The administration is also concerned about the “wide breadth of the bill,” Greenberger said. As written, it would cover the area between Washington Avenue, Broad Street, Moore Street and 25th Street – an area 11 blocks wide and eight blocks long that contains more than 100 city blocks and thousands of properties. The stated goal of the legislation is to preserve a “characteristically two-story residential neighborhood,” Greenberger said. “However, many of the blocks that are included in the moratorium are, and historically have been, three-story blocks.”
City Council President Anna Verna drafted the bill – which was introduced on her behalf by Councilwoman Marian Tasco - after hearing from Point Breeze residents. Verna represents the second district, which includes Point Breeze. While Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze brought a busload of people to the hearing, Verna said she's heard from many organizations that oppose the moratorium, and there was a lot more opposition than she ever expected.
“I'm very concerned that this one issue now has divided the community to such a point that it's ridiculous,” she said. “I want to see the community work together on this. I'm not going to allow the community to be divided on an issue that could be addressed” with more discussion.
Councilman-at-large at committee chairman James Kenney said the fear of gentrification in Point Breeze is very similar to what he saw in Queen Village years ago. He suggested a full day of hearings to talk about this issue as it effects not only Point Breeze, but any other neighborhoods in a similar situation.
Councilman-at-large W. Wilson Goode thought the moratorium was a decent solution to the problem, especially since it was just for a year. By the end of the year, the new zoning code, which Greenberger testified would offer a more graceful solution, would be in place, he said. The proposed zoning code requires any third floor additions to be set back from the street when constructed on two-story blocks, Greenberger testified. Meanwhile, Goode said, something had to be done to prevent the kind of thing depicted in a photograph given to the committee by Concerned Citizens from happening. It showed a three-story home sticking up from a sea of two-story homes.
First District Councilman Frank DiCicco suggested a short-term solution that he thought might be palatable to all, modeled after legislation he wrote regarding the addition of first-story garages. Wherever less than 80 percent of homes have ground-floor garages, those wanting to add them have to get a zoning variance to do so, he said. Perhaps a similar approach could be taken in Point Breeze, so that third-story additions were a matter of right on blocks where three-story homes predominate, but variances are otherwise needed.
At Verna's request, the legislation was held in committee. Before the bill goes anywhere, she said, a full-day hearing with all the various community groups and representatives from city planning and zoning needs to be held. “It's absolutely, totally essential that the groups work together to resolve this,” she said.
Watch more testimony and discussion here and here.
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