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Controversies and key points in the new Urban Development Plan for Bogotá

A quick look at the Agreement project compared to the previous version indicates there were 7,588 changes, 2,872 replacements, 1,940 insertions, and 1,129 eliminations; and from 693 articles it was reduced to 608. Therefore, it is necessary to study it profoundly to value the adjustments.

However, the claims for incidental participation are still present from the communities because of the negative impacts in their territories due to the new UDP. Despite the requests of extending the adjustment agreement schedule, the Bogotá administration ignored the voices of the citizens, arguing that that process had already been performed.

Read more: Esso and Guadalupe buildings in Bogotá, an avoidable demolition

Why has Bogotá not been able to have a new UDP?

There are four reasons: 1) Increased norms, decrees, and complementary regulations to Law 388 of 1997 that hinder its structuring and technical negotiation with the relevant entities, particularly with CAR; 2) Despite being an instrument of greater hierarchy, the decisions over urban development are agreed with the Development Plan of every administration without including the established in the UDP; 3) There are no real follow-up and assessment mechanisms; 4) Due to regulatory reasons, there are planning decisions not included in the UDP, that “facilitate” the development of the city.

There are two antagonistic views to understand the city and the territory, where it should be headed, what needs to be developed, and what type of interest must be prioritized. A group says the city needs to gather and reflect the needs of the majority, which needs to be territorially expressed and developed in a concerted manner. Another, a minority group with economic interests, considers that the city needs to guarantee investment conditions where property development is the main pillar of the economy that mobilizes other industries and the financial sector, securing an economic employment dynamic.

What is highlighted in the proposal?

Although they share philosophies and principles, the issue is the materialization of the decisions adopted. The UDP protects the Main Ecological Structure (MES); increases the MES are in 21%, passing from 94,925 to 120,290 hectares, acknowledging two more wetlands.

In matters of mobility, it progresses in projecting a multimodal system with a network that covers all the territory, including the subway system, commuter rails, and gondola lifts for the hillsides of the city. However, it maintains its emphasis on the bus transit system (TransMilenio) as the main mobility alternative.

Formula 45 “Care Blocks”, planned to recognize, reduce and redistribute the care load, as the role and the needs of women for the “Caring City” of the Bogotá Care System.

Introduces the notion of “Patrimony Integrating Structures” to value and integrate protection to the cultural, immaterial, and natural legacy, the territorial referrals, and the city entities with economic, and cultural components of the city. However, in practice, the patrimonial matters are reduced solely to the Special Management and Protection Plan of Historic Downtown.

It does not extend the land of the city through the figure of expansion lands, containing its development to the currently occupied area; however, the greatest part of the city land approach turns into an urban renovation, without previous communitarian conception.

What is unclear and continues to be in discussion

Many matters are unclear and, in the discussion, such as Cerro Seco, which varies in size its passes between CAR and the CTPD*, and the current version presented to the City Council that was diminished by 78.38 hectares.

In regards to the five Subways lines, they are not technical studies and lacks clarity over economic sustainability.

There are inconsistencies between the relationship of the figures of population growth, new households, and new required housing units. The demand for developers to a minimum livable area of 42 m2 is recovered. It is not clear if these houses reduce the gaps and vulnerabilities of those living in the city or if they end up in despaired relationships that benefit promoters and developers.

The analysis acknowledges the new households and their needs but does not include those that disappear, the subdivision of houses, the exodus of people from Bogotá due to high localization costs, the existence of considerable numbers of empty houses. Neither an assessment of the changes on single-family to vertical multifamily housing and the impacts on life dynamics.

The project does not approach with sufficient detail the growing densification of informal self-produced neighborhoods. There are no solutions to this current and growing issue. The issues of massification and hyper-densification are ignored. Or increasing public space for required furnishings in these areas.

“Regreening” the city is impossible to comply with and even less with the promise to extend public space and greener living per inhabitant. “Regreening the south” is technically impossible given the technical difficulty and the high costs to materialize Lagos del Tunjuelo going against the citizen perspective to foster an ecological metropolitan park in the south with social and cultural services.

Neither does it reduce or eliminate the Doña Juana landfill, requested by the citizens, as it just changes its name to Innovation park, continuing with the impact on the health of the people.

Regarding regional integration, although this project includes provisions to integrate the city with the region, its approach ignores the independence of the municipalities by taking territorial decisions over them without prior consultation or concertation. It is not clear how these adjustments are going to be made within the framework of the Metropolitan Region or Bogotá-Cundinamarca City-Region. In other words, there are not shared but city-imposed decisions to the regions.

Read more: Key points of the new Organic Statute for Bogotá (in Spanish)

New approaches that produce string discussions and do not lead to citizen consensus

Bogotá requires a not-imposed decentralization and deconcentration process. However, it passes from 20 Localities to 33 Local Planning Units (LPU), within the framework of the “30-minute city”; a discussionable proposal based on dividing the territory and its management, arguing mobility and proximity aspects, without considering the political, cultural and social implications. So, the question is, what happens to the UPZs and the UPRs, and the public funds invested in their definition for 21 years?

The programs and projects do not have clear goals, follow-up indicators, execution times, and budget for its materialization.

It is necessary to carry out a valuation over strategic aspects, to which the UDP does not take responsibility: management of fresh and wastewater, air quality, socio-spatial segregation, inhabitation, and a city model.

This UDP does not include the changes demanded due to COVID-19; it does not include the relationships between habitational needs, the habitat, and the environment, linked to the quality of life; fosters expulsion of territories to intervene; boosts gentrification and increases poverty, and does not speak with the philosophy of the so-called “new social contract” for the city.

What is not included?

Citizen participation in all stages of formulating/reviewing of urban development; detailed technical studies, in matters of risk; the restoration of ecosystem services; the historic environmental debt of the city with the southern border of the city, which has given way to air pollution sources, overpopulation and low water quality, which leads to greater social-environmental segregation and social inequality.

Architect and Urbanist Mario Noriega says, “This new UDP looks like a manual to demolish the city. To increase the building index (B.I.) where the development business lies, they are promoting buying lands. “The more the builder buys, demolishes, and builds, the more buildability to the developer.” If the current UDP has been current for 17 years and five years above the legal effect, this does not compel to replace it with a worse one.”

What is expected of the UDP?

For it to be a simple document and easily accessible to the citizens, product, or an agreed city process. Thinking to secure stability, welfare, and quality of life.

Bogotá needs a new UDP because the city has changed. But one that de-concentrates and decentralizes in a concerted manner; to provide goods, services, and urban furnishing to the most vulnerable territories; that designs the urban planning of the city, providing inclusive economic dynamics; that does not promote densification without infrastructure capacity; that values the cultural legacy, the movable and immovable property, and the landscape as collective patrimony of the people, avoiding its merchantability for development dynamics; to recover the water sources; a UDP that reads, interprets, and advocates for its citizens.

It cannot be approved if its inhabitants feel that the current proposal does not interpret or represent them. A new UDP should be developed and concerted collectively with incidental participation processes; without political hurries, as a guide for the production of life in the city we dream of, and with the full realization of the rights of the city, rurality, and the territory.


*Analysis based on the contribution of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia work team that accompanies the Bogotá Territorial Planning Council (CTPD*, for its Spanish acronym)

Consejo Editorial