who needs tennis courts? let’s build some more apartments!

I’ve been told by some elderly members in the community that once upon a time, not all that long ago, (in the 1950s), there were many tennis courts in Bondi.

The notion that there was an abundance of such open recreational space in this now highly built-up environment fascinates me.

Admittedly, I am not quite sure of the why’s, the how’s and the what’s, but the tennis courts that have been on Wellington St, Bondi for what I understand has been about 60 years (i.e. since before I was born), will be re-developed into a block of apartments. How utterly surprising! Not!

It has been reported that The Sydney East Joint Regional Planning Panel (i.e. NSW Planning) recently approved this decision, despite Waverley Council objecting to the rezoning of this land. Residents and locals have also been objecting to this proposal but the development will still go ahead. I understand that the battle around this proposed development has been going for a few years. You can read more here.

image courtesy Rescue Bondi

The opportunity for residents to use this space for recreational, health and fitness purposes will be no longer. Another relatively short-sighted decision?

Dr What! leaves Bondi Junction

After a few weeks of on and off sales and organising unthinkable amounts of amazing stock, Dr What!, the iconic video/DVD store in Bondi Junction, is finally closing down.

Dr What Video! has always had the most amazing collection of films and documentaries available for hire. Over the years I have spent many hours perusing the shelves, and chatting to owners Neal, Carol and Daniel Crisford about films and film stuff. I’ve also used their post-production services for various projects.

I can’t help feel somewhat sad about the closure of this long-time Bondi Junction business. Dr What has not only played a part in inspiring and educating me on a personal level in terms of my appreciation and love for cinema, documentaries and screen culture, but has also been a great help in my professional work and development.

just a little section of the DVD's available to hire at Dr What

I figure I’m not alone in being one of the many loyal customers of this fabulous Bondi institution who has wondered where the hell did the name Dr What! come from for a video store? Well here’s a little bit of history about Dr What!…

The business first opened in about 1981. Apparently one of the original co-owners was a Mr Watt, thus the idea for the name. But at this time, the business was not a video/DVD store. It was really just selling VCRs. My dad, who was lover of movies, bought our first VCR from Dr What. I guess we would have been classified as “early adopters” of the VCR, since my family was one of the first to have a VCR among people we knew. At this time, c.1982, VCRs were not all that affordable and so weren’t selling as fast as anticipated. So in order to encourage consumers to purchase a VCR, the owners of Dr What figured that by stocking movies that were hireable on video, people might be persuaded to buy a VCR. The strategy worked, but the demand to watch videos became so great that the business shifted direction to become more of a video store than a electronic (VCR) shop. And this is how Dr What started and grew into becoming one of the few video stores in Sydney with an extensive selection of art-house movies and documentary films.

The Crisfords became the owners of Dr What in 1983. 31 years later it is the end of an era as they close the video store for good. This is sad for the local community. I for one, am very sorry to see Dr What close down. However, the Crisfords are saying that Dr What will continue to have an online presence and the post production services will still continue.

Thanks Dr What, for many years of quality entertainment and inspiration as well as assistance in my professional work.
You will be missed by many…

beach polo at Bondi

So after a long overdue visit to family residing overseas, I returned back home to Bondi last week only to learn about the latest novelty idea for Bondi Beach.

Well we had beach volleyball at the 2000 Olympic Games and the ice skating rink in winter for last few years. Now Waverley Council has said it will host the International Beach Polo Tournament at Bondi Beach on 9th May 2015. This one day event is expected to attract around 4000 people and will involve bringing in polo ponies to Bondi Beach and the building of infrastructure to support such an event.

The Council has approved the event “in principle” subject to a few conditions, including the satisfactory submission of a final Event Management Plan (which meets traffic, parking and complying regulatory requirements) at least 16 weeks prior to the event occupation period.

It’s worth noting that this event was not unanimously approved. Four councillors opposed the motion to approve this proposal at the Council’s Operations Committee Meeting held on 1 July 2014.

There has been little press about this proposal, but here is an article written by Emily Contador-Kelsall.

