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City Council’s Transit-Oriented Development Bill Is A Great Start. Here’s How To Make It Better.

March 2, 2017
Philadelphia 3.0   March 2, 2017
Original Article: http://www.phila3-0.org/transit_oriented_development

Paseo_Verde_1.jpg

(Paseo Verde, Philly’s first LEED for Neighborhood Development project, near Temple| Halkin Mason Photography)

City Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Bill Greenlee introduced City Council’s best economic development idea in years last week, and it won’t even cost the city any money (except for some Planning Commission staff time.)

The proposal (Bill 170162) would create a series of transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning overlays around various subway stations on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines. Inside those zones, taller buildings with lower parking requirements would be allowed by-right, and there would be requirements for active ground-floor uses (storefronts), and prohibitions on certain uses like surface parking lots, all with the goal of creating more housing for transit riders within walking distance of stations.

TOD zoning has been catching on in progressive cities around the country as a way to boost the share of transit-accessible housing, grow transit ridership, reduce car traffic congestion, and support more walkable retail corridors in neighborhoods near transit stops.

A TOD Overlay provision was created in the 2012 zoning reform push, and the Planning Commission has recommended several TOD overlays for various subway stations, but City Councilmembers have so far declined to create any. This bill aims to get that conversation started again, and there are several good reasons why now is the right time to prioritize this.

TOD_Overlays.png
(TOD overlays recommended in the Philadelphia 2035 Plan | Philadelphia City Planning Commission)

REVERSING SEPTA’S RIDERSHIP DECLINE

SEPTA recently reported a decline in ridership for 2016 and it wasn’t only due to the regional rail mess or the transit strike. Bus ridership declined by 7%, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue that will ultimately be carried by the City and state. Creating generous TOD zoning overlays around subway and regional rail stations costs the public nothing, while growing transit ridership and strengthening SEPTA’s finances–all without a fare increase or increased subsidies from the City.

BRINGING TRANSPORTATION INTO THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING DISCUSSION

The TOD bill also has an important tie-in with affordable housing policy. As organizations like the Center for Neighborhood Technology have pointed out, it doesn’t make any sense to think about housing affordability in isolation. You can buy an inexpensive home in the middle of nowhere, but blow all your house savings on higher transportation costs because you have to drive everywhere.
CNT came up with an H+T Index showing the “location-efficient” sweet spots where housing and transportation costs are both reasonable. They suggest a definition of affordability for Philadelphia where combined housing and transportation costs are under 43% of Area Median Income. The lighter areas of this map are the location-efficient areas of Philadelphia where the cost of living is lower, and the darker areas are places that need some policy attention (like this transit-oriented zoning bill) to bring H+T costs down.
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(Image: Center for Neighborhood Technology)

Land values near frequent transit service have been growing in Philadelphia in recent years as new arrivals have been more likely to prioritize transit access in their housing choices, and one way to keep transit-accessible housing affordable is to spread those land costs across more dwellings through upzoning.Unfortunately, some Councilmembers have been doing just the opposite. With little fanfare, Mark Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson irresponsibly allowed the South Broad Street Neighborhood Association to downzone most of South Broad below Washington Avenue for single-use single-family residential, despite oodles of unused transportation capacity on the Broad Street Line to serve a mid-rise, mixed-use corridor. The transit-oriented development overlay bill is a perfect opportunity to revisit that short-sighted decision.

WIDEN THE CIRCLES

While it’s great to see Council revisiting this idea, the execution leaves some room for improvement. For one thing, 500 feet is way too stingy. TOD overlays in our peer cities are typically somewhere between 1,300 and 2,700 feet. Philadelphia can do better than the nation’s weakest TOD policy.

The Temple subway station illustrates the problem well. Just a few years ago, Cecil B. Moore station near Temple and 46th and Market in West Philly were both targeted for potential Transit Revitalization Investment Districts, and Interface Studio actually won an award for their plans–plans that were never implemented.

As you can see, the 500-foot radius (the smallest circle) doesn’t even extend to the end of the block, and there are approximately zero development opportunities within this zone. This was planned to be the city’s premier transit-oriented district, but nobody would actually be able to build anything because the overlay is too meager.

The 1,300-foot circle (middle ring) opens up some more opportunity sites, and the half-mile (outer ring) offers the most. Ideally, Council would consider walking distance as the metric. A 10-minute walk is generally the rule-of-thumb for the distance people are willing to walk to the train station, pointing to a half-mile radius being the best choice.

