What the Master Plan should do
An urban plan does not have the power to change a city overnight. But it can point the direction.
Trying to simplify the main articles, objectives, principles and rules, the PDE 2014 proposed that São Paulo should grow through densification along the transport axes. And create infrastructure and jobs in the most needy regions, with the creation of regional development poles.
The result so far is disappointing. In these axes, there are an infinity of new buildings being built, without any urban concern. In other regions, mainly in the East and South, there are several axes that have not attracted any investment. Nowhere has the creation of such “new centralities” been seen.
Now, in the review provided for by law, delayed by two years, there should be room to correct what went wrong and improve what went right. Here’s a personal list of items based on what I’ve seen and heard in these long discussions.
Unreliable demographic projections
Any plan should be based on growth assumptions. In 2014, the magic number was that São Paulo would gain another 800,000 new inhabitants and then its population would stabilize, around 2030.
With the grotesque delay of the Census, neither the exact population of the city nor the population gain of each neighborhood is known with certainty. Without these premises, the plan is lame. The civil construction sector estimates that the housing deficit in São Paulo is 780,000 homes, 300,000 of which for new residents and 480,000 of the existing deficit.
Low implementation of plans that already exist
The Master Plan depends on the implementation of sectoral plans – housing, transport, green areas, etc. The goals of each administration should reflect these plans. The problem: the city hall is not following the goals it set itself.
An example: by failing to meet the goal of building new bus lanes, the city hall fails to encourage the growth of the axes and decreases the interest of the real estate market in some regions of the city.
Another example: the Housing Plan, probably the most important, was never approved by the Chamber. The result is that all initiatives, such as good urbanization projects in favelas or the purchase of popular units, seem to be dispersed. The ZEISs, areas where popular housing is expected, would also need to be coupled to the axes.
To make matters worse, the main drivers of urban growth, the subway and the CPTM, seem to walk alone, regardless of municipal plans.
Zoning should be subordinated to Regional Plans.
As an action plan was not made based on the regional diagnoses of 2014, there is no prioritization for each subprefecture. Thus, the initiatives are discussed wholesale in the zoning, without taking into account the local impact, which is different in Capela do Socorro in Lapa or in Cidade Tiradentes.
No concern for quality of public spaces and walkability
There is a lot of discussion about buildings, garages, templates, but very little about the quality of public spaces.
Even in places where there are dozens of developments, such as Pinheiros or Tatuapé, neither the city hall nor the construction companies were concerned about coming together to propose squares, sidewalks, accesses, preservation of the urban landscape and protection of local businesses.
As if that were not enough, the real estate market is seeking to increase the expansion area, migrating now to the heart of the neighborhoods, which was minimally preserved. We run the risk of seeing the model of giant-buildings-of-tiny-expensive-apartments-with-artificially-enlarged-balconies-and-a-sad-little-shop-simulating-mixed-use-on-the-ground-floor being replicated to exhaustion , with the exception of a few more inspired builders.
The Urban Intervention Project was one of the great hopes for transforming specific territories, but it simply did not happen. It was the object of legal challenge for environmental studies to be carried out, it was criticized for applying to gigantic perimeters and, now, in the revision of the plan … it will change its name to Urban Intervention Plan. It is difficult to imagine that it will gain prominence when moving away from urban design for good.
The most important of these, the Central Sector PIU covers an area so large that it in turn includes other PIUs such as Minhocão and Parque Dom Pedro 2°. One of the most important interventions in the central region, the announced change of state management to the center, had never been suggested in the PIU discussions.
What will happen now?
The City Council has already received the project and now anything can happen.
While there are more than 50 public hearings planned, the real fight will take place in the private meetings in councilors’ offices. Strangely, the Chamber asked that LPUOS, zoning, be discussed together. The odd proposal has already been warned by the Public Prosecutor’s Office that it makes no sense.
Is there any chance the city will improve from this overhaul? It’s unlikely. At best, we may have the correction of urban instruments, some local improvement projects – with a mix of housing and transport and the preparation for the gradual development of poorer areas. In the worst case, we will see the construction expansion model taking over the neighborhoods while the rest is up to 2029, the end of the validity of this plan.
No scenario can do without more incisive action by the City Hall on a day-to-day basis, so that the city can rediscover a possible course of improving the quality of life through existing plans.
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