The Election Season Final Act

Fremantle Architect Shows Quality is Possible

Quality is Possible

Hilton architect Don Zivkovic lives and works in skyscraper city New York, and this is some of his award winning work in the heart of that City.

Don has accepted an invitation from the Fremantle Society to give a presentation of his ideas when he next visits Fremantle. He will be too late to save much of Fremantle’s heritage character, but his ideas will make a good Thinking Allowed column in the Herald for the faithful few who still read such things.

Car Parks Not Needed?

Fremantle Council is selling yet another car park (corner of Josephson and High Streets -see next article) and you can buy it, and stick a 21 metre high building on the site to overshadow the little gem – Victoria Hall – across the way.

Fremantle Council’s advanced thinking is that driverless cars and driverless bicycles will soon replace the need for any parking spaces. The progressive Fremantle Council is years ahead of other councils who still believe that business needs support, and that car parks are strategically located in order to assist customers of those businesses.

Progressive Investigation Needed

There are a lot of people wanting Fremantle to be progressive. But you need money for that. An investigation is needed into the questionable property dealings of Fremantle Council so that we can get better value with our money. Since Dr Pettitt was elected as mayor 8 years ago, the council’s property portfolio has fallen in value from $57 million to $23 million.

The two most recent worrying examples are:

a) New Fremantle Depot Site: Council paid $7.8 million in 2014 for the contaminated site which the previous owner bought just 9 years earlier for $1.88 million. In the three years since 2014, the property, worth $640,000 a year in rent, has lain empty, losing ratepayers a possible $2 million in revenue.

b) Josephson Street Car Park: Adding to the sale of Queensgate Car Park, Point Street Car Park, Spicer Site Car Park, Bannister Street Car Park, and Phillimore Street Weighbridge Car Park, now comes the sale of the Josephson Street Car Park. The sale of so many car parks is alarming enough, but the conditions of sale, which include that the new owner must lease back the car park to the council until at least 2020 at $1 a year, mean that the price realised for the site will be much less than if it was sold as vacant possession. In fact, condition 2 ( As a condition of sale of the Property the Buyer must grant to the Seller an option to lease the Property (Option to Lease) for use as a car park for a peppercorn rent ($1.00 per annum) until development of the Property is commenced) means that the owner must allow the council to continue leasing the site for $1 a year until it is built on.

These onerous conditions could lose ratepayers at least $1 million for the sale of their asset.

The loss to ratepayers on these two issues alone could be in excess of $3 million. As the mayor of one major city told The Fremantle Society: “If I screw up on financial issues, I will man up and accept the blame.” It is hoped Dr Pettitt will do the same.

It is time for an independent investigation of all ratepayer asset sales in the past 8 years.

Election – Final Act

The local elections are almost over and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by council in publicising themselves in lavish advertisements and publications, will greatly help incumbents to be reelected.

Also helping incumbents are the ‘jobs for the boys (and girls)’ that the hangers on have received and are receiving for aligning themselves closely with the council.

The energetic Roe 8 protestors who moved from that issue to supporting the current Fremantle Council, do not seem to have transferred any interest from Roe 8 environmental issues to Fremantle ones. Otherwise they would have picked up on some of the unsustainable council projects (how much money was wasted with solar panels at the Leisure Centre?), the cut back in the number of trees being planted in Fremantle, the failure to seriously tackle the lack of tree canopy cover, the lack of any air quality monitoring in Fremantle, the unsatisfactory health of the great Moreton Bay fig trees in Kings Square and so on.

The False Accusation

During the election, it was put about that until Dr Pettitt arrived as mayor, ‘nothing happened’ and, in Dr Pettitt’s own words, ‘the previous council was ineffectual.’

These falsities overlook the many things that occurred prior to his 8 years, which in contrast to the current council, involved consensual and high quality decision making, and high quality outcomes, particularly in the area of heritage. Much of the good work done by previous councils has been undone by the current council.

The previous Fremantle Council Heritage Architect Agnieshka Kiera has kindly put together her recollections of what was achieved by previous councils from a largely heritage point of view. It is long, but worth reading, and stands as testimony against the false accusations of the election. See the previous post, below.

Subway on Steroids

 

Sorry to Show this Again

The image above needs to be shown again, because it represents what the current election should be largely about – the damage to Fremantle from insensitive developments.

