Green Forum Petitions Against Plan to Expand Tel Aviv's Promenade

Tel Aviv's Planning and Construction Subcommittee set to decide Wednesday whether to accept environmental group's petition.

Tel Aviv's Planning and Construction Subcommittee is set to decide Wednesday whether to accept an environmental group's petition against the municipality's plan to expand the seaside promenade.

The Green Forum, an umbrella organization for 40 environmental groups in the Tel Aviv area, claims in its petition that the boardwalk will come at the expense of the beach.

The city, however, maintains that construction will be on land not currently designated for bathing.

"The new promenade will cut into the beach, which is already narrow, crowded and inadequate for all those who use it to play soccer, volleyball and paddle ball, as well as all the lounge chairs," Rachel Gilad-Walner of the Green Forum said. "The new promenade will push all the commotion toward the shoreline, and beachgoers will not be able to escape it."

Gilad-Walner represents the Yemenite Quarter, which is adjacent to the beach.

Besides regulating building permits for existing beachside structures, the plan calls for redesigning a three-kilometer stretch of promenade between Gordon Beach and the Dolphinarium. According to the plan, terraces, stairs and storage areas will be built into the sandy hill, which rises a few meters over the beach. The promenade will pass between the sand and the hill, and the beach's width will be set by the city engineer. Municipal plans show it will be between 3 and 10 meters wide.

Officials at the Tel Aviv branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) estimated that the construction will come at the expense of at least 10 dunams of the beach's sandy areas.

"If the aim is improving accessibility to the beach, one can also use the current promenade area to build stairs and add more ramps," said Omer Cohen, an SPNI official. "If the aim is to increase the promenade's width, then Herbert Samuel Street can be shifted eastward, the service road can be removed and more space can be made for the promenade."

Gilad-Walner added, "On weekdays and weekends, the city's beaches are a place of calm, refuge, recreation and rest from the hustle and bustle of city life. The beach's width, serenity and placement below the promenade and the city allows me and the city's residents to escape the city rush and find solace in the only piece of nature we have. Further development at the expense of the beach, and leveling the busy street to the height of the beach, will damage what little part of nature remains in the city."

Green Forum member Yael Dory, a landscape architect, said: "Urban beaches already suffer from a lack of space, and new restaurants and coffee shops are being built in every corner, and they put out seats and umbrellas everywhere. There is very little open space left for the public. The situation will be aggravated if they come and guzzle up more land for the promenade."

A Tel Aviv municipal spokesman responded: "The development plans in the design pamphlet are a general outline based on the subcommittee's requirements, and are not indicative of a specific development plan. Designs for the main beach area will be picked through a competition and will be approved by the committees, including the committee for beach preservation."

He added that the beach is widening as a result of sand buildup, caused by the construction of a pier in the area.