City Council’s Reform of the Reforms Will Increase Neighborhood Litter

It seemed like progress when the city finally changed the its antiquated zoning code after 50 years of ineptitude. But then, as with other forward-looking initiatives, City Council members balked at the change and wanted to change things back–after four months (see also: AVI). Perhaps the saddest and funniest headline about the issue came courtesy of the Inquirer: “Philadelphia City Council already wants to change new zoning code.

Troy Graham wrote:

The Zoning Code Commission – created by the will of the voters – spent four years debating, dissecting, and ultimately rewriting the city’s rule book for building.

And already, Council members are exercising their right – their councilmanic privilege – to seek changes minor and major.

They are doing so despite the fact that four Council members served on the commission and every district member had at least one representative on it.

Since that first article, innumerable changes have been proposed, discussed and implemented. The next change to go into effect is, as the City Paper puts it, “part of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s reforms to the just-reformed zoning code.” Now there may be a reform to the reforms of the reform. We think?

It has to do with the city’s Registered Community Organizations, which most people know as civic associations. The new zoning code was hoping to give more power to official RCOs and streamline their processes. A bill that would go into effect on March 25th will actually muddle things up again, in a very Philly way. From the City Paper:

The law requires notification to go out to every property within nine blockfaces of a project before a community zoning meeting takes place. David Goldfarb, zoning chair of the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, figures that at three zoning appeals per month, that adds up to $518 per year in printing costs.

Notification would be in flyer form, but who’s going to pay for the printing costs? The civics? They barely have enough money for donuts and coffee at their meetings.

And here’s the catch-22 (or several), based on notification of all owners and residents in approximately 180 buildings in nine blockfaces:

• It’s illegal to put flyers in mailboxes
• It’s illegal to put flyers on a house with a No Flyers sticker
• If a civic puts flyers on a person’s stoop, and a wind comes up, and they go all over the place, the civic has increased neighborhood litter. Whoever is on the beautification committee is going to be pissed.
• If the civic has to mail the information (obviously the only choice left), the cost goes up to $3,700 per year.

For those who’d like to know exactly who will get screwed by this latest reform to the reforms, click here.

Civic groups: New zoning rule will cost us thousands of dollars [Naked City, CP]