How projects get approved

The status and the tasks of the local planning and construction committee require some clarification. It is often confused with the district committee, which is part of the Interior Ministry, where the municipality has representatives but has a very different status and decides on different issues.
According to the rules of the ministry, the local planning and construction committee is headed by the mayor, and its members are all on the city council. To enable practical working practice, the committee has a subcommittee, which is presided over by one of the mayor’s deputies, and on which each party on the council has at least one representative. This is the committee to which any resident can submit a construction plan or a request to make a change in his property, such as adding a room, enclosing a balcony, adding a story or changing the use of the property, such as turning a hotel into apartments or turning a house into a kindergarten. All these alterations require a permit by the local committee, and anyone who makes such changes without this permit is acting illegally. The first step necessary to obtain such a permit is to prove ownership of the property.
Among the considerations of the committee in granting a permit are to what extent the alteration fits the master plan of the city, not to mention opposition of the residents. The committee might decide to request changes in the plan submitted in order to approve it.
But there is another way to promote a construction plan. Jerusalem is based on a zoning plan. According to it, wherever there is an area where some construction has been included in the plan, there is no way to prevent it from being implemented.
“If, for example, a developer sees that there is a zoning plan to build 48 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev and he succeeds in buying the plot from the Israel Lands Administration, we cannot prevent him from building them,” explains Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon.
“The only thing we can do is give him a construction permit.”
Such cases occur all over the city, including all the post-1967 neighborhoods.
But there is no way that anyone on the local committee could know in advance what permit requests will be submitted.
Recently, construction projects in the post-1967 neighborhoods have created lot of political tension. While there hasn’t been a freeze on construction for Arab or Jewish residents who submitted requests for smallscale construction permits, and according to Kahlon there is no freeze on new construction projects, it is not clear how things will develop after September 26, the official date the freeze ends.
At present, there are no projects – housing or public structures – planned or under construction in any of the post-1967 neighborhoods. All the recent projects that have caused a rift between the Obama administration and Israel – such as in Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, French Hill, Har Homa and especially Ramat Shlomo – are already in the hands of the district committee and are no longer under municipal authority.
Kahlon says that at the moment no plans to build any new housing units for Jewish residents in any of the post- 1967 neighborhoods have been submitted to his committee. But he emphasizes that if a developer buys a plot in one of those neighborhoods and submits a request to build there, according to the zoning plan there is no legal recourse to stop him.
Another factor is the Israel Lands Administration, which delivers the tenders for the plots for construction.
Again, the local planning and construction committee cannot prevent or even coordinate an “appropriate” timing for it. In these post- 1967 neighborhoods – Ramot Eshkol, Givat Hamivtar, French Hill, Neveh Ya’acov, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, East Talpiot and Har Homa – there are about 240,000 Jewish residents.
FOR THE last two weeks, the local committee has not met due to the summer vacation. As of September, the large planning and construction projects on its agenda or in the process of construction are the following: • The National Library, which will replace the Jewish National and University Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. It will be built across from the Israel Museum (awaiting a permit).
• Cinema City, a large complex of movie theaters at the entrance to the city (under construction).
• The new state comptroller’s building, a seven-story office structure (under construction).
• Gate to the New City, a large complex of hotels, offices, and commercial and entertainment facilities located between Binyenei Ha’uma, the Bridge of Strings and Sderot Herzl (in the planning stage).
• The Olympic Swimming Pool, a large sports and leisure complex near Malha mall (in the planning stage) • The Arena, a huge complex of sport halls in the southern part of the city, near Malha mall (under construction) • The IDF College on Mount Scopus, a complex for special study facilities for the use of the educational department of the IDF, near the Hebrew University (in the planning stage) • An addition to the Begin Highway, south to Gilo (in the planning stage).
All these large-scale projects have been planned on the basis of what the new master plan permits in terms of adding large areas for tourism, entertainment and commerce, mainly close to the western entrance and the southern part of the city.