Building Industry Slams Brian O’Neill’s Job-Killing Zoning Reforms

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Good news from Samantha Melamed:

Councilman Brian O’Neill’s legislation proposing sweeping, restrictive changes to zoning in certain commercial districts has been rolled back significantly already: controversial bans on urban gardens and farm markets, artist studios, prepared food shops and dry cleaners have been eliminated. Now, the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia and the administration may win yet another change to the legislation, which also restricts many commercial structures in CMX-2 and CMX-2.5 from including multiple residential units. The bill prohibits multifamily use if the nearest adjacent residential district is single family.

Eva Gladstein of the City Planning Commission met with O’Neill yesterday, and says he agreed to amendments to the bill. O’Neiil did not respond to an email from City Paper.

In a letter to City Council, Anne Fadullon, vice president of the industry group called that denser mixed-use development “crucial to the lifeblood of Philadelphia’s commercial corridors. In many cases allowing multifamily residencies on the upper floors is the revenue difference between restoring a storefront building to use or letting it remain vacant.”

When I wrote about this before it was to complain about the Republican Councilman’s plan to put a bureaucrat between property owners and business tenants. In addition to being a stupid policy, it was also very un-Republican.

The issue here is that O’Neill wanted to block developers from building more than one apartment over retail spaces in some pretty common zoning districts. But residential density is really the lifeblood of neighborhood retail. The more residents within walking distance of a shop, the better a chance it has of surviving. A block with 2 or 3 apartments above every retail storefront has a larger market of built-in customers to support neighborhood businesses than a block with just one apartment above each storefront.

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