Mayor Pettitt and Cr Sullivan have both been on social media this week extolling the virtues of this proposal for the Coles Woolstore development before it has even reached the planning committee. The mayor claims this development and others like the 8 storey approval for 22 Adelaide Street opposite Johnston Court are “well away from the heritage areas” when of course they are not. This building will forever be an inappropriate blockage to the linkage between the station and the Town Hall, and a visual eyesore no tourist will ever pay money to come and see. Visitors arriving at Fremantle Railway Station, a facility beautifully restored inside and out by the government, and others driving along Beach Street, will be jarred by the incongruity of this supsersized Subway sandwich and its offspring.

In Paris, there is one large modern building at Montparnasse Station which impacts the remarkable congruity of the scale of Paris and should never have been allowed. But Paris is huge in comparison to Fremantle and the building proposed here – 50 metres from our railway station, and 200 metres from King’s Square – will forever blight the human scale of the town.

On the far left, looking positively tiny despite being given approval for a 6 storey development, is Marilyn New’s wool store. She will no doubt apply for the same height bonuses as the Coles site.

The Fremantle Society would like to hear from members their thoughts about the project pictured. The Fremantle Society is keen to see developers spend their money, but wonders why we can’t get something that will be the “heritage of the future” we keep being promised.

The Fremantle Society did receive a brief assessment from Ian Molyneux, the inaugural chair of the Heritage Council of Western Australia, who labelled it “moronic”.

When the election is out of the way, this proposal, and other bad news like the financially inept Fremantle Depot decision reported to you on September 20, will come to Council.

Secrets of our Cities

Tonight, Tuesday 10 October at 7.30pm SBS will air their program on Fremantle entitled Secrets of Our Cities. It will be a lively look at some of the colourful characters of Fremantle from Bon Scott to the Rajneeshees.

The Fremantle Society was pleased to help producers, free of any fee, in the making of the program.

The interest shown by the producers in listening to the Fremantle Society and others in town, is in marked contrast to Fremantle Council, who do not attend Fremantle Society events when invited, do not include the Fremantle Society in any heritage discussions, ignore detailed and professional submissions made, and do not invite the Fremantle Society to any events regarding heritage, such as the opening of the Town Hall or the Fremantle Boys School projects.

One of the producers, with a BBC background, commented that Australian towns are generally linear – you drive in one end and drive out the other, but that Fremantle was different – it had a town centre. It is probably the only town in WA to have a town square. It was pointed out that this rarity of having a town square was unfortunately not considered important by the local council who intend to build over their half of the square with a new $50 million administration building as part of a large King’s Square development.

Public Art

The Fremantle Society has received a response from the council to our letter of early September in which we wrote:

The Fremantle Society keen to see high quality public art and high quality restoration projects, but is concerned with the effectiveness of the Percent for Art Program.

The intention of the program was to provide money for heritage or public art. Developers have to spend 1% of the value of their project either on public art or heritage works.

This is an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the public realm with art that is loved and appreciated and which enhances the urban streetscape on a permanent basis, or heritage improvements that add to the authenticity of Fremantle.

It would appear that what the public have received so far has in most cases been very poor quality art installations, often affixed to the property of the developer.

While the Fremantle Society appreciates the detailed response received below, the main issues remain – the poor quality of the public art and the failure of council to do archaeological investigations on all heritage sites as required by their own policy.

Dear John,

Further to my holding reply to you regarding your email dated 13 September, I now have the information you have requested. I apologise for the time taken to respond.

a & b) 8 and 50 Pakenham Street. I have noted your comments. In both cases the commissioning and approval of the artwork was carried out in accordance with the City’s Percent for Art Guidelines, which provides for the Chief Executive Officer to approve the works under delegated authority based on a report by the City’s Public Art Coordinator and a recommendation from the Public Art Advisory Group. This group includes independent professional representatives from the fields of urban design and art.

c) Atwell Arcade/120 High Street. A condition of planning approval required a percent for public art contribution of $69,950. This was expended in conjunction with some of the City’s own public art budget allocation on a joint public art project in High Street Mall. This is the installation of poles with weathervanes at the top which you refer to. The artwork, titled Windcatchers, is by Tom Muller and Arianne Palassis. A plaque is scheduled to be installed to explain the artwork to the public. Its elements are intended to reference Fremantle’s port and maritime and colonial history, with the design of the weathervanes referencing maritime instruments and signs.

d) King’s Square project. The City’s percent for public art and/or heritage policy is applied to developments requiring development approval, and therefore only directly applies to the Sirona development on the former Myer/Queensgate sites and not to the King’s Square redevelopment project as a whole. Therefore the project value you have quoted is not the basis for calculating the amount to be spent on public art. The condition of planning approval on the Sirona development requiring a public art/heritage contribution must be complied with prior to occupation of the development. I understand that Sirona are considering the manner in which they will procure public art to comply with the condition but have not made any firm decision yet. The City’s Percent for Art Guidelines referred to above will apply to Sirona’s public art proposals, which in due course will need to be submitted for consideration by the Public Art Advisory Group as part of the process set out in the Guidelines.

