Jerusalem mayor freezes Safdie plan

Sunday, November 26, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski has frozen the heated Safdie plan, which would have expanded Jerusalem westward, after a successful public campaign by environmentalists who said the project would damage Jerusalem’s forests.

The plan, named for the architect Moshe Safdie who designed it, called for the construction of 20,000 housing units on more than 26 square kilometers of natural woodlands west of Jerusalem, in one of the largest construction projects ever proposed in Israel.

The mayor’s decision, which was praised by green groups as “courageous,” followed prosperous protests and petitions signed by 50 parliament members from all political streams.

Environmentalists are scheduled to meet with Lupolianski on Sunday to discuss alternate housing projects within the city, Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling said.

The building and planning committee was to determine how much space is available in Jerusalem, but this is likely to become irrelevant due to the mayor's change of heart.

The environmentalist groups claim the Safdie plan would alter Jerusalem's historic vistas and destroy the remnants of open spaces around the city.

Alternative possibilities for construction were to expand eastward, but plans were frozen due to US opposition.

Safdie has said that had the government approved an eastward expansion he never would have drawn up a proposal to expand Jerusalem to the west.

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