Pedestrian Plaza, Parklet, Bike Corral Bill Advances out of Committee, Up For Vote Next Week
The city is one step closer to providing a streamlined process for property owners and civic groups to bring new amenities to Philadelphia's public space. As Christine Fisher reported back in February, a bill was introduced to formalize the process groups must go through to bring pedestrian plazas (like the awesome new one at 23rd and South), parklets or bike corrals on the streets in front of their homes and businesses. Here's some additional detail from PlanPhilly regarding the application for these new amenities:
To apply for a license, an applicant will have to provide a detailed plan showing the location and design of the proposed enhancement [pedestrian plaza, parklet or bike corral]. The applicant must show that the amenity meets safety standards, will not cause undue traffic congestion, has support from adjacent property owners and tenants of adjacent commercial properties as well as property owners and commercial tenants in the surrounding area. Each license will be valid for up to three years, and while no fee is defined in the legislation, a licensing fee may be established by regulation.
The permit will be issued through L+I after review and approval from the Streets Department.
As we've previously mentioned, the city put a stipulation that 100% of adjacent property owners must agree and support a new amenity or a permit will not be issued. During the bill's hearing on Wednesday testimony regarding the impact of this legislation and the 100% rule was provided by the Triangles Committee of SOSNA, who recently won some street space the new pedestrian plaza at the Triangle formed by South, 23rd and Grays Ferry Avenue. Here are a few excerpts of testimony from Brad Dakake, Chair of the Triangles Committee:
[The Triangle Plaza] would not have happened if this bill were law. We did not have 100 percent support from the abutting property owners and businesses. We had 98 percent support. Under this bill, as currently written, that would not have been enough.
I would like to thank Councilman Squilla for authoring this bill, which would codify and make permanent the process for creating similar pedestrian enhancements to the Triangle Plaza. This is a worthwhile endeavor, but this bill runs the risk of impeding the very pedestrian enhancements it seeks to foster. I suggest reducing the requirement for 100% approval from all abutting property owners and tenants.
Rather than reducing the percentage of people who must agree to a lower threshold like 75%, the same needed to temporarily close of a street for block parties, etc., Councilman Squilla inserted a clause to allow a community group or business to get around the 100% rule if a councilperson provides a letter of support. This is exactly what happened for the Triangles when Councilman Kenyatta Johnson gave his support. This amendment eases the way for future plazas, parklets and bike corrals.
We will continue to follow this story and provide updates next week. The amendments to this law are welcomed. Lowering the thresholds to create dynamic public space amenities like the Triangle Plaza is key to preventing groups like SOSNA from having to wait 9 years to turn a plan into a vibrant new public space.
Full Disclosure: I sit on the Board of SOSNA and have volunteered with the Triangles Committee for a number of years. This post is not an official position statement on behalf of SOSNA.