Saturday, December 18, 2004

Merry Christmas and reverse bon voyage

Have a good one folks -- the next posting will be from London, Wales, Paris or Amsterdam -- if I get the time to spend on the net -- otherwise you can talk among yourselves!

Back mid-January.


Compromises on Wayside Chapel, PO developments

Press release from Clover Moore:

The City is committed to revising and updating the planning controls
inherited from the former South Sydney, City and Leichhardt Councils.
As this major task will take some time, in the interim we will need to
deal with anomalies and make some site specific decisions.

Recent Development Applications (DAs) for the Wayside Chapel and
Potts Point Post Office sites highlight the work needed in the Kings
Cross area in particular. Given the history of inappropriate
development in the area, I have asked Council staff to address the
area as a priority.

In considering a DA for the Wayside Chapel in Hughes Street, Potts
Point, Council identified a mismatch between allowable height and
floor space ratio (FSR). Unreasonably low FSRs previously enabled the
South Sydney City Council controls to be bargained upward at the DA
stage to provide "development bonuses" to Council.

In April Council resolved to improve certainty by strictly applying
core development controls. The resolution provided for major
variations to occur only through amending the control itself, after
public consultation and consideration of issues such as the character
of the area, density, transportation, environmental capacity,
sustainability and cumulative impacts.

The City proposed to review the controls for the Wayside Chapel site.
Council staff surveyed the area and found a wide variation, but the
predominant built form around the site is three to four stories with
FSRs of 5:1, 8:1 and 10.1. Council has approved a revised FSR of
2.5:1, satisfied that it is appropriate in the location for any future
development, whatever it may be.

This revised FSR is lower than previously proposed by the Wayside
Chapel development. The applicant has indicated that a revised DA is
being prepared to conform to the new controls and address concerns
raised by Council and the community, such as overlooking, on-site
activity and ambulance access. Council will need to be satisfied that
any proposal meets the range of applicable planning provisions before
approval is granted.

Council will next week consider a revised DA for the Post Office in
Macleay Street Potts Point. In 2003, the Land and Environment Court
supported community concern about the unacceptable bulk and scale of
the previous DA, which would have impact on sunlight, views and

The new proposal is significantly improved and is supported by many
residents who opposed previous schemes. However, the FSR controls for
the site are below the actual level in the current building on the
site, as well as less than that proposed in the new DA.

Where existing buildings that exceed the controls are being
adaptively reused (such as heritage buildings) or detract from an area
(as the Post Office building does), Council needs to work toward
better buildings and better design that reduce impacts on the

The Council planners report on this development recommends approval
for the DA, with additional conditions to better comply and reduce
amenity impacts.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bouquets to the pedestrian historian

Council Historian Shirley Fitzgerald is doing a fabulous job with the footpath plaques. The texts, events and characters she has chosen truly distill the history of Kings Cross. They stop people in their tracks, too. Haven't found any typo's yet, either!

You could criticise it in terms of the 'photograph it and knock it down' approach, (ie destroy it but leave some brass markers), yet what is emerging is truly unique -- what other precinct can match the colour, characters and texture presented here in a fascinating installation of unexpected scale? Visitors and new residents will find their appreciation of the place enhanced and deepened.

History is being made here, not just commemorated. Full credit to those who made it happen.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sartor in line for Carr-spot?

It's the scuttlebutt around the big end of town -- that Premier Carr is headed onwards and upwards while none other than Frank Sartor is being groomed for the top spot. That could be why Carr is getting all the unpopular decisions out of the way now -- so he can carry the opprobrium elsewhere and give Fix-it Frank a clearer run at the next election. If this is the case, I wonder what Costa/Scully/Refshauge/Knowles did wrong to be so nimbly leapfrogged?

Meet the new boss -- worse than the old boss. Look forward to an unbroken line of condo's right up the NSW coast, serviced by super-freeways paid for with money withdrawn from the arts budget and the total sale of the railway system. At least Bob pretends to be an environmentalist.

