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Was young female lawyer’s participation in “Small Center” discussion considered unacceptable?

According to Prime Minister’s decree of April 5, 2012 N 301-A, a working group for developing legal recommendation for improvement of urban development of Yerevan, which will involve among others “Armenian Young Lawyers Association” NGO.
Proposals by the group members and other stakeholders have already been discussed and summarized.
Iravaban.net interviewed reforms specialist of the “AAC National Network Development” project Sona Harutyunyan.

– In what way was AYLA, an advocacy organization, involved in the urban development group mainly composed of architects and constructors?

– On March 15, 2012 at Government’s session on “Old Yerevan” project, the Prime Minister stressed importance of stricter policy and regulations in urban development in “Small Center”, which will ban tall buildings downtown and will preserve historical buildings. He called on setting up a group of professionals including representatives of public and NGOs. Our organization also took an interest and proposed my candidacy.
You accurately pointed that the group is mainly composed of professionals like chief architect of Yerevan, head of their union, etc.

AYLA cares about the future of Yerevan and is concerned over recent neglect to cultural monuments, which is a result of negligence to law by the “constructors” which, in turn, greatly damages the country. Here is where the issues come to the legal field. The working groups is also about development of legal grounds for preservation of the cultural heritage. Let me mention that the group is headed by the deputy minister of urban development Ruzan Alaverdyan.

– What legal recommendations were made by AYLA for the “Small Center” construction regulation?

– We addressed the issue from legal and urban development aspects. Some of our recommendations were about increasing parks in Yerevan and others were about setting up regulations. It’s mainly about lack of recreation areas, parks in Yerevan and the ones that are available are occupied by private business, cafes and tasteless constructions. We always admire the Western cities and how things are arranged there, but never try to improve thing here. It is important to revitalize the irrigation of potential green areas, ensure spaces for trees in yards (including yards of luxury buildings).
As to urban development standards, I must say that Yerevan is full of new elite buildings which are by design not complied to city architecture. «Modern» style buildings do not reflect the traditional architecture and the vision of the original designer of Yerevan Alexander Tamanyan. In all European countries any new construction preserves the overall city style and does not eliminate the architectural heritage. It is important to preserve at least what has remained of the Old Yerevan and pass it on to generations. It is necessary to limit the height of buildings downtown to 5 floors and force tall building constructors out of the center. The stones used must reflect the color and shape of other old buildings.
Another problem is subways which are crowded with booths and block passage. Problems are numerous, but we believe the issues we raise are relevant.

– The working group had two meetings. What was the atmosphere of discussion of proposals?

– On May 23, 2012 the first meeting took place which was attended by the mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan. During the second meeting which was in working format and not official as the first one, many legal proposals were made.
I must say that participation of AYLA was not well-perceived by the group which created certain tensions. Explanations were many. First, participants didn’t like the fact of a non-architectural or non construction organization attendance. It seemed like lawyers have nothing to do with developing laws on urban development. Also, I was the only representative of the beautiful gender which created discomfort for the elderly male group members who did not want to take me seriously. Such distrust to young people and women hinders the development of our country today. I don’t fall in despair and I believe that if our recommendations weren’t serious, it wouldn’t have caused so much commotion.

– Which of AYLA’s recommendations were included into the final package?

– Based on the summary we received, they have included the following:
• Increase of green areas in downtown areas, including yards.
• Separation of “Small Center” (Old Yerevan) and relocation of construction to other parts of yerevan.
• Limitation of construction of tall buildings and proper regulation.
• Referral of issues of urbanization (including underground passages).
These is not final data, as it was summarized based on discussion. The plan is to discuss each individual proposal in the near future at the next session of the group.

– Will this project be another declarative piece of paper?

– I’m sure it will not turn into another formal paper. Let’s not lose belief. We have very good laws in all areas and the only problem is that they are not enforced and the agencies responsible for implementing them, don’t do it. We are the ones to be consistent and we are young and want to fight the good fight.

Sona Harutyunyan says that AYLA has started the initiative of returning the green areas of Yerevan to their true owners – citizens. There are many areas, where tall buildings have occupied th place of parks.

Nune Hovsepyan

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