Penang Island: Paradise … for developers


Many parts of Penang Island could soon see a three- to five-fold increase in density – without adequate supporting infrastructure, warns Penang Forum representative Dr Lim Mah Hui. This could have a disastrous impact on the quality of life.

We are told that high-density projects will reportedly affect “only” 109ha. (That’s 270 acres of our tiny island, mind you.) Already 14 projects have been approved. It is believed that they affect the following areas:

1 Jalan CY Choy,
2 Jln. Macalister,
3 Jln. Seang Teik,
4 Lrg Perak,
5 Sungai Ara,
6 Bukit Gambiar (two projects),
8 Lembah Permai,
9 Jln Jelutong (two projects),
11 Jln Paya Terubong,
12 Jln Perak,
13 Jln Tanjong Tokong and
14 Jln Lantau Jerejak.

It is not just 109ha that will be affected. Think of the cumulative traffic congestion in all the surrounding areas and approach roads. Remember, all this is being approved and carried out as policy – even before the Penang Transport Masterplan has been made public and even before consultation for the ‘Penang Paradigm’ (which increasingly looks like a waste of time) can take place later this week. And there has been very little open consultation with the public over the “fine-tuning” of high-density guidelines.

And why are more and more developers so keen on building so-called small office/home office (Soho) units? Well, they offer the potential for even higher density – up to five times higher!

And it’s not as if all these high-rise units are fully occupied. Take a look at night at any new high-rise condo building and see how many units are lit indicating that they are actually occupied.

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Before long, as we draw closer to gridlock, Penang will be transformed into a giant car park, with concrete, tarmac and road widening wiping out greenery and displacing trees.

Ironically, this comes even as the state government is touting Penang’s green credentials, liveability and quality of life to overseas investors and target groups.

This is Mah Hui’s speech at the full council meeting of the MPPP today:

I would like to raise two urgent issues – the guidelines for 87 units per acre and for small office/home office (Soho) – that require public consultation under the policy of Competence, Accountability and Transparency (CAT). These two issues will significantly have an impact on the lives of residents in Penang because of the three-fold increase in density (from 30 units/acre to 87 units/acre) for the first set of guidelines and a possible five-fold (156 units/acre) increase under the guidelines for Soho – compared to the (aborted) Penang Global City Centre project of 37 units/acre.

See his full address here.

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  1. It is easier to change the set of leaders but the operating/governing system/process and mentality stays and take time to change.

    It would a challenge for DAP to balance the many expectations of many Penang NGOs within existing ‘system’ and mindset.

    Public consultation, transparency and accountability do improved, or it is not?.

    Human never God, therefore is unreliable, we must rely on good governing processes. Public can only be the ‘boss’ with good governing processes established without abuses. Don’t agree DAP still the best choice among all parties in term of offering good governing process, or not? want try Umno or MCA out? MCA would ensure you Unisex salon but not Lynas, not PKFZ, not NFC.

    Then again, don’t give DAP chance, disagree with them! exposure them! press them! (criticise) LGE… do not let them settle down at comfort zone at current prevailing system, they must correct these.

  2. Oh dear. I hate to say this, it seems we just love to skew the discussion and refuse to thing from all angles.

    In fact, high residential density doesn’t mean low quality of life, and low resident density doesn’t mean better preservation.

    Few people willing to admit that, Mahathir “middle kingdom centralisation” has destroy Malaysia flexibility of township planning. State government can do little to curb the price nor “lower” the cost , because properties selling tax can only be imposed by central government, this is unlike REAL federation country like USA.

    And bare in mind that, few Malaysia willing to learn that, the “inflation” properties price also cause by central bank money issuance (AKA money printing) policies. It is IMPOSSIBLE to jack up properties price if the market with little money supplies. However, if the market works, with adequate “penalties” on land assessment fees and etc fees, Penang government may use it to fund housing project for mid-low income residents.

    However, the mentality of “high density = more road” should not continue. IMHO, small Island like Penang should remove wide road and experiment with low pollution private transport, such as bicycle and small electric empower vehicle.

    I know most of you will complain that it not feasible. However, the metropolitan of Beijing and Shanghai (50~80 times population of Penang Island) , 20~30% of population is moved by electric bicycle, and this figures is 100 times more people compare to Penang and nearby Perak population.

