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On high density development along Katipunan

December 2011


I saw the tarp below posted along Katipunan Avenue as we drove to UP one Saturday morning. There are actually two signs: one in front of Ateneo Gate 1 and the one below just after Ateneo Gate 2. Both speak out to the Quezon City Council for issuing an exemption to SM Development Corporation (SMDC), part of the SM group of shopping mall fame, for its high-rise condominium development near the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Katipunan Avenue (C5). The development, known as Blue Residences, will not only have residential units but commercial establishments as well. By the name of the project, it is obviously a play on the nearby Ateneo De Manila University, which has blue for its standard color (e.g., Blue Eagles). [Note: For whatever its worth, there is also a Green Residences being developed by SMDC near De La Salle University, which adopts green as its banner color – e.g., Green Archers.]

The questions going in my mind after seeing the signs include the following:

1) Isn’t it too late for this, a campaign against a development that is already under construction and months after a decision has been made to approve the project?

2) What is Ateneo’s and its allies success rate for such? [The high density developments just across the university seem to be concrete evidence and reminders of such actions falling on deaf ears.]

3) Given this seemingly renewed (not new-found, I hope) interest in urban development in the area, wouldn’t it make more sense to also campaign against another development, this time by another real estate giant in Camella/Vista Land that already has set up shop across Ateneo?

4) And, as a follow-up perhaps, has that strip along Katipunan already been ceded to high density development and Ateneo and its allies have already conceded that a long time ago? [There’s SMDC’s Berkeley Residences, Prince David, Burgundy, etc.]

A colleague put forward an opinion that such developments are actually beneficial to Ateneo and its allies. In fact, many of the residents of the high rise condominiums in Katipunan have children studying at Ateneo and Miriam, their addresses being conveniently located minutes away from school. In other cases, units are rented by university students who similarly take advantage of the building’s proximity to their schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if enterprising people have purchased units not for them to reside in but to rent/lease out to students or other wishing to live near the universities or the nearby LRT 2 station (Katipunan Station).

From the traffic perspective, such developments definitely require full-blown transport or traffic impact studies due primarily to their trip generation characteristics. Such studies should clearly show how to address potential transport and traffic problems including who will be responsible (hint: the proponent should not pass on responsibility to the MMDA or local traffic enforcement) for traffic management. I reproduce below excerpts from a report submitted by a stakeholder community in opposition to a proposed high-rise, high density mixed-use (commercial, office, hotel and residential) development at the corner of EDSA and Ortigas Ave. where a huge excavation is still present and can be clearly seen when riding a Makati-bound MRT train:

“The EIS Report failed to consider the traffic impact once the project starts to operate hence necessary measures were likewise not discussed. Many projects will, at first glance, give an impression that a traffic impact study would not be required. The Skycity development, however, immediately gives the layman an impression that it would indeed have a significant and long-term impact on traffic in its direct vicinity. While its influence area can only be clarified via a thorough study of the characteristics of the development, the description and hype alone by the project proponents give us an idea that Skycity will impact people from as far as Rizal province.

In the process of attaining these objectives, this paper will identify the deficiencies and weaknesses pertaining to transportation and traffic and establish the need for detailed traffic studies, specifically the requirement of a Traffic Impact Study (TIS). The TIS will entail traffic impact analysis (TIA) to satisfy the questions or concerns regarding the traffic generated/attracted by the Skycity project and the consequent problems that will be caused by the project from its construction to eventual operation.

A traffic impact assessment (TIA) would be imperative, if truly the effects of the development would be quantified. The TIA would be able to answer the following questions, among others that would crop up in the minds of stakeholders:

  • What are the transportation improvements needed to serve the traffic generated by the new development?
  • How much will the improvement cost be and who will pay for them?
  • Will the new project impact traffic on any existing residential streets and how will those impacts be mitigated?
  • Will the new development aggravate any existing safety hazards or create new ones and, if so, how can those hazards be corrected?
  • Can the proposed development be served by public transportation and does the design encourage ridesharing?
  • Is the design of the development friendly towards bicyclists and pedestrians who need to access the development or who need to pass through or by the development?
  • Is the on-site parking sufficient or is there an opportunity to share parking with other adjacent uses?
  • How many driveways are needed, what design should each driveway have and is there a long enough throat for each driveway that is clear of parking spaces and other cross aisle traffic?
  • If any driveway is proposed to be signalized, is the traffic signal really needed and can on-site circulation handle the traffic that will be queuing to wait for a green light? (

Conduct of TIA will deal with deficiencies in traffic analysis as well as provide a platform for a package of measures to deal with issues: what measures? who will pay? what level of development? Until then, it’s not possible to concretely evaluate the EIS.

Concerning traffic, the GEA letter raised the following points:

  • That traffic congestion at EDSA-Ortigas intersection is already a nightmare even without the Skycity on that particular corner;
  • That the traffic congestion problem can be attested by key agencies such as the Mandaluyong City Mayor’s Office, the MMDA Traffic Management Group, the Barangay 27 Wack Wack Greenhills East and the nearby DOTC, all of which are helpless in providing solution to the problem;
  • That the already grave traffic congestion will even worsen due to obstructions and additional traffic during construction and operation of Skycity;
  • That Ortigas Avenue is too narrow to accommodate the high volume of traffic; and
  • That provision of several parking floors as presented in the EIS cannot be a solution.

“Manpower requirement will be high during the operations phase. It is estimated that about 12,000 persons will be required to for the operations and maintenance of the Skycity Project. These would include the general administration, manpower for the utilities and security, and employees for the hotel. Man power for the commercial, office establishments and other development use of the project will add a few thousand more jobs.” 

The above quotation is from a report submitted as part of the response of stakeholders that scrutinized the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by the proponents of the project to the DENR-EMB. The latter was presented at a stakeholder conference held as a prerequisite to the approval of the project (i.e., prior to granting an ECC). There are other aspects of the project including drainage, water supply, structure, foundation, environmental, etc. that were discussed with proponents and stakeholders arguing about the pros and cons of the project. However, the most important element here is timing since the discussions occurred prior to the granting of an ECC to the project and after the stakeholders have presented their case before the DENR-EMB’s EIA Review Committee assigned to the project. I am not aware of how SM Blue went about securing the approval for their project including the ECC and if the process was followed according to the guidelines. I am also not aware of whether there was a stakeholder conference held and if Ateneo and its allies were invited and participated in that meeting. Was this organized by the EIA RevCom or was this hosted by the QC Council (because of the zoning issue)? Such matters are important since it would help in establishing whether certain people are at fault and whether certain processes and requirements were indeed followed with regards to the project being questioned.

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