Treinta y dos hectáreas con vista al río, eje de la controversia entre Gobierno y vecinos en Costa Salguero

Mientras el metro cuadrado se cotiza, en promedio, a US$ 2500 en la ciudad, expertos denuncian la intención de convertir a la Costanera en "un paisaje de ostentación y privilegio" que cuadruplicaría ese valor.

 

por Federico Poore

elDiarioAR, 19-12-2020 



Un proyecto urbano que incluye la venta de tierras públicas a metros del Río de la Plata es el eje de una encendida disputa que enfrenta al gobierno de Horacio Rodríguez Larreta con los vecinos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. La iniciativa, aprobada en la Legislatura en primera lectura con votos del oficialismo y sus aliados. Ahora se discute en audiencias públicas en las que la mayoría de los participantes reclama que toda el área se convierta en un espacio público de acceso libre. ¿Qué es exactamente la “rezonificación” de Costa Salguero y por qué genera tanta controversia?

“Lo primero que hay que destacar es que este proyecto propone usos privados en tierras públicas. Permite y alienta la construcción de una hilera de edificios a lo largo de 800 metros de la avenida Costanera”, explica en diálogo con elDiarioAR Bárbara Rossen, coordinadora de Derechos Urbanos de la Defensoría del Pueblo porteña.

Concretamente, el oficialismo propone una reclasificación de usos de 32 hectáreas de terrenos públicos linderos al río que forman parte de los predios de Punta Carrasco y Costa Salguero. Hoy funcionan allí clubes, boliches, estacionamientos y un centro de convenciones gracias a una serie de cuestionadas concesiones a operadores privados que llegarán a su fin en 2021. Por primera vez en tres décadas, estos terrenos vuelven al dominio público. La pregunta es qué hacer con ellos.

La propuesta del gobierno de Rodríguez Larreta consiste en vender parte de esas tierras y permitir en un sector de Costa Salguero la construcción de hoteles, viviendas y comercios en edificios de hasta nueve pisos. Los tres cuartos restantes quedarían como un parque. “Pero para que las personas lo usen es necesario que el espacio esté preparado, que tenga infraestructura y que haya movimiento”, argumentó Álvaro García Resta, secretario de Desarrollo Urbano de la Ciudad, durante la primera jornada de audiencias que tuvo más de siete mil inscriptos. Según el funcionario, habrá un 74% destinado al parque que se va a complementar con otro 26% de usos “que favorecen la concurrencia y la permanencia, como locales gastronómicos y culturales”, los cuales se espere que lleven “más seguridad” a la zona.

El arquitecto Miguel McCormack, socio y director del estudio McCormack Asociados, coincide con el concepto. “Un parque necesita tener sus bordes activos para ser útil. Los bordes se activan con la mezcla de usos que aseguran los edificios, es decir, la inversión privada, y estos usos se deben complementar y distribuir a lo largo del día y del año”, dice, y ejemplifica: “Viviendas, trabajo, comercio, gastronomía, recreación, cultura, servicio, todas estas actividades ocupan distintas franjas de tiempo y, mezcladas correctamente, favorecen la vida social en los espacios abiertos por afuera de los edificios, que es lo que acá resulta relevante. Un parque separado de la ciudad me resulta un esfuerzo estéril.”

Varios de los arquitectos, urbanistas y paisajistas que participan de las audiencias se oponen a este razonamiento. “El problema del gobierno es asociar vitalidad con consumo, pensar automáticamente que la forma de ‘revitalizar’ el área es meter un Starbucks o edificios de oficinas”, sostiene Maria Jose Leveratto, integrante del Colectivo de Arquitectas que se opone al proyecto. “Un parque público bien mantenido no debería tener problemas de seguridad. Se pueden pensar un montón de otros usos públicos para el parque, desde actividades sociales, culturales y hasta escolares.”

