August Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) Public Board Meeting Minutes – 2017

August Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) Public Meeting Board Meeting Minutes – 2017

CDAG – August 10, 2017Society Hill Towers Community Room, 6:00 P.M.

Society Hill Towers Community Room, 6:00 P.M.

Matt Ruben welcomes the group and asks for introductions from those present. Both Vice Chairs absent from the meeting. Matt noted that the Board of Directors made up of delegates from member groups. Meeting are public although only the delegates are allowed to vote.

  1. First order of business. Quorum established. Call to Order and Approval of July. Meeting Minutes.

Motion to approve. Seconded. Approved

  1. Nomination and Election of a Temporary Secretary.

Nina of Waterfront Square is still a delegate but no longer is the Secretary leaving a gap. Jane Winkel volunteered to act as secretary until the election. Nominations occur in December. Elections in January.

Motion to Approve. Seconded. Approved.

III. Officer Reports

Matt providing a report for Diane Mayer (not present). Foxwoods site is eleven acres and has been sub-divided into three parcels by Blatstein. The North-South length along the water is one parcel. The north-west parcel facing Columbus Blvd. has been divided into two parcels. The north-west parcel facing Co-lumbus Blvd. got a zoning by right for a supermarket. They are clearing the site. The site will need to Phase 1 Environmental and, if necessary, Phase 2 Remediation. Certifications are required.

Bart. wants a Wawa with a gas station, which does not confirm to the CDO. There needs to be a light at Columbus and Dickinson and the city has not shown an indication to do business with him. Bart Blatstein is dumping Northern Liberties properties to increase capital for other projects at Broad and Washington and in Atlantic City.

The existing Wawa across the street from the parcel is being gutted and renovated.

Treasurer Report – $5330 balance and seven members who have not paid dues.

Update and Discussion on Central Delaware Zoning Overlay bill status. The Executive Committee met and updated Joe and Matt of CDAG. The July meeting at the Independence Seaport Museum included Councilman Squilla, Director of Planning and Development Anne Fadullon, Joe Forkin of DRWC, Karen Thompson, and Nicole Ozdemir.

The following week on July 20 Joe Schiavo and Matt Ruben attended a working meeting including the above-mentioned participants and additional stakeholders. Steve Pollack, the attorney from K4, and Peter Kelson, a zoning attorney with the NY based Durst Organization attended. Durst has purchased four piers above Race Street. The President from Pennsport Civic also attended. The ordinance introduced in May by Councilmen Squilla, would amend the CDO and have raised the overall height limit with bonuses from to 316’ from 244’. The base height limit would remain 100’. The bill will also create a new height bonus of 72’ for “through connections” for connections from the water or the trail to Columbus Blvd. The third thing the bill does is create a new bigger tier of height bonus for public space. CDAG, DRWC and Planning were concerned because the bonus seemed ill-defined and had already be abused at One Water by PNC where they got a height bonus without actually providing usable public space. The through connection is worrisome because K4 was using ‘large driveways’ or access roads that they would have to provide any way as through connectors. One of K4’s through connectors is opposite a highway ramp. The bonus seems ripe for abuse and double dipping which was never the intent of the CDO. Raising the height from 244’ to 316’ seemed arbitrary and like it was designed for a specific developer’s proposal. The height increase itself is not a problem.

The Planning Commission agreed that the public space bonus needed to be tightened up. The Planning Commission wrote and City Council approved an Omnibus Zoning Bill for the entire city late last year. The bill included language tightening the broader city-wide floor area ratio to better define public space. If it seems private that is not really public. The regulations are attempting to set up standards so that public space, must be meaningful if developers are using it to gain height bonuses.

CDAG’s position: If developers are looking to maximize their density to make the numbers work why not let them vary building heights. Can we put a formula in the CDO that keeps the baseline bonus limit at 244’ but if developers want to take a height bonus from one building and stick it on another building can we make that work? The Planning Commission is developing a formula.

Through Connectors – DRWC is adding river connector streets to the overlay. There are eight streets that are called out in the overlay. The developer cannot block the crossing over of those eight streets. DRWC is proposing to add more through connections to the CDO. If you develop those river connectors you can receive bonuses. They are considering regulations on through connectors including 1) they must be x distance from the river connector streets, 2) they must be x distance from the other streets to prevent driveways and access roads from counting as Through Connectors.

As soon as the Planning Commission wrote legislation to amend the whole CDO it stopped being about that the K4 development and started being about the overlay.

Durst attorney suggested ‘Master Plan’ for sites including a detailed development that has to be approved by the Planning Commission if a site is over a certain size or includes multiple buildings and the developer is taking advantage of bonuses. The Durst attorney, Peter Kelson was there as a member of the Zoning Commission under Mayor Nutter. Planning Commission working on language to that effect. August 18 is their next meeting.

Squilla wants to introduce the bill to the Rules Committee ASAP. As soon as they approve it, under the doctrine of pending legislation it is considered approved by L&I. As soon as Council reconvenes Squilla want the bill ready for a ceremonial vote.

CDAG, DRWC, Planning Commission and Councilmen Squilla are in agreement on the general changes to the bill and improvements to the CDO.

Jeff, the lead developer from K4 said he would build in one giant seven-year phase. The expense to shore up the piers and get to the ground level is $50,000,000. No one believes that he will build all four towers.

