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  1. #1
    Sharkfood is offline Senior Member
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    Default City Council Already Working to Gut Major Provisions of New Zoning Code

    Check out Bill #120656

    http://legislation.phila.gov/attachments/13523.pdf

    This is an insidious attempt to turn the zoning clock backward.
    It restores off street parking requirements that zoning reform eliminated.
    It also re-imposes some impossible to meet dimensional requirements.
    This is going to return us in many respects to the old days where the ZBA
    handled 2,000 cases per year.

    The Rules Committee hearing is 10/31/12 at 10:00 am. They are trying
    to slip this thru under the radar.

    Some more detailed comments against the bill (my apologies for the length):

    Bill #120656 is a direct attack on the Zoning Reform Commission and the reforms it worked four years to implement. With a few strokes of the pen, this bill turns back the clock to the bad old days of an antiquated and dysfunctional zoning code.

    The bill deals with two zoning classifications: RM-1 and CMX-2. These classifications cover vast areas of the City. RM-1 is a multifamily zone covering approximately 17% of all residentially zoned land in the city. It includes such diverse areas as Logan, Nicetown, Brewerytown Spring Garden, Mantua, Cobbs Creek, Queen Village, Rittenhouse Square, Frankford and Kensington. CMX-2 is a residential/commercial mixed use zone which covers approximately 35% of the commercially zoned land in the city.

    Generally speaking, the RM-1 classification is the successor to R-9 and R-10 under the old Code. In its assessment of the existing zoning code, The Zoning Reform Commission made a couple of observations about the R-9 and R-10 zones.

    First, it noted that many of the City’s “redevelopment areas” are zoned R-9 or R-10. They are areas with high rates of vacancy, abandonment and blight. The City’s redevelopment plans recognize the need to redevelop these areas.

    Second, it noted that the existing zoning code created unnecessary obstacles to the redevelopment of these zones. These obstacles were due to the mismatch between zoning code requirements and the actual area and dimension of building lots. For example, a conforming lot is required to be 1,440 square feet in area. By that standard, 86% of the lots in the R-10 zone and 60% of the lots in the R-9 were nonconforming. Indeed, the average lot area in R-10 is 706 square feet.

    The commission commented that, if the city truly wants to redevelop these areas, it needs to tailor the zoning regulations to fit existing conditions.

    The new zoning code which took effect in August 2012 imposed a reasonable limitation of 360 square feet of lot area per unit in RM-1 and CMX-2. This restriction means that the construction of a two unit building requires 720 square feet of lot area, a three unit building 1,060 square feet, etc. Even these restrictions are somewhat questionable, because as noted above, the median lot area is only 706 square feet, but nevertheless, it's not unduly burdensome.

    Bill #120656 would increase the required lot area per unit to 480 square feet in both RM-1 and CMX-2. This new standard is completely out of step with the actual size of buildings and lots in these two districts. The median lot size in the former R-10 district is only 706 square feet. Thus, even though RM-1 is designated as a “multifamily zone” in the zoning code, it would be impossible to obtain a multifamily permit for an average sized lot as of right.

    In order to convert an average building to multifamily use, the owner would be required to file an appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. In its report, the Zoning Reform Commission noted that between 2000 and 2007, the ZBA heard a total of 12,609 cases. 40% of all zoning permit requests during that period required a hearing before the ZBA. The Commission was aware of no other U.S. City that relies so heavily on a Zoning Board in the administration of its zoning laws.

    Requiring that 40% of all development in the City be reviewed and approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment does not make sense, the Commission said. It adds time, cost and uncertainty to the development process.

    To reduce the workload of the ZBA and to streamline the development process, the Commission recommended that zoning district regulations be updated and made more flexible to take into account actual lot sizes, rather than some abstract ideal lot size that doesn’t exist.

    This bill represents a return to the inflexible standards of the old antiquated zoning code. It ignores the recommendations of the Zoning Reform Commission. It increases the workload of the ZBA. And it discourages redevelopment of the city’s most blighted and dilapidated areas.

