ‘seafront for all’ Capetonians, it is surprising that the city is planning to develop a section of Maiden’s Cove, also on the Atlantic seaboard.
“Not content to leave the scenic beauty well enough alone, public comment has been sought for the development of a parking garage in this most beautiful of parts.
“A parking garage one might naturally assume will be a precursor to a mall, shops or some kind of commercial development,” February said.