 Según el proyecto oficial, los usos permitidos en Costa Salguero incluyen -además de los residenciales- una amplia gama de servicios y comercios, que van desde hoteles cinco estrellas, armerías, pinturerías, casas de remates hasta locales de venta de motos, autos, aviones y embarcaciones. Todo planteado en una serie de edificios compactos, que del lado más cercano a Aeroparque tendrán unos seis pisos de altura y con una capacidad constructiva en progresivo aumento hasta que del extremo opuesto se permiten construcciones de hasta 29 metros, es decir, planta baja más ocho pisos. Mientras tanto, en Punta Carrasco se habilita la construcción de un helipuerto. La oposición denuncia que se trata de un “barrio náutico.”

“Este proyecto viene traccionado por una manera de gestionar del gobierno porteño, un masterplan invisible que va colonizando sectores de la ciudad por medio de cambios de normativas y ventas a desarrolladores”, explica Mauricio Corbalan, urbanista y miembro fundador del grupo de investigación m7red. “En muchos casos la ciudad se encuentra con que tiene que desarrollar sectores, pero no tiene la potencia política para hacerlo. El esquema arranca con que el privado tiene una idea, propone modificar la normativa para hacerlo y el gobierno vende la idea. A lo mucho, si ciertas capas de la población presionan mucho, se hace un concurso de arquitectos. Pero las demandas de los que usan la ciudad no son atendidas.”

Desde la Defensoría, Rossen enmarca esta propuesta como parte de una política sistemática de venta de terrenos públicos a desarrolladores privados. Según cifras del legislador Juan Manuel Valdés (Frente de Todos), en sus ocho años como jefe de gobierno Mauricio Macri remató 205 hectáreas de tierras públicas, a las que se le sumaron otras 267 hectáreas en apenas cuatro años de gestión de Rodríguez Larreta.

“El paisaje que se piensa construir en Costa Salguero es un paisaje de ostentación y privilegio, hablamos de viviendas valuadas entre 9 mil y 12 mil dólares el metro cuadrado”, dice Rossen. Según un informe reciente del Centro de Investigación en Finanzas (CIF) de la Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, el metro cuadrado promedio en la ciudad ronda los 2.500 dólares. “Los bienes y los espacios públicos son la oportunidad que tienen los Estados para dar un poco de justicia urbana, y acá se está desperdiciando esta oportunidad”, concluye.

 

Tres momentos, la misma estrategia

La rezonificación de Costa Salguero es la tercera parte de una saga que comenzó en 2018 con la aprobación del llamado “Distrito Joven”, un plan del gobierno porteño que habilitaba la instalación de locales gastronómicos, bares y boliches en tierras ganadas al río con el objetivo de revitalizar la franja costera. El plan dividía el área entre el Parque de la Memoria y Costa Salguero en cinco sectores y el gobierno aseguraba que para la explotación de estos locales buscaría un modelo de concesiones a operadores privados.

Esto cambió radicalmente en diciembre de 2019, cuando el oficialismo porteño aprobó, en soledad y en una de las últimas sesiones del año, un proyecto de ley para la venta (ya no concesión) de los terrenos del sector 5, donde hoy funcionan las concesiones de Costa Salguero. Con la firma del propio Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, y con la intención de “llevar adelante una política de austeridad respecto al patrimonio inmobiliario de la Ciudad”, el proyecto habilitaba el desarrollo urbanístico en hasta el 35% del sector, aclarando que las edificaciones no podrían superar los cuatro pisos de altura debido a cercanía al aeroparque Jorge Newbery. La votación ocurrió en medio de reclamos generalizados de la oposición. "Esta sesión parece un pijama party de venta de tierras”, dijo el legislador Gabriel Solano. Pero eso no sería todo.

Tras la autorización para la desafectación del dominio público, y en plena pandemia, las autoridades locales firmaron un convenio con la Sociedad Central de Arquitectos y la Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanismo (FADU) y lanzaron un “concurso de ideas” para ese sector de la Ciudad. Luego de discutir el proyecto ganador con el estudio Franck-Menichetti, el larretismo llevó al recinto la famosa propuesta de “rezonificación” en la que aparecían edificios de hasta 29 metros de altura, más del doble de lo propuesto el año anterior.