    To encourage the redevelopment of blighted areas, the Zoning Reform Commission also recommended changes to the City’s off-street parking requirements. The vast majority of the building lots in the RM-1 and CMX-2 zones predate the widespread use of the automobile. The typical lot is narrow, shallow and ill-suited to accommodate parking. The city’s parking requirements should not create needless barriers to the re-use of older structures, the Commission said.

    In recognition of these realities, the new Zoning Code adopted by City Council eliminated any off-street parking requirements for multifamily buildings in the RM-1 and CMX-2 zones.

    Bill #120656 takes another step backward by re-imposing the needless parking requirements that the new Zoning Code got rid of. In the RM-1 zone, off street parking would be required for buildings with 3 or more units. In the CMX-2 zone, off-street parking would likewise be required for any multi-family uses.

    The Philadelphia City Planning Commission in its most recent study found 13 million square feet of vacant retail space throughout the City, representing a vacancy rate of nearly 23%. By imposing parking requirements on a store owner who wishes to have apartments above his store, this Bill will only serve to encourage more vacancies on the City’s struggling retail strips.

    The new Zoning Code was created through an inclusive process through the participation of community members, City Councilpeople, architects, planners and developers. The text of the new Code represents the consensus of all the stakeholders in the new Code. I would urge the members of the Rule Committee to defend the new Zoning Code from backdoor efforts to undermine it. Bill #120656 is an insidious attack on zoning reform and I would urge every member of the Committee to vote against it.

  2. #2
    Dave's Avatar
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    Has the media picked up on this at all? Looks like it's been sitting around for over a month, at this point.
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  3. #3
    Kukla65th is offline Senior Member
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    Was the crappy looking new Bottom Dollar Food at 31st and Girard pushed through under old or new code? What a site design let-down.

  4. #4
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukla65th View Post
    Was the crappy looking new Bottom Dollar Food at 31st and Girard pushed through under old or new code? What a site design let-down.
    It's a grocery store on a small and irregular sized lot. It does what it needs to do.

  5. #5
    eldondre is online now Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    It's a grocery store on a small and irregular sized lot. It does what it needs to do.
    and nothing more.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
    Jonathan Safran Foer

  6. #6
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    MarketStEl is offline Will Work for Food, But Prefers Cash
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    Glad I saw this, but I may not make it to City Hall in time for the hearing.

    I should note that the ordinance does not "reimpose the old off-street parking requirements" AFAICT, for the old requirements called for one space per residential unit in the most common residential and commercial-residential classifications. However, I agree that even a 3:10 ratio for the new CMX2.5 classification would open up opportunities for delay and mischief.

    Wonder if this was the product of some civic association zoning committees that now find themselves with time on their hands?
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  7. #7
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by eldondre View Post
    and nothing more.
    Out of curiosity, what more do you think it should do?

  8. #8
    AbortedWalrus's Avatar
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    So I didn't catch this news until too late to make the hearing. Is there anything I can personally do to help prevent them from mucking up the code? Any suggestions on who to write or call?

  9. #9
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Out of curiosity, what more do you think it should do?
    It's a grocery store or supermarket, no? What more should it do?
    I am not the Jackass Whisperer.

  10. #10
    New2Fishtown is offline Senior Member
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    My understanding is that this bill passed yesterday. PCPC staff offered a compromise amendment of the parking requirements not kicking in until a project exceeds 3 units, but agreed that even with that marginal improvement, it's still a terrible and very under-the-radar step backward, and one that we (speaking as city agencies, civics, developers, etc) were not mobilized to protest with enough vigor to kill it. It boggles my mind who there continues to be not a single champion of sound land use policy on council.

  11. #11
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    Going to blast City Council later in the week.

  12. #12
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Off street parking minimums tend to be more of a disaster for redevelopment than a help.

