Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
November 3, 2016
CRCA President Don Simon called the meeting to order at 7:33.
Officer Chris Jones (Community Relations Officer for the 5th District)
- In the 5th district, a major problem continues to be theft from autos, which is up 30% from last year but is down 3% in the last 30 days. Officer Jones implores you to lock your car doors, even if you don’t think you have anything valuable in the vehicle.
- With the holidays coming up, it’s important to protect your delivered packages from thieves. Have a neighbor who is around when your package is delivered take it in for you or use the Amazon lockers located in the neighborhood.
- A CRCA member asked whether house break-ins were still a problem. Officer Jones responded that residential burglaries were still an issue, although access was gained more often through open windows than through kicking down doors. Nevertheless, all should remain vigilant. Thieves walked into a day care during business hours and brazenly stole a handbag.
4332 Terrace Street
An applicant is requesting a special exception for the installation of a cell phone transmitter on the wall of the Verizon property at this address. Manayunk Neighborhood Council is the coordinating RCO and will discuss the proposal at their next meeting on December 7, 2016 at 7:30, likely at Venice Island.
436 Green Lane Update
This is a vacant storefront at the corner of Green Lane & Mitchell Street. The owner wishes to convert the commercial space into a residential unit. CRCA supported the variance, which was approved by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
451 Green Lane Update
- The owner of the property proposes to tear down the existing home and replace it with a triplex. CRCA and the neighbors vigorously opposed the project and retained an attorney. The Zoning Board rejected the proposal and denied the variance. After losing a motion for reconsideration, the owner has appealed the ZBA’s decision to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
- With the matter heading up the judicial chain, it is almost certain that CRCA will incur more legal fees. To date, the legal fees related to this property total $2,281.30. Donations in totaling $2,080 were received, leaving CRCA to contribute the remaining amount. We love the neighbor and advocating for the best use of properties, and we love donations that enable us to keep fighting the good fight. Please consider a donation.
Speaking of Legal Fees….
There is a Lower Northwest Coalition of Civics of which CRCA, both Wissahickon civics, Ridge Park, Upper Roxborough and Manayunk Neighborhood Council are members. They have been meeting with State Rep. Pam DeLissio to discuss ways for civics to get low-cost or free legal representation for zoning hearings. The procedure used at ZBA makes having an attorney critical to a favorable outcome, yet developers are clearly at a financial advantage compared to the civics.
CRCA filed a letter with the Liquor Control Board asking that Peck Miller’s liquor license (which was up for renewal in October) not be renewed or that a conditional license only be granted. There is no word yet on what action that LCB decided to take. The threshold for stripping the license of an existing license holder is pretty high.
Councilman at Large Alan Domb
Jeffrey George, Community Liaison for Councilman at Large Alan Domb informed those present of 4 projects Councilman Domb is working on. The goal of the first three is to generate funds for Philadelphia public schools.
- Collection of Delinquent Taxes: Philadelphia only collected between 88 and 92% of the taxes it is due. NYC has a much better collection rate, and using that city as model, Councilman Domb is looking for vendors who can make sure Philadelphia does a better job of collecting taxes.
- Real Estate Tax Assessments: Councilman Domb believes there are a lot of commercial buildings in the City which are assessed for (and taxed on) values greatly below their true market or sale value. He is working with the Office of Property Assessment to get these properties reassessed so that they will pay taxes that reflect that actual value of the property.
- Councilman Domb chooses not to take his $120,000+ salary and instead is donating $2,500 to schools throughout Philadelphia.
- Many Philadelphians aren’t aware of a federal program called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 40,000 Philadelphians qualify for this credit on households whose incomes are below a value (based on number of household members/children). You can file for up to 3 years back. Councilman Domb wants to encourage people to tell their neighbors to see if they qualify for this credit, and then spend the funds in Philadelphia.
21st Ward Town Watch
Madge Deery, Leann, and Theresa (VP of Upper Roxborough Civic) introduced their efforts to coordinate neighborhood resources.
They would like for every block in the 21st Ward to have a Block Captain and Co-Captain who would be responsible not only for block cleanups, but also to serve as a resource to let neighbors know about civics, town watch, and other ways to get involved in the community. Look for them on the Neighbors United 21st Ward Facebook page, coming soon.
Roxborough Green Project
Green Lane’s Michelle, Kay, Alex and Vanessa described a recent planting effort by this new initiative which seeks to foster neighbor relationships while improving the landscape of the community. If you are interested in getting help with planting in your yard, plants are available at wholesale cost and neighbors will come together to help work the land and mentor you about maintenance. It’s a fun way to make a lasting improvement to the neighborhood. Look for them on the Facebook “Roxborough on the Move” page.
Parking on the Front Setback is Illegal!
