Community Opposition and a Rezoning Controversy in Philadelphia

The local councilmember is seeking a rezoning from commercial to residential in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, but local community members say the development will be priced out of their range.

2 minute read

September 3, 2020, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha and Scannapieco Development Corporation are proposing a development to rise on the site of the César Andreu Iglesias Community Garden, pictured here in August 2019. | Google Streetview

Catalina Jaramillo reports from Philadelphia, where a proposal "to build 40 two-family rowhouses on vacant South Kensington lots and redevelop a former scrap yard into a luxury condo building has suffered a new setback."

"The proposal for the North American Street corridor is part of a set of two rezoning bills introduced by Councilmember María Quiñones-Sánchez in June. The second bill creates an overlay on the street between Oxford Street and Lehigh Avenue to allow residential use in what’s currently an industrial corridor designed to be a job center," explains Jamarrilo of the cause of an ongoing development controversy.

The proposal has run into opposition from long-time Black and Latino residents of the area, who argue that "they won’t be able to afford the housing promised by the projects, and that they will lose job opportunities and open space in the area." 

That opposition led to a vote by the Philadelphia Planning Commission in August that only approved the portion of the project: "On Tuesday, commissioners approved the bill that would allow multi-family residential units on the N. American Street industrial corridor, but unanimously rejected the measure to use vacant lots currently in the hands of the Land Bank to create mixed-income housing and a condo in the former scrap yard."

As noted in the article, the Philadelphia Planning Commission serves an advisory role, like most planning commissions in the United States, so elected officials could yet ignore the commission's decision and proceed with the development and rezoning as proposed.

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