Expansion in Plaka irks residents

Residents of the bustling Plaka district in central Athens expressed concern yesterday at suggestions that the government intends to change zoning laws to allow more bars and restaurants to open in the neighborhood. A law passed in 1982 places strict limits on the type of establishments that can operate in the area, which lies at the foot of the Acropolis. However, Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias indicated yesterday that he is aware of concern about possible changes to these regulations, which were designed to ensure that the character of Plaka is retained. «Plaka is a subject that we are looking at,» Souflias said. «There have been some requests by store owners and businessmen in the area that we will try to deal with.» The 1982 presidential decree specifies the streets where restaurants and cafes can operate. It also limits them to the ground floor of any building in Plaka and decrees that the other floors should be designated as homes. Sources said that a committee was formed three months ago at the Public Works Ministry to examine the possibility of changing zoning regulations in Plaka. The head of the Plaka Residents’ Association, Dora Paraskevopoulos, accused the government at a press conference yesterday of intending to change the law to allow bars and restaurants to expand onto other floors of buildings in the neighborhood. Paraskevopoulos also suggested that the Culture Ministry, which is estimated to own more than 15 percent of the buildings in Plaka, is considering the idea of allowing some of the properties to be used as cafes or shops. Yiannis Michail of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and the Cultural Heritage proposed that these properties be made available as homes as long as tenants agree to be responsible for maintaining the buildings. Residents are confident that any changes to the current zoning regulations in Plaka will eventually by rejected by the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court.