Why Tel Aviv’s New Master Plan Misses the Mark +972 Blog, Jan. 23, 2011
In cities around the world, the trend is clear: urban master plans are no longer simply tools for handing out buildings rights to developers, but road maps to urban sustainability. That Tel Aviv’s leadership has yet to grasp this fact speaks to a profound failure of imagination.
Tel Aviv Mayor Fends Off BRT Blitz Sustainable City Blog, Nov. 30, 2010
The municipal opposition called on the mayor to create a high-level task force charged with identifying concrete and immediate solutions to the city’s transportation problems within 6 months. Huldai, however, came armed with a motion designed to take the wind out of the opposition’s sails.
Tel Aviv 2025 Sustainable City Blog, August 24, 2010
The city’s master plan is a huge opportunity, both for re-imaging the city and for including citizens in the process in a way that builds identification with the city itself. Thus far, however, the municipality has exhibited a deep distrust of its own citizens, and a tendency to mask the democratic process with procedural jargon and a lack of clarity. Meanwhile, a group of urban planners and architects from south Tel Aviv is working on a plan of its own.
Baby Steps Toward Transparency The Jerusalem Post, August 6, 2010
In response to growing public pressure and charges of a lack of transparency at its highest levels, the Tel Aviv Municipality has agreed to release key documents related to municipal policy and decision-making, including the transcripts of a body which has been described as the city’s shadow city council and the particulars of the city’s yearly budget.
From the municipality’s perspective, the center of the city is now off limits to massive new construction, while the south, with its giant “black holes,” represents a tabula rasa which the city can fill up with dense new construction and traffic arteries leading to the center.
The hundred or so residents in attendance started out listening patiently, but soon began losing their patience. The text of the presentation, displayed in a tiny font, was impossible for most to read. A related plan to narrow the adjacent street was not presented at all, and many were outraged at suggestions that parts of the beach would be paved over. But a new bike lane won applause.
Shadow City Council The Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2010
The general public no longer bothers to attend city council meetings, council members from coalition and opposition parties alike openly call the council irrelevant, and a little-known body chaired by the mayor does all the real decision-making behind closed doors – behinds the backs of the public, the opposition and the media. Meanwhile, motions languish for months before coming up for discussion. Says the municipality: these discussions “do not take place in the dark, as is implied.”
At Long Last, Tel Aviv Approves Affordable Housing Plan Sustainable City Blog, March 3, 2010
After over two years of study and deliberation, the Tel Aviv Municipality has approved a plan to create affordable housing units in the city. While this does not mean that rents will fall any time soon, it does mean that a supply of below market value rental apartments will gradually come into existence over the next several years. By approving the plan, Tel Aviv becomes the first Israeli city to come up with a coherent affordable housing strategy.
So This is Democracy Sustainable City Blog, Feb. 10 2010
The first thing you notice about a city council meeting in Tel Aviv is the theatrics. The exaggerated security arrangements, the grandstanding of council members, the roped-off area reserved for municipal workers (though few bother to attend.) There are speeches and votes, and sometimes (quite often actually) one of the councilors yells something out of turn. The mayor even gets a bit worked up from time to time. But once you get past that, it dawns on you that not much is really going on here.
Out of Control The Jerusalem Post, September 11, 2009
One year ago, the Tel Aviv Municipality announced a “revolutionary plan” to build hundreds of affordable apartments for young people. One year and a global financial crisis later, apartment prices in the city continue their inexorable climb. Mayor Ron Huldai, who announced the plan just months before the local election, was re-elected, and the plan to build affordable housing vanished from the headlines. Meanwhile young people, faced with rent hikes at the end of their leases, are increasingly leaving the city center.
Tel Aviv Demolishes Old Bus Station, May Replace New One GreenProphet.com, August 9, 2009
Tel Aviv’s derelict Old Central Bus Station, out of use since the early 1990’s, finally became history this week. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the New Central Bus Station, an almost universally detested structure credited with destroying the entire surrounding neighborhood, may soon be vacated as well. Bus companies are reportedly fed up with the place, and are looking to transfer their activities elsewhere.