The redevelopment of the City of Fremantle’s administration building is a public work which does not require development approval. Nevertheless, an evaluation of the schematic design of the new civic building against the City’s local planning scheme and policies has been carried out. I refer you to the minutes of the Ordinary Meetings of Council on 26 April and 28 June this year which dealt with this matter. Opportunities for public art are being considered as part of the design process for the new building and for the King’s Square public realm. On 27 September the council approved the release of the draft King’s Square Public Realm Concept Plan for public consultation. The draft Concept Plan includes a section dealing specifically with public art. Community consultation on the draft Concept Plan will be commencing shortly, and the City would welcome the Fremantle Society’s participation in this process. In the meantime, if you would like to see a copy of the draft Concept Plan it is available in the agenda attachments section of the City’s website at the following link:

e) LIV apartments development, 51 Queen Victoria Street. The estimated construction cost of the development as stated in the application for development approval, which is the basis for calculation of the percent for art contribution, is $30 million. Accordingly the planning condition requiring a public art/heritage works contribution attached to the approval of this development specifies a contribution to the value of $300,000. The artwork commissioned by the developers is a collaboration by artists Rick Vermey (a Fremantle resident) and Felix Laboratories. The artwork is to be integrated into the soffit and columns of the pedestrian link through the development from Queen Victoria Street to Quarry Street, and is a geometric sculptural form with illumination. The inspiration for the work is based on coastal weather systems and oceanic currents in the vicinity of Fremantle. I understand that the actual value of the artwork commission is significantly greater than the $300,000 amount specified in the condition of planning approval.

With regard to archaeological investigation, the site of 51 Queen Victoria Street is not included on the Heritage List or within a Heritage Area under the City’s Local Planning Scheme 4, and consequently the requirement to undertake an archaeological investigation under the City’s local planning policy LPP2.7 as a condition of planning approval did not apply to this development. Therefore there is no study which I can provide to you.

I trust this response covers all the points raised in your email.

The Fremantle Society wants a Bigger (and better) Fremantle

Reminder: Mayoral Debate Tuesday
3 October Tannock Hall Cliff Street 6.30pm

This important community event is sponsored by the Fremantle Society and is your chance to hear from both mayoral candidates, incumbent Dr Brad Pettitt, and challenger Ra Stewart.

Secession?

To be sustainable Fremantle Council needs to grow its population and its land area, not annoy people so much they don’t want to be part of us.

There is currently another push from North Fremantle residents to secede from Fremantle.  A previous effort to secede just a small area near Mosman Park failed, but now there is a much more ambitious plan, which seeks to take all of North Fremantle except Fremantle Ports land into an amalgamation with Mosman Park.

The mayor of Mosman Park Ron Norris had a meeting with seven of the group a couple of weeks ago. Mosman Park has accepted the idea in principle, and the Fremantle Society has been told by the mayor and the secessionist side that the concern from locals revolves around dissatisfaction with Fremantle Council in general and specific concerns about foreshore and insurance issues.

East Fremantle made it very clear they did not want a voluntary amalgamation with Fremantle when they had the chance.

Hamilton Hill residents next door to Fremantle booed the amalgamation idea so much at a public meeting last year, Fremantle councillors Coggin and Hume slunk out of the hall.

When the amalgamation of Fremantle and Melville was mooted by the Liberal government, Melville Council told the Fremantle Society they thought the Fremantle finances were so suspect, they would not be interested.

Cockburn has refused to give an inch of its northern suburbs, even though the South Fremantle power station is not in Fremantle but Cockburn.

The North Fremantle group have not made the secession an election issue, because they want nothing to do with Fremantle Council. Their chances of success may be slim, but the totality of rejection of Fremantle Council by so many people, should be a wakeup call to the council. This is especially true during the current mayoral election where Dr Pettitt is seeking a third term.

This issue should motivate the mayor and council to do a better job, to cut the spin and fake news, and to represent the whole community – not just small segments of it.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
john.dowson@yahoo.com

Coming soon: Election analysis

B RA D

The mayor Dr Pettitt will launch his election campaign today, though much has already been going on behind the scenes.

Four councillors sit on the mayor’s re-election committee – Greens councillor Pemberton, Socialist Alliance councillor Wainright, Labor councillor Fitzhardinge, and Cr Waltham. Councillor hopeful , Greens Liam Carter McGinty, who will run against ‘former’ Greens councillor Sullivan, is also a member of the committee.

