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Thursday, November 27 2014 @ 09:48 PM EST

Supreme Court Decision Tosses Out San Francisco Zoning Changes

Real Estate By MONICA PALM for La Prensa - A ruling by the Supreme Court just put several apartment buildings under construction in San Francisco in check. A week ago, the judges of the Third Chamber, Víctor Benavides (rapporteur), Jacinto Cárdenas (for Winston Spadafora) and Hipólito Gill (for Adán Arjona), declared null for being illegal a decision by the Ministry of Housing (MIVI) which modified the parameters of zoning rules and eliminated the requirement for 35% of the land to be reserved for landscaping in that area. Until then, the height restrictions for land zoned RM (medium density residential) and RM1 (high density residential) was six and fifteen floors respectively, including levels for parking. These conditions were established in Resolution Number 112 of 2003, signed by the then housing minister Miguel Batista. In the same way, height restrictions were established on lands zoned as MCU1, MCU2 and MCU3 (mixed urban commercial low, medium and high density), depending on the line of construction. The system was implemented throughout San Francisco, except for areas of Boca La Caja and San Sebastian. But these limitations did not last long. On 31 August 2005, barely a year after being appointed as the new Housing Minister, Balbina Herrera issued Resolution No. 235-2005, which eliminated almost all of the restrictions contained in the 2003 resolution. In one fell swoop and without any kind of public consultation, Herrera decided the height of the buildings would be restricted "according to the density" of each property. Thus, where previously zoning restrictions only allowed a building no taller than 15 stories, suddenly buildings of more than 60 stories were being built. The height of the buildings was determined "at the discretion" of the promoters. Herrera's decision had a broader impact on the Vía Cincuentenario, where almost all of the land is zoned RM1. In that area seven high-rise buildings now stand; Moon Tower, Sorrento del Mar, Vision, Puntarenas, Icon (which is almost finished), Bahía del Golf and Náutica.

Such permissiveness was not appreciated by the neighbors. Organized in the Residents Association of Altos del Golf, Loma Alegre and surrounding areas, the group filed a petition for annulment against Resolution No. 235, which was admitted by the Third Room of the Supreme Court on 28 May 2008. The complainants allege Herrera's actions violated the Law Number 6 of 2002 (the "Transparency Act"), because she never convened a public forum to consult with those affected. The view was shared by the Office of Administration, who also asked to have this resolution annulled. In its ruling, the Third Room of the Supreme Court found there were "irregularities" in the actions of the MIVI authorities. A lawyer for the residents felt that any project currently in the earthmoving phase of construction, or which has installed foundations, pilings, or the construction of slabs for floors or parking will have to conform to the limitations contained in the 2003 resolution. It was unclear what will happen to buildings that have already been built to the 16th floor or above. The current Housing Minister, Carlos Duboy, said those buildings under construction will be reviewed "to see if they comply with existing rules." (See Comments)

Editor's Comment: Whoops! One more illegal act of corruption on the part of another former Minister from the administration of Martin Torrijos comes to light. This was another of the "public secrets" - a remnant from the administration of Martin Torrijos. And of course, what no one wants to say is that there was probably millions of dollars in bribes paid in order to make this happen. Do you have any idea how much money was in play? Millions, if not billions, of dollars. Have you ever looked at the skyline of Panama City and wondered "where is the city planning, the zoning and regulations, it all seems so out of control..." Exactly. No control. That's what the developers and promoters got for their money. And of course, they wanted it to keep going, which is why guys like Herman Bern held $1,000 per plate fund raisers for Balbina Herrera while she was campaigning - the developers and builders loved her. Now of course, they are probably not so happy. Don't worry, if they end up not being able to build these buildings they will probably just screw over the foreigners who trusted the government of Panama to be able to regulate such massive growth. You know how the game goes, "we're just going to keep your money, and you have every right in the world to sue me in a Panamanian court if you can find a lawyer to take the case. Good luck with that." And here's the kicker - if Balbina Herrera had won the election the Supreme Court would have tossed out this case. That's how "justice" works in Panama. But since the worm has turned it's now "dog pile on the wabbit..."

