Petition to support DVRC rezoning NOW

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Petition to support DVRC rezoning NOW

Click here to join the petition to rezone Des Voeux Road Central.

Clean Air Network, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth (HK) and The Conservancy Association have submitted a section 12A application to the Town Planning Board, to rezone Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC) from “road” to “Pedestrian Area and Environmentally Friendly Transport System”

The West Island MTR line has recently opened, and the Central-Wanchai Bypass and the MTR’s South Island Line and Sha Tin to Central railway will also be opened soon. These provide the opportunity to re-arrange traffic, address congestion, and reduce roadside noise and air pollution in Central. The proposal includes a strip along the centre of the DVRC for environmentally friendly transport – including tram and electric buses. The north-south roads that cross DVRC including Rumsey Street, Wing Wo Street, Jubilee Street, Pottinger Street and Pedder Street will remain open so that traffic can connect between Queen’s Road Central and Connaught Road Central.  

The deadline of submitting public comments to Town Planning Board is 16th Oct. ACT NOW!

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Press: Could Des Voeux Road really go green?

Timeout If strolling along grass down the middle of Des Voeux Road sounds impossible, then think again. It’s a stretch of road right in the heart of Hong Kong’s congested business district but with Occupy Central proving it’s possible to completely pedestrianise Des Voeux Road between the Western Market and World Wide House, who’s to say we can’t make the whole road a glistening oasis of calm? It was first proposed back in 2000 by urban planners, but ‘the beginning of the beginning’ for the zone came just last month on September 21, when a panel discussion took place at Asia Society Centre, marking the launch of the official Des Voeux Road Central Initiative. Moderator Aric Chen, curator for design and architecture at M+ explains that the initiative is ‘a coalition of various non-profit groups and entities across the environmental sector, the property sector, commercial and civically minded entities to push forward [the] plan.’ Five panel members – Jeffrey Johnson (Studio-X), Amale Andraos (Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation), Donald Choi (Managing Director of Nan Fung Development), Eric Schuldenfrei (founding partner of ESKYIU) and councillor Paul Zimmerman (CEO of Designing Hong Kong) debated the logistics, difficulties and possibilities for the pedestrianisation project, comparing it to others around the world including the New York Highline and Times Square. Critic and curator of design and architecture Aric Chen moderated the panel. The Plan: “We want to expand the way we think of this offer to go beyond air quality and traffic, to really look at quality of life and public realm in Hong Kong,” says Chen. “The potential for creativity and urban innovation and to ask the question about what kind of city Hong Kong wants to be? Whether it is one that is technocratic, creating technocratically charged spaces or one that can look beyond that to become more innovative and people-centric.” Johnson enthusing,“We feel it has the potential to become a landmark in the new history of Hong Kong and public space.” The initiative launched in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture at HKU and Colombia University, with Johnson describing the aim to divide the road into six zones, with six different concepts along it. “The idea [consists of] a playground (providing interaction and public enjoyment within the street itself, a canopy (an oasis within a concrete jungle, as a respite from the chaos of the city), a public theatre (of action on the street, a carnival or spectacle), a galleria (the idea of an indoor and outdoor space available 24 hours a day) and an art-scape (driven culturally and curated).” Andranos supported this creative idealism by stating, ‘with students nothing is impossible, and the school is bringing up some real questions to be explored.’ Eric then expressed his excitement for the road, with “the city that we inherit” becoming the “city that we change too.” Questioning how preservation or conservation is done in HK and “whether it can only be done in that way.” The two professors of architecture expressed their aim to use green technologies as a “more intelligent way of thinking about design, not only in public space but also thinking about a more sustainable future.” “Over 75% of HK is green space,” points out Chen. “[But much of it] is a little bit out of reach”. Zimmerman claims the DVRC could become ‘the pedestrian corridor’ that allows busy-urbanites to enjoy nature and green space too. Thinking pragmatically: Then the discussion turned pragmatic with Zimmerman worrying about ‘private-public partnership’ and how the space is going to be arranged. ‘That’s what the problem was with the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade….How do you make it a private-people-public initiative?” ‘ Businessman Donald Choi answered this saying, ‘we must engage all the stakeholders,’ as from a ‘commercial point of view…[it would] make a place that is enjoyable for shoppers or visitors to come. It will generate a lot of interest and attraction, not only for the tourists but also from the locals and residents and users.’ Emma Russell

Press: Plan to rezone road in Central

A federation comprising environmental, public space and urban design organizations announced a plan to raise HK$10 million to study the possibility to rezone Des Voeux Road Central to a pedestrian and tram precinct. DVRC Initiative said that it will also apply to the Town Planning Board to designate the section of the road as a pedestrian street on Sundays and public holidays for people to experience the scheme. This will reduce pollution, ease traffic congestion and create more public space. China Daily