Of course such an idea is completely ludicrous to me – and I suspect to many other locals also. Aren’t there already healthy numbers of tourists in Bondi Beach? Aren’t people all around the world already aware of Brand Bondi?

Yet, for Waverley Council, having Bondi host the International Beach Polo Tournament, [such] a prestigious international sporting event, “will help promote and showcase Bondi Beach to the rest of the world and could bring social, physical and economic benefits to Bondi.”

Really?

I think Sally Betts might need to knock on a few residents’ doors and really gauge how many locals think that attracting another 4000 people to Bondi in one day (together with all the other repercussions that such an event would have on the area) is going to bring them social, physical and economic benefits!

The new Hall Street

About 18 months have passed since I last wrote about the development of the old Hakoah Club site (and neighbouring properties) in Hall Street. The new site now houses some interesting restaurants and eateries including A Tavola Pasticceria Papa, Da Orazio and Ribs & Burgers. There is also Gelato Messina (where there are always queues) and a Harris Farm Market. All of this retail space supports the new hotel and apartments (Adina and Boheme) – which are part of the package.

The architectural design of Boheme is OK, though it doesn’t really do all that much for me. I can see a building like this perched on a hill somewhere in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. But I don’t really see how it blends into the Bondi art-deco urban landscape. It seems to be quite out of place here to me, although the price tag for such real estate is unfortunately not out of place here – these days. Boheme was apparently designed by “interior architects” Bates Smart.

'Boheme' perched above Adina hotel and apartments, Hall Street, Bondi

Still, although I was a little sad to see the demolition of the Hakoah Club (and a bit of Bondi history go with it), I’m trying to embrace this new Hall Street development as part and parcel of urban change. I can see how these additions and other recent changes to Hall Street could be attractive to Bondi visitors and tourists, but maybe less so for long-time locals!

Personally, I haven’t spent a lot of time there, but I have ducked into Harris Farm late at night here and there to do a bit of shopping, in quiet time, which has been convenient.

It appears that others, like Paul Paech, have also written about this change to Hall Street.

I’m very interested to hear what Bondi Banter visitors think of the changes in Hall Street, so please feel free to rant or banter away…

Australia Day 2014

After having a pleasant and lazy lunch at home with friends, we decided to take a walk down to the beach in the mid-afternoon. To our surprise, Bondi Beach was relatively quiet for an Australia Day. Not so many people at the North end as there usually are, especially on the grass area. But we did spot Mr Battlescar and his very retro-gorgeous campervan. We said hello and he let me take a photo of the interior. Check out that groovy floor!

Mr Battlescar chilling out in the van on Queen Elizabeth Drive, 26/1/14

bye bye 2013

Summer is the peak tourist season at Bondi and between Christmas and New Year’s Eve the beach becomes quite busy. The beach is generally pretty crowded, but the local traffic actually winds right down. The streets are quiet, there are actual parking spots to be found and Bondi Junction is a pleasant place to shop. I believe this is primarily because all the locals head out of town. But many return for “the show” that Sydney turns on every year on New Year’s Eve. You can feel the energy levels have increased in the last couple of days in the lead up to New Year’s Eve. But soon, the celebration of the year that was will be behind us…and the intense traffic will return.

$21million for Bondi apartment

So The Swiss Grand Hotel on Campbell Parade just closed it’s doors.

Not that it was something close to my heart. It was not a part of Bondi that I was particularly fond of, but many people have been asking why this hotel is now going to be turned into residential and rentable apartments.

goodbye Swiss Grand, make way for the Pacific Apartments...

Well as you might expect, the potential to make more money from residential apartments versus hotel rooms (which have slow and down times in the winter months) was an obvious reason for the sale.

Two penthouses were recently purchased (off-the-plan) of the new upcoming development, Pacific Bondi Beach, with the intention of combining them into one uber apartment.

When I discovered how much was recently paid for these two penthouses – amongst other feelings – I was somewhat stunned.

At $21million dollars (apart from being an obscene amount of money to pay for an apartment), this is apparently the highest price paid for an apartment in this country.
Now I know why I find everything so damn expensive about living here these days – because it IS!!

Well I could say a lot about this here – but I won’t.
I will restrain myself.