Tampoco queda clara la solidez legal de la movida. A finales de octubre, la Sala II de la Cámara de Apelaciones en lo Contencioso, Administrativo y Tributario de la Ciudad dictó una cautelar que suspende la venta de los terrenos (lo aprobado hace un año atrás) hasta tanto se resuelva si las tierras pertenecen efectivamente al dominio público del Estado. En ese caso, explicaron los jueces, es posible que no se hayan cumplido con los requisitos constitucionales para la sanción de la ley, dado que fue aprobada en una sesión sin el procedimiento de doble lectura con audiencia pública. Los magistrados recordaron que el predio “forma parte del dominio del Estado y constituye parte de la Ribera del Río de la Plata, ha sido objeto de particular tutela tanto en el orden constitucional, como en el de las normas que mayor importancia tienen en la planificación urbanística y que constituyen el eje de las políticas de desarrollo de la Ciudad, como son el Plan Urbano Ambiental y el Código Urbanístico.” 


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City officials defend Costa Salguero project, yet experts are divided

Several architects and urban planning experts oppose attempt to sell off coastal land despite history of public use; Local authorities defend the move to ‘revitalise’ area.

por Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Times, 19-12-2020




Punta Carrasco and Costa Salguero are 32 hectares of coastal grounds that run along the northeastern part of Buenos Aires City. During most of the 20th century the area was open to the public and the sight of thousands of citizens basking in the sun and bathing in the waters of the River Plate was not uncommon. But the growing contamination of the surroundings and the leasing of land to private entities began acting as urban barriers to a City that was already turning its back to the world’s widest river.

During the administration of former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999) the public-owned Costa Salguero was parcelled up and leased to private entities who placed discos, nightclubs, golf courses, offices, and a huge convention centre with parking for 2,000 cars, consolidating an urban scar that divides Buenos Aires from the coast. With the lease coming to an end in 2021, the City government led by Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced a new development project for the area, drawing strong criticism from urban specialists, neighbours’ associations and environmental groups.

In April this year, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the government launched an architectural competition to choose the best concept for the area. The rules stated that at least 65 percent of Costa Salguero was to be left for public use, meaning that the City had to change the area’s zoning from 100-percent public park to up to 35 percent buildable area.

This re-zoning proposal was discussed at the City Legislature on October 8, where it was won preliminary approval on a vote of 37-23. The joint opposition voted against, while the ruling Vamos Juntos party and its allies of Martín Lousteau’s UCR-Evolución and the Socialist party of Roy Cortina supported the bill.

According to the Rodríguez Larreta administration, the project intends to “restore the city’s relationship with the river” and take back almost 14 hectares of green spaces that are now occupied by private leaseholds, with the remaining public lands being sold to private developers. The ruling coalition said proceedings from the sale would be devoted to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We don’t need to thank the ruling coalition for coming up with a bill that would leave 65 percent of green spaces. We need to demand they do not sell public lands or auction off the coast,” replied Marta Martínez from the opposition bloc Autodeterminación y Libertad.

‘Active’ park or commercialisation of public spaces?

One of the City government’s main arguments is that creating a huge park would not make the best use of the coastal grounds that are about to become available.

“Exclusive use zoning is unsustainable,” argues the City’s Transport Secretary Juan José Méndez. “Isolated parks that only provide the environmental function of parklands but lack other social uses are mostly used on Saturdays and Sundays but otherwise remain empty… We only feel safe at them at very specific times on weekends.”

Offering a wide range of mixed-used services will help the park to be occupied virtually around the clock, the official added.

“Success stories are those who take into account environmental quality but also some kind of guarantee of public safety, and Costa Salguero offers a huge opportunity to design a space which combines profitability on both a social and economic level,” said architect Alberto Gorbatt, the director of the ARQA platform. He argued the projected commercial and services areas are similar to Barcelona’s Olympic Villa, the Port of Sydney and the People’s Park in Copenhagen.

