We grabbed a cup of joe from River Bros. at 24th & Lombard over the weekend, and then decided to take a leisurely walk through the neighborhood while sipping our tasty beverage. We found ourselves on the 2300 block of Waverly Street and noticed a row of three homes on the south side of the block which had recieved third floor additions at some point in the past. Across the street, we spied another home which had a third floor added somewhere along the line, though this addition was set back slightly and the home had a deck area situated in front.
A few things to note about these additions. First, they're located in one of the highest priced neighborhoods in town, on an attractive block where a home sold a couple years ago for over $800K. Not only is this a wonderful block, but it's also a very skinny block that's tough to drive down without knocking into a parked car's side mirror. Also, you'll note that the block has mostly two-story homes, but the mix of three-story homes doesn't ruin the architectural integrity of the streetscape. And we should mention that all four additions that we pointed out maintained the cornice line of the original two-story homes.
So why should you care about a quartet of old additions on the 2300 block of Waverly Street? Mostly because they are instructive when considering a certain provision of the zoning code that we've been railing against for years. A refresher, Philadelphia introduced a new zoning code in the summer of 2012 which included a silly rule that anyone looking to build a three-story home (or a third-story addition) in between two-story homes would be required to set the addition back eight feet. While this was originally presented as a hedge against gentrification and an effort to help two-story blocks maintain their architectural character, the real world application of the rule has been generally terrible. Our biggest complaint about the new homes that follow this guideline is that many don't maintain the block's cornice line for the second story, creating homes that we'd argue stick out more prominently than regular three story homes.
We've said many times in the past that the code should be revised to permit three story homes on two story blocks, as long as they maintain the cornice line of the adjacent home and include a mansard roof. Sadly, we haven't seen any movement on this change at City Council, and developers are continuing to follow the code and build homes with jarring architectural features on blocks all over town. We wonder, if mansard roofs or small setbacks work on Waverly Street, why can't they work on other blocks?