7th District: Maria Quiñones-Sánchez Response to 5th Square Questionnaire

Read 7th District Democratic candidate Maria Quiñones-Sánchez' responses to the 5th Square 2019 City Council Candidate Questionnaire. Visit our 2019 City Council Campaign page for more candidate questionnaire responses.

Candidate Name: Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

Candidate Introduction

I am proud to serve the 7th District of Philadelphia to promote community development that is accessible, equitable, transit-oriented, and sustainable. As a veteran activist with over 30 years of service to the City of Philadelphia, I have prioritized keeping families in their homes through progressive housing, land use, and transportation policies that further the right of all residents to live affordably with access to good transit, good schools, and good jobs. In the past term, I led City Council’s expansion of the mixed-income housing program, doubled resources for affordable housing preservation, led Council in acres remapped, adopted the most transit-oriented development overlays in the city, and worked in leadership roles with the Streets Department and the Department of Licenses and enact legislative and regulatory changes that make our streets safer at a time of unprecedented congestion and construction. I look forward to continued partnership with 5th Square to lead Philadelphia with national best practices for the rapidly evolving urban city.


The below questions are related to policies that reflect use of the streets are used by all Philadelphians including pedestrians, as well as bicycle, bus, car riders and drivers. A priority of 5th Square is placing front-and-center the concerns of the elderly, children, and residents utilizing mobility assistance.

1. Many curb cuts and sidewalks in the city are blocked by parked cars, resulting in inadequate and unsafe crossings for seniors, residents utilizing mobility assistance, and parents with small children. In your view, what should City Council do about this problem?

City Council must ensure appropriate resources within the Streets Department and the Department of Licenses and Inspections are dedicated to actively monitoring and enforcing against unsafe crossings. As Chair of Appropriations and L+I (and vice-chair of Streets), I have enacted and funded unprecedented policies to regulate sidewalk construction and curb cuts obstruction in order to improve the safety and mobility of pedestrians. But I still spend the waking hours of each day reporting unenforced violations to my district commissioners. Ultimately, we need enough boots on the ground to make the city more accessible. Council President Clarke's proposal for traffic safety officers is a step in the right direction towards pedestrian safety and accessibility.

2. What is your opinion of the Kenney administration's progress on their Vision Zero street safety initiative? Is the current pace of progress acceptable to you? If not, what would you do differently? How would you use your Council position to accomplish this?

Our traffic fatality rate is unacceptable. The Administration must play a much larger role in engaging pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists about opportunities to improve safety. As a District Councilmember, I have been at the forefront of policies that promote traffic calming measures as well as zoning that buffers residential corridors from industrial and heavy commercial activity. During each endeavor, I have sought the input and experience of the constituents I represent in order to inform block-by-block change and educate neighbors about pending reforms so that they can adapt in a way that is conscious and sustainable.

3. Will you support “daylighting” intersections to restore clear lines of sight near crossings for drivers and pedestrians through the use of plastic bollards and curb bumpouts, with prioritization for school zones, intersections with high pedestrian volume, and high crash intersections? How many intersections should be "daylighted" each year?

Further reading on daylighting: https://www.streetfilms.org/daylighting-make-your-crosswalks-safer/

Yes, the results speak for themselves, as a matter of safety and cost-efficiency! Daylighting should particularly be prioritized around schools, so as to improve the safety of our children at dangerous intersections.

4. Philadelphia has some of the lowest per-capita spending among our peer cities on basic street maintenance, slowing down the rollout of life-saving design changes that are part of Mayor Kenney's Vision Zero initiative. If elected, will you advocate for a larger Streets Department repaving budget?


5. Will you support a Mayoral initiative to create a municipal street sweeping program, even if it means motorists will need to move their vehicles a few times a month?

Yes, this is a common-sense reform that cities adopt across the nation and that will drastically reduce litter in communities. If we perform our civic duty to educate and inform our constituencies, we can enact changes in street sweeping policies that are minimally disruptive and maximally impactful. And let’s go further by designating high-volume corridors like Kensington for twice-a-week pickups. Keeping streets safe and clean can transform underserved communities.

6. Will you vote to repeal Council's 2012 legislation requiring a Council ordinance to remove travel or parking lanes, and once again empower Streets Department safety professionals to make these decisions administratively?

Further reading: https://bicyclecoalition.org/lawsuit-takes-on-city-council-bike-lane-ordinance/



Our goal is to shift the city's overall transportation mode share radically toward transit and active mobility, and away from single occupancy vehicles, for the benefit of public health as well as the environment.

1. Philadelphia currently only funds around 11 percent of SEPTA's budget, with the state and federal governments funding the majority of the operating and capital budgets. This is one of the lowest local contributions in the country, per-capita. If elected, will you advocate for increasing dedicated local transit funding? If so, what revenue source is best?

Yes, if we get more accountability. As ride-sharing surges, our city and state can radically change the way we support mass transit by appropriating revenue from parking taxes, red light camera fines and non-city wage taxes, by reforming the SEPTA board so that our city residents are fairly served by the state’s most expansive transit system, and by following the lead of Denver and Los Angeles by partnering with our transit agency to reinvest in ridership through affordable, accessible, transit-oriented housing. City Council’s reinvestment in our aging transit system supports the right of all Philadelphians to share mixed-income communities with good schools and jobs.

