Tel Aviv City Hall to Appeal Plan to Reinforce Buildings Against Earthquakes

The retrofit plan, termed a 'revolution' by its supporters, would involve reinforcing buildings while significantly increasing construction density in the center of the city.

Tel Aviv city hall is planning to appeal a municipal plan to reinforce buildings against earthquakes while significantly increasing construction density in the center of town.

Council members are expected to petition against the retrofit project, which was approved a month ago, when it comes up for review in the district planning committee. They say the details became overly complicated when they passed the local planning committee and thus will be impossible to implement.

Furthermore, they say, the plan contradicts others that have already been approved by the city, and limits contractors that would potentially oversee the various projects involved.

"In a meeting held November 7, 2012, regarding National Master Plan 38 [which deals with reinforcing buildings against earthquakes], I told members of the committee that the policy needs to be simple and clear," wrote Deputy Mayor Peer Visner. "After a long, tiring discussion, we came to agreements. Unfortunately since then, they've been 'forgotten' and the protocol is indeed unclear and complicated, and the result is unclear, complicated policy."

Visner sent his letter to the head of the Tel Aviv municipal planning committee, Doron Sapir, who formulated the policy document. "The teams gave us a plan for architects," said Visner, upon seeing the document for the first time. "I want it cut to two pages so that it's clear."

The retrofit plan, termed a "revolution" by its supporters, would involve reinforcing buildings while also adding an extra two and a half floors in Jaffa; south Tel Aviv, along central Ibn Gvirol Street, from the Ganei Hatarucha complex to the north and up until Shaul Hamelech Street to the south; as well as in the area west of the Begin complex.

Once reinforced, buildings in these areas would reach up to seven stories.

The plan also calls for reinforcing buildings within Quarters 3 and 5, better known as the White City, and considered UNESCO heritage sites. In these areas, bordered by Hayarkon Street to the west, Ibn Gvirol to the east, and Dizengoff to the south, buildings would be demolished and replaced with new structures better-suited to withstand an earthquake. The new buildings would be as tall as six and a half or seven and a half stories. Currently, the structures are no more than five.

The idea behind the project initially seemed simple enough, but the final planning document produced by city hall is a complicated one that is unlikely ever to be implemented.

Attorneys and appraisers who reviewed the plan have said it is problematic and contradicts the city's master plan, TA-5000, as well as the plan for various quarters. For instance, while the master plan allows for buildings in Quarter 3 to be between eight and 10 stories, the most recent policy allows for only six or seven stories. In another area, south of Hayarkon, the plan allows for construction of up to six and a half floors, while the most recent one would allow as many as nine stories for buildings that are torn down and rebuilt.

In the past, city hall has been resistant to reinforcing buildings under NMP-38.

"The master plan creates building rights within the city, while the plan for quarters as well as the plan to reinforce buildings cut back these rights," says land appraiser Arie Kamil, who used to be the appraiser for the municipal planning committee. "Ultimately in Tel Aviv, rights are given out only in the north and the south, and in the rest of the city it's limited. The plan presented may make such projects not financially viable; it's legally complicated, unclear and unlikely to be implemented."

Doron Sapir, head of Tel Aviv's municipal planning committee, responded, "NMP 38 is a national plan and cannot be implemented the same way in both Sderot and Tel Aviv. It needs to be adapted to each city. Obviously it's complicated and obviously there are things you need to address, such as parking. It's also clear it doesn't mesh with the plan for the quarters. On this matter, the committee intends to submit an objection regarding the plan for the quarters, which it wants to update in keeping with the latest plan. All the details were intended to preserve the quality of the buildings and residents' quality of life. Otherwise, we'd just write a plan adding two and a half floors in every city and be done with it."

"The biggest problem in implementing NMP 38 is getting all the residents of a given building to agree to renovate - not the planning part, " he added.

Aviad Bar-Nes