FALLO REIVINDICA A VECINOS POR CAMBIO INCONSULTO DE ZONIFICACIONES

La Corte pone a temblar las torres de San Francisco

La Sala III anuló una decisión de Balbina Herrera, que dejó ‘al arbitrio’ de los promotores la altura de los edificios.

DESAFÍO. En la Vía Cincuentenario, hay varios rascacielos. La norma dice que la altura permitida es de hasta 15 pisos, incluyendo los de estacionamientos. LA PRENSA/Noriel Gutiérrez MÓNICA PALM mpalm@prensa.com

Un fallo de la Corte Suprema de Justicia acaba de poner en jaque a varios condominios en construcción en San Francisco.

Hace una semana, los magistrados de la Sala III, Víctor Benavides (ponente), Jacinto Cárdenas (suplente de Winston Spadafora) e Hipólito Gill (suplente de Adán Arjona), declararon nula por ilegal una decisión del Ministerio de Vivienda (Mivi) que modificó los parámetros a las normas de zonificación y eliminó el 35% requerido para áreas verdes en el mencionado corregimiento.

Hasta entonces, la altura para las fincas con zonificación de uso de suelo RM (residencial de mediana densidad) y RM1 (residencial de alta densidad) era de hasta seis y 15 plantas, respectivamente, incluyendo las losas de estacionamientos.

Esas condiciones fueron establecidas en la Resolución No. 112 de 2003, que firmó el entonces ministro de Vivienda, Miguel Batista. Del mismo modo, se establecieron límites a la altura de las zonificaciones MCU1, MCU2 y MCU3 (mixto comercial urbano de baja, mediana y alta densidad), dependiendo de la línea de construcción.

El ordenamiento fue aplicado en todo el territorio de San Francisco, exceptuando los sectores de Boca La Caja y San Sebastián.

Pero estas limitaciones no durarían mucho tiempo.

De un plumazo

El 31 de agosto de 2005, apenas un año después de haber sido designada ministra de Vivienda, Balbina Herrera dictó la Resolución No. 235-2005, que eliminó casi todas las restricciones contenidas en la resolución de 2003.

De un plumazo y sin consultar, Herrera decidió que la altura de las edificaciones sería determinada “según la densidad” de cada finca.

Así, donde antes solo se permitía un edificio de 15 altos, de pronto se alzó una torre de hasta 60 pisos. La altura quedó “al arbitrio” de los promotores.

La decisión de Herrera tuvo mayor alcance en la Vía Cincuentenario, donde casi todos las fincas son RM1. A lo largo de ese tramo, actualmente se levantan siete rascacielos: Moon Tower, Sorrento del Mar, Vision, Puntarenas, Icon (ya casi listo), Bahía del Golf y Náutica.

Una medida inconsulta

Semejante permisividad no fue del agrado de los vecinos.

Organizados en la Asociación de Residentes de la Urbanización Altos del Golf, Loma Alegre y áreas aledañas, el grupo presentó una demanda de nulidad en contra de la Resolución No. 235, que fue admitida por la Sala III el 28 de mayo de 2008.

Los quejosos alegan que la actuación de Herrera violó la Ley 6 de 2002 (“Ley de Transparencia”), ya que jamás convocó a un foro público para consultar a los afectados. El criterio fue compartido por la Procuraduría de la Administración, que también pidió anular el acto. En su fallo, la Sala III consideró que hubo “irregularidades” en las actuaciones de las autoridades del Mivi.

El abogado de los residentes opinó que todo proyecto que se encuentre en movimiento de tierra, colocación de pilotes, fundaciones o construcción de losas de estacionamiento, tendrá que ajustarse a las limitaciones contenidas en la resolución de 2003.

No quedó claro qué pasará con los edificios que ya van por el piso 16 o por encima de éste.

El ministro de vivienda actual, Carlos Duboy, informó que los proyectos en construcción serán revisados, “para ver si cumplen con las normas vigentes”.

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