- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Clarke, Verna Super-Size "Hoagie-Matic" Priveleges
As if proposing legislation to stifle the First Amendment was not enough, Councilman Darrel Clarke (along with Council President Anna Verna) recently introduced legislation to strike at one of Philadelphian's most treasured institutions - their Wawa's.
And Rita's Water Ice.
And every mom-and-pops little sandwich shop, deli, small restaurant, neighborhood coffee house, bakery, pizza shop, taqueria, noodle shop, Chinese take-out - in-short anything the zoning code defines as a "small retail food establishment" or "take-out restaurant."
The bill, #70913, would redefine all of these types of establishments as falling under the "Regulated Uses" portion of the zoning code, the portion of the code that covers commercial uses like:
(a) Adult book stores;
(b) Adult mini-motion picture theater;
(c) Adult motion picture theater;
(e) Massage businesses as regulated by §§ 9-610 and 9-611 of The Philadelphia Code;
(f) Drug paraphernalia stores; 407
(g) Amusement arcades; 408
(h) Pool rooms; 409
(i) Adult video stores; 410
(j) Check Cashing Establishments; 411
(k) Pawnshops; 412
(l) Adult Modeling or Photography Studio; 413
(m) Adult Spa or Health Club; 414
(n) Adult Entertainment Store; 415
(o) Penal and Correctional Institution (private); 416
(p) Penal and Correctional Institution (public); 417
(q) Tattoo Parlors; 418
(r) Body Piercing Shops; 419
(s) Payday Lenders. 419.1
I personally did not know this but according to this legislation having virtually any type of take-out food business whatsover in a neighborhood can be a cause of crime or as the take-out food bill says:
That the concentration of these uses causes the areas in which these uses have located to become a focus of crime
By changing this designation to "Regulated Use", anybody proposing to open a business like a Rita's Water Ice or sandwich shop or something like Mugshots Coffee House would be barred from opening their business:
(a) Within one thousand (1,000) feet of any other existing regulated use; and/or
(b) Within 500 feet of any residentially zoned district (regardless of the actual uses contained therein), Institutional Development District or any of the following residentially related uses: 421
(.1) Churches, monasteries, chapels, synagogues, convents, rectories, religious article, religious apparel stores, residential homes, or apartment buildings, hotels or Convention/Civic center;
(.2) Schools, up to and including the twelfth (12th) grade, and their adjunct play areas;
(.3) Public playgrounds, public swimming pools, public parks and public libraries;
(d) Within any commercially zoned district, except for "C-6" Commercial in which regulated uses shall be permitted, unless a Zoning Board of Adjustment certificate is obtained; and 423
(e) Within the "L-4", "L-5", and "G-2" Industrial Districts unless a Zoning Board of Adjustment certificate is obtained; within the "L-1", "L-2", "L-3", "G-1" and "Port Industrial" Industrial Districts unless a Zoning Board of Adjustment variance is obtained. In the "Least Restricted" Industrial District regulated uses shall be permitted. 424
(f) Within one thousand (1,000) feet of any area of land designated as a Commercial Entertainment District. 424.1
That is of course without applying for a special zoning variance, something which the ZBA basically never approves without a special letter of approval from the District Councilperson.
So essentially any coffeeshop or deli would by default be barred from being within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, zoned residential areas, etc. without direct councilmatic intervention in exactly the same way that places offering lap dances and "Oriental massages" are.
Sounds a little extreme, huh?
One of the consistent complaints about Philadelphia one hears from small businesspeople, the types of mom-and-pops owner-operators who are so essential to healthy commercial corridors in our neighborhoods, is that it seems to them that in Philadelphia "you need to know someone" in order to start a business or get anything done. There is a perception of a daunting bureaucracy that if it is not overtly corrupt, at the very least is so cumbersome that without the help of powerful political allies you might as well throw in the towel. This bill takes that impression and makes it the actual law of the land in bold giant letters.
Interestingly Councilman Darrel Clarke also recently made the City Paper in an instance of young woman hoping to start a small coffee shop at 30th and Girard. Zoning told her she needed a letter from Darrel Clarke and Darrel Clarke said she needed a letter from the CDC he works with in the area to get his letter and the CDC said "well you have to make a $150 donation to the CDC". If the end result sounds a little like something out of Goodfellas, you are probably right.
I believe its not a councilperson's job to "soft extort" and micromanage every family business that wants to open a sandwich shop, donut shop or taqueria in their district. Making a process that requires so much councilmatic intervention, even for the best of intentions, quietly opens the door for corruption and shakedowns, both real and perceived. It drives away jobs, hurts our neighborhoods, crushes people's aspiriations to "be their own boss". Its not good policy.
I think that as progressives, its vitally important to not mistake our concerns about regulating against abuses of corporate power at a national and multi-national level with ill-conceived, over-reaching policies that amount to little more than grabs for power at a local level.