Why is Density a Four Letter Word?

January 10, 2016
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If you’re going to own a car in the city, go all out.

“Density.” Anyone who has ever attended a zoning community meeting or hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment has heard this word. The project is “too dense” or it’s “an over-utilization of the property.”

In English, this means someone feels a developer is trying to put too many units into too small a space. Typically, neighbors tend to disfavor residential multi-units because more residents means less parking. Many residents also assume that families want to live in traditional style row homes, while only college kids, renters, and “Section 8” want to live in smaller units. Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of stereotyping and prejudices expressed at zoning meetings, and often unfairly.

Economically, townhomes are more expensive to build, more expensive to sell, and generate less of a return for the developer. An average rowhome in Fishtown could sell for about $350k – $500k. That price is beyond the means of many people.

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Some Frequently Asked Questions About The Philadelphia Zoning Process – Philly Zoning 101

August 15, 2013

Tonight I had the pleasure of speaking on behalf of the Fishtown Neighbors Association to address Philadelphia Zoning 101.  Between all the acronyms, verbiage, and procedural hurdles to getting a zoning variance the process can seem more complicated than it is. The goal of the talk was to provide a basic overview of how the zoning process works here in Philadelphia.

In case you missed it, here is our “Philadelphia Zoning 101 Guide.” This should answer basic questions about how the zoning process works here in the City of Brotherly Love.  Hopefully you don’t think it’s boring.

Leo previously wrote about changes to the Philadelphia Zoning Code that took effect in March 2013.


Why Pennsylvania Desperately Needs an Anti-SLAPP Statute To Protect Civic Engagement – The Dragonetti Act Is Not Enough

May 19, 2013

When most people think of the First Amendment, they think of the right to free speech. However, the First Amendment does not just protect free speech, it protects all civic engagement. The purpose of the First Amendment is to ensure that citizens have an active voice in our government. The First Amendment is not just a right to free speech, but a right to public participation. 

That right in Pennsylvania is currently in jeopardy thanks to SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation). 

Ideally, Congress would pass uniform anti-SLAPP legislation so citizens in all 50 states enjoy the right to public participation. But until that happens, Pennsylvania desperately needs an anti-SLAPP statute because what we have on the books currently is not enough. Every citizen should be able to participate in our government, perhaps through blogging or civic activism, without having to worry about being served with a frivolous lawsuit.

Below are my thoughts on why we need it, and what it would look like…

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