February, 2018 Minutes

February CDAG Board Meeting
Thursday, February 14, 6:00PM
Society Hill Towers Community Room
285 St. James Place

Call to order and approval of prior meeting minutes:
Motion to approved. Seconded. Approved

6:05 Special Guests – Councilman Mark Squilla and representative Ian Litwin from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Ian Litwin presented the CDO draft proposed update legislation.

Central Delaware Zoning Overlay (CDO) is the legal expression of the Central Delaware Master Plan, which was adopted by the city in early 2012, after years of unprecedented public engagement. In June of 2013 Councilmen Squilla successfully put through, with CDAG’s support, the CDO, which is now more than five years old. In May of 2017 the Councilmen drafted a bill with amendments to the CDO. CDAG and other stakeholders were concerned about the bill and the Councilman agreed to put the bill on hold and embarked upon a process to improve the bill and the amendments. Stakeholders include CDAG, the Planning Commission (PCPC), L&I, PWD, DRWC and zoning attorneys who represent land owners on the Delaware River, and other civic stakeholders. The bill was moving towards a specific framework and then the process took a left turn, at least from the perspective of CDAG. Late in the game the PCPC sent the legislation by their law department. The law department did not support some elements of the bill and the PCPC decided that it was beyond their resources to implement some of the provisions of the bill. A new draft was created and at that point, CDAG Chair and the Vice Chair expressed to PCPC that they were no longer willing to communicate and recommend the bill and the Councilmen, and PCPC needed to provide the bill and defend it. Matt  Ruben thanked the PCPC for attending. PCPC stated that they are taking notes and their goal is a bill that everyone will support.

CDO is intended to encourage development in accordance with the Master Plan. It applies to all parcels in the Central Delaware except those zoned for port uses, east of 95 from Allegheny to Oregon. The purpose of the update is to discourage low density development. There are single family homes on Front Street with garages that front the boulevard and the updated legislation will discourage this kind of development. 

The purpose of the optional path is to promote large projects that provide a public benefit and high-quality urban design. There is a more vigorous approval process for the optional path. PCPC wants to institute a process where they can approve large projects and require public benefits for those projects.
Changes to the base CDO include: ground floor uses, height limits, gross floor area, form and design, and height and density bonuses. The optional review includes this list and, in addition, amenities and waivers, as well as a longer review process and stricter standards.
In conflict with the Master Plan, auto-oriented uses are still being proposed and sometimes built. PCPC’s recommendation is to prohibit auto-related uses including gas stations except in certain industrial zones.
Ground floor use requirements apply to building frontage on Delaware Avenue, river access streets and the Delaware River. Residences are allowed as an active ground floor use and they are considering removing it from the list and changing the 75’ requirement to encourage non-residential active use.
Ground Floor Uses include Other/Residential/Active

There are nine active ground floor uses and they are creating a ground floor use scale to encourage more active uses while allowing residential development. This would allow for a minimum of 75% active use with 25% other. There can be a maximum of 60% residential development.

They are proposing to lower the base height limit from 100’ to 84’ while allowing for more height bonuses. The maximum height with bonuses remains at 244’.

Mechanical equipment cannot be placed underground in the flood hazard area. Mechanical equipment in certain flood areas will be excluded from gross floor area and FAR calculations. This is limited to one floor.

The CDO lacks adequate controls for building width and spacing. PCPC are proposing dimensional requirements including a 200’ building width maximum. and a 35’ minimum building spacing requirement. They are adding a 50’ spacing requirement between residential entries, which may reduce the amount of single-family row homes built.

They are changing the means to actively calibrate bonuses to benefit the public, accommodate changes to the mixed income housing bonus only and encourage greater use of the bonuses. Only one project has used height bonus is the five years that they have been offered.

Double dipping is not allowed.

