Residents Voice Concerns Over Proposed Zoning Code Changes at 32nd Ward RCO Meeting
Emotions overflowed at the 32nd Ward Registered Community Organization meeting last week, as residents voiced their concerns over proposals to change the Philadelphia Zoning Code for land use in their neighborhood.
Attorney Jhen Jin and his representatives, and developers Karl Klotzbach and Carlos Cully brought floor plans to thoroughly explain to residents how they would either renovate or demolish and reconstruct new developments, turning them into multi-family apartments.
Despite the proposal, residents were concerned that the changes in the community could create other problems such as heavy traffic, parking issues, environmental issues, vandalism and an abundance of trash.
The first property that was on the agenda was the 1938 North 19th Street building where Cully aims to renovate the single family home and transform it into multi-family apartments.
“There will be three floors,” Jin said. “It will be divided up into two units. Each of the units will be bi-level. There will be four bedrooms and a study area for each unit.”
Once the building is renovated, Cully said he is open to renting it out to anyone, either students or families. But the residents were outraged when they heard the monthly rental fee.
“The rent will be about $1600 per month,” Cully said.
The residents murmured amongst each other about the cost, expressing their worries about the rent and how it won’t be affordable for low-income families. Therefore, they believed Temple University students would be the primary occupants of the apartments, which would create parking issues.
Janet King, a resident of the area and a former landlord in the neighborhood, said that after living in the area since 1983 she is very aware that with more students comes more cars.
“Parking is a big issue for me,” King said. “I know that on Friday night, if I am not home by 5PM, I can’t park anywhere near my house. [Students’] friends come over, their cousins visit, now that is four cars. I am not walking four blocks in the middle of the night to move my car.”
Cully said, however, he would rather not lease his apartments to students.
“I would rather have a family who will enjoy the apartment and be long-time tenants than the continuous turnover you get with students,” Cully said.
Klotzbach, the developer for a property at 1608 Susquehanna Ave., said he plans on demolishing the building.
The building is a commercial mixed-used property, with a storefront on the ground floor and residential space above it. But Jin and his client, Klotzbach, would like to change the Zoning Code for the property and convert it into multi-family apartments where residents can live on all floors.
Tinamarie Russell, a resident who lives across from the location, said the area is a residential/business corridor and should remain so.
“They knew when they bought the property that it was a business/residential corridor,” Russell said. “There were signs and everything, so to try to get it rezoned and make it strictly residential is an absolute no no.”
If the Zoning Code does change for the property on Susquehanna Avenue, one resident at the meeting voiced his concerns about the construction and the amount of dust it will cause. He said there are times when he had to call the police because he couldn’t get on his block because the dumpsters blocked the road on both sides.
Along with those two properties, there are two more properties the developers plan on converting to a multi-family apartments. They are both on Carlise Street, which is a Special Institutional District (SID).
According to Jin, when the variance was first presented to the Zoning Board the project was refused because both the 2020 and 2031 Carlisle Street properties fell under SID, where only institutions are to be built.
Although Jin and his clients plan on going before the City in hopes of changing the Zoning Code, residents had concerns of their own if more students will live in their neighborhood.
The trash truck picks up garbage once per week and even though there are garbage bins and containers outside or on the street, King says there are only certain bags the trash trucks pick up.
“Those bags that you get from Fresh Grocers are not trash bags,” King said. “They just get you from the store to home. If you have 10 of those stuffed in there, the trash truck doesn’t pick that up. Then the rats go into it, the cats and squirrels go into it, so it spills out and then people like me who hate trash have to sweep up everyday.”
Nevertheless, residents agreed the renovation of the buildings would help to enhance the neighborhood, but they are concerned that the developers will not fulfill their obligations.
Judith Robertson, the chairwoman of the 32nd Ward Registered Community Organization plans on hosting another meeting to vote whether they approve or oppose the proposals Jin and his clients brought forth before they go to the Zoning Board in April.