Changes to Mobileye's new Jerusalem campus challenged
28 February 2020 - globes
An appeal charges that Mobileye's decision to scrap the high-rise tower and enlarge the other planned buildings deviates from the valid plan.
After approving Mobileye's huge construction project on Har Hahotzvim, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission will hold another hearing on the matter. An appeal was filed against the revised version of the plan, which includes construction of five nine-floor buildings with 135,000 square meters of space. Sources inform "Globes" that the appeal was filed by an organization named "Proper Administration, Transparency, and Ethics in the Local Authorities," led by Natan Kramer. The appeal was filed last week. The organization asserts that a change was recently inserted into the plan "that deviates substantially from the valid plan."
Mobileye, which is based at Har Hahotzvim, specializes in the development, production, and marketing of assisted driving systems for preventing traffic accidents, based on image processing technology, and also develops autonomous driving systems. Intel acquired the company in 2017 for $15.3 billion.
The construction plan promoted by the company for the "Mobileye Campus" applies to a huge site for the use of the company and its employees. Due to the size and importance of the plan, which ensures the company's continued operations in Jerusalem, it is supported by the Jerusalem municipality.
Five buildings of equal size
Mobileye's original plan was to build a campus with five buildings on a twelve-dunam (three-acre) site: four nine-floor buildings and a 30-floor tower. The total built-up space in the plan was 135,000 square meters, and investment in the campus was estimated at NIS 1 billion. The planning institutions approved the plan, including the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission, but the company decided to revise the construction format.
In January 2020, the licensing committee of the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Commission, headed by Eliezer Rauchberger, discussed the company's plan to cancel the tower and distribute the construction rights for it among the other buildings, so that five nine-sfloor buildings would be constructed over a larger area.
The documents from the hearing do not reveal the reason why the company requested the change, but it can be assumed that Mobileye preferred a lower and broader building to a tower requiring its employees to move between a large number of floors.
During the discussion, doubts were raised by committee members about the motive for the change. One of the arguments made against the change was that reducing the number of floors was a tactical move to facilitate future submitting of a new urban building plan including increased construction rights for the site and construction of a new tower. In consultation with Jerusalem municipality legal advisor Adv. Eli Malka and consultation and legislative department head Adv. Yaniv Tayar, it was decided to accept the request, under the assumption that the revision was within the framework of the urban building plan and did not require the submission of a new plan and new hearings by planning institutions. The decision was published on the municipality website and in the press.
Following the hearing, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said, "Mobileye is the pride of Jerusalem. It makes Jerusalem a leader in development of the autonomous vehicle. Mobileye's expansion in Jerusalem shows the strength and power of the technology sector in Jerusalem, which is prospering and expanding. We will continue to develop the technology industry in the city, and to attract additional companies to Jerusalem, which will strengthen the city and create new jobs."
"Significant high and low architectural uniqueness "
The appeal filed by Proper Administration, Transparency, and Ethics in the Local Authorities, however, argues against the change in the plan and the proceeding by which it was approved. The organization that filed the appeal, which is not very well known, was founded in 2015 by Adv. Shalom Kamil from Mazkeret Batya. Kamil told "Globes" that he had left the organization a year ago, and that Kramer now led it. The main contention in the appeal is that the new request constitutes "a major deviation from the plan." The appeal states, "The request deviates substantially from the valid plan. Approval of the plan was based on a special architectural decision to build a 30-storey tower and a planning concept and specific architectural composition with significant high and low architectural uniqueness aimed at giving a specific and clear character to the proposed construction, and so that the plan would provide urban value, and the tower would be a symbol, flag, and source of pride for the city, thereby encouraging more businesses and workplaces in the city."
The organization argues that the licensing committee is enjoined from dealing with any change whatsoever that constitutes a significant deviation from the valid plan, stating "Even if the request does not greatly deviate from the plan (and this is not the appellants' view), the request was still not legally published, and the decision taken on the request contravened the Local Planning and Building Commission's consistent policy, in the absence of the legally required exercise of judgment."
Mobileye said in response, "Mobileye acted in accordance with the municipality's instructions and all of the legal conditions and requirements for receiving a building permit for construction of the new campus in the Har Hahotzvim industrial zone in Jerusalem. This important project will house 2,700 employees. We have no doubt that this project will enable the entire area to prosper. We regret the pointless appeal that was filed, and we will submit our response to the appeals committee hearing the matter."
The Jerusalem municipality said, "The municipality's answer to the appeal will be given in the framework of the hearings in the appeals committee. The Jerusalem municipality welcomes Mobileye's decision to set up its offices in Jerusalem, which will strengthen the city. The Local Planning and Building Commission's decision was given under its legal authority in a proceeding for approving the permit request."