A meeting attendee noted that the pier between 55 and 57 is non-existent. K4 have a yacht basin in their renderings but they would need to dredge for that.

The K4 land is currently for sale. It is common for an owner to have an agreement of sale and then go after the zoning because the sale can be pulled out of if they can’t get the zoning.

The waterfront is full of two types of projects – 1) developments that are never building because of up zoning and reselling before construction and 2) under building.

100’ height limit was recommended under CDO because of the absorption rate – 250 units a year demand. The biggest problem for development on the waterfront is speculation — not zoning.

Usually, developers propose parking in excess of the required parking minimums, although K4 has not and Pennsport residents are not happy with that.

The Amendment to the ordinance is city-wide and covers the whole city code. We have height bonuses in the CDO because the developers could not get financing on a vague idea of a waiver. Height bonus based on FAR in existing code.

It has become clear that Squilla did not intend to push the bill forward and it is unlikely that he will jam the bill through if Anne Fadullon does not like the bill. If the new bill is introduced next Friday then it will be forwarded to CDAG board list to forward to their member groups.

At the planning meeting, a Pennsport representative suggested bonuses for connecting neighborhoods to the Central Delaware. Anne Fadullon said the connection must be an infrastructural commitment to achieve a bonus.

DRWC may have a medium to long-term plan for a Business Improvement District along the river, which is a long and arduous process.

The trail setback is regulated at 50’ in the citywide zoning code. Some of the biggest height bonuses are available if you build out part of the trail. There is interest in proposing widening the minimum setback.

Currently, there is a height bonus for upgrades to a transit station. The Planning Commission is talking about increasing the distance from the stations to the waterfront.

A parcel owned by DRWC on the northern section of the trail between Sugar House and Penn Treaty Park can now be completed.

  1. Old Business

Joe and Matt met with Peter Kelson, and other representatives from the Durst Organization. They have no imminent development plans in Philadelphia. There is speculation that the market will crash in two to four years. Durst may be in Philadelphia for the next upswing. Durst has sold only one building in one hundred years. They built one of the first LEED buildings. Peter Kelson is conversant in green building, placemaking, and urbanism. They seemed above board.

Callowhill Court Zoning. Rivers Edge Community Association wanted the front to be on Callow Hill. Most of Callow Hill Court is facing Water Street, which is their communities rear. They asked them to change the frontage. There are two different deeds. The developers deed is accurate and Rivers Edge Community Association will support the development. The developer showed Rivers Edge Community Association why they couldn’t change the face of the buildings. The developer is big on garages.

  1. New Business

Liberty Property Trust is presenting their Camden plan to Design Advocacy Group on Sept. 7, at 8:00 A.M. Recommendation to invite Liberty Property Trust to present to CDAG.

VI. Motion to Adjourn. Seconded. Approved

July 13th CDAG Public Meeting Board Meeting Minutes – 2017

Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) – July 13, 2017

Independence Seaport Museum Auditorium, 5:30 P.M. – Recorded Attendance Attached

  1. ZONING VARIANCE HEARING

The RCO meeting is relative to 1010 through 1018 Callowhill Street

  1. Introduction: Katharine Missimer of Obermayer, the Zoning Attorney on the project, introduced Tom Kelly, the developer, and Steve Maffei of Abitare Design Studio, the architect. She described the project as pretty simple. They are proposing four single family houses with garage parking. The project has already been through the zoning process as five single family homes. The developer took over the project and he believes less density is better in this location and is proposing four homes with elevators. In order to change from five to four homes they need zoning relief to allow for a curb cut.

 

  1. Clarification: Current zoning allows for four curb cuts, one on Callow Hill, and two combined wider curb cuts on Water Street. There refusal is specific to curb cuts. They originally went into zoning with five fee simple homes with curb cuts on Callowhill and Water. The zoning changed because they now have one consolidated parcel. There are existing curb cuts on Callowhill, which they are proposing to relocate. They are requesting two curb cuts on the south side of Water Street, and one smaller curb cut for the middle house. Vehicle parking is not allowed on the side of the street where the curb cuts are proposed, but it is allowed on the opposite side of the street. There is a parking lot adjacent to the site. There are two existing curb cuts on Water Street, which they want to relocate. When Callowhill Street was widened the parcel lost 16 feet on the north edge (almost 1000 sf), taken by eminent domain, which prevents them from having rear access garages. They do not have the space for the required turning radius because the parcel is smaller than they originally believed.

 

  1. Comments, Questions and Responses: John Scorsone, the representative for RECA to CDAG, the association where the development is proposed, noted that the asked the last developer to Front Callowhill with three to four town houses because 1) they want an active street front as part of the waterfront 2) because they wanted one single curb cut that would allow rear access and 3) they want to preserve the West Ship Yard. They want a barrier to preserve the site. They suggested three town houses with rear accesses garages and one on Callowhill that would not have a garage. They suggested a cantilevered first floor with larger upper floors. That is the history of the five home plan. This plan includes two extra parking spaces on Callowhill. A 24’ drive aisle is required to have cars come in and out. It was confirmed that the old plan and the new plan are both based on the current existing conditions. RECA likes the four town house three garage plan the best.

