City Council President Darrell Clarke has been trying to clean up after Temple University students, and the landlords who rent to them, for years. His last effort, a proposed Neighborhood Improvement District which would pay for street cleaning and other services through an extra tax assessment on area landlords, failed in the face of opposition and confusion among neighborhood residents.
But Clarke is undeterred.
Last week, he introduced a resolution authorizing the Cecil B. Moore and Temple University Special Services District. The district, for now, is a scantily-detailed organization that would operate much like a NID, cleaning and lighting the blocks surrounding Temple, but paid for voluntarily by landlords and the university. Clarke said he envisions the organization working on a CLIP model—the Community Life Improvement Programs—which clean up litter and vacant lots, remove graffiti, and provide surveillance and security services.
“We were looking at some of the models across the city,” Clarke said in an interview last week. “Such as CLIP as an example, which is a very aggressive enforcement program, because a lot of the problems up in the Temple area center around enforcement, be it trash, be it code violations with properties, with respects to construction, student conduct: all of that is about enforcement.”
Clarke said the key problems in the area stem from having a lot of young people living in close quarters: trash, noise, housing and zoning violations, and security. Long-term residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Temple sometimes feel disrespected, Clarke said.
“I start out with the clear understanding that you’re talking about a group of young people who probably are living by themselves for the first time without being under the supervision of their parents,” Clarke said. “And those of us that have experienced that understand that it is awesome to not have any rules. So unfortunately, there are a number of young folks who don’t necessarily comply or, frankly speaking, know what the rules are.”
It’s not yet clear how the funding responsibility for the new special services district will break down. But Clarke said he sees it as a combination of landlord payments, potentially some city money, and substantial donations from Temple.
“Temple University is working with Council President Clarke and others on ways to more effectively leverage and coordinate resources to improve quality of life for area residents and students alike,” said Brandon Lausch, who works in Temple’s press office. “This initiative, which is still in the planning phase, would involve Temple, city government, landlords, residents and students to target issues related to noise and disruptive behavior, code enforcement, parking, neighborhood cleanliness and other concerns.”
Clarke maintains that a NID would still be the best way to organize a special services district for the area. He called it “relatively bizarre” that the initiative failed, considering it would have been paid for entirely by landlords and not by homeowner-occupants. He said he learned after the fact that some of the opposition was organized by individual landlords who didn’t want to pay into the program.
Under most circumstances, though, NIDs are a tough sell.
Clarke has also been busy over the last year or so introducing remapping bills prepared by the City Planning Commission as part of the Lower North District Planning process. The bills reinforce the single-family character of neighborhoods on the farther outskirts of the university while allowing some multifamily development on the blocks closer in. A development boom in the area over the past few years has contributed to the problems of litter, illegal dumping, and code violations.
Introducing the resolution was a way of forcing various parties into conversation to figure out the details, Clarke said.
“We’ve all agreed on that targeted area,” he said, “and we’re prepared to move ahead and get this thing rolling in this particular calendar year.”