Spatial disorder in many parts of Jakarta is the result of unenforced spatial regulations. People may convert their properties, particularly from residential into commercial facilities at will, without any legal consequences.
That is what has happened in Kemang and Tebet, both in South Jakarta, where violations of the special regulations on spatial planning have been rampant. Kemang, known as a residential area for expatriates, has now turned into a fashionable commercial area dotted with cafes, bookstores, supermarkets, fast food chains, antique and boutique shops. Tebet, meanwhile, has morphed into a popular culinary destination.
Knowing the damage has been done, the city administration is trying to formalize the changes by declaring both Kemang and Tebet 'special zones'. A draft bylaw on the city's detailed spatial plan ( RDTR ) says that, thanks to the special zone status awarded to the two areas, houses there can be converted into commercial spaces.
'The land use is for housing, but they may use the first floor for commercial purposes. Regulations for building space, floor and height remain the same,' Darwin Syam Siregar, a team leader in charge of the formulation of the RDTR draft at the Spatial Planning Agency, said on Monday.
Such a compromise only indicates that the city authorities are powerless against the rampant spatial regulation violations. The city administration did nothing more than revise its own regulation.
If the city administration tolerates the spatial violations in Kemang and Tebet, other areas will for sure ask for equal treatment, unless the administration practices discrimination. People living on the main road of Pondok Indah, also in South Jakarta, for example, have long demanded a change to the status of their properties into commercial spaces because the area is no longer a convenient place to reside.
Spatial regulation violations were evident in the appropriation of the Senayan area in Central Jakarta. It was originally dedicated to sports and green areas, but now a large part of it has turned into commercial spaces such as shopping malls, hotels, office buildings and apartments. In the same manner, many swampy areas in the northern part of the city have changed functions.
Jakartans today are bearing the brunt of the excessive spatial regulation breaches of the past. The city's green zone has declined to less than 10 percent of Jakarta's territory of 675 square kilometers, while the national spatial law requires a city to allocate 30 percent of its territory for open and green areas. Worse, the violations have resulted in, or contribute to, the acute problems that the city now faces, such as traffic congestion and annual flooding.
The effectiveness of a government can be measured by its ability to enforce the law. For the good of the city and its people, the city administration has to let the public scrutinize the draft bylaw on the detailed spatial plan before its deliberation at the City Council just to make sure that any adjustments to the current spatial regulation do not further degrade the environment.