 

The zoning attorney confirmed that they have approval for the five town home plan. The square footage of each house 1,600 to 1,700 sf but they want four houses that will be 2,300 to 2,400 sf. with a large home at 3,300 sf. The large home stays the same in both concepts.

Matt Ruben asked if they could fit four houses but only three had dedicated off-street parking how would they feel about that concept. The developer noted his project at Front and Walnut. In his opinion at this price point buyers who purchase houses with elevators will need garages. The zoning attorney noted that the issue is access because they could not fit a wide enough drive aisle. The architect noted that they considered underground parking but geotechnical report showed that the water table is about 10’ below the surface making underground parking unfeasible.

The RECA representative said they would support the variances needed to build the project with cantilevered first floors, 100% lot coverage, a drive aisle, and rear access parking. The zoning attorney noted that the cantilevered plan requires four or five variances and their current plan requires one variance. The architect said the cantilevered plan does not work on the turning radius for the fourth house garage because the site becomes narrow. This is a PUD, they are consolidated into one lot and they don’t like multiple curb cuts on one lot. The architect suggested that the developer is trying to make a better project for the community. The project is less dense, the homes are nicer, they have elevators, outdoor space, and they open the market to a larger audience. The architect suggested that the four-pack will allow for easier access to Callowhill because they will be fewer cars associated with the development. Now there are only three house using the Water Street egress instead of four. Both plans have a single curb cut on Callowhill Street. The difference is on Water Street. Matt Karp noted CMX3 zoning allows for greater height. This could even be an apartment building and there was a previous plan by Cecil Baker for an apartment building.

Matt Ruben summarized there appears to be an existing permit for five houses, there is a submitted variance application to take it down to four and the curb cuts are now illegal under the code give the status of the project. CDAG needs to decide whether or not it wants to support the application. Matt recommended that we thank the developer and said CDAG would take a position and write a letter as soon as possible.

The developer commented on the materials – stone, brick, and metal panel. The architect confirmed set back on the Water Street side garages is 40’ including the sidewalk and the street.

The development team left the stage.

  1. Conclusion: Matt Ruben stated that there are larger issues behind the development but it is a fairly simple question. CDAG as the RCO of record can either express support for the variance request, or CDAG can express no support either because of specific project features or by saying there is no hardship to justify the variance to the zoning code.

Matt noted that technically only CDAG members can vote but wanted to acknowledge that Riverside orgs are present.

John Scorsone of Rivers Edge Association noted that they are against the current project because they want 1) it to face Callowhill 2) fewer curb cuts, and 3) a barrier between that development and the West Ship Yard. They hope CDAG supports them.

John also expressed doubt over the status of the zoning. They say they have the zoning but John does not think they have it. John asserted that the five pack plan is worse and the four pack plan is a “better worse option”.

The radius they say turning in from Water Street is a tight turn and traffic and is constant. Multiple curb cuts on water will not make it better.

Building fewer houses that are nicer does not meet the definition of hardship.

If Rivers Edge is recommending non-support of the variance request there could be discussion about the reason for not supporting the request. We have a member group wants to oppose but CDAG may or may not oppose if there are reason other member groups offer to support the plan.

Fred there are property concerns and there are concerns on the 300 block of Water with Live Nation. What can CDAG do for that portion of the water front to help the block to make it more feasible for the neighbors. Are there other benefits to the neighborhood?

Riverside is falling though the cracks and because Rivers Edge is mostly in the CDO district, CDAG could advocate for the neighborhood. CDAG could communicate with Councilman

Squilla to point out that parts of the neighborhood remain neglected and they need some help.

Matt Karp offered advice on the CDAG letter. He suggest that Matt Ruben be careful to say they don’t have a hardship because the developer already has a permit with off street parking and code changed since they got that permit, which actually is a hardship. If we do oppose we would have to say we don’t want the parking because zoning has nothing to do with the arrangement.

Irene noted disagreement between neighborhood groups and the developer about the facts. They say it is not physically possible to do the cantilever plan. Does there need to be a meeting between the parties?

There is a meeting on Wednesday and Matt Ruben suggested he could contact the attorney and ask for a continuance.

Mary suggested that we want safer more pedestrian friendly streets and the garages open on the sidewalk, which are very busy with pedestrians going back and forth to dog park, etc.

Matt Ruben noted a third option in asking the developer’s attorney if they would ask for a continuance so that a meeting between representatives of Rivers Edge and the developer could be arranged. If they refused CDAG could do an online vote — yes or no — for this request.

  1. MOTION:John made a motion based on Matt’s observations and Jim seconded it. All voting delegates unanimously supported the motion.
  1. CENTRAL DELAWARE OVERLAY AMENDMENT BILL DISCUSSION WITH COUNCILMAN SQUILLA, ANNE FADULLON – CITY OF PHL DIR. OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, JOE FORKIN – PRESIDENT DELAWARE RIVER WATERFRONT CORPORATION, NICOLE WESTERMAN – PLANNING COMMISSION.