I'm thinking of writing a book examining the methods and principles of the reptilian elite of NSW, calling it "How to stay on the gravy train". It needs somehow to be written as a popular comedy, though. How?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Carr to sell off more of the farm

STOP PRESS -- a modified version of the story below was published in the SMH today in Letters. Call me a media junky...

The announced closure of the Newcastle city rail is a disaster. It will increase car traffic while robbing inner city Novocastrians of their transport lifeline. It will damage CBD businesses because changing to buses at Broadmeadow, especially while carrying shopping, is a time-consuming hassle. It is heritage heresy and ecological vandalism.

Mr Carr simply wants the money for the real estate and yet more profit for his developer mates. The only force that can stop it would seem to be the transport unions, and I do hope they act -- even if it means more transport turmoil for Sydney!

Meanwhile, take a day train to Newcastle while you still can -- it's a classic journey, especially the Hawkesbury section, and the beachside city is a great place to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The gang's all back!

Apparently today's Tele has reported a leaked document showing that former Council GM Robert Domm is already back with Frank Sartor -- running the Redfern/Waterloo Planning Authority. And guess who's turned up on Frank's hand-picked Board? Lucy Turnbull of course. That might explain why her repeated response to questions about it on radio was: 'something drastic has to be done.' Spoken like a true slum-clearing modernist. Personally I think we should bulldoze Point Piper and hand it back to the original inhabitants. That would be drastic! But then the big developers wouldn't be raking it in.

It's all in the detail

Now we can see Darlinghurst Road in its finished state. What a relief!

Interesting how the council staff have applied their own agenda, in little ways. For instance, the KX Bikers have lost their bikes-only parking that had been so kindly granted by Lucy Turnbull. They are appealing (that's a verb, not an adjective).

And what's this? 1P and 2P parking signs -- yes, folks, it's to be parking meters until 10pm every night. Good for council, bad for businesses. I suppose it had to come, but it's interesting how they weren't mentioned in any of the 'consultation' we were supposed to have enjoyed.

Then there's the 24-hour Council-only parking in front of their own offices. Oh well, they ARE more important than ordinary Australians, I suppose.

And one small teething problem: several of the bluestone kerbs have already been dislodged by armoured vehicles mounting the footpath. They don't seem to get booked, either. I guess it's one rule for the banks and JC Decaux, another for the rest of us.

On the cloned smartpole banners: they make Kings Cross into a model city (a small imitation of the real thing). Let us rejoice at the politically correct snow crystals and multilingual captions. Remember, the official reality is the only reality.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The facelift that nearly killed the Cross

The SMH today ran a story about the damage to businesses caused by the KX facelift. William and Oxford St businesses are understandably nervous. Those projects are much bigger than Kings Cross and in addition, those roads are major traffic routes into the city. Having them blocked will affect Kings Cross yet again, especially as Council seems set on listening to ESNA and closing Liverpool street through East Sydney.

And how do people rate the weekend street party? Will it be effective in bringing people back to the Cross?

We liked the festival itself and had some great times watching the entertainment. The outdoor party at the Empire certainly went off!

Click the headline to see the SMH story.

Friday, December 10, 2004

All set for big street party

Everyone geared up for the excellent entertainment at this weekend's "Rediscover Kings Cross" street festival? There are some great acts and events.

As predicted, they've got the Llankelly Place lights working just in time. And, late breaking news, as the rain falls, the futures market in street stalls has crashed. As of 4pm today you could get a $250 stall for only $35!

Let's hope the rain stops over the weekend, or much of the advertising budget will be a-blowin' in the wind and the cloned smartpole banners will be a bit limp. See you there anyway!

Hope for Minton House

Council's planners have recommended against a DA to convert iconic Minton House to a backpacker hostel. Minton House is on the corner of Bayswater and Darlinghurst Roads and has accommodated arts and movie legends including John Coburn, the originators of Tropfest, and Charles Blackman.

The report cites heritage and artistic associations as reasons for the refusal, and it goes on to recommend that the building should receive a heritage listing from council.

There had been a strong community campaign against the re-development. The recommendation has yet to be passed by the planning committee and then council as a whole.

Hurrah! More grey granite for the Cross!

Surprise surprise! Another of Sydney's unique and historical precincts is to lose its individuality in favour of homogenous city branding.