Several neighbors have recently expressed concern about absentee landlords (usually) who allow residents to park on the front setback/yard of their properties. In addition to being unsightly, this creates a hazard when the vehicles protrude into the sidewalk. Although the practice is illegal, it is rarely enforced by L&I. CRCA has scheduled a meeting with L&I to discuss this problem, and it would be helpful to have a list of specific properties where this is occurring. If you know of one, email the address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
4136-40 Mitchell Street
Presentation by owner/developer Glenn Falso and his architects Sean & Logan. Proposal to build a 53’ tall, 5 story, 72-unit apartment complex with fresh fruit market on 1st floor. 10 parking spaces to be provided. Because the property is zoned Commercial (CMX-2), this is a by-right project, meaning that the developer does not need to seek a variance or appear before the ZBA because it conforms to the existing regulations. However, the large size of the project triggers review by the Community Design Review Committee at the Planning Commission. This is a public meeting, but the CDR really has no teeth and can only give suggestions and feedback on by-right proposals. They cannot stop it. CDR Meeting Tuesday 11/29, 2016 at 1:00 P.M. 1515 Arch Street, 18th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
- The exterior façade would be composed of cast stone and brick with “minimal” metal accents. The developer plans to invest in significant amount of landscaping, including a 75% green roof and scenic interior courtyard located at the rear of the property. The architects presented sample images of proposed trees, shrubs and grasses to be used in the front and on the side of the building.
- A CRCA member asked how much space on the first floor is being devoted to commercial use, and how would trash be handled.
- A: The fruit market will be about 400-500 square feet, but there will be about 2,000 square feet of commercial total on the 1st floor. This represents about 30% of the first floor space. The remaining space will serve as a common area for residents.
- A: Dumpsters are accessed in the rear of the property via Freeland Street. Trash inside the building will be transported to the dumpsters via an interior corridor designed especially for that purpose.
- Josh Cohen, assistant to Councilman Curtis Jones, asked if the inclusion of the fresh fruit market was just done to take advantage of a zoning code provision that allows structures containing a fresh food market to add an additional 15 feet onto the permitted building height. [This is why the proposed building is 53’ tall when the normal height max would be 38’]. The project team acknowledged the fruit market was included so as to allow the addition of another story on the building. Mr. Cohen stated the project was not right for Roxborough, regardless of whether it's technically compliant with the City zoning code.
- A CRCA member asked about what materials would be used to treat the back and sides of the building. The response was likely stucco, although some façade materials will wrap partially around the side for a more aesthetically pleasing view when driving by. The local resident asked that they consider varying colors or materials on the stucco portions.
- When asked about parking, the project team acknowledge that there are only 10 parking spaces being provided for 72 units (all units being 2 bedroom units) and commercial uses, which they attribute to L&I regulations. This greatly upset neighbors who live near the site.
- A resident implored them to consider the lack of parking and pointed out that parking is already scarce in that area.
- The development team was asked how many bedrooms the units would be, and they responded that all 72 units are 2 bedroom/2 bath units. They are apartments and Mr. Falso is seeking market rate rent of approximately $1.80 to $1.90 a square foot.
- A Roxborough woman who has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years expressed dismay at how developers are “raping” Roxborough without regard for the quality of life of existing residents. She forewarned that this would lead to the downfall of the neighborhood, and all for the sake of the almighty dollar. Her impassioned pleas encouraged many of those present to clap at the end.
- Another civic leader asked what would happen when no commercial tenants come because of the lack of parking.
- Mr. Falso responded that he was from South Philly. “You don’t know about parking problems. This is the suburbs.”
- Don Simon asked if Mr. Falso would consider dropping the market idea and lowering the height 15 feet and putting parking on the first floor.
- Mr. Falso responded that he was entitled to do what he is entitled to do, and in short, no.
- An attendee asked what the plan was for maintaining the landscaping. Mr. Falso responded, “the landscaping company.”
- A local person asked about the building’s frame. A project architect responded that it is a podium design, with steel & concrete on the first floor then 4 floors of wood.
- More near neighbors attested to the lack of parking in the area around the building site from the dog park, Rec Center, synagogue, and Deke’s/Ugly Moose.
- Q: Is there an elevator? A: Yes, 2. Q: Large enough to move furniture? A: Yes, they are both freight elevators.
- A resident of the area commented that a front yard with landscaping would be more appealing than a hidden courtyard and side green space.
- When specifically asked by an attendee if they had considered underground parking as a possibility, an architect responded that they had “but it wasn’t viable for this project.”
- Mr. Falso confirmed that there will be full-time on-site management.
- Returning to the parking issue, an attendee asked Mr. Falso why he wasn’t concerned about attracting tenants with no parking. Mr. Falso made a comment about there being 3 Zip Cars and that “Millennials don’t have cars.” He said his target tenants are young professionals, married, dual income no kids.
- A neighbor responded that public transit is not always reliable for young professionals and that the regional rail stations are not conveniently located.
- Mr. Falso responded that “UBER has changed everything” and expressed his belief that his tenants might consider paying $6 for an UBER to the train station every day.
- The Design Review Committee meeting on 11/29 at 1:00 P.M. is open to the public. Those wishing to express an opinion on this project are encouraged to attend the meeting at the Planning Commission (1515 Arch Street, 18th floor, 19102). If you cannot attend in person, you may write a letter to the Planning Commission at that address. A near neighbor suggested taking pictures showing the current abysmal parking situation in that area and including that with correspondence.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:50.