6:10: The second and main agenda item discussion begins. Matt Ruben introduced himself as the chair of CDAG. He acknowledged CDAG Vice Chairs Joe Schiavo, and Diane Mayer, acting secretary Jane Winkel, and treasurer Jim Moss. Matt noted delegate members from Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Queen Village, Old Swedes, Dockside, Dickinson Square West, Society Hill Towers, Society Hill Civic, NKCDC, and Tammy Leigh Dement of PHS. The immediate reason for the meeting is because Councilman Squilla introduced in May to amend the Central Delaware Overlay. At CDAG’s June meeting one of the things that many of the attendees said was they wanted to ensure there was a public process to discuss the bill. CDAG made the choice to dedicate the July meeting to the amendment to guarantee that there is at least one public discussion of the bill.

Matt offered congratulations to Joe Forkin, the new president of DRWC. Matt summarized the history development along the Delaware to provide general context for the meeting. In the mid-2000’s there was a tremendous amount of development along the Central Delaware and civic organizations were seeing a lot of zoning variance requests and civic groups felt unprepared to deal with what were often extremely large proposals. There were many years of stagnation on the waterfront, when large projects were proposed but never built. There was a strong feeling that there was a tremendous amount of speculation, a lack of realism in planning, and a lack of zoning and effective controls. Then Councilmen Diciccio at the request of some civic groups got then Mayor Street to issue an executive older creating a waterfront planning process which resulted in an unprecedented public engagement where thousand of stakeholders gave input and we got a civic vision for the Central Delaware Waterfront in 2007 that outlined basic principles increasing 1) public access to the waterfront 2) extending the street grid to the water 3) to extend the neighborhood feel to the water. That became an action plan. The first point was to replace the Penns Landing Corporation with the Delaware Waterfront Corporation. DRWC engaged a series of consultants and another public process to create a master plan for the Central Delaware. In 2012 that plan was formally adopted by the city Planning Commission. In 2013 a zoning overlay took the principles of the master plan and gave them legal teeth, which is where we are now. Matt expressed that he believes it is best to be direct.

A developer, K4, has purchased a large property on the waterfront, previously owned by the Sheet Metal Workers, in South Philadelphia. K4 is floating a very large proposal for about ten towers and their representatives wrote legislation that they would like the city to make law. They ran up against resistance to that. The Planning Commission was asked by Councilmen Squilla to draft a bill that was more in keeping with how legislation should be drafted. In May the Councilman introduced the bill. CDAG had a May meeting the day before the bill was introduced. CDAG had no chance to officially review or develop a response to the bill. At CDAG’s June meeting we had an overflowing crowd and people were not happy with the lack of process. Councilmen Squalla could not attend the June meeting. CDAG thought the bill could be damaging to the CDO. The bill raised the maximum height bonus a building could qualify for from a maximum of 244’ to a maximum of 316’. The bill also takes an existing height bonus that a building can get for having a certain percentage of the project dedicated to public space and added a new tier so if you have more public space greater height is allowed. The instituted a new bonus for ‘through connections to the river’. Unlike public river access streets, which are defined in the overlay, this would provide a height bonus for any connection on a site that would take people from Columbus Boulevard or Delaware Avenue through to the water or the trail. CDAG has significant concerns about the three provisions of the bill. The height was not a significant concern although it seemed arbitrary. The public space bonus was not in and of itself

an issue except that the existing lower public space hight bonus had already been abused. One Water Street was cited as an example. They got a height bonus for public space but the public space is not usable. The through connection is a concern because CDAG did not see any protection against glorified private driveways that would need to be built regardless of the bonus. The bill appeared to allow double dipping, allowing the same space to claim benefits for through connections and public space. There was a stormwater management benefit that the Water Department advised against and the Councilman agreed. In the middle of June the Councilmen decided to hold the bill and engage in a discussion process over the summer.

Councilmen Squilla stated that initially K4 came looking to develop the Sheet Metal site, and they looked for changes to align with overlay. They realized that there were certain things that K4 could they could do by Right that did not fit with the idea of the master plan. The Councilmen wanted to add bonuses to encourage the intent of the master plan and to encourage more connectivity and more public spaces. They also wanted to add bonuses to maintain all out through streets and our trails. That provision is not in the bill but may be added. When the overlay was developed each site was anticipated as one building. Even with the hundred foot limit on bigger sites K4 could have have built a line of buildings across the site without access to the river and it would have been approved by the overlay. That raised a red flag for the Councilmen and he wants to encourage development that is positive and productive. He does not thing the height is a detriment. Lower scale building with density could be a benefit to the community. A higher building with more open space could also be a benefit to the waterfront.

Higher buildings could allow for greater access to the waterfront.

They asked K4 to work with Planning to allow bonuses. They came up with a plan and they introduced an ordinance to allow K4 to do most of what they wanted and within the spirit of the overlay. Meetings and a public hearing are part of this process. During the process they had meetings with the stakeholders and the access street bonus was changed. In the overlay building on the pier requires 50’ setbacks so buildings could only be 1’ wide, which was not the intent of the CDO. Councilman saw the K4 development as an opportunity to improve the overlay. They asked Planning to work with K4. The Councilman noted that when they put something together they expect input from Planning, the public and the developer before a final draft is approved. The developer decided to hold off to see if they could come up with a bill that works better for CDAG, DRWC, Planning and the public.