    Whether you like it or not, in the long run, bicyle and electric assist bicycle is CHEAPER than BUS, and thousands times cheaper than those MRT,PRT,BRT infrastructure jokes. A typical electric assist bicycle can easily cover a 30-50km range. And the light vehicle road pavement and maintenance is 100 times cheaper than typical motor vehicle road.

    Now, if Penang REMOVE 1 lane, 1km of tar motor road, GUESS how much land you recover? (1000m x 3.5m ) = 3500 square meters. And a football fields is around 7140 square meters .

    Penang people can keep whining about “high density” and expensive land, or support reclaims the wasteful road and adapt the electric bicycle riding behavior. And when you GET RID of your car, you cut down the space for “parking” in landed/unlanded properties. For high-rise, this mean slashing at least RM10k from the new property purchase cost.

    Although it may sound “aggressive” for many people refuse to think out of context, I think this is a “progressive” way to improve living lifestyle, reduce stress and heavy motor-vehicle crash. Don’t forget, parents who drive their children to school, are the WORST bunch of drivers in the world when they reach the school compound, cause more traffics, more stress and more crash.

    Otherwise, Penang-ties can choose continue whining, inhaling the imported cheapo sulfur-petrol fume, hot-island effect tar-paved road, expensive housing and lack of parking, and keep their self-inflicted dangerous driving habits.

    For those still refuse to live without their car, polluted motorcycle, they can always pay VERY EXPENSIVE parking fees to compensate for those who suffer from it. Perhaps this will cut down tons of mat-rempit in Penang, well, if you know what I mean.

  3. Penangites , one must be awake and move with times. If one wants lower density ratio , only Island preference , low cost and drive around, all of you are are expecting the moon. High density can accommodate more units , lower cost and cater Island only folks. Asked yourself why developed countries like Japan, South Korea or Western Countries where there are all automotive builders, prefer to use public transport in weekdays and weekends on private vehicles. If this is adopted over in Penang , traffic will be smooth. One will complaint of poor public transport, this is a failure of our dear MCA Transport Minister to come with a holistic approach. On high sky high property prices , this is not just in Penang and across Malaysia. The atmosphere of property speculation is over prevalent that Federal Govt latest measure of 5% increase of property tax just a very weak policy to curb speculation. To all Penangites same myself, if one can’t afford upmarket property in the Island , holistically be prepared to opt for properties over at mainland fine example on going Batu Kawan Project, have an effective shuttle and public transport to the Island where MRT will probably resolve the matter. To live in a developed Penang when all the deployments is in place, living in Island and mainland is still Penang unless mentality of living in the mainland is inferior or have a mindset of islanders Di bawah tempurong .

    • Do not expect good and efficient public transport in Malaysia as the key focus of our policy makers is to manufacture more cars to sell to you so as to make more money and to save Proton.

      Remember Pak Lah said that he reduced petrol subsidy to channel money for better public transportation? ask yourself if this is ‘janji ditepati’?

      There is another conspiracy theory why public transportation can never be improved in Malaysia and it has to do with ensuring high property price/rental in the city. If public transportation is efficient, one can live far away and this will reduce the yield of private property in the city. Think about it.

      • I just want to repeat this, FORGET ABOUT BUS, start thinking about the light vehicle such as bicycle/electric assist bicycle.

        People just keep giving excuses of sweating, safety,etc, However, there is more motor-cycling and pedestrian getting killed on the road annually than bicycle riders.

        For those with bigger pocket, a electric assist bicycle can easily move a person 25km/h with little sweat, where the breeze will cool your body down. And this also save you thousands in joining “fitness club” membership fees.

        IMHO, it is much easier to lobby for bicycle lanes in Penang due to its dense population. Car drivers will not happy if wide road and road side parking converted to bicycle lanes. But in the long run, everybody wins.

      • moot, some may not like the idea of electric bicycles & pedal bicycles in a slippery Cosmopolitan Penang.

        All cosmo things on the island of ‘Bing Chui’ will have to be flashy bling-bling like new cars, new richie residents (no need of locals who cannot ‘afford’ to stay on the fantasy island but a big welcome to ‘portable but not loyal’ foreigners with mobile fat bank accounts), SOHO designer studios, Starry-Eyed Bucks cafes, Kimmy Garish HongKee restaurants, expensive lifestyle fitting to the glitzy eyes of fellas with deep pockets & hifi lifestyle of the rich & famous, & of course to be a ‘photocopy’ of everything SingLand or HK.
        To them, bicycles are as low standard as the bullock carts of ghetto Calcutta.