These councillors and others are guiding the re-election campaign and will try to head off issues raised by challenger Ra Stewart by instructing the Fremantle Council CEO to prepare an audit of council’s finances, though of course councillors cannot instruct administrative staff.

“Worst financial health of any local government”

There is good reason to be alarmed about Fremantle Council’s finances under the current mayor. Recently the MyCouncil website said that Fremantle has ‘the worst financial health of any local government.’

Fremantle Council, rated a 42, is 12 points lower than the second worst council – the City of Canning, a council sacked twice in recent years.

Council Fake News Media Release on King’s Square

Council has issued a press release stating that the massive cost of the King’s Square project will not lead to rate rises above CPI.

But, ratepayers are already complaining of rate rises in some cases of 8% and more.

The press release states that the project will leave ‘debt and reserves able to be reinstated within 10 years’ – an impossibility given the current council has spent so much that the reserves have dropped from $60 million to $20 million since 2009.

The press release states that the King’s Square project is ‘sympathetic to the heritage values of the area,’ when it patently is not.

Former Government Minister- ‘Don’t Destroy King’s Square’

While Labor politicians rush to share the photo op, the reality is that it was the Liberals who gave the go ahead for government workers moving to Fremantle to cement the deal. Former Finance Minister Bill Marmion, who says he was the one who pushed the relocation of government workers to Fremantle through Cabinet, told the Fremantle Society recently he does not want to see King’s Square ruined with a large new administration centre.

What else should the council be judged on?

Mayor Pettit eight years ago promised revitalisation. But, at what cost, and when? Eight years later it is still not here. There have been some new buildings, but mostly of very mediocre quality. The dismal Atwell Arcade development, held up by council as a great step forward, and which promised 300 new workers to Fremantle, has destroyed the gold rush roofscapes of the area, has obliterated the best arcade in Fremantle, has not been completed as promised, and when a fire alarm went off recently, saw just 35 people exit the building on both sides.

Even the iconic Culleys Tea Rooms there (which will be 100 years old in 2025) has not survived intact. As one person wrote on Facebook yesterday:

Was SO disappointed to see the new Culley’s recently. Why would they strip it of all the charm that made you visit in the first place? Its reputation is in its history but it looks like any other cafe now.

Yes, there are some very large boxes in the pipeline that developers are pleased to have permission to build, but the relentless and ineffective spending by council has seen Fremantle’s assets crash from $60 million to $20 million.

Members – Questions Please

Please send commentary or questions or issues so that we can represent your views.

Send to: john.dowson@yahoo.com

Please see the excellent work Garry Gillard has done to get our blog going again:

fremantlesociety.org.au [this site]

Mayoral Debates

Ra Stewart has challenged mayor Pettitt to a mayoral debate in each ward, but he has refused.

There will be a few debates, including one at Notre Dame.

The West Australian

The West Australian this week ran a full page article by Gareth Parker slamming Subiaco Council for the 16 storey Market Pavilion project not proceeding. Immediately, the Fremantle mayor’s mouthpiece blogger Roel Loopers wrote to the West stating that Fremantle can show other councils how to do their job, presumably by inflicting changes to the town planning scheme that ratepayers said they didnt want, and giving developers exactly what they want.

The West, which no longer balances its articles by giving different sides to a story, and which reads like a developer’s advertorial rag, omitted to mention that Subiaco Council has in fact given two approvals for the site, including the 16 storeys sought, and in 2016 even offered $750,000 or ratepayers’ money to help the project.

The problem for the community nowadays is to get fair and balanced reporting.

Congrats to Candidates!

The Fremantle Society announced last week that 6 of its members are running in the upcoming elections. In fact that may be 8, with one member announcing a possible tilt at mayor.

Further details later.

The Fremantle Society works long and hard to encourage good quality decision making by council and to promote the world class values of Fremantle. We are pleased to have possibly 8 members running, though of course all those candidates are independent thinkers who may or may not wish to push the strong heritage, planning, and environmental concerns of the Fremantle Society.

Some candidates have been out campaigning already for a long while. Chief of these is Fremantle Society member Claudia Green, running in City Ward, a fierce and devoted campaigner for better government and responsible finances, who led the Fremantle and Ratepayers Association for years before stepping down to run for council.

Claudia and Fremantle Society committee member Catherine Hammond both feature in today’s Herald.

The Fremantle Society wishes all candidates well and thanks them for running.

More details later, but each candidate needs door knockers and helpers, so please consider giving your time.