Anne Fadullon stated Councilmen Squilla and Matt Ruben clearly stated the process. When she got a hold of this she was given a laundry list of request. She looked for good planning principles such as 1) increased access to the waterfront 2) stormwater management and 3) open space requirements. Regarding One Water Street – they did an omnibus zoning change that changed requirements around public open space so they would not have a similar situation. One of the key points that they all agreed to was the idea that some of the parcels are very large and under the existing overlay it is possible to build a wall by Right. They are interested in playing with density and height to ensure that not just is there public access and open space but maintain view corridors. The city, state and philanthropy institutes are about to spend a lot of money to have a connection between the city and the waterfront. They don’t want to see development that creates a wall. They welcome this meeting, this feedback and they welcome the opportunity. They need the help and she thanked the crowd for allowing them to come to the meeting and have this conversation.

Joe Forkin wanted to pickup on a couple key things that the Councilman and Anne mentioned. In the Central Delaware, defined as a six mile string between Oregon and Allegheny Avenues, there are numerous large scale, milt-acre parcels. While one development brought this to our attention it is now our duty to think about the entire waterfront. He also raised a new point — Anytime legislation is put into action and you have five to six years of looking at it with growth and development, like we have on the waterfront, it is a good time to have a fresh look at something. it is also good to revisit the master plan and the underlying principles for the overlay. How do you balance the public good with high quality, world class development that we want to see come to the waterfront in Philadelphia. He wants high quality private development balanced with public access.

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS FROM THE CROWD WITH RESPONSES FROM THE INVITED GUESTS AND THE CDAG DELEGATES

Richard of Society Hill noted that we are missing out on population. He heard that  Philadelphia has 300,000 people less than two or three years ago. People are needed to fill the apartments and they need to be people with an income to be able to afford the apartments. He hopes that the pop increases rather than decreases.

Irene of Waterfront Square believes that 3d modeling of the waterfront would be a valuable tool in all the decision making. She suggested a model that can constantly change and be updated. A physical model would help with decision making an planning.

Steve from the town of Hawthorn was hoping to see more of the vision and the development plan. There are not enough graphics. He expressed concern that we are we conceding to quickly. We are talking about making an unbelievable change to the city by bringing the city of the river and bridging the I95 divide. He appreciates the development but he does not appreciate the ‘wall’ scare tactic and does not think that is a good basis for conceding to the developer. He noted that 340 -350 feet is the size of the Washington Avenue Tower. The waterfront is a jewel and we should not be giving away jewels. We have a tremendous ability to develop a public amenity. Public has the power to demand public development. Don’t give up your power. They do not need the extra 250’. He urged the Councilmen and the public to focus on public space amenities. Extending the city to the river is an incredible vision and we should not be starting with the idea of concessions and death by 100 cuts. We have the power to make the developers do what we want. The Councilmen was urged not give up the power and to maintain the overlay.

Councilmen responded that the ordinance was for the whole overlay. We believed that what was good for K4 would be good for the whole waterfront. Sometimes increasing building height is a bad thing but you can increase height and also increase open space. Variances are needed because sometimes things fit perfectly and sometimes they don’t. Even after the overlay is amended it is likely that developers will still need variances. Even when they introduced to the overlay to codify the master plan it occurred through a process. They see this as an opportunity to improve bill and create conditions that will lead to waterfront development fit for a a world class city.

Matt Ruben addressed the lack of graphics and noted that the bill stated out as ‘spot zoning’ but became something else when the Planning Commission was asked to write legislation that amends the overly. It is much better policy to amend an overlay instead of spot zoning but if the amendments are driven by a spot zoning motive then the that is worse. This is not a process about a particular developer. Matt welcomed the developers representatives but stated this has to be good for the overlay. CDAG and DRWC and the Planning Commission have had an overlay to do list based on proposals. Matt stated CDAG is not going to support amendments that would make a bad bill less bad. We are only going to support bills or changes that we think improve the overlay.  We are all about making the overlay better and there is a surprising consensus between CDAG, DRWC and Planning.

Joe Forkin stated that Matt is correct and this is comprehensive plan for the entire overlay. He provided history on the 244’ height limit. They were looking at a way to prevent historic errors which were either over building a site and glutting the absorption rate with one project and preventing other sites from being redeveloped, or land speculation and over entitled sites. The overlay allowed for 100’ by Right, which a a very normal Old City height limit, that extended to the neighborhood to the waterfront and then 144’ bonuses are given for providing public space, public benefit, connections, river access streets, things that everyone can enjoy. They did not anticipate what that meant for a large multi-acre site. Just like they did not anticipate the way the plan was codified in the code for river access streets. Some of the language, when interpreted by Licenses and Inspections, the enforcement arm of the zoning code, because one large access street going through a site could render a site un-developable. Joe agreed with Matt that the bill should reflect the master plan and the civic vision but he also agreed with the Councilman that it should also reflect the input of private developers who are going to invest in the waterfront. Both interests need to be balanced to come up with the best revision to the overlay.

John of RECA stated he was at the meeting with Mayor Street eleven years ago when they voted to continue that planning process. He thanked everyone for coming. This is not about a particular development; it is about the process. He thank the Councilmen for his work. He said Joe is a great keeper of the plan. This is not old PHL, and we can’t have a riverfront plan w/o an honest broker. We got rid of the Penns Landing Corp and things have gotten better since we got DRWC. He emphasized that there needs to be a process. We can’t go back. The process needs to be community Driven.