Finally, A Respite of Sorts for Israel’s African Refugees Mondoweiss.net, August 3, 2009
July was not an easy month for migrant workers and African asylum seekers living in Israel. During the peak of the hot, humid Tel Aviv summer, foreigners living here were forced to hide from an aggressive manhunt conducted in broad daylight on the city streets. However, in response to an massive public backlash, the government has decided to back down on some of its anti-foreigner policies.
African Refugees Forced to Leave Tel Aviv Mondoweiss.net, July 26, 2009
This past weekend, a couple friends and I helped four Sudanese families move out of Tel Aviv. We rented a van, loaded up their possessions, and set off for distant cities where they hope to set up new homes. The families, refugees from conflict zones in Darfur and South Sudan, were grateful to us for our help. Leaving Tel Aviv was not their choice – as of the beginning of July, they are no longer allowed to live and work here.
New Plan for Wall of Skyscrapers Outrages Local Residents GreenProphet.com, July 21, 2009
Tel Aviv’s planning committee discussed yesterday a handful of building plans that, if approved, would effectively transform some of the city’s most historic areas beyond recognition. A large group of local residents who came to observe the proceedings were initially refused entrance. Later, a closed discussion was declared and they were all asked to leave. Despite the sweeping changes proposed, the council avoided a serious discussion of the plans’ repercussions for the city’s future development.
Do Not Oppress the Stranger SustainableCityBlog.com, July 4, 2009
After living through wars, genocide and oppression, several thousand African refugees have found some measure of stability in Tel Aviv, and have begun to rebuild their lives here. Now, however, the government has undermined that stability. This week, Israel began its crackdown on migrant workers and African asylum seekers living within its borders. Those who have not yet been arrested have now been forced to explore their options outside of Tel Aviv. A photo essay.
Refugees, Keep Out! SustainableCityBlog.com, June 29, 2009
For several weeks, rumors have been circulating that the government is gearing up for a large-scale operation to arrest and expel “illegal” foreigners, including foreign workers, refugees and asylum seekers. Yaakov Ganot, head of the Population Administration in the Interior Ministry, agreed to shed some light on the subject last week in an interview with Haaretz. I was so shocked after reading the interview for the first time that I had to read it again. It wasn’t any easier to digest the second time.
The Two-Wheel Solution SustainableCityBlog.com, May 23, 2009
“At this point in time, Tel Aviv is like a martial artist who has mastered the basics, and must decide if he wants to invest the effort in order to become a professional.” This was the assessment offered recently by one municipal official regarding the city’s efforts to promote itself as a bike-friendly place. The good news is that the mayor seems to be on board. There is a special budget for paving new bike lanes, and a team of professionals in charge of planning new routes. The bad news is that progress has been painfully slow.
Mayor, Meet the Greens TreeHugger.com, May 10, 2009
A full decade after being elected, Mayor Ron Huldai conducted his first organized meeting with the city’s green movement last week. Despite agreeing to disagree on many issues, the encounter proved enlightening for both sides, and revealed some areas of common concern. The pent up frustration of many in the room from a decade of non-communication and strained relations with City Hall was palpable. Was it a change of heart, or simply politics?
Tel Aviv’s New Politics The Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2009
Founded in 2008, Ir Likulanu (City for All) was from the very beginning a strange bird in the world of Israeli politics. Unaffiliated with establishment parties, and led by an environmentalist from the far left, the new movement emerged out of widespread disappointment with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s policies and governing style. Now, six months after becoming the largest party on the city council, Ir Likulanu is coming to terms with the limits of its power as an opposition party.
When, years ago, a group of neighbors set out to transform an abandoned lot in their neighborhood into a modest park, no one ever imagined they would still be struggling to gain city hall’s approval some 12 years later. Last month, however, something unexpected happened: they won. After a stubborn lobbying campaign, the lot, the last empty piece of publicly-owned land in central Tel Aviv, is finally set to become a public park.