John Dowson
President
0409223622

john.dowson@yahoo.com

Houses built by convicts go up for sale

The sale of 15 restored Fremantle cottages could soon provide a financial lifeline to other deteriorating government-owned heritage buildings. The WA Government spent $3.3 million to restore the 160-year-old convict-built warders’ cottages and will now sell them. While no price tags have been placed on the cottages, the City of Fremantle, which is looking to buy at least one, has budgeted $800,000.

Doreen Taylor, son Ken Taylor and daughter Sue Radford lived in this cottage. Pictures: Ian Munro/The West Australian

If this is an accurate reflection of the value of each cottage, the total sale price could exceed $10 million. In accordance with the original funding arrangements, the proceeds will go towards the restoration of other WA buildings. “There are a couple of projects we are looking at that will be the next to be funded,” Heritage Minister Albert Jacob said.

The cottages, in Henderson Street, were built from 1851 to house the families of Fremantle Prison warders.

Doreen Taylor, 91, raised a family of seven in one of the two-storey cottages in the 1960s. In those days, her four daughters slept in one room and the toilet was at the bottom of the garden.

cottages-2

A main bedroom

“It’s changed a lot,” she said yesterday. “The walls are in the same place but I hardly recognised the rooms. We had nine people living here … it didn’t seem as small as it does today. And we always had lots of friends pop by. Bon Scott (the AC/DC legend) was a regular visitor because he had an eye for one of my daughter’s friends.”

As part of the restoration work, paint was removed from the cottages’ external limestone walls. The structural integrity of the cottages was restored through the overhaul of drainage and replacement of important joinery and door and window frames.

cottages-3

A downstairs living room

Mr Jacob said the cottages could be used for a variety of purposes, as long as heritage values were respected. “Clearly, they are suitable to be returned to residential use,” he said. “But they can also be sensitively adapted into offices or small commercial premises.”

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the council was keen to buy at least one cottage to give the public access to an important piece of the city’s heritage.

(An example of heritage restoration paying off !)

High Rise Deferred by DAP

52 Adelaide Street (former Spotlight/Coles site)

fremantle-society-14f1c10f-cac5-4d59-bb5f-70da20f93dd3

The 8 storey proposal shown above for 72 flats, 6 commercial tenancies and 98 car bays was deferred at the state government’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP) meeting yesterday (Monday 19 September).

Two Fremantle councillors, Crs Sullivan and Pemberton, voted with one other DAP member to have the matter deferred so the developer could bring back revised plans showing parts of the building above 21 metres being set back as per council policy. Councillor Sullivan proposed the deferral and it passed with a narrow 3-2 vote.

The developer is seeking 8 storeys straight up from the street with no set backs. Council’s lawyer insisted that it could not be approved, but the applicant’s lawyer cleverly shredded the council officer’s report to argue otherwise.

The Fremantle Society has invested a great deal of time on this issue because of its importance, and the fact that any variations to the current scheme that are approved will set a precedent for future developments in this city centre area.

For the Fremantle Society, four architects scrutinised the plans and the officer’s report,  and all were scathing at the quality of the report written.

The council report recommended refusal on grounds of:
a) height
b) detriment to amenity under clause 67.
(though nowhere in the officer’s report are the arguments presented to support that refusal)

Despite the officer’s recommendation, Mayor Pettitt, and councillors Nabor, Hume, McDonald, Walthan, and Jones all voted to send the item to the DAP to let them decide on the legal advice. By the time it got to the DAP, somehow the officer’s recommendation for refusal had turned into a glowing approval. The applicant’s lawyer said she had  been at the planning meeting and that there had been ‘a unanimous decision to approve.’ The applicant said that council staff ‘are clearly supportive of this plan’. The chair of DAP Ian Birch said that ‘the alternative recommendation (for approval) had been adopted by the planning committee.’ Remarkable stuff.

The Fremantle Society presented their case and a Fremantle lawyer was brought in to present for the Fremantle Society as well. This is a very complex case with many facets and issues to be dealt with, but the focus from DAP was mainly on how could the developer have the extra storey he was seeking.

The applicant’s aerial view of the 52 Adelaide Street proposal as shown is dishonest and should not have been allowed to go forward by council officers. The drawing shows Johnston Court as being significantly higher, whereas both are almost the same height. The applicant has shown his building bathed in light on the facing side, whereas the same side of Johnston Court is ominously dark. Also there are no lift overruns or rooftop clutter shown on 52 Adelaide Street, clutter which always ends up adding considerably to how buildings are viewed around town.

Claudia Green from FRRA was there and supported the Fremantle Society case, as did Julie Matheson from Scrap the DAPs.

Further details will be provided of the expert analysis from Fremantle Society architects.