Council has announced Springfield Avenue is to get grey granite paving in the 'Gateway' style identical to the Darlinghurst Road footpaths. This is another triumph of Council priorities over clearly expressed community wishes.

The decision ignores a clear community vote at a 300-strong public meeting for different style of paving in the Cross; it ignores a smaller Springfield Avenue meeting with Council in which four different people called for terracotta paving, and others favoured the Llankelly Place style; and it ignores several written submissions opposing the granite.

It ignores the fact that Springfield Avenue is a residential precinct that needs to be visually differentiated from the neighbouring Kings Cross strip (now continuous grey granite will connect the two vastly different precincts via Springfield Plaza). And it ignores the prevalence of Art Deco brick buildings in the street, which most people think calls for sympathetic terracotta paving.

Council's announcement follows:

"We are pleased to advise that Granite Austral Verde has been approved as the pavement finish the works, which will now proceed on this basis from mid-January. As a special threshold to Springfield Plaza and the Darlinghurst Road Precinct, the continuation of granite through Springfield Avenue was considered appropriate in this instance.

"For your information, a range of responses were received from the community. The final selection meets the broad community support for a high quality finish, whilst keeping some consistency with the City palette, and ensuring a superior performance pavement that will endure in the long term."

It's a classic piece of bureauspeak. As a public service, we offer translations of some of the key phrases into plain English:-

1. "considered appropriate in this instance" means "That's what we want in every instance, so bad luck folks."

2. "a range of responses were received from the community" means "the submissions ran against what we wanted so we ignored them." (This is precisely the same phrase used by the Boundaries Commission when they recommended the forced council amalgamations -- even though OVER 90% of submissions were passionately against it).

3. "broad community support for a high quality finish" means "there was no support for council's first proposal: tearing up the terracotta paving and laying bitumen."

4. "keeping some consistency with the City palette" means 1. "council loves bland homogeneity and hates diversity," or 2. "neo-modernism is the one true church of planning. "The City Palette" means "grey".

We urge readers to speak up about this rubbish -- email councillors about it. Ask for an accurate report on community submissions. Expose these dull despots for the petty bullies they are.

The works are scheduled to commence from mid January 2005 and completed by early April 2005.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

New rules for Bill Posters

A 'lost cat' or 'garage sale' notice in King Street Newtown or Glebe Point Road might now stay up for five days after a revised graffiti policy was passed at Council last night. But in Darlinghurst Road your cat won't get the same coverage because Council's 24-hour removal policy remains.

The 24-hour rule still mostly applies to designated 'hot spots' ,ie main street shopping centres. Sections of King Street and Glebe Point Road have been excepted from the 24-hour rule, along with part of City Road near Sydney University. Elswhere, a five-day removal cycle remains.

Political posters are a different case again -- they will be allowed to stay up two weeks before an election.

Crs Chris Harris, Greens, and Verity Firth, Labor, were not happy with inconsistencies in the policy and persuaded Council to consider it again next year.

Harris wants the 14-day political rule applied to all community notices. 'Why should political parties get special treatment?' he said.

He also wants the hot-spot exceptions extended and a notice area defined for Kings Cross. He says the removal schedule should be posted on Council's website so people can avoid having their notices torn down the same day they post them.

Our local 'hot-spots' (daily poster removal) are: William Street from Riley to the tunnel; Victoria Street from Burton St to the Potts Point end; Darlinghurst Road from Oxford ST to Fitzroy Gardens and onward down MacLeay Street.

Elsewhere, five days remains the rule.

Council spent $3 million last year on graffiti and poster removal, listing 31,000 instances. That's $96.77 per removal, which is nothing compared to the cost of signage if the police get to extend their no-alcohol areas. Those signs cost Council $500 each, plus maintenance costs.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Autocracy equals 'flexibility' in Frankspeak

In the face of leaked plans which reveal Frank Sartor intends to give over 75% of the housing commission area in Waterloo to private development, Frank described his autocratic powers as simply giving him the 'flexibility' to solve the area's social problems. He knows full well this will sound reasonable to the average politically disengaged punter, and he will be able to isolate and ignore the locals who protest.