Susan of Penssport noted that her interest in site is historical. She has been collecting stories from decedents of people who came in on Pier 53 which is adjacent to where K4 wants to build. Where K4 wants to build was the first Navy Yard in the US. It was a place of embarkation for Civil War soldiers. There were comfort stations for wounded Civil War veterans who came back by ship. There were volunteers from the neighborhoods who set up tents and took care of these people who took care of these people until they were well enough to be sent back to where they came from. It was a battery financed by Benjamin Franklin. This is a historical place. You are talking about a world class city. What I have seen of K4 — they would like to put a coop city right on this area. Stakeholder should include Diane Gomez and her third grade class at German Town Friends. They come every year and they study the history of the waterfront. They learn about Humphries ship yard, the first ship yard on the waterfront which is not Pier 55, where they want to build two towers. If this is a world class city we should appreciate the history. There is a plan for the whole waterfront but this is a special place but I am a voice crying in the wilderness and I don’t know how to monetize that. The historical significance of the site can not be given a value except to the third grade class.

Mary Stumpf a Neighbors Allied Best Riverfront delegate, echoed John’s comment about process. Commented that people have a stake in this and need to be included.

Annie Westcott CDAG Delegate from Society Hill Towers Homeowners Association, also wanted to return to John’s point about process and asked for clarification about what the process is for amending the overlay.  She is concerned because it seemed to be developer driven. She asked if we should we meet every two years to address concerns.

The Councilmen responded that we have changed the overlay since its inception. They amended it because of the Spring Garden project. They felt the intent of the connector streets were being taken literally by L&I and therefore the width of Spring Garden would have gone through the whole parcel. That would have made the parcel impossible to develop.

Anne Fadullon clarified, the process is part of the code. Either the councilor or the developer, or a community group reaches out to the Planning Commission stating interest in changing zoning and they ask for the Commissions help. Typically they ask the Councilmen how they would like to handle the request. The Planning Commission provides technical support, but by law City Council is the only entirety that can change the code. The Planning Commission works in concert with the Council person to draft something for Council. They encourage participation. The Formal legislative process is a bill gets introduced, Planning staff reviews it and comes to the Planning Commission meeting with a recommendation that is typically approval, not approval, or sometimes they request forty-five days to review issues. A recommendation comes out from the Planning Commission. Generally, a public Rules Committee hearing is set up. Then the legislation receive a first reading at City Council, and then a second reading at City Council. The Mayor would then pass it. There are opportunities for public input. If a bill generates a lot of interest and comments, like this bill, the process gets elongated if there is a lot of public interest. That is the process that is codified in the code.

Matt Ruben noted that with with something as important and potentially as high stakes as the overlay it might make sense for the Councilman to convene a meeting once a year with stakeholders to proactively looks at and talk about the overlay to see of there is anything that needs to be tweaked or changed proactively. Matt stated it is best to speak plainly. One the other side of the ledger he noted the he noted that bills introduced in late spring it is usually because there is a desire or a perceived need to get it passed before the summer break. When that happens with a bill that one or more community stockholders feels is flawed experience community stakeholders know that a clock has started and a Sword of Damocles is hanging over their head. This reinforces the perception that this is being done to set the goal posts so that even if we fight really hard we’ll only get half a loaf. What some people here are saying please son’t introduce bills and then talk about them if its something this important. We know there are political pressures in the city.

The Councilmen noted that there are developers in the city but communities also request changes.

Anne Fadullon interjected that there is a 2035 plan. We focused the process and the process driven by developers. There are also process that is driven by the community. Zoning committees will see the same request over and over and if they always respond yes then they may come to the commission and request fixing the code. And conversely, can we fix the code so address issues that we consistently say no too. The Planning Commission is reliant on community input for this. They also do zoning that is referred to as ‘Advancing the Plan’. There is a city-wide vision and they have broken it down to eighteen District Plans, and they are on the seventeenth District Plan. They will offer remapping recommendations to advance the plan. The Technical Review Committee includes members of the Planning Commission and people from L&I and other city officials involved in the approval process to address the code. Every two years they put forth omnibus zoning. Those are non-reactionary ways of planning. We are a  350 year old city and you try your best but the zoning doesn’t fit all and they get a lot of requests that are developer driven. They are in the process of remapping.

The Councilmen noted that nine out of ten times they get community support for a bill. He noted that if we went to the community with every bill nothing would pass. Community support is important and they try to do the best possible thing for community and developers. He noted that he was the head of a civic association and that without community support he would not have is position. They are trying to listen to the community and the developers, weigh both sides of the argument and then introduce something. Amendments are usually done at a public hearing and then voted on by committee as amended.

Jake noted that this is a new community and a  new piece of waterfront. What has been done before has not benefitted the community. The waterfront should have a different process.

The Councilman noted he could do a better job of putting legislation out for comment in advance and agreed that CDAG, the advisory group should be consulted.

Nina Zimmer of Waterfront Square Condo Association and Matt Ruben noted that the first time CDAG heard of the development was in December at beginning of the year when K4 gave CDAG a presentation. We gave an opinion and it appears that they did not listen. CDAG did not hear from K4 after that meeting until May when we say this bill. It took the original group many meetings to come up with the recommendations. We should set the standard and the developer should follow the standards set by the citizens. In December K4 had given the Councilmen and or the Planning Commission language for a proposed very long bill that would cover their property and little bit on either side. Five or six months later a completely different bill came before CDAG five or six months later and a long period of not hearing anything.

