Storm over Sakaja’s proposed development policy

Governor of Nairobi County Johnson Sakaja

Governor of Nairobi County Johnson Sakaja.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

A proposal by the Nairobi City County government to revise the zoning regulations that will authorise developers to set up high-rise apartments in different parts of Nairobi has sparked a storm among stakeholders.

City Hall has proposed a new policy, that if passed, will increase the number of skyline limits in some areas such as Kilimani, Kileleshwa and Muthangari up to 15 floors from the current limit of four floors.

In the Central Business District, the limit will go up to 75 floors.

Other areas under zone four area are Ngong Road area, which will have buildings with a maximum of 25 floors, while Lower Spring Valley, which includes Mathare River, Westlands Redhill Link Road, Waiyaki Way and Ring Road Parklands, will have buildings limited to four floors.

The Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja-led proposal is currently before Nairobi City County Assembly’s Planning Committee Chaired by Kitisuru MCA Alvin Palapala for consideration.

This is yet another attempt by the county government to review the zoning regulations which have never been reviewed since 2004.

A similar effort by the defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) failed to materialise after their term lapsed before the policy was passed by the county assembly.

Mr Palapala told Nation.Africa that the county assembly will support the new proposal on condition that the county government puts up proper infrastructure to meet the needs of residents.

“We are not against it given that there is a big mess regarding planning in this county.

"As a committee, we met with the executive discussed, but our stance is very clear that there must be water, expansion of roads and building of proper sewer lines to support the expansion,” he said.

The ward representative also said the process requires a team of experts who will review the proposed policy and develop a robust one that takes into consideration the needs of residents.

“We have proposed a team of experts from the county assembly and the county government who will evaluate the framework and take into consideration their advice before the proposed framework is passed,” he added.

On Wednesday, over 20 resident associations and the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) faulted the policy, insisting that the county administration should address other issues of priority.

“The recent flooding, gas explosions in residential areas, sewer bursts, worsening traffic congestion, limited to no water provision, constant electricity outages and rampant insecurity in Nairobi are clear indicators of the dire consequences of unplanned and haphazard development.

"Proper planning is the only solution to managing the chaos we are currently witnessing in Nairobi,” said Ms Florence Nyole- AAK president.

According to town planner and urban specialist Mr Patrick Adolwa, Mr Sakaja’s observation that increasing houses in Nairobi in anticipation of high population in the city by 2050 is ill-advice.

“In London, the City Planner is second to the Mayor. In New York, the City Planner speaks and everybody trembles.

"In Nairobi, the City Planner is anonymous, and that tells you why we are in trouble because what he says doesn’t matter,” Mr Adolwa said, adding, "City planning has been reduced to heights, you cannot reduce this complexity into a story about heights.”