        All they want is a change of the landscape of Penang to one fitting for global cosmopolitan city of living in the fast lane that does away with anything as basic & slow as a bicycle. I fear the rest of our heritage things within the city are also just transforming into cosmetics niceties without authenticity of old world charm to conserve.

        Already the Penang Hill Railway is still in progress of more senseless transformation. Well, some may give the ‘excuse’ of better than nothing from the Feds in terms of development fund & more tourists up the hill, which btw is already choking itself beyond capacity. This sort of excuse doesn’t buy at all when things get from bad to worst in terms of bad, unforgettable (-ve) tourism experience & degradation of environment.

        Unless, a lifestyle bicycle that stays (forever) on the car rack with see-thro rain cover just for ego-show is from Mercedes or Litespeed Blade.
        Top 10 Most Expensive Bicycles in the World:

  4. Housing is now a commodity that is being speculated.
    Property developers made big money with the help of Property Consultants…!

    This is a nationwide problem, not just in Penang.
    If only our Housing Minister could focus on such matter and not the trivial Tong Sampah.

  5. I think at 87 units per acres is not much of a problem as long as the apartment and the surrounding areas are well planned. Look at the high density of Rifle Range, Kg Melayu and Farlim compared to the areas in Jalan Thean Teik and Perak Road which are well planned. Even with a proper transportation plan, as long as car and vehicle keep increasing the problems will still be there. The only solution is to have less vehicle on the road such as having an occupation certificate for car or vehicle or any vehicle above 10 or 15 years must be taken off the road. This will be very unpopular as many will not be able to won a car anymore. And to implement this you must have a very good and affordable transportation.

    The problem with the people is not high density. The problem is a 700 or 878 sq ft apartment is now going for 300K and 400k over. As I have said before, the LGE govt must solve this issue should they still govern Penang otherwise it will be poo chit for them in the next GE.

  6. Its not a choice. If you want to move to Mass Transport instead of personal vehicle, density has to go up or it won’t pay for the Mass Transport. And density has to go up FIRST. Even just to afford to build roads for bus transport, density still has to go up. My own estimate shows it has to be EVEN higher than proposed to have a real efficient low-cost self-sustaining Mass Transit or it will have to be subsidised heavily…

    Solving these kinds of problem take a lot of public trust. Unfortunately UMNO/BN spent all of it..

    • Before density goes up, please let there be adequate infrastructure to cope with it. If the developers are going to benefit from the increased density they should be made to build these infrastructure. Having a high density without any supporting infrastructure will create a disaster. You cannot put the cart before the horse. It must occur simultaneously or even better, subsequent to better infrastructure. A mass transit can already be implemented in Pg and be made self-sustaining so long as there is no corruption involved. Projects in Malaysia are not self-sustaining simply because of corruption and abuse of power, not because of density or any other excuse commonly given to the public to challenge their intelligence.

  7. Why SOHO?
    Is there a real demand for such development or is it the profitable fantasies of greedy developers out to make another ‘trend’ killing? How many Penangites are enterprising to go soho given the poor financial access for local entrepreneurs except the bumis?

    We know the profitability of building such expensive ‘trendy’ SOHO units which compared to low cost units also have about the same sq. ft area, why are these developers reluctant (in the first place) to build smaller units for families but instead bigger ones (of more than 1,000 sq ft) at super rich men’s prices?
    Don’t tell me this is the all encompassing lifestyle ‘trend’ of cosmopolitan living, which don’t gel at all with majority of Penangites’ low purchasing power, 80’s earning levels & difficult financial access (no matter how much & how fast ones can upgrade ones’ careers / businesses in such a short time to match such super-expensive home / office development except striking a lottery or Ta Ma Cai).

    This kind of development truly SUCKS to the core. SUCKS for the wrong kind of development for needs that may not exist in great numbers.
    Another consumer marketing flaws at ‘play’ with development-hungry state gomen BUT at the expense of Penangites & environment.
    High time for Kapitan Lim to sit down with his ‘venerable team’ to look at it from Penangites’ perspective (not from greed of developers) and not brand us Penangites as kau peh kau boh for no reasons.

    The other day, while talking to a millionaire friend staying in Fettes Residence, he told me his super expensive home price has within 2 years sky-rocketed to Rm2.8 million (1k+ sf). Yet the great number of units are foreign owned who don’t stay there all year round except for a few months in a year which makes the place quite eerily ghostly-empty. And he was not too happy for himself as well as for Penangites.

