Kalenderpanden evicted 31 october 2000

Demonstration Sunday 1st october, report

The city government (owner of the Kalenderpanden) wants to kick us out (thereby destroying our subcultural, low-budget, critical living and workingplace) and sell the building to some millionairs.

Luxury apartments in the "Kalenderpanden", whatever next?!
In these squatted warehouses in Amsterdam you can find concerts, performances, food, an infocafe and giveaway shop, information evenings, parties and many other activities - something happening almost every day.
But if the city council get their way, in the very near future there will be, instead of all these cultural activities, 47 luxury apartments with private parking spaces...

From 3rd October, the current users of the Kalenderpanden can be evicted by the police.
We refuse to leave because Kalenderpanden is not only a non-commercial venue, but also a protest against the direction Amsterdam is developing in.
The form of the 'new Amsterdam' is becoming clearer and clearer: a city where the centre is affordable only for the rich, with lower-income people, immigrants and students pushed out to deprived neighbourhoods.
People living in houseboats, artists and other non-conformists are dumped out in industrial areas.
All this to make space for the rising population of bourgoise hard-working yuppies.
Their streets are kept clean by city guards, chewing-gum cleaners and other underpaid workers - all to present an appealing investment climate for big companies like Albert Heijn, Heineken and McDonalds.
The middle-class consumer lifestyle is selling itself well!
Never before has Amsterdam been so boring and never before has the city reaped so many hundreds of millions of guilders in profit and rising property prices.
And as if all this isn't enough, they now want to build millionaires' apartments in the Kalenderpanden, because they say there is a 'need' for ludicrously expensive living spaces.
Who came up with that? What sick mind thinks seriously that a rich citizen is some kind of "ubermensch" that can solve all the problems of our city?
The Kalenderpanden has had an important public function for the last 4 years: everything has deliberately been made affordable for everybody, and initiatives that haven't yet really 'made it', or maybe never will, are all given a place.
This is how it must stay.
Over the last few years there has been an endless list of squats evicted in Amsterdam.
This must end.
The owner of the Kalenderpanden is the city of Amsterdam.
They have the choice how it is used.
Choosing to evict is therefore a political choice: a choice for high incomes, privatisation, polarisation and stamping down on culture.

Our demands are therefore:

Kalenderpanden, Entrepotdok 93-98 Amsterdam
Location: see city map

The juridical state of affairs

Along side the eviction court case where recently, the judge's verdict was that the "Kalenderpanden" should be evicted, are two other legal procedures in which the project developer's plans come up for discussion: the listed building permit and the building and demolition permit.
There is a slim chance that before the eviction, the residents could still be proved right about one of the two legal procedures, that would mean that the basis for the eviction verdict would no longer stand.

Listed building permit

Before an owner can rebuild they must have a number of permits. In any case he must get a building and demolition permit, but because the "Kalenderpanden" are listed buildings you have to have a special permit in order to be allowed to do any demolishing or even alterations to the building. As long as there are still objections to the rebuilding plans, they will not get a permit.
There is especially heavy resistance to giving out a permit for these listed buildings. This is because the building plans are, for example to demolish one third of the buildings, seriously interfering with the building as an architectural monument.
As well as the residents/users of the buildings and the Vereniging Eeuwigh gaat voor Oogenblik ("A moment is for centuries" association) the Cuijpers Society, the Society for Steel building and the National Heritage department of the Ministry of Works and Buildings are all against these building plans. The national heritage have talked about removing the Kalenderpanden from the listed building list if these plans are carried out. However as yet the judge has rejected these objections. In October the president of the administrative law department at the law courts in Amsterdam decided that our objections were unfounded. Following this verdict, the residents and members of the association " Eeuwigh gaat voor Oogenblick " have gone for a higher appeal at the State Council.

Building and demolition permits

After our objections against the listed building permit were dismissed the only option left was to protest against the building and demolition permit. As well as the appeal at the law courts in April a provisional petition was submitted. On May the 11th the case was dealt with and immediately the president of the administrative law department at the court of law rejected our appeal.

The eviction court case

The first hearing of the court case Amsterdam council against the residents and uses of the Kalenderpanden was on January the 31st.
The main issue of the case was the eviction of the buildings, so that the project developer could begin as soon as possible with the building of 47 luxury apartments. Because the listed building permit case running at this time the judge Orbio de Castro decided that this case should be delayed until April the 10th. During this time Aquartis asked for the suspension of eviction (due to the higher appeal) to be cancelled. The chairman from the administrative law department of the state council decided in favour of Aquartis and the council and cancelled the suspension. On July the 17th the state council will look over the case for one last time. This will take place before the eviction, which is interesting because normally it comes too late. In spite of the ill-luck of the listed building trial the residents lawyer Marq Wijngaarden knew that they could still drag out one more session. It was decided that this session was to once more hold up the session seeing that in the meantime the residents had appealed against the building permit. This session was to be on May the 11th. On May the 26th Orobio Castro continued the case and had taken into account the negative result of the previous case.
Finally the judge's verdict was that the buildings could be evicted "one month after the legal notice". That is to say one month after the bailiff delivers the eviction notice to the house. At the time this news letter went to press this had still not happened.

