AT ONE corner of the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) headquarters lobby in Jalan Yong Shook Lin, a colourful display with an interactive screen presents a story of impending development.
Yes, it is the “d” word that often brings feelings of anxiety and trepidation to citizens in this bustling city of almost 620,000 people.
To say that the display is informative would be an understatement because there is a lot from the Petaling Jaya Section 13 Special Area Draft Plan (First Amendment) to digest.
Since April 28, a number of signboards have been placed around the city informing the public that they can visit MBPJ to inspect, view and offer feedback in writing to the mayor about the draft plan before May 29.
On March 14, 2020, just days before Malaysia went into lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, StarMetro published a report titled “Plans afoot for a livelier Section 13” highlighting the area redevelopment that included a linear park, an elevated bridge and pedestrian-friendly streets.
Since then, there has not been much progress, as the draft plan was not available for public viewing, until now.
“So far, those who saw the display have not protested or made any objections,” said Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran when met at the MBPJ lobby with city council assistant town planner Wan Ahmad Aszuandi Che Ahmad.
The end result of the Section 13 Special Area Draft Plan is to turn the area into a walkable central business district, according to Rajiv.
Hopes for a realistic plan
Among the plans for Section 13 are an elevated bridge from Jalan Prof Khoo Kay Kim (formerly Jalan Semangat) to the Section 52 central business district, green connectors for walkability and a linear park over an existing monsoon drain.
Though great on paper, some activists are concerned about congestion in the area.
Petaling Jaya Action Committee president Sheikh Moqhtar Kadir lauded the idea of the elevated bridge to increase connectivity to Section 13.
“It is a good idea, but I am more concerned about the linear park and the density of development that will come into the area.
“Will it encourage more traffic into this area? If yes, then there should be some height restriction and more defined plot ratio,” he said, hoping for a clearer explanation of the matter before MBPJ’s public hearing.
“When it comes to development, the local authorities and assemblymen must engage with the residents and be more proactive.
“This is critical now, so residents won’t be caught off-guard when development starts,” he told StarMetro.
Sheikh Moqhtar said not many laymen would understand the technical draft plan, adding that Petaling Jaya has many senior citizens.
“When it comes to big development, the dynamics should be more consultative.
“A lot of people are unaware of what is in store for PJ; the new elevated highway issue is just one example, it evokes mixed emotions within the community,” he said.
While development cannot be avoided in city planning, it must be sustainable and include more engagement with the community, said Sheikh Moqhtar.
“If they are going to have an elevated highway cutting through Section 13, it will defeat the goal of sustainability and high quality living in Section 13,” he added.
Taman Paramount Section 20 Residents Association president Celia Yeo said if work on the Section 13 Special Area Draft Plan had yet to start, they would definitely need more engagement sessions so that the residents could be advised on the details of the project including exact location and the potential impact of not just the area being redeveloped, but also the neighbouring places.
“The linear park is a great idea provided the safety and security issues are looked into.
“If the space is not safe and secure or is plagued by flooding and cleanliness, it will be a wasted effort and a white elephant at the end of the day.
“We need more information on the elevated bridge. Better connectivity is required for the future, as getting across the main roads can be complex for commuters and older folk,” she highlighted.
Footpaths in and around residential areas are always welcome, said Yeo.
“The concept is good to encourage daily exercise for residents, but sufficient parking also needs to be considered.
“It is vital to make sure these footpaths are safe and brightly lit for people to feel safe.
“But before we even talk about footpaths, maybe MBPJ can consider patching up all the potholes along the many roads in and around Sections 13, 14, 19 in particular,” she added.
Former industrial hotzone
Section 13 is considered a prime business and corporate district in Petaling Jaya due to its strategic positioning in nearby thriving neighbourhoods.
It was originally developed as an industrial enclave within Petaling Jaya, which was declared a city in June 2006.
Among the prominent corporations that have their factory here are Dutch Lady Milk Industries, Panasonic and Sin Chew Jit Poh.
Section 13 comprises about 80 plots of land but has over the years undergone a transition towards a mixed-development enclave that saw the mushrooming of several new commercial developments.
Rajiv said there was a change in land use in 2007 from industrial to commercial in Section 13, limited to leasehold tenure.
This attracted many developers who launched mixed development projects featuring office towers, hotels, serviced apartments and a hospital.
Section 13 is now home to landmark developments including Jaya One, PJ 33 (formerly Jaya 33) and Plaza 33.
The area is surrounded by predominantly residential areas such as SEA Park, Paramount Garden, SS2, Section 14, Section 19, Section 17 and Section 52 that has several hotels such as Petaling Jaya Hilton and Sheraton Petaling Jaya.
Injecting green elements
MBPJ’s Special Area Draft Plan for Section 13 covers 104.8ha and is served by three major roads – Jalan Prof Diraja Ungku Aziz (formerly Jalan Universiti), Jalan Kemajuan and Jalan Prof Khoo Kay Kim (formerly Jalan Semangat).
The city council made it clear that the amendments to the Special Area Draft Plan would not involve changes to land use or increase in plot ratios, but only an addition to a suggestion found in its Urban Design Guidelines.
“People fear that when there are amendments to a master plan, it will involve zoning changes and an increase in plot ratio, but there will be none in Section 13,” Rajiv assured.
The draft plan states that the permissible plot ratios are 3.25 to 3.75 for mixed-use developments and 2.75 to 3 for limited commercial development parcels.
Rajiv said there was nothing to compel the existing industrial buildings to convert to commercial land usage, but new manufacturing activities would not be allowed.
Instead, the amendments are geared towards making Section 13 more liveable.
“We want to focus on positive changes where walkability is key; one of them involves utilising the monsoon drain to make a linear park,” he said, adding that these fell under measures to ease traffic congestion in Section 13.
The linear park encompasses a community garden, wading pool, wetland and weir bridge.
The monsoon drain in question is next to Columbia Asia Hospital between Jalan 13/4 and Jalan 13/6 that leads into Sungai Penchala.
“All new buildings will have a frontage to the linear park, and this must be smoothly integrated into the pedestrian walkways,” said Rajiv.
He said that redevelopment of the area would take place over a period of more than 10 years.
“This cannot happen overnight. It will also depend on the economy and uptake of development.
“We are studying the projection,” he said.
The Section 13 Special Area Draft Plan is divided into three parcels with its own theme and character comprising Business Parcel, Linear Park Parcel and Knowledge Base Parcel to ensure strategic and sustainable development planning.
The plan has guidelines for a green network in the enclave, to make it more conducive for walking.
Under proposals in the first amendment of the draft plan, each lot owner must surrender 3m of space on either side of their building to be reserved for green connectors (proposed pedestrian paths provided between building lots).
There will also be Pedestrian Connectors that can connect the journey between three development parcels.
“We are making it compulsory for the building owners when they develop, to surrender some area on the premises to make pedestrian connectivity so that people will be able to walk from one part to another,” Rajiv elaborated.
Besides the traffic issue, there is also lack of public transport in Section 13 (the nearest LRT stop is the Asia Jaya station 1km away). Thus, improving the road system and connectivity is key.
“Bus routes will be incorporated into the plan and will increase over time,” said Rajiv.
Another longstanding issue in Section 13 involved roadside food stalls, which he said would be relocated to a more conducive environment.
“New buildings will be required to house a set number of stalls based on the size of the buildings. This will allow smooth pedestrian access to the roads,” he added.
Once the Section 13 Special Area Draft Plan (First Amendment) display period ends, Rajiv said the public would get a chance to voice their concerns face to face with state officials on a date to be determined later.