BIA Policy Agenda
BEFORE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC, THE NEW 2020 CITY COUNCIL PROPOSED A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS TARGETING REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION.
City departments were also in the process of proposing changes to building regulations and implementing changes to application and permitting procedures. Below is a summary of what the BIA is currently tracking.
Bills No. 200366, 200556, & 200653
As we did in June 2018, the BIA has made the hard decision to support and endorse a Construction Impact Tax. We acknowledge it is unusual for developers to step forward and ask to pay more, and we do not do so with any enthusiasm whatsoever. Many good projects will no longer be feasible because of the increased costs that result from this proposal. Still, the need urgent need to fund affordable housing is real and this package of bills is a better option than all of the alternatives. The extension of the current 100% 10-year tax abatement is critical, however. The pandemic closed down much of City Hall over the last year, and without permits, many projects have ground to a halt.
Bill No. 200005 Community Benefits Agreements
Council President Clarke has re-introduced the Community Benefits Agreement legislation that the mayor pocket-vetoed at the end of 2019. The BIA is not opposing the bill in its current form, which requires CBAs for "high impact projects or development projects that receive city support or financial assistance." The proposed thresholds are "at least 100,000 square feet of earth disturbance; or the development, including all planned phases, would result in at least 250,000 square feet of gross floor area."
Bill No. 200118 Center City Bulk and Massing Controls
Introduced by Councilmember O'Neill for Councilmember Squilla, this bill revises bulk and massing controls in the CMX-4 and CMX-5 districts on Sansom, Chestnut, and Walnut Streets. On the surface, the legislation seems to be contrary to the aims of the recommendations of the Zoning Code Commission and the need for density in our urban core. The BIA requested a meeting with Councilman Squilla, Philadelphia City Planning Commission staff, and the Center City Residents Association to discuss the details of the bill before a hearing is scheduled.
Bill No. 200082 ZBA
Introduced by Councilmember Parker for Council President Clarke, Bill No. 200082 adds requirements to the granting of variances that would heighten the test for "hardship." The BIA is reviewing the impacts of the bill with member legal advisors and will prepare to testify as needed.
L+I is proposing a new excavator license that would be modeled after the demolition contractor license. Any contractor with this license could perform the work of a GC, so both licenses would not be required. Operators would need OSHA 30 and OSHA #3015 certifications. Other proposed requirements include bonding, insurance, a demonstration of experience, and registration of workers on site. The excavation permit is intended to work within the current permitting process with additional notice requirements for neighbors within 3 feet of excavation. Any excavation more than 3 feet below grade would require the permit, with exceptions for certain utility installations and tank removals. The BIA has expressed concerns about both proposals and will be following up with L+I to discuss.
Building Envelope Special Inspection
L+I is proposing to add a water membrane (flashing) inspection to the building envelope special inspection for one and two-family homes, relying on the HERS checklist. BIA expressed concern about the availability of skilled inspectors, liability, sequencing of work and inspections, and ensuring means and methods post inspection. The BIA was asked to develop a meaningful alternative to L+I's proposal as soon as possible.
Traffic Impact Studies/Fees
The Streets Department reported that progress has been made on draft regulations for traffic impact studies and fees. Act 209 language has been incorporated and includes regulations for appeals and refunds. Some background work on calculations still needs to be done. The BIA requested an opportunity to review and comment on the draft regulations before they are instituted and has two meetings scheduled with the department to go over this and other issues.