Other experts beg to differ.

“It has been argued that the public sphere is unsafe and that in order to have an active and safe city the sine qua non condition is to sell off public lands to locate residences, hotels and retail,” protested architect Mariana Giusti, a master in Urban Studies from the Universities of Seville and Lisbon. “This only fuels social segregation and urban fragmentation.”

María Gabriela Mataloni, a biologist from the University of Buenos Aires, said parks don’t need to be active 24 hours in order to perform important functions.

“A park wholly devoted to public and free use can provide educational and recreational experiences and will fulfill the key function of adaptation and mitigation to climate change,” said Mataolini, adding that such green spaces can contribute to the capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, protect people and infrastructure from increasingly severe storms and play a role as a reserve for biodiversity.

“The City government considers nature and green areas a vacuum to be filled with business,” slammed environmental lawyer Enrique Viale. “They are turning citizens into customers, privatising leisure and recreation. They’re telling us there’s no enjoyment without consumption.”

A ghetto of wealth?

Another point of contention is the height of buildings and the social profile of those who will purchase the apartments. While the original bill approved in 2018 said structures in Costa Salguero could be as tall as 12 metres high, the re-zoning plan voted in October allows for buildings of up to 29 metres — some nine or ten stories.

Some urban planners pointed out that the renders presented by Franck-Menichetti, the winning architectural firm, showed more amicable heights that did not correspond with what the bill allows developers to build.

“Just to be clear: the proposed buildings will be located between Costanera Avenue and the River Plate, like a wall that would close off the possibility of a direct and sincere relationship with the coast,” said architect Rosa Aboy, the director of the Research Centre for the History of Dwellings at the University of Buenos Aires.

“I must remind you that we're not voting for render visualisations but what the letter of the law says,” said architect Silvana Parentella of the R2b1 firm. She also warned that the bill allows for the construction of buildings in the neighbouring grounds of Punta Carrasco.

Gabriel Lanfranchi, the coordinator of the City’s Urban Environmental Plan (PUA), was generally supportive of the project but warned against elitist approaches, saying the government should enact some kind of instrument that would facilitate access to housing in order to avoid a new Puerto Madero “where apartments are only available for the elite that can afford them.” Local authorities, Lanfranchi argued, should intervene in this new area to guarantee social mix regardless of what the market delivers.

“I don’t see this debate taking place,” he said.

Victoria Roldán Mendez, the chair of the Urban Development Committee at the City Legislature, declined to comment until the hearings have concluded. “We're halfway through this process and neighbours are still commenting on the project on the bill or making contributions to the debate,” a spokeswoman for Roldán Mendez told the Times.

Legal and political challenges

To complicate things further, an appeals court already suspended the sale approved in 2019 (a prerequisite to move forward with the re-zoning), arguing the move could be at odds “with the constitutional proceedings established for the sale of public domain lands.”

The ruling, made known in October, recalled that the Costa Salguero coastal grounds enjoyed “special protection” from the Urban Environmental Plan, made into law in 2008, which calls “for the provision of public use to the public-owned land by the riverbank.”

A month later, the ANAC national civil aviation agency sent an official note to the Rodríguez Larreta administration claiming the Distrito Joven project was “a threat to aviation safety,” due to its proximity to Aeroparque airport.

“Local authorities should be warned about the risk posed to third parties by the building of housing complexes… in areas near the runway headers,” said ANAC.

The City’s Urban Development Minister Álvaro García Resta dismissed the statement as a “technical debate” that will be revised by the experts in charge of the development, suggesting “some obvious political subtext” that comes amid heated exchanges between the national administration of President Alberto Fernández and the Mayor Rodríguez Larreta’s government.

“I’m fairly surprised that the high-ranking government officials who defended the privatisation did not argue in favour of the constitutional nature of the project, taking into account that the issue has been brought up by many and that a recent ruling suspended the sale of these terrains,” said human rights activist Eduardo Jozami.