Meanwhile one woman who had lived there for 22 years, interviewed on radio today, lamented any break-up of her Waterloo community because of its close-knit self-help culture. 'When people are sick someone always visits and looks after them,' she said. 'Who will do that if we all have to move?'

Elsewhere Frank has derided those who protest his power to override heritage laws as 'heritage mafia'.

And word is that the first area to be declared 'state significant' will be the Block in Redfern, which will give Frank power to be his own consent authority. What could possibly go wrong?

Twas the night before Xmas

Someone posted this comment below. You have to pay the poetry!

The Night Before Christmas
By Warren Brown

Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the town
The whole city's gone quiet and the lights are turned down.

No Town Hall bright tinsel
Is strung out this year.
No carols are heard
No laughter, no cheer.

No Christmas tree baubles.
No presents as well.
No Dancer, no Prancer,
No Santa, Noel.

So why isn't our city
The worlds greatest starter,
Its all over Clover-
Where the hell is Frank Sartor ?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Do they know it's Christmas?

The Tele has another swipe at Clover Moore today over the pathetic Xmas decorations in Sydney. It's not one of council's strong suits, that's for sure, although the snow-crystal smartpole banners in the city are kind of gay. Perhaps a smartpole banner is a smartpole banner is a...

Last year council did a woeful job of decorating the Cross -- I did a straw street poll, asking people what they thought of the decorations. Ten out of ten people hadn't even noticed the unlit tiny silver flags strung above the shop awnings.

This year we get red smartpole banners advertising the library. Get it? Red. No doubt, though, there will be more for the coming street party over next weekend.

But it's all wonderful compared to a few years ago in Frank Sartor's day when the town hall was decorated with apalling giant blow-up figures. Now there's an idea for the Cross. Lots of our retail outlets sell blow-up figures. Perhaps they should chip in and do a number?

Must suggest it to council...

A real estate agent in Newcastle shows more originality -- they are hiring a big Bedouin tent and having their party on the Stockton sand dunes, complete with a herd of camels. Who said you couldn't find three wise men in Newcastle?

STOP PRESS: John Howard was just on the radio criticising Clover. 'This is political correctness straight from central casting,' he said, obviously believing the Tele's line that the City was going slow on the decorations so as not to offend non-christian religions.

A spokesman from Clover's office questioned the accuracy of the Tele's story, pointing out that this year's $600,000 Xmas budget was higher than last year's. Must be a slow news day.

Labourer forced to pull his boots in

An English building worker living on Elizabeth Bay Road was forced to pull his boots in earlier this week. He had come home to his flat after a hard day's work and, out of consideration for his flatmates, hung his smelly boots on some window-box infrastructure outside his window.

In no time there was a knock on his door -- it was the building manager, who told him to pull in his boots because a neighbour over the road had complained.

Great to see such excellent vigilance from locals concerned about the tone of our area. If you let that sort of thing go, who knows what would come next? Dancing in the streets?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Serious stabbing in Roslyn Street

A woman was stabbed near the heart during a robbery at the Kings Mixed Business on the corner of Roslyn St & Ward Avenue, according to a bystander. The attack occurred within the last hour and the woman was reported to be 'gushing blood'. Police have taped off the area.

There has been a spate of robberies in Darlinghurst Road over the past two weeks, some involving a knife, netting small amounts of cash -- $40 in one case where a tobacconist was robbed.

KX Police have been seen on pushbike patrols in the area. Perhaps there should be more of it -- the quick, silent bikes allow police to surprise criminals and to pursue them effectively.

UPDATE 2/12/04: at the PACT Police Community meeting last night Supt Steve Cullen told residents the alleged 21-year-old female attacker, who lived close by, was arrested at the scene. A struggle with screams had spilled out onto the street -- right opposite a Rose Bay Highway Patrol which was doing random licence checks on Ward Avenue. Three police intervened and applied first aid to the victim, aged in her 50s, who was stabbed in the neck. She was in a critical but stable condition after surgery at St Vincents Hospital, according to news reports this morning.

The highway patrol also caught two illegal immigrants driving cabs.