Screenshot_2017-02-23_12.22.20.png
Here are a few other station areas that the Planning Commission recommended for TOD overlays in the Philadelphia 2035 plan, which Council so far has not acted on.
Screenshot_2017-03-01_15.29.29.png
(46th and Market)
Screenshot_2017-02-23_12.25.16.png
(Lombard-South)
Screenshot_2017-02-23_12.26.21.png
(Snyder Ave)

Screenshot_2017-02-23_12.23.22.png(Girard Ave, El Station)

NIX THE PARKING MINIMUMS

Another problem with the bill as written is that the TOD overlay only cuts minimum parking requirements in half, instead of fully eliminating them. Progressive cities across the country have increasingly been eliminating parking minimums in their base zoning, recognizing that they are regressive, increase housing costs, and act like fertility drugs for car dependence.

Parking minimums don’t belong in our base zoning, but they especially don’t belong in our TOD overlay, which should prioritize space for people who will mainly be using transit. Councilmembers could remedy this problem by increasing the Gross Square Footage exemption for parking minimums, or even better, they could just eliminate any parking requirements within the zone.

OPT-OUT, NOT OPT-IN

Finally, this bill addresses a series of citywide problems and opportunities, and it deserves citywide legislation. Since zoning is involved, there is a temptation to leave it up to District Councilmembers to choose stations on an ad hoc basis, and that’s exactly what the bill does. The actual TOD stations are left blank, and it will be up to Councilmembers to opt-in certain stations.

Recognizing that there’s no dislodging Councilmanic Prerogative from this, the bill should automatically opt-in stations for transit lines with a dedicated right-of-way (Market-Frankford Line, Broad Street Line, Regional Rail) and let District Councilmembers make the case for opting-out some specific stations if they wish. The legislation should start with the assumption that all of our heavy rail infrastructure deserves ridership-friendly zoning, and District Councilmembers should have the opportunity to publicly make the opposite case for certain stations if they feel strongly about exempting certain stations.

If the point is to do something good for the whole transit network, that’s not going to happen if it’s effectively left up to individual civic associations whether they want to volunteer their local transit stop for some taller buildings with less parking. It’s important to keep the citywide interest in focus throughout the process, otherwise the bill isn’t likely to do much about the problems Council is trying to solve.

APM Sugarcane Festival 2016

June 20, 2016

A photo display of the 2016 APM Sugarcane Festival.

Photos by Simon Bolivar and music by Franco Olivo Y Alto Voltaje.

 

 

APM’s Bridget Palombo Receives First National Harkin AmeriCorps Award

September 21, 2015

Contact: Rick Olmos 267.296.7363

 

In a green cargo van, three people pull into a large warehouse in South Philadelphia with two hand carts and long list in hand.  This is a regular bi‐weekly visit for this group, and many of the vendors recognize

the young lady leading the pack.    Bridget Palombo has a presence that naturally earns respect and loyalty. With an expert eye, Bridget moves around the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market selecting the best fruit and vegetables to fill the list she carries. This week the team is there to choose over 1600 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to bring back to Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha’s (APM) Food Buying Club (FBC).

The APM Food Buying Club utilizes the Produce Market to distribute affordable, quality produce through its scalable bulk buying club model. Every two weeks, through the work of volunteers and paid Community Connectors, families are able to access fresh, quality food within their own neighborhood from one of our pop‐up Pick‐up/ Drop‐off Centers.

Thanks to all her hard work, Bridget Palombo, was recently selected as the first ever winner of Thomas Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Programming and Service Award in the category of most compelling member experience in building an ethic of civic responsibility from AmeriCorps State and National Corporation for National & Community Service.

The FBC began as an idea of the Community and Economic Development Department (CED) of APM.  This idea sat for many years, but like any non profit; timing, financial limitations and lack of available staff always kept it on the back burner.  This past year, an opportunity was presented that allowed the FBC to finally get its chance to shine.    The Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Organization (LISC) approached APM with the opportunity to have an AmeriCorps service member be placed for the summer.

Bridget was interning at APM for a few months through Bryn Mawr College, and was about to leave when it was suggested she take on the AmeriCorps position.  As a first step, several objectives that were critical to the project’s success in the first three months of implementation were decided on. This proof of concept phase had Bridget implementing a small food buying club pilot program.  Little did anyone know how fast this project would take hold and blossom.  In the last 48 weeks, the APM pop‐up food distribution system has now served over 440 households, with savings to those households in excess of $81,000 and distributed over 32,000 lbs. of affordable, quality produce.

“For decades AmeriCorps members, like Bridget, have made an impact on some of the toughest challenges in their communities,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “I applaud Bridget for her dedication to improve access to affordable, healthy foods for Philadelphia residents and families and thank her for her leadership in service with the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha.”