Urban planning consultant Andrés Borthagaray, who headed the City’s Strategic Planning Council from 2006 to 2014, regretted that the official plan for the area is likely to create a definitive barrier between the City and the river.

“It’s true that the City is in debt, with compromised finances and pressing social priorities, but moving forward with a re-zoning process in order to sell an irreplaceable asset is inadmissible,” Borthagaray said. “There are several other options to allocate investments with the same expected revenues that can be done within the law.”

Public hearings will continue until January 27, but all eyes are now on the second round of voting that will decide the fate of the government-sponsored project. If lawmakers vote the same way they did on October 8, then the government would have enough votes to pass the proposal.

But everything could change if the mayor’s allies UCR-Evolución (nine lawmakers) and the Socialist party (two lawmakers) change their vote in the face of the increasingly mobilised and vocal opposition to the project. Will they? A widely shared viral video from 2018 shows Lousteau criticising Rodríguez Larreta’s policy of selling public assets for cash, months before he joined the ruling party’s coalition.

“Anything Larreta wants, he just buys it. And anything he can sell, in terms of real estate, he just sells it,” Lousteau told TV host Alejandro Fantino. Opponents of rezoning are using the video to prove that his bloc should be opposing the sell off of public assets — and must therefore reconsider their positions.

The former mayoral candidate, now a senator for the Vamos Juntos ruling coalition, is taking a more benevolent view of the project.

“I saw the project, it seems way better of what’s there today,” Lousteau said in a radio interview this month. “It will be up to the lawmakers, and to what happens in the audiences, to settle the matter.”

In the meantime, the public hearings will go on and his name is likely to be a trending topic again.

Passionate porteños flock to public hearings to oppose Costa Salguero plan

More than 7,000 citizens sign up to air views on controversial sale and re-zoning of City-owned land in Costa Salguero.

por Federico Poore

Buenos Aires Times, 19-12-2020 

 


A proposal that would allow the sale and re-zoning of city-owned land on the River Plate is facing severe criticism from residents in Buenos Aires, who have flocked to the public hearings to register their opposition to the bill.

A staggering number of people signed up to have their voices heard by the lawmakers who gave preliminary approval to a initiative by the administration of Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta which allows for the building of blocks of nine-storey apartments by the Rafael Castillo avenue, along with a park just metres away from the world’s widest river.
 

With 7,053 citizens signed up, the hearing scheduled for November 27 — initially regarded as a mere matter of procedure — has turned into a festival of public consultations, with a whopping 29 meetings on the agenda. The sessions will run until the end of January.
 

“The officials responsible for the protection of the environment must ensure that this area can be enjoyed by present and future generations, but this is at loggerheads with the construction of 29-metre-tall buildings,” said architect Ljubita Klein, adding that the proposed construction of a heliport on the nearby coastal grounds of Punta Carrasco would end up displacing native flora and fauna.
 

“Do local lawmakers consider that the creation of a closed neighbourhood of tall buildings does not constitute a barrier to the river?” she asked.
 

Angry defences, measured responses

Public hearings began on the morning of November 27, as City officials shared their own powerpoint slides defending the bill that was given preliminary approval by the City Legislature a month before.

“Our goal is to turn a space which is currently privately operated into a big public park by the river,” said Urban Development Minister Álvaro García Resta. “But in order for people to use it, this space needs to be prepared, it needs to have some kind of infrastructure that invites people to stay.”

García Resta insisted that 74 percent of the area of what is now Costa Salguero will become a public park, while the remaining 26 percent will be left for restaurants, cultural centres, hotels and apartments.

“If many people can get to a park to spend a day outdoors, then that park is a good public space. If many people feel safe in a park because there is movement, lights, then that is a good public space. If many people besides enjoying the green grass enjoy other uses such as cuisine and culture that invites them to stay, that park is a good public space,” the official argued. “Housing and commercial premises give the park a context, they make it a real meeting point.”

