Auto-centric Philly Zoning Changes Trimmed By City Council

Responding to criticism, the Philadelphia City Council this week shrank the scope of a bill proposing zoning changes that would have lowered density and increased parking requirements across the city.

Critics said the changes would have led to more garage-fronted buildings and reduced density. Photo credit: La Citta Vita on Flickr

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Just over three weeks ago, I reported on a bill brought before the Philadelphia City Council that recommended altering a newly introduced zoning code that was widely praised for encouraging denser, less car-dependent development. Introduced by Councilmember Brian J. O’Neill on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke, the bill sought to reinstate on-site parking requirements and decrease the number of housing units allowed within a given property. The bill would have affected most neighborhoods in Philly.

In a dramatic reversal, the legislation was amended this week to cover only a wide residential swath surrounding North Philadelphia’s Temple University, in Clarke’s district, where a 40-unit development targeting students was purportedly approved with no on-site parking. Additionally, the initial language had originally mandated one on-site parking space for every three housing units. That requirement was loosened to one parking space for every four units.

The dilution of the bill comes after criticism from members of the planning and economic development community. Although Clarke said the original bill was drafted in response to neighbors’ complaints about scarce parking, it was not clear if any community groups had actually supported the legislation.

Clarke’s office also said that the bill was drafted in partnership with the City Planning Commission, but comments from Deputy Executive Director Eva Gladstein and on the Commission’s blog, which criticized the hurried introduction of the changes in an anonymous post, seemed to contradict that assertion. The blog post was quickly taken down, but a copy can be viewed here.

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Ryan Briggs is an investigative reporter based in Philadelphia. He has contributed to the Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY, the Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Magazine and Hidden City.

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Tags: philadelphiabuilt environmentgovernanceinclusionary zoninganchor institutionsparking

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