At left, the illegal construction that has been a nightmare for neighbors. At left, the illegal construction that has been a nightmare for neighbors.

Developers blatantly defy zoning laws

At least 120 buildings in Mexico City have more floors than permitted

Authorities in Mexico City have detected more than 120 buildings with more floors than the number permitted, a high-ranking planning official said.

The illegal practice, in which developers blatantly violate land-use regulations, has become increasingly common and in a city that is highly susceptible to seismic activity, potentially devastating.

A deputy prosecutor at the capital’s Environment and Zoning Prosecutor’s Office (PAOT) told the newspaper Milenio that the agency is receiving reports of cases where developers have ignored height restrictions with greater frequency.

“They’re exceeding what the regulations allow,” Emigdio Roa Márquez said, although he added that some of the irregular construction detected dates back years.

The Del Castillo family — residents of the San Pedro de los Pinos neighborhood in the Benito Juárez borough — faced their own personal nightmare when property developer Coinasa-Lonai Desarollos Habitacionales began construction on a new building 10 years ago.

In open defiance of local zoning regulations, the company erected two six-story apartment buildings adjacent to their home in an area where the maximum number of floors permitted is three.

In addition, the company also demolished the previous building on the site without permission, didn’t carry out the required environmental impact studies and failed to obtain a land-use certificate.

Instead, it fraudulently displayed a construction license from a nearby construction project as though it were its own, Jaime del Castillo said.

During the construction process, his home suffered considerable damage that included the appearance of cracks and sinking.

City authorities verified the damage, stating that it began during the early stages of construction, yet the company responsible has not repaired any of it or paid compensation.

In August 2011, the Benito Juárez government succumbed to pressure from local residents and ordered the complete demolition of the building and gave the owner three days to present documentation showing that the work had been scheduled.

But almost six and a half years later, the building is still standing.

The year after the demolition was ordered, two new building approvals from the city’s Secretariat of Urban Planning and Housing suspiciously appeared. One of them authorized the exact number of apartments that had already been built on the site.

María del Carmen Gutiérrez, another local resident who opposed the project, said that she was surprised that construction approval was granted for a building that had already been built.

Del Castillo was blunter. “It’s precisely corruption,” he said, suggesting that borough or city authorities had colluded with the developer.

The longtime resident of the neighborhood added that in the event of another earthquake, the irregular construction could be fatal.

“. . . They’re time bombs, they’re time bombs that are going to cost many lives,” he said.

A representative of sustainable development organization Suma Urbana agreed that corruption in the construction sector is a problem, but in contrast to Del Castillo, she said that the problem had already claimed lives.

“The way this city has grown has been irregular and illegal. The buildings that were unfortunately affected [in the earthquake]. . . are ones that are linked to real estate corruption,” Josefina McGregor said.

Source:  Milenio (sp)

Reader forum