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“Pothole” repair of legislation

According to the Chairman of the Construction Committee Mikhail Demidenko, amendments to the general plan of Petersburg have been formed and they are in the process of final approval in Moscow. A new version of the 820th local law “On the boundaries of zones of protection of cultural heritage ...” is almost ready. It will soon come to the Legislative Assembly. Due to the fact that the current law has only partly takes effect, about 170 projects of areas planning have been “shelved” according to the estimates of officials. After the new version of the document comes into force, they will either receive a “green light” or will be rejected. Either variant is better than pending in limbo.

Development Director of GC AAG Svetlana Kim notes that many constructions were planned based on a change in the area functional zoning and are still waiting for the necessary decisions. Without clear evidence of change in the zone, land owners will not be able to start projects. However, after the adoption of amendments to the General Plan, an adjustment of the Land Use and Development Rules will be required, and then it will be necessary to develop a draft of area planning and land survey, draw up an urban design plan, and only then proceed to design and construction.

“These projects are designed for the long term. Developers acquire them either on condition of the implementation of all activities related to zoning change or the formation of a targeted program for the future”, - believes Svetlana Kim.

It is estimated by her that compliance of the Regional Standards of Urban Planning will make projects 15-20% more expensive, which will certainly affect the cost of housing. For example, social burden has been increased: a 40 % increase on the standard for places in kindergartens; the radius of accessibility for schools decreases to 500 meters (transport accessibility up to 50 minutes was previously permitted). In addition, the list of necessary social facilities has been supplemented. Now, one has to take into account the availability of places at recreation and sports facilities, homes for the elderly and disabled, overnight stay homes for homeless people, as well as help centers for the lonely, the disabled and minors. That is, developers will have to find out about the existence of such institutions and their actual occupancy. This can also cause problems for while educational institutions regularly provide information on the availability of reserves or a shortage of places, it is more difficult to be sure about the others.

Do no harm

RSUP are required to apply to new construction objects. But what if the project is implemented in an are a built-up by the old standards? Where the situation with landscaping, parking spaces, social and sports facilities is not the best way?

Olga Frolova, Lead Analyst of Surveyor International Group, says that RSUP on the one hand have simplified design, but on the other have tightened the process of building in the city, especially in the centre: “The commitments to the creation of social infrastructure fall on investors. Meeting these requirements in the area of ​​dense housing is problematic even with a sincere desire. Although RSUP are a kind of stimulant for developers, the standards make them use a more competent and detailed approach to the study of a project”.

Svetlana Kim believes that developers can offer their solutions to social issues, or at least prevent the deterioration of the situation. For example, you can provide a kindergarten of a greater capacity than is required for the project. Or you may arrange common parking areas for all district residents, landscape areas for recreation and sports. “There are no universal scenarios, but it is worth providing in every quarter something useful not only for the future, but also for the current residents. It’s unlikely that a project may become unrealizable because of RSUP. This happens for many other reasons: restrictions by the Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, sanitary protection zones, insolation, networks protection zones, functional areas of the General Plan, the Land Use and Development Rules”. According to her, if the project is so small that it is impractical to create social objects, one can assist the city in their building on alternative sites. Generally, a compromise is possible.

Correction of mistakes

Investors are waiting for the new version of the law “On the boundaries of zones of protection ...”. Svetlana Kim hopes that it will decide the fate of historical (by the year of construction) objects that do not represent any historical and cultural value: “We are time and again faced with a situation where all (including specialists of the Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments of History and Culture) understand that the building is listed as a historical one by mistake. Maybe something was confused by the Design and Inventory Bureau, maybe it was affected by shortcomings of document circulation in Soviet times. However, common sense suggests that the construction is far from a masterpiece, which requires millions in investment to eliminate accident risks. If the building is really valuable, it should certainly be saved and restored to history. But when ordinary houses in the centre are collapsing because demolition is prohibited, and their parameters do not allow the owner to effectively invest in the reconstruction, it only worsens the appearance of the city”.

In the judgment of Olga Frolova, the new law should formalize the process of construction and reconstruction in the historical centre. She agrees that the main problem is associated with the term "historical buildings" (houses built before 1917 ). There are no clear criteria for inclusion in the category of emergency buildings and subjected to demolition, so developers often abandon the project.

“In addition, we are waiting for the amendments to the law relating to so-called architectural errors. With regard to the redevelopment of industrial areas, the main problem here is to work with business owners. The General Plan and the Land Use and Development Rules should clearly define city policy regarding any changes of the functional purpose of territories” , - believes Olga Frolova. She is confident that RSUP and the new 820th law will establish clear and understandable rules of design in the centre for all market participants. This will allow them to carefully calculate the investment model of a project and assess the feasibility of redevelopment.

Hot amendments

It’s now about a month since the RSUP come into force, and the construction community has already drafted first priority amendments to the fresh document. According to the Vice-President of SRO “Association of Builders of St. Petersburg”, Alexei Belousov, proposals were submitted to vice-governor Marat Oganisyan: “Developers supported the law only because without it planning projects were approved for very long and difficultly”. First of all, developers ask to set by the year 2015 a standard of housing provision at the level of 28 square meters per person, and to increase this figure by the year 2020 to 35 square meters, as is recorded in the General Plan. It will be recalled that RSUP stipulates 35 square meters.

In addition, developers are worried about the standard of kindergartens and schools accessibility. While pedestrian accessibility of kindergartens is clear and well reasoned, 500 meters for schools is an obvious nonsense for a metropolis. So, the average accessibility of schools in Admiralteyskiy District really is 350 meters, but in Kurortny District it is 2.5 km. “If you strictly follow the figures, it means that in the near future you must build a few hundred schools, and 90 % thereof in Kurortny District. We propose to introduce the concept of pedestrian and transport accessibility of schools with a standard of up to 30 minutes”, - says Alexei Belousov.

Next problem is a dramatic increase in the places provided in kindergartens (by 60%). Builders believe that the figures need to be adjusted, of course, taking into account the existing deficit in some districts. Investors are also worried about the standard of landscaping for integrated development projects, 16 square meters per person. Meanwhile, the applicable standard for new buildings in Leningrad Region is 4.5 square meters per person, in Moscow Region  6 square meters, in St. Petersburg  6 square meters.  Builders are confident that the new requirements can really slow down large projects providing basic housing construction. They offer to differentiate the figures: the figures for the centre, sleeping areas and suburbs are to be different.

Andrei Nekrasov

Weekly newspaper “Real Estate and Construction of Petersburg”, No. 17 (805) 28.04.2014, p.18