The Councilmen said the overlay has a solid base. We need to enhance the plan. K4 made some positive changes including a connector street. Podium type plan. Connectors street showed they listed to things along the way.

Phil Stolztfus of Olde Richmond Civic Association thinks there is a lot to be positive about. Acknowledged that having Joe at the DRWC is very positive. Appreciates the Councilman admitting that he may have rushed in. Noted that changing the overlay is not business as usual. He pushed for next steps and commitments. Who is auguring for things that will make the overlay better. How do we go about making the legal language better? How long do we have to work on this? How much say do CDAG and the member civics have in this bill?

The Councilman noted that there is a meeting scheduled for Thursday including him Planning, DRWC, CDAG, and Planning. They will review issues concerning the overlay and the benefits of changing the overlay. They are hoping to meet every two weeks until they have a plan that they be able to introduce. He agrees that it is a good idea to look at the overlay every two years to review for changes. The K4 bill has been introduced and they will schedule a hearing when they think they have consensus among the leadership.

Matt Ruben clarified that if the bill goes to a hearing of the Rules Committee and City Council and if the Committee votes to recommend the bill out of Committee to the full Council whenever a zoning change passes to Council the Doctrine of Pending Legislation dictates that once the Committee approves the bill L&I will start issuing permits. Or, if the zoning change restricts certain things L&I will stop issuing permits based on that so called Doctrine of Pending Legislation. Before it gets out of Committee L&I will not do that. The Committee meeting is key. Council does not come back until late September but since you only need the Committee meeting it could theoretically happen at any time. The Councilmen is not going to not call for a Rules committee meeting this month or on August 1. CDAG will resist any effort to rush it but Matt noted that the Councilmen does not want the bill lingering. Matt noted that the civic vision was produced as a result of an unprecedented public process. The master plan had a major public process. The actual zoning overlay was not written at public meetings because you can’t write legislation at meetings like this. CDAG had people at the overlay meetings and fought like hell and came back and updated the CDAG board at the monthly public meeting overtime they had a meeting or language. If there is consensus the Planning Commission has to write the language and and when needed vet it with the law department which can change the language. The CDAG stakeholders then comment, approve or disapprove and the process continues. The meetings will not be public but the language will not be kept secret.

The Councilmen noted at some point they will move forward, regardless of consensus.

Oscar a Historic Preservation Expert — Has gone over plan and surveys of the master plan and noted several documents relating to historic properties. Many are on the fringe of the river since I95 took out much of our historic waterfront, however there are still a number of pier sheds, little two hundred year old houses, ninetieth century warehouses, and an ideal amount of historic fabric to be woven in to development whether it is a wall or a facade. Right now none of it is protected, nothing except maybe some in Society Hill. This is a huge mistake. Go to any other old city in American, go to Montreal and all of their waterfront resources are protected by the city. Across from Penn Treaty park, he saw four houses from the seventeen hundreds get demolished. This is crazy. People come to Philadelphia because they want to see history not because they want to see rows of driveways. You have to do something to protect the historic resources. He asked if the historical commission even involved in this?

 

Joe Forkin interjected to address Oscars comments and echo the communities concern about both process and ongoing check-ins with the waterfront. He advocated for constant check ins where possible. He noted that DRWC had three people taking copious notes and that they are re-tooling their website and they intend to have a page on their planning and development website that the gives constant updates to the community about this process. The will also provide the opportunity for email feedback. Joe agreed with Matt that it is difficult to legislate at meetings like this but what is not difficult is for your voice to be heard and encouraged people to send electronic communication and to follow along on social media. Joe addressed Oscar’s point and mentioned that they have been grant writing to finish a partial historic inventory, which was part of the master plan, with with a much more in depth analysis of what is still left on the waterfront. Is it significant? Is it contributing? Should it be nominated or should it not be nominated? That will be on their website in the coming months if they are successful in getting the funding for it.

Matt Ruben noted that Tammy Leigh DeMent  of PHS did a lot of work in putting together a list potential historic properties along the Central Delaware because we have been concerned about this.  Matt noted that Oscar (?) is a one man historical nomination machine. CDAG does not have the time to write the nominations and asked if DRWC grants include time for writing the nominations.

Oscar noted that the reality is if we take too much time it is all going to be gone.

Joe Forkin noted that DRWC is happy to provide resources as long as they are funded to do it. He stated that they seeking funding from philanthropic organizations and competitive grant sources, they are applying for those now, and they are confident that they will land one in the very near future to continue the atlas or encyclopedia of historic areas and building along the waterfront. What gets nominated would be part of that process. Lizzie Woods was acknowledged as a tremendous city planner. They are happy to provide resources once they have the proper documentation and a consensus about what really is historic, what is contributing, what should be on a national register, what should be on a local register.

Matt mentioned that any citizen can nominate anything. He alerted Susan to the fact the Oscar would be happy to help her or at least advise you.