Valeria Franck, the head of the Franck-Menichetti architecture firm that won the competition to design the Costa Salguero project, said she felt obliged to defend the initiative after it gained “social media fuzz,” making it clear that the “small built portion” consisted of buildings less than nine stories high.

Other architects were more direct in their defence of the bill.

“Many of the organisations that are calling for action today are doing so based on statements that do not correspond to reality. There was plenty of time to express an opinion, and it was not done. What reason is there to stop progress?” said Carlos Sallaberry, vice-president of the Central Society of Architects. He defied his colleagues opposing the urban development plan (“who now are making pamphlets”) by inviting them for coffee on the coastal grounds once the project is passed.

“When I hear people saying that all have a say regarding the City, what I hear is a big lie,” exclaimed Luis Grossman, from the Estudio Luis & Julio Grossman firm. “We can’t all decide on the City because we’d be living in chaos and anarchy.”

Fabio Quetglas, head of the Master in Cities programme from the University of Buenos Aires, offered a less elegant justification.

“We shouldn't fall to green overspecialisation,” he said. “There's enough green areas in this area of town”

Quetglas, a national lawmaker for the Radical (UCR) party that is allied to Rodríguez Larreta at the City level, said the project may offer porteños “a small window to the river that may widen with time” and that the city neighbours “should see how this works” before complaining.

The debate had gone for a good five-and-a-half hours when Matías Prol, a 21-year-old student, pointed out the lack of young voices of a project that, after all, was part of the so-called ‘Distrito Joven.’

“This is the first intervention by a young person in this hearing,” he said ironically.

Change of plans

The City’s Constitution establishes that any change to the planning code requires a” double reading,” which means that after the first vote the government must hold a public hearing where experts and people with legitimate interests can voice their opinion on the proposed law.

After this non-binding process, the Legislature may proceed with the second and definitive reading before lawmakers.

The original plan laid out by the Rodríguez Larreta administration was to hold the public hearing in November and then pass the bill before the end of the year. But the record number of citizens signing up has shaken the schedule. As days went by, architects, landscape planning experts, biologists, university professors, lawyers, members of NGOs, documentary filmmakers, cyclists, human rights activists, teachers, retirees, and students voiced their concerns.

During her five-minute public testimony, a civil engineer by the name of María Eva Koutsovitis reminded the audience that the capital is one of the metropolises with less public green space per capita in the world and that the City will face increasing floods and heatwaves because of climate change in the future.

“If we learned something from this pandemic is that the city's green spaces are too few. One only needs to walk the streets to get to that conclusion,” said in turn Martín Lemma, an architect specialised in urbanism. “The world has changed after the coronavirus and the Costa Salguero project has not. The renders and visualisations I saw show some interesting possibilities, but they belong to another world, a world that had not experienced what we saw in the last few months.”

Many compared the proposed development to the exclusive Puerto Madero waterfront.

“We already have one Puerto Madero, a neighbourhood where parks are packed with people and restaurants are half-empty,” said Guilad Gonen, a young man from Villa Crespo. “A place where in order to sit down for a mate or to play football with your kids you need to break through a luxurious neighbourhood.”

Gonen lamented that local authorities put an architectural competition out to tender for private practices, instead of bringing up the development resulting from a multidisciplinary approach.

“I mean, what would they propose after all? Erect buildings, of course! They’re architects. That’s what they do. What strikes me as crazy is the fact that this is the only option we have, the only perspective being presented to us,” he added.

At least during the public hearings, those in favour outnumbered those against by around 99 to 1. Anyone switching to the Legislature’s YouTube channel to follow the debates could spend hours before hearing someone actually supporting the project.

The majority of those opposing the development called for the creation of a “huge public park” on that same grounds, considering that the concession of the private firms operating in the area comes to an end in 2021.

Many, in a nod to the recent departure of an Argentine icon, said the park should be called “Diego Armando Maradona.”


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