But please, don’t be shy. I would love to hear some reader’s thoughts…and to get you going, check out this link.

Beachfront affront

Several months have passed by since my last post . The seasons have changed, and while there have been many days and nights I had planned or at least hoped to write another post on my blog, I simply could not find the time. The truth is, that work and family commitments (and Life) can make you just too busy for anything else sometimes. There are after all only 24 hours in a day and when you have about 20 hours of stuff to get through most days, something just has to give.

So here we are, in Autumn, all of us wondering where on earth the last few months have gone! Life just seems to get faster and faster as you age.

As for Bondi, it is still as busy as ever, still impossible to find a parking spot on the weekends and still hosting many changes to its landscape.

There is now a proposal being highly publicised by Waverley Council, to significantly change the beachfront area of Bondi.

I won’t go into all these changes here since they are already well-documented online (and in the traditional media), but I just want to say that the proposal is not insignificant; clearly lots of money and energy have already gone into this research and development phase of the proposal.

Flyer from Have Your Say day, 5th May 2013

Apart from the North Bondi Surf Club clubhouse – which is still being built – if all the proposed changes to the Bondi Pavilion and Bondi Park are approved and green lit, they would probably represent the biggest visual changes made to the now famous beachfront area in many years.

Just the other day, Waverley Council held a Have Your Say day at the Pavilion. I went along to ask questions and learn a bit more about what exactly is being proposed. On the face of it, it all sounds OK. But I do think the Council are treading a bit conservatively putting an effort in to manage the spin. They’re being very careful in their choice of language, (and somewhat vague when it comes to logistics and details), regarding the proposed changes, and there are still a number of issues not really being considered. Like…What if you do remove the parking from the beachfront? then you have an underground car park with approximately the same no of spaces, BUT can you imagine the road rage when it would take you one hour to get out the car park on a busy hot summer’s day?? At least when you’re in a traffic jam on the beachfront on such days you get to look at the pretty sights that Bondi has to offer!

Annual thong invasion at Bondi

On Saturday, 26th January, Australia Day, my family and I took a walk down to the beach, not to particularly see the thong challenge in action, since we thought it was all over by mid-morning. We knew that since it was Australia Day, the annual thong challenge would be happening as it has for the past few years, but thought that by heading down after midday, the event would have been over.

Well we got down to the beach at around 12.15pm and discovered that the thong challenge was about to begin.
We stopped to watch. The water conditions were perfect for supporting 2000 or so participants to float out on their thong to try and break the world record. It was impressive to see how orderly these thongers were in the water and on the sand.

Participants patiently waiting to be called to head into the water

Apparently the world record was not beaten however and Bondi only got to second place. Cottesloe retained the world record for the highest number of people in the water on giant havaianas – only by 23 thongers!

Thongers line up in the water in a very orderly fashion

Just goes to show, that for all the hype and fame surrounding Bondi, more people participated in this Australia Day event in Cottesloe than they did in Bondi. I wonder what that says?

How people park in Bondi

Finding a parking spot in Bondi on a Sunday can be quite challenging but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how this car was parked in a Bondi street today…

car sandwich

I was across the road, about to drive off, when the driver got into her car, accompanied by a passenger. I called out to her through my car window that it looked unlikely that she’d be able to get out of that spot.

She was quite relaxed about the whole thing, and smiling, she said she would just go forward and back inch by inch until she could get out. I didn’t know what she was thinking and was sure one of the cars was going to get hit.

Anyway, I drove off to run a quick errand and returned as quickly as I could to re-claim the parking spot that I had just left. I must have been gone for no more than 4 minutes or so.

When I returned, I couldn’t believe that the woman’s car had gone. She had somehow managed to get her car out of that spot in less than 5 minutes.

Although it seemed like the only plausible explanation was that her car wheels could turn to a 90 degree angle, I don’t think her car had the ability to be driven sideways. Perhaps she was a reincarnation of Harry Houdini!

I wished I had stayed to watch her get out of the spot – though watching her might have made her nervous, which may have caused her to hit one of the cars that wedged her in.

In any case, she deserves a medal for getting her car out of what was possibly the tightest parked car situation that I’ve ever seen!