Planned 'green' school to worsen Katipunan Ave traffic?
MANILA, Philippines – Can traffic-cursed Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City handle another school?
This is the concern of residents of Blue Ridge Subdivision after learning of the plan of Quezon City Hall to approve the construction of an international school along Katipunan Avenue.
City Planning Office head Tomasito Cruz confirmed to Rappler that the city has already prepared a Locational Clearance Zone for Multiple Intelligence International School (MIIS), an 800-student school currently operating in Katipunan Avenue corner Escaler Street.
MIIS intends to move to a new campus in the Blue Ridge Katipunan Avenue area. The lot, previously occupied by a bar and restaurant, is now barricaded by a newly constructed wall.
Cruz said the Locational Clearance Zone allows MIIS to proceed with its application for a building permit, one of the documents required for construction.
The MIIS campus will have 7 floors in total, including 3 basement levels, and a capacity of 1,500 students. It will be within 3 kilometers of other major schools including Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, and the University of the Philippines Diliman.
"It will worsen the already bad traffic situation along Katipunan Avenue," said Blue Ridge residents in a position paper sent to QC Hall.
"Traffic flow is already very slow, often at a standstill. Allowing 800 to 1,500 vehicles to bring students, fetch students, and wait for students at the start and end of classes will be a nightmare," wrote Blue Ridge Barangay Captain Gabriel Legaspi in a letter to MIIS Director for Finance and Human Resources Ramon Abaquin.
The increased number of cars plying the route to get to the school will inevitably worsen air pollution in area, they added.
The residents, who will live closest to MIIS when the school is constructed, have opposed the project since MIIS owners presented them with the plan in October 2013.
Since then, the residents undertook a campaign opposing the school. The Blue Ridge A barangay council has also issued a resolution against the school's construction.
New zoning law
Building the school in the lot in question is against zoning laws, the residents argue.
A new zoning law, Ordinance No SP-2200, S-2013 or the Revised Quezon City Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, specifically identifies the lot as a Special Urban Development Zone (SUDZ).
SUDZs, according to the law, are governed by special regulations to "control physical development to prevent traffic congestion, deterioration of services, facilities and environment and other problems affecting the general public."
"Additional schools" are among the types of establishments prohibited from being built in the Katipunan SUDZ, including gas stations, karaoke bars and restaurants.
The only types of structures that can be built there are bakeshops or coffee shops with at most 3 tables, drug stores, banks, outpatient medical clinics, and other establishments with minimum parking requirements.
The revised zoning ordinance was signed by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista in March 2013, and published in the Manila Times a few months after, in July.
Ironically, it was a QC Councilor who sold the controversial lot to MIIS in the first place.
The Deed of Absolute Sale obtained by Rappler says that the lot was sold by Councilor Eufemio Lagumbay to MIIS for P100 million in September 2013, 6 months after the ordinance was signed by the mayor.
Pending with the MMMDA, HLURB
So why, by issuing a Land Clearance Certificate, does QC Hall act as if the new zoning ordinance does not exist?
Because, said Cruz, it can't be implemented as it is.
The city's legal department has said that the ordinance can only be implemented after it is reviewed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and ratified by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).
The City Planning Office has sent the two agencies a copy of the ordinance and has requested them to make a decision on it.
While the ordinance is not ratified, the 10-year-old zoning ordinance remains in force, said Cruz.
This means that the previous zoning classification of the MIIS lot as a Minor Commercial Zone (C1 zone) stands, and that technically, a school can be built on it.
Republic Act 7924, which created the MMDA, lists "urban renewal, zoning and land use planning" as one of the "services" the MMDA is tasked to provide.
It may take years for the ordinance to be ratified. The older QC ordinance was signed in 2000 but was only approved by the MMDA and HLURB in 2004.
Cruz said, however, that the agencies are now trying to streamline the process. Instead of separately reviewing zoning ordinances, the agencies have created a joint review committee to speed up the process. The new zoning ordinance is currently lodged with the committee.
Blue Ridge barangay residents call the reasoning provided by the City Planning Office "flimsy ground" for allowing a project that would adversely impact their community and all motorists passing through Katipunan Avenue and other connected major thoroughfares like C5.
After all, why did Quezon City implement Spot Zoning Ordinances for the construction of the UP Town Center, also along Katipunan Avenue, without asking for the MMDA's approval, they wonder.
"What is applied to one should be applied to all, it is the true essence of equality before the law," they wrote to QC Hall.
They also contend that if the ordinance is really to be put on hold, shouldn't QC Hall also put on hold the approval of any new development project in the area?
Asked what will happen if the ordinance is ratified after the construction of MIIS, Cruz said QC Hall can't order its demolition but it will be considered a "non-conforming use."
This gives the future MIIS campus a "sunset period," said Cruz.
"It can no longer be expanded. If it's damaged by fire or other events, you cannot rebuild it anymore. Renovation or repair should be no more than 50% of its actual cost."
MIIS, in a letter to Blue Ridge residents, called the SUDZ classification in the new zoning ordinance "anti-business and anti-progress."
It said this is unfair because establishments on the other side of the road would retain their old zoning classification. The ordinance was also passed without consultation with affected business establishments, said MIIS.
Addressing traffic concerns, MIIS directress and owner Joy Abaquin gave assurances that MIIS would create a "master-planned traffic management system."
It will include the use of multi-level drop-off and pick-up areas for students and a drop-off space under the building large enough to accommodate several vehicles at the same time, "thus avoiding traffic accumulation along Katipunan Avenue."
There will be 70 parking slots and staggered schedule of vehicle flow during the peak hours of 7:30 am to 8 am, 12 noon and 3 pm.
Cruz also told Rappler that the school will employ traffic enforcers to ensure the smooth flow of vehicles.
The traffic impact assessment submitted by MIIS to Cruz's office claims that additional traffic caused by the school is "negligible" since their traffic management plan requires vehicles to enter the school in order to drop off or fetch students, said Cruz.
MIIS prides itself on becoming the first LEED-certified educational institution in the country. LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally-recognized rating of environmental sustainability.
In its letter to Blue Ridge residents, it said, "The MIIS Green School adopts a world-class model for sustainable development….By making children play an active role in environmental conservation and preservation, the school aims to help instill a culture of environmental sensitivity among today's generation." – Rappler.com