Parking Lot Construction in Obraje Under Fire
By Jesús Aguado
The parking lot under construction in Obraje on calle Agustín Arroyo will have 225 parking spaces. The neighbors expressed their concern that this construction could result in a project similar to Capilla de Piedra. In addition, they pointed out that the ground is very unstable where the construction is going on. Also denouncing ecological damage, the residents requested transparency from the owner as well as from the local government.
The local administration advised them that the developer has his permits dating from 2008; however, because the construction is following the needed legal administrative process, the documents cannot be published at this time.
Neighbors from the barrio El Obraje requested a meeting with Atención to show their concern about the construction of a parking lot. They handed over a copy of the letter submitted at the offices of the local government and addressed to 11 directors and Mayor Ricardo Villarreal. The letter states that months ago heavy construction equipment had been working in an undercover and clandestine manner on a large portion of the green hill. The work, according to the letter, resulted in possibly dangerous crumbling in an alleged federal zone. The complainants also stated that the construction zone has been allocated for ecological preservation.
With that letter, those who signed it requested immediate intervention of the local government to identify those responsible for the impact and a halt to the construction until the permits are reviewed. They also complained that their opinion about the project was not taken into account. The neighbors requested “to bring this area to its prior state and to replenish and satisfy any other damage or prejudice that the authorities assess to the responsible parties.”
Other neighbors, who asked to remain anonymous, told Atención that there are more possible projects for a housing development, a hotel, a parking lot, restaurants, and stores in the area that could cause flooding and affect the zone. As of August 25, they had not received an official answer.
El Charco del Ingenio
The neighbors also asserted that the parking lot is being constructed within the buffer zone of the Charco del Ingenio appointed as a Natural Protected Area by the federation. On that matter, Mario Hernández—director of El Charco—stated that he is unfamiliar with the project and has not seen the plans, “and until now I do have the same doubts as the neighbors.” Hernández said that he had learned that the work on the space started a year ago and the hill had been untouched for thousands of years. He did not discard possible ecological damage, saying, “We need to know the projects.”
Hernández declared that his organization did not request information because this time, “The united citizens did, and they also requested the intervention from the local authorities, and the local government did what it had to do. Although I have not seen the ‘work halted’ stickers yet, the government should fine those responsible.”
Inspection and halting
Norberto Carbajo, director of Ecology and Environment, told Atención that several denunciations were submitted to his office because of the excavations. He talked with the developer and requested the permits. According to Carbajo, the owner said he would show the permits in the days to come. “We halted the works until we can have more information about it,” he said. Carbajo stated that a letter issued in 2008 by the then director of Ecology expresses that there is no inconvenience with the construction of the parking lot. The letter states that the party had to go to the authorities to get the needed permits, noted the director.
Director Carbajo said that, according to the letter, the developer needed to fulfill mitigation and compensation actions with the flora, but he did not. The works were halted on August 19. Now that there is no more construction going on, the Civil Protection Department is working to prevent landslides and accidents.
To those neighbors concerned about the construction of habitable buildings like those from Capilla de Piedra, Carbajo said, “They should not be worried. That will not happen in the area. There is just one permit, and it is for a parking lot. There will not be more construction. We do have the document stating that.”
Abelardo Quero, director of Urban Development commented—although he did not show documents—that the developer has the authorizations even if the works were halted by the Ecology department. “The head of Ecology halted the works, and we will respect that until we know exactly what the problem is.” He said that due to the administrative process he could not show the documents, but he declared that there is a permit for construction and paving and other permits dating from 2009.
Director Quero remarked that this administration had made a great accommodation with the developer because the plan anticipated the construction of nine platforms—no stories, no buildings. However, after several meetings the owner agreed to construct just three platforms. “There will not be more platforms, at least we will not authorize them in this administration,” said Quero.
In the days to come, the Urban Development department will conduct an inspection in the area to find out if the builder is meeting the local regulations. Quero made it clear that in the upper area the platform will have a wall that will not surpass the height of four meters. All the walls will have to be camouflaged with the flora of the area. Finally, the director assured that in that area there will be no permits to build constructions similar to that of Capilla de Piedra. Anyone with doubts “can request a meeting with me,” Quero concluded.
The Project from the Owner’s Point of View
A representative from Santa Marta del Obraje, who asked us not to divulge his name for security reasons, from Santa María del Obraje granted an interview to Atención “to clarify several topics.” He assured that his company is one of the most committed to the environment and ecology, noting that at the end of 1980 it donated more than 120 thousand square meters for preservation. He said that today some of that land is part of Charco del Ingenio.
The representative stated that the area where the parking lot is to be constructed has been in the project since 1980, designated then to be a parking lot. He also commented that there were two platforms in the zone already prepared for parking, and they were being used by the teachers and parents of students from the José Vasconcelos School in order to prevent mobility problems on the two-way street that also is used by suburban public transportation. “The 45-degree cut area looks quite exaggerated, but it will be reforested. We cannot have a 90-degree cut because it would be more dangerous.” Our source of information acknowledged that all of those concerned have a legitimate interest in the topic.
Regarding the permits topic, the investor also commented that his company has all the permits needed to perform the construction work. “Now the local authorities are reviewing them, and we will wait for resolution,” he said. Finally, the owner said that there was a lack of communication with the general public, but he sends a message to all those concerned about the work: “They can rest assured that we will only construct the parking lot, no more.” He shared with Atención that the parking lot, in accord with the environment, will have three platforms, and the walls will be camouflaged with native plants and trees.
The hotel will be reactivated
Mayor Ricardo Villarreal García told Atención that the developer has all the permits from years ago. “We are working to diminish the impact that the construction can have to the environment and urban image. We want the area to keep its current beauty,” he remarked. He also said that “it would be difficult to say that they will not construct the parking lot there because they have the permits, and if they go to a state or federal court, the authorities will force us to give them the green light to continue their project.”
Villarreal also assured that the construction of the hotel, uncompleted for more than a decade, will finally be reactivated, and “that will be amazing, because the construction looks horrible now in El Obraje.” He assured that the negotiations with a “very important” chain of hotels are very advanced, and the chain will improve the image of the area. The hotel currently has three stories of construction, and Villarreal emphasized that this administration will not grant permits to construct additional levels.
Finally, Mayor Villarreal remarked that his administration will try its best to prevent constructions such as those of Capilla de Piedra in the historic center as well as in those zones that are visible from the monument area.