Rezoning Central will allow everyone to share it

Loong Tsz Wai (English translation of HKEJ on EJinsights) A recent proposal to the Town Planning Board (TPB) by a retired government town planner to cancel the Central-to-Admiralty segment of the tram service has demonstrated how ridiculous our town planning procedures can get. Many are simply astounded by the fact that the threshold for submitting public applications to the TPB for changes in land use is so low that even a proposal as unpopular and unjustifiable as that one can be officially considered. However, the mind-boggling episode has also seriously inspired us to think about how we can make use of that low threshold the other way around — to take back the public space in our city and reshape our urban landscape in the best interests of the general public. As the public outcry against the proposal to remove part of the tramline continues, the Clean Air Network, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth and the Conservancy Association joined forces to launch the Rezoning Central program in early September. We have tabled our submission to the TPB proposing to lay artificial turf on the sidewalk in front of the Hang Seng Bank headquarters in Central to allow our citizens to read or perform in public. Our proposal is not only aimed at enhancing urban greening and expanding the area of public space in our central business district but also at reclaiming the rights of our pedestrians. The fact that the sidewalks in our city tend to be so narrow while roads for cars are often much wider suggests that our policymakers have given priority to motorists over pedestrians, which also, to some extent, reflects how they perceive the social hierarchy in our city. Those who own cars often belong to the upper class and are more influential socially and economically, therefore they deserve preferential treatment at the expense of pedestrians, who are mostly grass-roots people in the eyes of our government officials. In other words, our program is aimed not only at promoting urban greening but also at fostering community empowerment. A similar movement, known as the “parklet movement”, got underway in San Francisco in recent years. Citizens and the city government there are working together to turn idle parking lots across the city into community gardens and public space and community facilities for various purposes. Today, there are 50 parklets across San Francisco. As the Rezoning Central program is in full swing, we are already planning an even bigger project. Based on suggestions put forward by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, we are going to propose to the TPB to designate the section of Des Voeux Road Central between Pedder Street and Morrison Street as an exclusive area for public recreation and an environmentally friendly transport system, thereby creating a sanctuary in our urban heartland where citizens can enjoy themselves. In the days ahead, we will be giving talks and conducting workshops to rally support from the public, the professional community and the business sector for our project, and we will also be setting up the Des Voeux Road Central Alliance later this month to promote our plan and get the message across. This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on September 21.  

Des Voeux Road Central Initiative unveiled

(21 September 2015, Hong Kong) — An Initiative of environmental, public space and urban planning groups was unveiled today at a press conference held at the Asia Society to campaign for a pedestrianized green artery along Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC).

The “Des Voeux Road Central Initiative” is a collaboration between Clean Air Network, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth (HK) and Hong Kong Public Space Initiative, supported by various professional groups, commercial and real estate sectors, and public think tanks as follows:

Organizers

Clean Air Network
Designing Hong Kong
Friends of the Earth (HK)
Hong Kong Public Space Initiative

Supporting Groups

ADM Capital Fund
Civic Exchange
China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong Chapter
Knight Frank
Lan Kwai Fong Group
Nan Fung Group
Sai Wan Concern Group
The Conservancy Association
The Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects
The Hong Kong Institute of Planners
WYNG Foundation

The DVRC Initiative will work on the following areas:

  1. DVRC Design Studios – The Hong Kong University and Columbia University will collaborate to generate visions of how the DVRC Initiative could transform Hong Kong Central.
  2. DVRC Friends – A program to raise funds, and to sign up supporters, sponsors, collaborators and friends.
  3. DVRC on Sunday – A program to extend the temporary traffic management scheme (closure) of Chater Road to Western Market on Sundays and Public Holidays.
  4. DVRC Research – A program of collaborative studies into traffic management, traffic aid and streetscape design, and future street management.
  5. DVRC Office – A resource center for liaison among stakeholders, government and community.

For Hong Kong to live up to its reputation as Asia’s World City, the Initiative believes it is imperative for DVRC to transform into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. To include innovative urban design that showcases Hong Kong’s vibrant cultural landscape and urban DNA. The Initiative calls for city-wide support from the general public, community groups, the business sector and professional institutions to address major pollution and environmental problems in Central.

A collaboration between the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) of the Columbia University echoes the call. Students of both studios will work out urban design models based on the context of the DVRC. The models will be exhibited during the Business of Design Week in December 2015, the 2015 Urbanism\Architecture Bi-City Biennale and as a tram installation touring along the tram line of DVRC and Hong Kong Island.

The Initiative will also host public engagement activities, including walking tours, workshops, and pop-up events, which aim to raise the bar for the transformation of public spaces in Hong Kong’s central business district and encourage the public to experience DVRC in a different light.

The Initiative supports the current “tram and pedestrian precinct” proposal, built upon an earlier scheme put forward by HKIP in 2000, which pointed out that improvements planned in transport infrastructure could significantly better Central’s environmental quality by 2014. The completion of the MTR extension to Kennedy Town and the reorganization of bus routes in the area present a unique opportunity to restructure Central.

The public can also show their support for the Initiative by making donations for the campaign or joining the mailing list to get regular updates about latest initiatives.

To find out more about the Des Voeux Road Central Initiative please visit www.dvrc.hk

The University of Hong Kong and Columbia University collaboration is made possible in part through the generous support of Tim Dattels and Kristine Johnson.

