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Mayoral Veto Kills Controversial Philadelphia Downzoning

The mayor, planning staff, and the Philadelphia Planning Commission agree. The Philadelphia City Council and residents of the wealthy neighborhood of Society Hill, not so much.
October 15, 2020, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Society Hill Historic Buildings
Christian Hinkle

"Mayor Jim Kenney has once again vetoed a controversial zoning bill that sought to create a height ceiling in Philadelphia’s affluent Society Hill neighborhood," reports Ryan Briggs.

Planetizen picked up the news in September of legislation that the City Council would downzone the affluent neighborhood over the objections of planning staff and the Philadelphia Planning Commission. The legislation "would have limited development in the area to just 65 feet, or about six stories," according to Briggs.

To supplement the public information about the mayor's veto, Briggs has also obtained a letter from Mayor Kenney to the Society Hill Civic Association, which pushed for the zoning changes—in the letter, the mayor expresses support for a supply side approach to housing policy.

“Restricting overall development in Society Hill, the overlay will limit the supply of units necessary to meet housing demand,” Kenney said. “This will likely place undue pressure on surrounding communities to meet that demand, in turn driving housing prices higher and potentially displacing low-, moderate- and middle-income residents.”

In a previous article, Pat Loeb described the legislation thusly:

The bill would limit building height in the neighborhood, which runs from the Delaware River to 8th Street, between Walnut and Lombard. In some parts of it, buildings could not exceed 45 feet, limiting how much housing could be built there, decreasing the chances for creating mixed income units.

It also increases the number of parking spaces required for new development despite the city's goal of reducing private car use to relieve congestion, improve safety and fight climate change.

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Published on Thursday, October 15, 2020 in WHYY
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