Proceed With Caution on Historic Districting

(Photo: Plan Philly/Eyes on the Street, used under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0) Several high-profile demolitions of historic buildings, most notoriously on Jewelers Row, have increased the salience of historic preservation politics in Philadelphia recently. The Mayor convened a Historic Preservation Task Force to revamp local preservation policy, and there are now three bills in City Council that aim to make historic designation more attractive for property owners. And there is indeed a good case to be made that Philadelphia, as a city whose brand is so tied up in its historical significance, should be doing more to incentivize historic preservation and generally make it easier to designate historically-significant buildings for special demolition protections. It would be better if more developers would reuse older buildings more often instead of tearing them down to build new.  At the same time, there's one area where our preservation policy is basically getting it right—even though many advocates don't like it—and that is the relatively high bar for creating new historic districts where whole neighborhoods, or large sections of neighborhoods, are placed under strict regulations for alterations or demolitions of existing buildings, and even the aesthetics of new construction.      Continue reading

How to Cut Traffic Congestion By Fixing Trash Policy

(Dumpster Alley | Photo: Bill West) Over the past year, the Kenney administration's transportation team, SEPTA, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and the downtown business community have spent a lot of time thinking about different solutions to worsening traffic congestion, and the administration has even piloted some ideas like expanded loading zones, and more regular enforcement of the bus-only lanes on Chestnut and Market.  Continue reading

To Fix the Land Bank, We Need to Cut City Council Out of Approval Process

(How to fix land disposition) A package of Land Bank process reforms moved out of a key City Council committee this week, and now goes to the full Council for approval. If enacted, the changes would represent some important advances for the Land Bank in terms of a more transparent and rule-based process for selling city-held land, but unfortunately, they still leave the biggest problem untouched—the City Charter's requirement that City Council pass an ordinance to sell any land. With the ordinance requirement still in place, District Council members will continue to exert as much influence over land sales as they always have, and the new and improved process will amount to little more than official window dressing.  Continue reading

We Still Need PICA After 2023

The Inquirer editorial board flags an important issue that will be decided during the next Mayor and City Council, which is whether or not to renew the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority—better known by its acronym PICA—which is set to expire in 2023. Continue reading

As Parking Biz Exits Center City, It's Time to Retire Mandatory Parking Minimums

(Image: Google Streetview) The financial math for creating new parking garages in Philadelphia doesn't work anymore, Meir Rinde reports, quoting Parkway CEO Rob Zuritsky, who says the company is looking to get out of the parking business and redevelop all of their Center City surface lots.  Continue reading

PA Supreme Court Says City-Owned Land Not Immune from Adverse Possession Claims

(Image: Google Streetview) If you've ever rode the Market-Frankford Line into Fishtown, you may have noticed a large lawn as you approach the Girard station with a huge sign in it that says "The Notorious Galdo Parcel."  Continue reading

Jobs Are the Top Reason People Leave Philly

Why do people leave Philadelphia? A first-of-its-kind report from Pew looked at this question for the first time, based on a random survey of people who'd changed their addresses, and found that jobs topped the list.  Continue reading

How to Make the New Plumbing Code a Housing Affordability Win

(Mid-rise building on Memphis Street in Fishtown | Photo: Jon Geeting) Philadelphia has some of the highest relative construction costs of any big U.S. city, and one of the bigger contributors to this problem has been our antiquated Plumbing Code.  Continue reading

Liquor Control Board's Open Records Fight is Regulatory Capture at its Worst

(Grocery stores like Acme can get restaurant licenses now, and have been bidding up costs | Photo: Jon Geeting) How many liquor licenses are available to bid on in Pennsylvania counties?It sounds like a simple question that should already be public information on the Liquor Control Board's website, but amazingly, Jan Brewer reports that the LCB doesn't publish these figures, and they're even going so far as to appeal an order to release this by the Office of Open Records. Worst of all, they're saying plainly it’s because they want to protect inflated values for liquor license holders. Continue reading

Will Dan Tinney Be the Big Winner of Philly's Oddly Exciting Fall At-Large Council Race?

(Everything's coming up Dan Tinney | Image: Dan Tinney for Council) Two Inquirer articles out this week about the intra-labor rifts and the intra-Republican Party rifts that are shaping the battle lines for Philadelphia's fall general election together help to explain why Republican challenger Dan Tinney is the biggest beneficiary of all the excitement. Continue reading