Yesterday, OCF Holdings presented two projects to the Zoning Board of Adjustments: A proposal for a mixed-use development at the corner of Point Breeze Ave. & Titan St., and a proposal for a coffee shop at 2001 Federal St.
Over two dozen people showed up in support of the project, and perhaps a dozen showed up in opposition.
With regard to the Point Breeze and Titan project, the developer’s attorney carefully laid out the hardships that necessitated the zoning variances, and a couple of people spoke in support of the larger commercial space, and praised the developer for “bending over backwards to meet the needs of the community.” Opponents of the project protested because of possible parking issues, the ills of gentrification in general, a belief that the developer is a lousy individual, a preference for a medical center at the site instead of a mixed use property with a pharmacy, and a preference for single family homes rather than apartments.
By the time the coffee shop proposal was brought before the board, it was close to 5pm (the hearings began at 2pm, but all other items on the docket were heard before the Point Breeze cases). Opponents of this project protested a lack of engagement of the community, warned against the possibility that increased traffic could impede efforts of the police and fire department across the street and possibly put lives at risk, and stated a belief that a coffee shop would provide cover for the opening of a beer-selling operation to open at a later time, a la Brew.
For audio of these hearings, click here (With thanks to PBResident). Definitely some choice cuts in there.
As the coffee shop hearing concluded, it was clear that the ZBA had definitely had its fill of several of the opponents of these projects, warning at least one of the individuals that they would be asked to leave the room if they continued their behavior. The ZBA is holding the record open for these cases for two weeks, allowing Councilman Johnson time to comment on the projects.
What will Councilman Johnson say? Nobody knows. Will he give credence to people who oppose the projects for reasons that have nothing to do with zoning? Will he give consideration to people who support the projects because they believe they will improve the neighborhood? Nobody knows.
How much of an effect will his opinion have on the ZBA decision? Again, nobody knows.
If you live in Point Breeze and wish to express your views on the project, you can email the Councilman or send a fax his office at (215) 686-1932. You can also email the ZBA, just make sure you mention Calendar Number 17104 (PB & Titan) and Calendar Number 17105 (Coffee Shop). If you support the projects, you can sign a petition here.
You may ask, why does the district councilperson play such a large role in neighborhood zoning issues? It’s because Philadelphia abides by councilmanic prerogative, an unwritten law that gives district councilpeople tremendous power over land-use issues within their districts.
Somehow, most other major cities in our fine country have found a way to operate without local politicians acting as arbiters for hyper-local zoning issues. Isn’t that weird?
Disclosure: OCF Realty is the parent company of OCF Holdings and Naked Philly