Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Starting with some sad news.
There is a cafe called Chocola. Er, "Shokola." It is fancy, expensive, but a place I wholeheartedly object to calling a "Mzungu" place, and not only because over half the customers aren't. I like to think of it as art. Universal Art. Every light, window, bookshelf, and chair is placed perfectly, with the colors and artwork and counters and cookies all lined up in a way that makes you feel privileged to be able to sit on the comfy chairs surrounded by leafy greens, tropical birds, and a perfect playlist. You sigh and don't mind waiting the usual two hours it takes for food to be served in Rwanda. Food served by waiters in fantastically bright colored – but not to brightly colored because that wouldn't mesh well with the opaque color tone – uniforms.
And they have great ginger cookies.
The original branch in Kiyovu, however, is residential, and new zoning laws mean that ShoKola needed to go - at least in the upscale residential neighborhood it is found in.
Back in Israel, getting off the plain to Obama's voice on a Palestinian state and the a female head of the Labor party being elected, most of the protest tents which mostly concerned housing and rent prices are gone. But the memory of zoning laws in Kigali, and zoning laws of the past in Israel, spring to mind as I inquire on rent prices.
Zoning laws that limit where people can sell things, including selling atmosphere and ambiance, seems unfare to everyone who needs to move – both residents moving away from new commercial zones and business owners moving away from new residential areas. Laws that limit noise seem to be a lot more effective. Or, if those are laws are difficult to enforce – at least it means cheaper appartments from landlords that are willing to stay put in a commercial area. Plus businesses get loads of customers who live nearby, an impossibility with seperate zone. This, in general, generates income in the town, and means landlords have an easier time finding tenants, even if their rent is lower. A lot of new immigrants to Israel from developed countries (me eleven years ago) complain about the lack of "city planning" in Jerusalem - apartments seem to be on top of loud bars and I can't tell you how many awkward "hellos" I exchange with lawyers unlocking their fancy glass doors as I leave my apartment, next door, in pajamas to grab the paper. But there is always a job to be found right next to your home and always a beer to buy right under your nose - so things are hectic, but at least never stuck in one place. You literally save over two hours of commuting for a lot of jobs, and those two hours can mean a lot of you are a student, have another side business, want to spend time volunteering and getting to know your neighbors, or just like sleeping in.
I suppose warm cozy Kigali coffee and cookie feelings - on comfy couches (I'm on a role) can be shifted to the appropriate zones, so I'm sure the other Shokola, in a commercial zone, will do just fine. Maybe the zoning laws will increase property value and, somehow, income will indirectly go up as a result. I just hope the strict zoning laws are not widening the gap between what people make and what they can afford to pay in rent.