A reasonable offer

In the Dutch "poldermodel" (Word given to the consultation between social partners and the government etc. for example trade unions and employers) the person that has the monopoly on reasonableness has a powerful weapon in their hands. As long as in the media a picture of sympathetic squatters versus the stiff technocratic officials was created around the Kalenderpanden the council would always be on the defensive. So it was to be expected that the council would make a counter move in the form of alternative housing. But the question was how and what?
At one point it looked as if a field with freight containers in it was considered reasonable as replacement housing. But when the Kalenderpanden won the first step in the eviction case the council decided to think about a more reasonable offer.
This was to be a large warehouse of 1500 square metres on the Zeeburger island in Amsterdam. But unfortunately this was only temporary because after five years this ground next to Ijburg would become too valuable and they would have to make space for more profitable purposes. Another point was that you couldn't live there. If it was really their intention to offer us a serious option then they had done very little research into the Kalenderpanden. Besides the fact that we said how important the combination of living and activity/working was the buildings also forfill a public function that is helped by a central and unique location. It is difficult to see an offer that failed to meet similar criteria as a "Good will" gesture.
So the councils attempt to shunt us on to the Zeeburger island had failed. But we had are own, totally different idea for a reasonable offer. Of course it had to be somewhere were we could live, preferably with a swimming pool. Actually the Kalenpanden themselves seemed a good option to us, but that was not up for discussion. According to the council it would cost an "unreasonable" amount in order to break the contract with the project developer.
The stubborn way in which the council refused to look at a solution within the Kalenderpanden showed exactly where it's priorities lay. That is to say, that making a profit is more important than other issues and that they feel more responsibility towards the project developer than towards the residents. The officials from the real estate department of the council feel the most at ease with people on their own level. The "Build quickly and rake in the cash" type. Also advances made by the alternative people from the " Broedplaatsenbeleid" ( Art and Culture Council policy ) don't change things much. What is true is that the management no longer focuses only on creating studio space but will also find space for groups doing activities that come under the broad terms of the "Broedplaatsbeleid", without the paternal rules and criteria that would be used for studio space. Still this policy is only a temporary measure that perhaps helps a few individual cases but it won't start a new trend. The reserved sum of between 50 and 90 million Dutch Guilders is hardly enough to maintain or to buy three buildings the size of the Kalenderpanden. But According to the immovable logic of senior council member Stadig the idea is not to use this money on expensive places. By this he is saying that there are areas in a city where you can and cannot experiment with and also where you can and cannot live affordably. Obviously the senior council member completely fails to realise that his concern for polarisation and ghettos works both ways. Just as he is afraid of uncontrollable districts full of foreigners and unemployment, we dread ghettos full of the rich, where you aren't welcome if you are not a rich and powerful consumer. As long as there isn't a policy that tackles the negative effects of the rich only neighbourhoods we can only see the Art and Culture Council policy and replacement housing on the Zeeburger island as nothing more than a diversion.
So the motto remains: Don't give way for the rich!

An Alternative

Strange, everyone knows that it's too late for the Kalenderpanden, but no one can say exactly why. That is also true of the council officials who should know everything. Agreements have already been made between the council and the project developer, and a deal is a deal. At least that applies fellow gentlemen, because when the council and the project developer sat around the table to draw up their wretched plans for luxury apartments the city council had already decided that the Kalenderpanden should be made into a affordable living/working area. The senior council member him/her self expressly forbid the development of a plan that included more than 50% housing for the free sector. Yet today's plan consists of 100% of the most expensive free sector housing. According to the senior council member there was a great need for this in 1994. What's more the "great need" for this sort of housing went perfectly together with the council's aim to get the highest possible price for the ground. It couldn't be clearer. The council went for the big money. But choosing for lots of money is different than being able to manage it. Because despite the fact that it was presented as a good deal that was dragged out of a long chain of negotiations you must ask yourself if it really is such a great deal after all. Even more so; it looks as though the council is the only certain loser.

It seemed like such a good deal. It was probably agreed upon in 1997 that the sale price of the Kalenderpanden would be a percentage of the market price that the finished apartments would sell for. The percentage (+/- 24%) was pretty normal in those days and certainly nothing to be proud of. At the same time the council committed itself to helping the project developer through the mill of council permits and procedures. As we know this took about 4 years. In the meantime house prices rose (about 20% per year) but the amount the council would receive stayed fixed as earlier agreed. The result is that if the council managed today to deliver the Kalenderpanden empty it would collect approximately 15,000,000 Dutch Guilders less than the actual value.

This is a huge loss; luxury apartments are going to be built on land that in the end the council has sold too cheaply. At the same time the council will have to make sure that a number of council houses are built in order to keep the supply up to the same level. Land where council houses are build are given to the housing corporations for a bottom price. The problem is that meanwhile there is no cheap land in the city centre, so the council has to pay extra if they want to build council houses there.
Luxury homes on dirt cheap land, cheap homes on highly expensive land. Or to put it another way: you lose twice. You don't have to be a economist to see that two losses sounds different than two wins.

Here is a opportunity to suggest that the simplest solution is also the best for everyone: Affordable living/working space in the Kalenderpanden. The residents of the Kalenderpanden are looking into the possibilities of handing in their own plan. A plan in which everybody wins, because of course the residents plans won't so seriously interfere with the building that it has to be struck off the listed buildings list. This is also cheaper because when rebuilding/restoring a listed building you can (subject to conditions) receive grant for up to half of the costs.
If indeed such a plan can be drawn up, then there is still the question of if the council can be impressed enough so that they also think it's their only way to win. Until now they have never made the impression that they can act with decision. If the people at the city hall should agree with our plans then the big question is if they can actually give us this place. In that case we are right back to the political arguments.