An audience member who does not belong to any civic association noted that she lives in No Libs on the water. She pointed out that ten high towers do not reflect bringing the neighborhoods to the river. There is nothing about the development that says neighborhood to her. They look like they should be in Miami not historic PHL. She noted that Waterfront Square was supposed to be five buildings, the developer went bankrupt and now there are three buildings. Property values plummet with vacant properties. High rises are not inviting to walk through and they are not historical.

Matt Ruben noted that K4 is here, and encouraged them to speak if they like, and stated that no developer or property owner should ever be condemned for proposing something. There is nothing wrong with proposing something that requires a zoning variance. However, if you want to change the law to accommodate what your doing because the current law does not allow it then they open themselves to a public conversation about the merits of the legislation. Is this wise or not. There are things that no one can anticipate. No zoning overlay can force a level of aesthetic or historical or building type conformity that some might want. If you have a bonus system and if you have an overlay with rules and if you can build a project that legitimately qualifies for bonuses then more power to you. CDAG has no interest in preventing development. We are an interested in protecting integrity of the overlay. We are here today because the bill has provisions that we feel undermine the integrity of the overlay by allowing double dipping on bonuses, by creating new bonuses that we think are ripe for abuse and by increasing the bonus height limit with no particular rational for doing so. The debate with range from ‘we need to have a conversation to understand why this is a good idea to this is clearly just a terrible idea. If K4 or anybody else qualifies by Right under the current overlay or an amended overlay than CDAG has no objections. If they don’t qualify it is simply because the project doesn’t qualify.  We are not interested in vilify for no reason. We are interested in an overlay that keeps its integrity and height bonuses based on real benefits like actual public space that is usable and identifiable.

Matt Ruben repeated that the bill contemplates another level of public space bonus. Another level of public space bonus is fine but the bonus itself has to be very strict so that the developer actually provides public space. Another issue, the through connections. The eight river access streets called out on the plan, when put through to the river result in bonuses. If you jump to through connections, which are essentially private through ways through project, you are skipping over a whole category, which is all the public streets that could be enhanced as connections but are not specifically identified as river access streets in the overlay. With through connections you jump to tertiary streets, skipping important secondary streets. The through connection bonus does not seem like a great idea. There should be very specific conditions under which you can get it. Through access should not be near a public street, it should not be opposite a highway on ramp where it would be hard to access. Double dipping is a non-starter. If you use a piece of your property for one bonus you can’t use it for another. Regarding height, and the wall issue, if the code allows a developer to take bonuses and they want to maximize their density and they want to go up to 244’ there is noting wrong with them doing that. But if that creates a wall then maybe you let them go higher on one building, but they have to go lower on the rest. We would like to explore promoting varied heights. CDAG is against raising the 244’ height limit. The aggregate average height would remain the same. We are interested in making development more varied for projects that have a lot of density because they are on large sites.

Matt Ruben and Joe Schiavo have been designated to attend the legislative meetings where the language is being drafted and they are accountable. They report back to CDAG and take the will of the group back to the meetings where the legislation is being written.

John of RECA asked for a commitment from the Councilmen to allow the back and forth process to take place.

The Councilman agreed.

Diane Mayer the neighborhood representative to CDAG noted that part of that commitment is to allow CDAG representatives to go back to their associations or groups. They need to have the time to go back to their groups to share information and have discussions.

Margaret a former representative thanked the panel. Her comments are historical she noted that the waterfront from Penn Treaty Park, where William Penn made a treaty with the Indians, to the Navy Yard where Benjamin Franklin created the first navy. She suggested that the entire waterfront should be a bonafide historic site. She suggested replicas for sites are no longer available so school children can see our history on the waterfront.

Sue from Passyunk Square thanked everybody and encourage the Councilman to take time and to work with civic organization and asked him to avoid compromise the integrity of the overlay.

III. MOTION to Adjourn. Seconded and Approved.

One of the most important agenda items in the last five years

The June CDAG board meeting is Thursday June 8th, 6pm at the Society Hill Tower  meeting room. We have one of the most important agenda items in the last five years: Discussion of Councilman Mark Squilla’s pending bill that would amend the Central Delaware Zoning Overlay.

Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced a bill to amend the CDO (Central Delaware Zoning Overlay) in several ways. Most notably, the bill would increase the maximum allowed building height, and create a new height bonus for making “through connections” to the waterfront via quasi-public driveways and other passages run through private developments.

CDAG believes the CDO can be modified in positive ways, but has grave concerns about this bill, which in its current form would undermine the Central Delaware Master Plan and the CDO.

If you share these concerns, would like to learn more, and would like to dialogue with Councilman Squilla, please come out to the June CDAG board meeting Thursday, June 8, 6-7:30PMSociety Hill Towers  Community Room (285 St. James Place – in small shopping complex next to the towers). Councilman Squilla will be on hand at 6, and this will be the first item on the agenda.

And here is the meeting agenda:

  • 6:00 – Call to order
  • 6:05 – CDO AMENDMENT LEGISLATION, with special guest Councilman Mark Squilla
  • 6:50 – Zoning presentation, 120 N. Columbus Blvd (Holiday Inn – signage)
  • 7:05 – Approval of May meeting minutes, and officer reports
  • 7:15 – Old Business
  • 7:25 – New Business
  • 7:30 – Adjournment

We hope to see you there!