  13. #13
    eldondre is online now Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by raider.adam View Post
    Out of curiosity, what more do you think it should do?
    that's the wrong question. how should it be designed? there's nothing wrong with good design although bad design appears to be a prerequisite for subsidies.
    Last edited by eldondre; 11-01-2012 at 11:11 AM.
    "It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past"
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  14. #14
    seand is online now Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hospitalitygirl View Post
    It's a grocery store or supermarket, no? What more should it do?
    Have to have a big parking lot at the cost of not existing at all apparently.

    Because parking is more important than availability of groceries in a dense urban neighborhood apparently.
    Last edited by seand; 11-01-2012 at 11:11 AM.

  15. #15
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by seand View Post
    Have to have a big parking lot at the cost of not existing at all apparently.

    Because parking is more important than availability of groceries in a dense urban neighborhood apparently.
    I'm pretty sure a lot of shoppers at the Uni City Super Fresh use the parking garage. I also recall the grocery store in Society Hill has a routinely pretty full parking lot. As does the Trader Joe's in Center City. As does the Whole Foods on Callowhill. Reading Terminal Market gives discount parking at the neighboring parking garage.

    The grocery store is not in that dense of an area. That's its problem and a big part of the reason why the whole thing took so long to find an operator. Half of its walking distance radius is park. Of the part that isn't, a significant percentage of the land is undeveloped/uninhabited and will be for a long time coming still.

    And for the record, some of the biggest complaints from non-B-Square residents was that even with the parking lot, that people going to the store will take up their street parking. If the proposal Clarke went to the neighborhood with was "no parking lot", yeah, I am guessing there would be bloody murder screamed.
    Last edited by raider.adam; 11-01-2012 at 11:31 AM.

  16. #16
    seand is online now Senior Member
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    I'm not negating parking is sometimes a valid issue. I'm just pointing out that parking requirements often attempt to apply 1960's suburban standards on an urban grid laid out in the 1920's or before when cars were relatively minor players in the mix, often to the detriment of a sustainable density of commercial activity to keep neighborhoods actually vibrant.

  17. #17
    MarketStEl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArcticSplash View Post
    Going to blast City Council later in the week.
    I'll join you in piling on.
    Sandy Smith, Wanderer in Germantown, Philadelphia
    Editor-in-Chief, Philly Living Blog - but all opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.
    ""Jazz and blogging are both intimate, improvisational, and individual -- but also inherently collective. And the audience talks over both." --Andrew Sullivan, "Why I Blog," The Atlantic, November 2008

  18. #18
    raider.adam is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by seand View Post
    I'm not negating parking is sometimes a valid issue. I'm just pointing out that parking requirements often attempt to apply 1960's suburban standards on an urban grid laid out in the 1920's or before when cars were relatively minor players in the mix, often to the detriment of a sustainable density of commercial activity to keep neighborhoods actually vibrant.
    Correct, but I highly doubt the amount of parking at Bottom Dollar is due to zoning, but due to their viewed needs.

    Which is the other thing. The major issue with parking minimums mostly revolves around residential structures.
    Last edited by raider.adam; 11-01-2012 at 12:05 PM.

  19. #19
    Hospitalitygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seand View Post
    I'm not negating parking is sometimes a valid issue. I'm just pointing out that parking requirements often attempt to apply 1960's suburban standards on an urban grid laid out in the 1920's or before when cars were relatively minor players in the mix, often to the detriment of a sustainable density of commercial activity to keep neighborhoods actually vibrant.
    Oh for crying out loud! I know...living in a "dense urban neighborhood" means that you can walk, etc. but the reality is that groceries are a damned PITA to carry, especially if you want to do a week's worth of groceries in one shot, and to have to go every other day! So yes, a parking lot provides a means for people to get to a market and shop the way they want without having to edit for fear of having to walk back with your groceries. And, try shopping for a family, even with a cart, and not go a little crazy doing it by foot. Besides, people that work all week don't really want to have to make 3-4 trips a week if they can help it.
    I am not the Jackass Whisperer.

  20. #20
    seand is online now Senior Member
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    So you think grocery stores should be required by zoning to have more parking than they themselves want?

    I'm not sure who you are disagreeing with.

 

 

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