    At least my Kopi-O kau kau is down-to-earth for the affordable reason & need.

    • tunglang
      I still prefer tradional kopitiam kopi o kau kau.

      fyi in case you go starry$, then cheapest deal is 12oz Coffee Americano at RM7.40 after tax which is equivalent to 7 cups of kopi-o with loose change of 40 sen to pay half hour parking outside SOHO.

      cheers !!!

      • You are absolute right, brother.
        Not all beverages have to be ‘imported’ in order to drink to one’s fullest satisfaction sans gaya-raya or ‘pok kai’.

        The same for choice of women. Who says foreign Marilyn Monroe is more desirable than our local Saloma?
        Or who says SinkahPoh Hokkien Mee is better than Penang’s Ori-Maestro Hokkien Mee with real ‘hae’?

        I prefer to be grounded, realistic & stable in my thoughts, tastes & feelings after a cuppa of kopitiam Kopi-O kau kau than being slippery, dizzy & miserably superficial beyond control from a binge of Absolut Vodka or Singland’s yuppie’s Tiger Beer!

  8. Welcome to the world of Kapitan Lim …

    More issues will crop up prior PRU 13. The Rakyat are unhappy, but, we can continue crowing how efficient, how clean, how people friendly, the DAP led Government is, is it?

    At the beginning we thought, well Penang is going to follow Singapore’s formulae of development with lots of greeneries, but what you are going to get are slums! Singapore as an island is smaller than Penang, how is it that it is able to develop so nicely, with so much greens with so much liveable flats? And Penang?

    Go down to the grounds, you get that feeling of uneasiness as a PR person, talk to the people, you get the truth. I was in Penang last Saturday with my friend, Mr. Lim. We were able to communicate with a few people on the streets, and I can say, the feelings are different now from what it was a year back.

    Perhaps, the economic recession has begun to bite, business is decreasing, incomes less, overheads high, besides there are too many complaints about Kapitan Lim.

    Perhaps, we spoke to the wrong people, perhaps they were MCA supporters, but, what Lim translated to me isn’t comfortable.

    Who is the most unpopular DAP YB? Is it true that there is a book about the wrong doings of Kapitan Lim being widely circulated? Is it true that today, there are three factions in DAP Penang? All wanting to fight for position and power? Greed, lust for power will ensure that DAP will be a one term wonder, I am sorry folks, many of you will disagree, but, just open up, find out, ask.

    We are sad to read of what is happening to Penang with the approval of 105 acres of land with density of 87 units and perhaps going to 150 per acre? Who are the developers who are given the approval? The Rakyat has a right to know.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!

    Selamatkan Pulau Pinang! …

    • I think we must first realise that the problems of high density started way before LGE even came out of prison. It is not something new. Pls don’t tell me that before this high-rise development on the island was 30 units/acre. Whoever believes that is either plain stupid or blind. You don’t even have to know how to count to know that.
      Most complaints against LGE are due to the rising cost of living and sharp rise in property prices. That again is occuring throughout Malaysia. You get that in KL, JB, PJ, Shah Alam, Subang. In KL, some condos costs more than RM 5 million a unit. Surely then it is not his fault entirely. No doubt the state can place restrictions and quotas to limit property prices, which they have recently done.
      I do not know about factions in DAP because I am not a politician and to be honest I don’t care. There is no such thing as a good angelic politician. Greed and lust for power are common values in all politicians, not just those in Pakatan, otherwise they wouldn’t be in politics. We have to merely choose the lesser evil. Most Penangites will tell you that this govt has performed well relatively and that they see improvements from before.

    • Ahmad, did you finally wake up from hibernation or hallucination or illusion? Now you also can’t stand Tokong Lim! What a transformation within months! tHE tOKONG HAS BECOME tOUKONG! He will eventually evolved to become one of the most unpopular leader. With more than 70% of the Penang based journalists going against him, soon we will be able to send him packing like KTK.
      PR without the solid support of Malay, will not be able to stand a chance against BN. With Malay ,Indian and Chinese votes all steadily eroding, DAP Penang will be left alone to win the election.
      I have read the fortune of lgE and TCY, both will not become CM. I finally found the candidate for the next CM, and I will go all out to assist him to win the election.
      Last sunday, I finally defeated one of the most reputed NGO, forcing the office bearers to lie thru’ their teeth. To support a stupid and dumb Tokong, the NGO finally compromised it’s integrity, dignity and honesty.


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