Downzoning for Society Hill Back on After the Philadelphia City Council Overrides Mayoral Veto

One of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Philadelphia is increasing parking requirements and limiting building heights at all costs.

October 26, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Society Hill Historic Buildings

Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock

"Mayor Jim Kenney’s first direct veto of City Council legislation — over a bill establishing more restrictive zoning rules for the Society Hill neighborhood — has been reversed by the chamber," Ryan Briggs.

The veto override is the latest in a saga that has changed the fortunes of the downzoning on several occasions. First the Philadelphia City Council approved the rezoning over the objections of planning staff and the city's planning commission. Then Mayor Kenney vetoed the City Council's approval. Now the City Council has overridden that veto.

The Philadelphia City Council's commitment to the downzoning comes despite direct criticism of the exclusionary nature of the changes, and how that approach fits into the contemporary approach to planning in the city (i.e., it doesn’t).

The legislation will "cap the height of development along Walnut Street to just 65 feet, increase parking requirements and eliminate density bonuses granted in exchange for historic preservation," explains Briggs. "The bill would also limit building heights to 45 feet in some areas of the district spanning from Walnut to Lombard Street between 8th and the Delaware River."

The vote did reveal at least some dissent among the council, in a departure from the usual councilmanic prerogative that offers councilmembers control over land use questions in their districts. Four councilmembers voted against the override. The original legislation to implement the rezoning passed the council unanimously. Soundbites included in the article from some of the dissenting councilmembers explain the shift.

Thursday, October 22, 2020 in WHYY

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