Let the Country’s Heart Thrive The Jerusalem Post, April 26, 2009
At the ripe old age of 100, the city of Tel Aviv has earned the right to a bit of introspection. While it was a welcome surprise to hear that City Hall had chosen to kick off the city’s 100th birthday celebrations with a conference on urban sustainability, many of the conference’s discussions felt stale and lacking in substantive debate. A few thoughts on moving toward greater urban sustainability in Tel Aviv, based on what was (and wasn’t) said at the event.
Tel Aviv’s Blurry Eco-Vision The Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2009: A conference on the city’s past and future development makes a few strong statements, but ultimately misses the mark.
Souled Out? The Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2009: An interview with urban creativity guru Charles Landry, who warns that Tel Aviv may be neglecting its “good vibes.”
Leaky Sewage Pipe Shuts Down Tel Aviv Beaches for a Month TreeHugger.com, March 22, 2009: What happens when a sewage pipe bursts outside of Tel Aviv, spilling raw sewage into the ocean? Bureaucrats pass the buck, politicians fret and environmentalists moan – but the pollution continues to flow.
Election Q&A with the Candidates (pdf) The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 7, 2008
Interviews with Dov Khenin of A City for All and Doron Sapir, Mayor Ron Huldai’s right hand man, of Tel Aviv 1 on the eve of local elections in Tel Aviv. Khenin: “Some people say the city is being run like an army barracks, with the mayor as commander, where the people’s opinions do not really count.” Sapir: “We can either build low-rises at the expense of the open spaces, or we can build up. All claims to the contrary are cheap demagoguery.” Video interview with Dov Khenin.
Yom Kippur = Carfree Day in Tel Aviv GreenProphet.com, Oct. 12, 2008
A somber day of introspection in most of Israel, in mellow Tel Aviv the Day of Atonement is the closest thing there is to a day without cars. And with land is running out, asphalt eating up the landscape and the air is thick with smog, a day like this is an absolute necessity, reminding us all that the car’s dominance of our living space is not a divinely-ordained decree, but a conscious decision that we have made – and that we can decide otherwise if we wish.
Priced Out of Town (pdf) The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2008
“Affordable housing is important for the city as a whole, and not just for the renters,” says a new local opposition movement, whose platform includes a detailed proposal for creating affordable apartments in Tel Aviv. The municipality also has a plan, created with the help of an impressive commission of experts. But, with rents continuing to rise and young renters forced to look elsewhere for a place to live, many wonder how sincere the municipality really is about making housing more affordable in the city.
It’s Story Time Again (pdf) The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 10, 2008
Residents of Jaffa and southern Tel Aviv met their city council representatives. The purpose of the conference, its organizers said, was to expose the area’s environmental problems, and ask local politicians how they intend to deal with them ahead of next month’s elections. “The south of the city is being filled with building plans,” said a neighborhood activist from Florentine, her newborn baby slung around her neck, “but the people living here are being pushed aside, and the problems in our neighborhoods are not being solved.”
New Film “Urban Legend” Challenges Local Planners to Aim Higher GreenProphet.com, Sept. 2, 2008
At a screening of journalist Nitzan Horowitz’s film “Urban Legend,” local city planners were challenged to think creatively about Israel’s cities and the many challenges they face.
Efficient Market Theory (pdf) The Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2008
Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market generates 15 tons of waste every day – roughly the equivalent to the waste created by 7,500 people. Most of it ends up in landfills in southern Israel. But why should the open-air market waste money paying for the removal and disposal of its waste, when it could be making thousands of shekels a month by turning it into compost?
After Demonstration, Long-Stalled Clean Air Law Passes (video) TreeHugger.com, June 5, 2008: The demo apparently caught the attention of Israeli lawmakers, who voted to approve the law, which would create mechanisms for monitoring, regulating and enforcing clean air standards, and which has been stuck for three years.