This process is applicable to lots east of Delaware Avenue that are zoned CMX 3,4, and 5. This may allow developers to build without height limits and minimum parking requirements. Public benefits required for projects that go through this optional process include: mixed income housing, public open space, Trail connections and a minimum requirement for storm water management. In exchange PCPC is proposing to waive height limits and parking minimums. FAR bonuses apply only to mixed income housing. The approval process requires a meeting with the Executive Director, PCPC approval of the site plan before zoning permits, civic design review, and PCPC approval before building permits are issued. 
They will have similar requirements for active ground floor Uses. The requirements are stricter for the OPTIONAL APPROVAL PATH. They are requiring 50% Active Use on Delaware Avenue. On River Access Street there is a 25% Active Use requirement.

On the ground floor the building width maximum is 125’, which is significantly less. This is meant to encourage buildings to provide views and access to water. 
Surface lots are not allowed within 75’ of Delaware Avenue. Parking structures cannot be located within 50’ of Delaware Avenue. unless 50% or more of the ground floor frontage contains active uses and there is a direct connection to a public sidewalk or open space located on the roof of the structure. 

Stormwater must discharge directly into the river without using the city’s infrastructure.

Matt thanked Ian for his presentation.

Councilman Squilla: He thanked the working committee from CDAG, DRWC and the PCPC for working to improve the CDO. This idea is new and open to discussion and he’s willing to work with the community. He’d like to have this done before June, which is the end of the session. Low-density single-family development is occurring, and they are seeking to encourage development that aligns with the spirit of the Master Plan. 
CDAG Discussion and response and next steps on the overlay situation and process. Society Hill wants development on the Central Delaware that is in line with the Master Plan. They want the law to be aligned with what was envisioned ten years ago in the Master Plan. They are concerned with building height and open space. They are struggling with eliminating the height limit. The community did not envision or buy into illustrations of large structures above 200’. 
Councilmen Squilla: By limiting heights they were forcing developers into designs that were not in the spirit of the Master Plan. They are seeing what is being proposed on the waterfront and they have to re-imagine what is possible. They are still trying to adhere to the Master Plan. In certain areas the height limits may have to be higher than 90’.
CDAG: We are not equipped to do neighborhood by neighborhood outreach, but they have an advantage in the boat basin because DRWC owns that land. DRWC and Society Hill Civic have been in conversation. Matt asked if DRWC has a plan to develop the boat basin with multiple 240’ buildings. 
DRWC: No, we have always said this is not a high-rise site, but we are not willing to lock into a fixed height limit without understanding what development proposals could be because that could inadvertently legislate us out of good development proposals.
Question: You are allowing water to flow directly into the river?
PCPC: The first 1.5″ of stormwater must be captured on site as soon as you disturb 10,000 so these projects will be managing their own stormwater. Stormwater above that will not be going into the city system. Storm water bonuses are for capturing stormwater off of city streets and managing it on a private site. Developers are required to comply with PWD requirements, including managing the first 1.5’ on site. 
CDAG asked Councilmen Squilla for ‘what if’ scenarios for sites along the waterfront. What could be built under the proposed legislation? The inability for us to know anything is a problem when you are asking for community support. The Anderson site has dozens of acres. Even if there is not height limit, the FAR will still constrain building size. In CMX 3,4, and 5 the FAR can be 500% of the lot area. If you have a 1,000 square foot lot, then you can have 5,000 square feet of building. There are some large parcels on the waterfront and if someone wanted to cover only a small portion they could build very high. There are also piers where the property includes water, so they could build higher than they would be able to if the water where not included in the property area. The less of the lot you take up then the higher you can build. The process is being influenced by those with a direct financial stake in the Central Delaware. They have more resources than community advocates and volunteers. The process feels unfair and weighted towards financial interests. We need more information to make informed decisions.
Councilman Squilla: Acknowledged that as a fair point and the importance of exploring the dimensions limits and development options. 
QUESTION: There could be more stringent criteria within the optional review. Focusing on the façade could determine building material. The optional process requires design review. There are a number of approvals that happen if you do not choose the optional review. Façade review considers transparency percentage and active use. The building code dictates materials. 
CDAG Vice Chair, Joe Kain: Suggested the material is too confusing and he cannot guarantee that his civic will not support the legislation. If people hear things like no height limit and no parking requirements, they will have questions. Illustrations will help him to communicate the intent.