According to the AmeriCorps website, the award is presented to an outstanding AmeriCorps member, or alumnus, to encourage the development and expansion of best practices in national service programming, improved project development, and increase the value of the AmeriCorps member experience to help tackle the country’s most pressing human and environmental needs through service.

With emphases on engaging individuals with disabilities in service, best program innovation and enhancements, and compelling AmeriCorps member experience, the awards reflect the depth of impact of the national service field on the communities served and the individuals serving.

“I am very proud.    This award is thanks to some great mentors at APM,” Palombo stated. “They introduced the project idea to me, and really let me take the reins.  I was surprised to be nominated by two separate individuals in the community that I respect and cherish.    I recently was shown their nomination letters and both were very passionate and moving.”

The APM FBC was designed as a model that could be duplicated in other neighborhoods.  When asked what the future of the Food Buying Club, Palombo was quick to bring up two projects that are designed to raise funds to continue the FBC.    “APM has created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund our next stage, which is to create a toolkit for other organizations interested in starting their own food buying club,” stated Bridget. “We are also working with our current FBC members to create a cookbook of local recipes that were made possible due to the great fresh foods available thanks to the FBC. We also hope that some local chefs will consider adding some recipes as well.”

“Bridget is a strong leader with exceptional skills and intelligence; her drive made her stand out from the first day she walked through our doors,” said Nilda Ruiz, President & CEO of APM. She is a strong advocate for a sustainable community, and has shown that AmeriCorps members can use their knowledge, skills and initiative to improve the landscape of our community.”

In addition to the AmeriCorps recognition, the APM Food Buying Club has been recognized by other awards including a Philly Stake award and Social Innovations Lab scholarship.

“AmeriCorps has provided me with the tools I need to be successful, and APM has helped me in moreways than I can count,” Bridget said. “They have guided me, challenged me, and provided opportunities to me that most people could only get in a lifetime of work.”

For more information, please contact us at info@apmphila.org or visit the APM website at www.apmphila.org.  And be sure and Like Us at the APM Food Buying Club on Facebook.

 

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APM is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia area. APM’s vision is “A community where all families are self reliant; where children are protected and nurtured to become future leaders, and where residents are engaged in their community.”

APM’s mission and vision are as multifaceted and diverse as the people we serve. Through a comprehensive array of life-improving social services, APM quickly assess and institute meaningful remedies for societal problems prevalent in today’s world. We create job opportunities, aid people with debilitating illnesses, revitalize neighborhoods and support families and individuals with our caring and compassion.

Philly wins HUD Grant

July 3, 2014

Philadelphia Awarded $30 Million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha will play major role in the relocation process and social services provided to residents

Philadelphia has been awarded a Choice Neighborhoods Grant. This is a $30 million grant from the United States Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and is targeted to help transform North Central Philadelphia.

 

 

APM part of HUD Grant

July 3, 2014

Philadelphia Awarded $30 Million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha will play major role in the relocation process and social services provided to residents

Philadelphia has been awarded a Choice Neighborhoods Grant. This is a $30 million grant from the United States Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and is targeted to help transform North Central Philadelphia.

 

 

Paseo Verde Wins ULI Philadelphia Inaugural Willard G. “Bill” Rouse III Award for Excellence

June 19, 2014

PRESS ADVISORY | Contact: Rick Olmos 267.296.7363

 

 

Philadelphia, PA. – (June 19, 2014) – Urban Land Institute Philadelphia (ULI Philadelphia) recently granted Paseo Verde, administrative headquarters of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) its inaugural Willard G. “Bill” Rouse III Award for Excellence. APM’s CEO and President Nilda Ruiz accepted the award at a reception at the Ballroom at the Ben in Philadelphia.

Paseo Verde is one of nine awardees selected from a pool of 57 nominated sustainable projects in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware. The award recognizes Paseo Verde as a 21st century community leader in creating affordable mixed use development with contextual site planning, transit accessibility and green infrastructure.

Paseo Verde is the nation’s first platinum LEED-Neighborhood Development project, having completed construction in September 2013. Paseo Verde received project support from Wallace Roberts & Todd; civil engineering by Urban Engineers; structural engineering by David Chou & Associates; MEP by CSA Group; environmental engineering by MaGrann Associates; consulting by Metropolitan Acoustics; general contracting by Domus.

 

# # #

 

APM is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia area. APM’s vision is “A community where all families are self reliant; where children are protected and nurtured to become future leaders, and where residents are engaged in their community.”

APM’s mission and vision are as multifaceted and diverse as the people we serve. Through a comprehensive array of life-improving social services, APM quickly assess and institute meaningful remedies for societal problems prevalent in today’s world. We create job opportunities, aid people with debilitating illnesses, revitalize neighborhoods and support families and individuals with our caring and compassion.

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