Judge Stops Work on Tel Aviv Parking Lot to Protect Rain Pool

Rules that irreversible damage to important natural resource could be done by continued construction work.

The Tel Aviv winter pool. City hall says work on the parking lot has stopped.
Sara Ohayoun

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court has issued a stop-work order for a park-and-ride parking lot that is being built in the southern part of the city near an ecologically important winter rain pool. The order will be in force until a hearing on an appeal by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel against the lot’s construction.

Magistrate’s Court Judge Ala Masarwa ruled that work on the lot had to stop to make sure that irreversible damage was not done to nature until the appeal is heard, and that there was a good chance the appeal would be granted.

A few months ago the Tel Aviv municipality began construction of the parking lot, which is near the Holon Junction, through the municipal company Ahuzat Hof. The lot is meant to relieve transportation woes during construction of the light rail.

The SPNI says that the rain pool near the construction site is the third most important natural site in the city, and the work will irreversibly damage the rain pool’s drainage system.

Two weeks ago the ecologist Prof. Avital Gazit sent a letter to the SPNI expressing his concern over the fact that this year only one rain pool filled this winter, while three others, fed by the same underground rainwater drainage, did not fill. This could indicate, Gazit wrote, “changes that have taken place recently in the area that damaged the drainage.” Gazit added: “If this continues and the pools do not fill as they did in the past, an important natural asset will be lost.”

The SPNI said yesterday that work was continuing near the pools despite the court order.

But a statement by the Tel Aviv municipality said: “As opposed to the claim, after the order was received construction of the parking lot ceased. ... The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality attaches great importance to the winter pools as one of the city’s green sites. Just recently the city received the SPNI’s award for supporting and advancing public environmental activities, among others in winter pools within the city limits. Construction of the park-and-ride parking lot near the Holon Junction is being implemented by law and under close ecological supervision by municipal experts, who are ensuring that there is no damage to nature.”

The city also said that as part of the lot’s construction the area had been cleared of garbage and toxic materials and that “a natural biofilter system had been installed that enables the protection of water quality and cleanliness, so there is no damage at all to the winter pools.”