Press: Hong Kong’s tram debate shines light on Central’s worsening traffic congestion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 September, 2015, 10:52am UPDATED : Thursday, 03 September, 2015, 10:52am Comment›Insight & Opinion Bernard Chan Bernard Chan says wild conspiracy theories aside, there has been some thoughtful discussion on ways to tackle the real source of the problem in crowded Central – too many cars The discussion sees trams not as a problem, but as a solution. Photo: Edward Wong I am often impressed at how the mainstream and especially social media can make a big story out of something minor. A former civil servant involved in planning recently put forward a proposal to the Town Planning Board to scrap tram services through Central. I do not know the intentions of the individual who made the submission. But it sounds like something that could have disappeared without trace. Instead, it attracted considerable attention in the press, and it went viral online. Several things struck me about this. First of all, there were conspiracy theories. One claimed that the government had arranged the proposal in order to distract attention from the problems over lead in water in certain housing estates and schools. Another suggested that developers were behind the idea. Both reflect the distrust and suspicion that exist in parts of the community. More broadly, the proposal was seen as an attack on heritage. With the old Tung Tak pawn shop in Wan Chai in the news at the same time, it is not surprising that people were sensitive about this. The trams are icons of Hong Kong and, for many of us, part of our childhood memories. People have an emotional attachment to them that you would never find with, say, buses. Bigger office towers will further reduce air flow and increase pedestrian traffic. At some point, we will have to make some changes The rise in awareness of heritage – especially among the young – goes back to the demolition of the Star Ferry and Queen’s piers a little under 10 years ago. It is an important development. It shows that many young people have new ideas about the balance between quality of life and development. It has expanded civil society and activism. And it has highlighted the sense of local identity among the younger generation. These are all things our political leaders must think about. However, to see the proposal to scrap the trams as primarily about heritage seems to me to be missing the point. The former official behind the plan certainly disliked the idea that we should preserve trams as icons – except in a museum. But his thinking, so far as I could tell, was almost entirely about traffic. If the media and online debate had ignored this angle, it would be easy to dismiss it. The conspiracy theories were a bit wild, and the protests from the heritage supporters were exaggerated and overlooked the real subject of the proposal. Fortunately, many commentators did address the proposal as a suggestion about transport and planning. And I think the great debate over this plan has done us all a favour as a result. The proposal claims that trams waste space, and we could reduce traffic congestion if they were scrapped. If this were true, it would be worth considering. The traffic situation in Central, and basic conditions like air quality and “walkability” in the district, are getting very serious. For years, officials have put this problem aside. But on Des Voeux Road alone, several sites are currently being redeveloped. Bigger office towers will further reduce air flow and increase pedestrian traffic. At some point, we will have to make some changes. The discussion in the media and on the internet – and among some politicians – largely saw the trams not as a problem, but, if anything, a solution. Even a transport official made it clear that not only is the tram important and affordable, but it is irreplaceable. The real problem, many people recognise, is the vehicular traffic in Central (and this probably goes for other districts). Passenger cars go round in circles – I have contributed to this problem myself – or park illegally, using up valuable space. Delivery vans and trucks are constantly coming and going. There are ways out of this. We could provide drop-off and pick-up points on the reclaimed area to the north and bar cars from the core area of Central during office hours. We could ban goods deliveries from the area during daytime. Some people would probably oppose such measures, but many more would enjoy a much nicer walkable environment. The trams proposal has got a lot more people thinking about such ideas. Bernard Chan is a member of the Executive Council

Press: SCMP Editorial 29 August 2015

Hong Kong trams are unique. Affectionately known as the “Ding Ding” because of the sound produced, they are the world’s only fully double-deck fleet still in service after more than a century. With some 180,000 passengers hopping on and off every day, these green-coloured carriages are as much a popular mode of transport as an icon of the city. It was therefore puzzling when former government planner Sit Kwok-keung filed an application to the land use authority to have the most popular tram section scrapped. The former official, now running a consultancy firm, believed that congestion in Central and Admiralty could be eased by freeing the lanes currently taken up by trams. The proposal immediately sparked a public uproar. Given the trams’ popularity and history, the government is unlikely to take such a sense-defying idea seriously. But officials’ silence in the early days has fuelled speculation. It was not until last week that the government issued a press statement upholding the role of trams. What sets trams apart from other transport is their functional and heritage value. Their convenience and low fares make them popular among office workers, schoolchildren, housewives and tourists alike. There is nothing else that is as eco-friendly, affordable and reliable. That said, the service still has room for improvement. The French operator Veolia has yet to make good its promise of a makeover for all carriages. If there is any gain from the debate, it will be putting traffic congestion on the public agenda. It is true that we have far too many vehicles running on the roads. The situation is aggravated by chauffer-driven limousines idling or running around while waiting for their bosses. Buses calling at bus stops along the road are also slowing down the traffic. A joint study by the Institute of Planners has proposed the opposite – turning part of Des Voeux Road into a tram-and-pedestrian-only zone. This may be a good way to ease traffic congestion.