PCPC: They have limited resources and they are trying as hard as they can. They are trying to get something that is as good as they can possibly get.
Councilman Squilla: Acknowledged that they are not asking PCPC to take on the parcel case studies. He wants to see representative samples that show the worst case and best-case examples.
Question: How can a sense of community develop with high rise buildings. Human interaction is limited. Low rise development encourages human interaction?
Councilman Squilla: Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods which makes it a great city. He is a proponent of home ownership and that type of development is occurring, but single-family development on the river tends to privatize the waterfront. We do not have the land or the demand for high rises on every parcel, and there are only a couple of parcels where this is possible. There are only four or five parcels where high-rise buildings are possible. 
PCPC: In order to access the relaxed height-limit available through the optional process a developer must provide publicly accessible open space.
CDAG: The zoning in the master plan was intended to replicate the neighborhoods of the city. Three, four, five and up stories were part of the original plan. The bonus system came about because of pressure from the development community. Most of the development on the waterfront has been underbuilt. Overbuilding has occurred through zoning attorneys using zoning to inflate the value of the land and flip the property. Townhouse developments don’t create a sense of community because they have garages and they don’t have frontage on Delaware Avenue / Columbus Boulevard. 
PCPC: The market will determine the amount of parking. Developers can build as much parking as they want but they are not required to adhere to parking minimums. Currently in the Central Delaware, developers are building more parking than is required by the code because the market demands it.
Councilmen Squilla: Noted that most developers are over-building parking on the waterfront. 
DRWC: Density and height are two different things. The fabric of Philadelphia is denser than what they are seeing on the waterfront. We need density to encourage active uses like retail and cafes. We need people living along the waterfront.
CDAG: Rather than individual site studies, it’s necessary to bring the reader through the riverfront with a series of studies that explain the code and answer most of the questions. Illustrate the code and the market influences. It was noted that if there is 50’ between entrances, it should be also be noted that they are primary entrances. 
Society Hill: The waiver of the height limits and parking minimums will be hard for civic associations to swallow. Some limits will eliminate confusion. The Master Plan stated clearly that it was never intended that there would be 90’ walls of buildings. 
RECA: What is the motivation for the unlimited height? If there were a number, then people may be able to support the legislation.
PCPC. Developers are required to provide so much in the optional process. They are trying to elevate the quality of design and increase density.
CDAG: We are duty bound to uphold the principles of the Master Plan. Parking is ultimately meant to be urban parking and should be respectful of the people who live on the waterfront. 
PCPC: The goal is to let the market decide.
CDAG: We are forced to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy dealing with speculative zoning and the market demand is not there. We don’t want to be careful about spending time on legislation that exists, so a developer can flip a property for more money.
PCPC: The optional path the building permit requires multiple approvals from the Planning Commission, which discourages speculative zoning. 
CDAG: Deed restrictions are not valuable as speculative zoning tools because they encumber the property. Speculative zoning has been one of the largest problems along the waterfront. CDAG wants to consider the legislation on content and substance. CDAG does not want to sit in meetings that include lawyers from K4 and Durst because it raised suspicion. 
CDAG thanked Councilmen Squilla and the PCPC especially for the clear and concise presentations.

Old Business
Durst won an RFP to develop The West Shipyard. The site includes 16thand 17thcentury archeology. The site could be an economic engine and an attraction that brings people to the waterfront. John thanked Councilman Squilla for helping to prevent DRWC from entering into a binding agreement without a public process. DRWC has a letter of intent with Durst. The LOI includes a process and DRWC has committed to a public process. DRWC is not bound by a public vote, but they are not shackled to the developer. RECA does not think publicly owned land should be sold to private developers, especially because there is so little of it left on the waterfront. There is no agreement of sale, development proposal or site design. Direct action has led to a public process. 
If the goal is to have DRWC develop the land, then CDAG will have to have a proper conversation about private vs public options. CDAG has not taken a position on private development of the land.

Motion to Adjournment. Seconded.

site design. Direct action has led to a public process. 

If the goal is to have DRWC develop the land, then CDAG will have to have a proper conversation about private vs public options. CDAG has not taken a position on private development of the land.

Motion to Adjournment. Seconded.