2. The City Bus system works to improve air quality as well as reduce traffic congestion. Unfortunately, city bus ridership has fallen dramatically over the past few years, and route performance has become increasingly unreliable. Which of the following measures would you be willing to advocate for to increase bus ridership?

  • Bus-only lanes on more major streets Yes
  • Automated photo enforcement of bus-only lanes and bus/trolley stopping zones Yes
  • All-door boarding with off-board fare payment Yes
  • Free transfers between buses, trolleys, and subways, funded by the City Yes
  • Stop consolidation to speed up buses Yes

Other: Adopting modern bus service standards will fundamentally improve the economic well being of residents beyond Center City. Additional reforms include a dramatic expansion of the city’s signal prioritization pilot; an increase in off-peak services for working families; and compliance with our recent ordinance that requires SEPTA accept cash for transfers, that is, until we succeed in making transfers free for all transit riders. 

3. Will you support funding a City pilot program to provide free SEPTA transit to all children under 12 years of age?

The current cut-off is 4-years-old, after which children are required to pay the full fare

Yes. I led the effort to fund transpasses for School District students, when budget cuts threaten to have all students pay for public transportation. I have further worked with School District to reform busing policies and develop safe corridors in areas with public safety needs, such as for the students of Conwell Middle School. Families should not have to make a financial decision about their children’s health and safety on the way to and from their schoolhouse.

4. Over 30,000 Philadelphia public school students are currently ineligible for subsidized TransPasses, because the School District does not provide passes to students living within 1.5 miles of their local school. Do you support universalizing student TransPasses so all students can use them?


5. Residential permit parking needs an overhaul. The current cost for an annual parking permit for car owners to store their private vehicles on public streets is just $35, and many streets do not require a permit. Which reforms to permit parking would you be willing to consider, if elected?

  • Capping permits at the number of available spaces in each parking district No
  • Neighborhood-wide opt-in for permit parking, as opposed to block-by-block petitions Yes
  • Blacklisting addresses of new buildings with no parking from eligibility for street permits No
  • Employer permits for commercial corridor workers near residential permit zones Yes

Other: Neighborhood-wide permitting would have to depend on the area, as many of my long-term residents in gentrifying areas live on fixed incomes and can't afford to pay for parking. Blacklisting new buildings would require a comprehensive plan to ensure accessibiity. We also need companies to pay their fair share for loading and teachers to receive special parking permits for school-time hours. I support a residential permitting process that empowers block captains and community residents to ensure equal access to our streets. As a member of Council, I have successfully fought against gated communities and urged SEPTA to reinvest in low-income communities where transit-adjacent surface lots have been long abandoned.

6. SEPTA and the City are exploring a bus network redesign that could greatly improve bus service frequency and usability at little additional cost. Improving service will involve some trade-offs, however, like more stop consolidation and transfers. How should Councilmembers be approaching this initiative?

Further reading: http://planphilly.com/articles/2018/06/21/overhauling-its-bus-network-may-be-on-septa-s-schedule-soon

Councilmembers who fundamentally believe in growing mixed-income neighborhoods with family-sustaining jobs must play a proactive role in advancing modernized bus service so that families can readily access good schools, jobs, and housing. Councilmembers should not only facilitate public conversations about common-sense reforms such as stop consolidation and all-door boarding and a fundamental network redesigns such as the proposal by Jarrett Walker and his associates, but also exercise authority to advance these policy changes through the SEPTA board and through the state and local budget process by projecting the returns on halving commute times for hundreds of thousands of hard-working families’ whose living expenses far outpace wages.

7. Do you support Council President Darrell Clarke's Charter change proposal to create a new class of unarmed officers to enforce traffic violations?

Further reading: http://www2.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/philadelphia-traffic-pedestrian-bicycle-safety-police-darrell-clarke-20180920.html


Land Use and Zoning

Our goal is to promote the most efficient use of land in our city, fostering accessible, walkable communities in which all Philadelphians can reside, regardless of economic status. We believe in building more housing, reducing costs, increasing the vitality of our commercial corridors, and facilitating transit-oriented development. Philadelphia made great strides toward this vision with the 2012 Zoning Reform package, and the next City Council should defend and expand on that progress.

1. Only 13% of land in Philadelphia is covered by the multifamily zoning categories eligible for City Council’s new Mixed-Income Housing program. Do you believe 13% is the appropriate percentage? If not, what is the right number?

The right number is 100%. Over the past four years, I proudly led City Council’s charge for mandatory inclusionary zoning, in support of every Philadelphians’ right to affordable, accessible housing near good schools, jobs, and transit. I brought the mayor, my council colleagues, and the building industry together to establish a strong public-private partnership for affordable housing to replace the 20,000 affordable homes we’ve lost since 2000 due to skyrocketing housing prices, stagnant wages, and federal divestment. I ultimately comprised with my peers to drastically expand the voluntary mixed-income housing program and to dedicate the city’s first-ever set-aside for affordable housing preservation for $100 million over the next five years. But I will continue to fight for mandatory, 100% mixed-income housing so that our city stands for diversity and inclusivity, and does not become stratified and segregated. For more on why Philadelphia needs to expand the mixed-income housing program, please read my Philadelphia Inquirer editorial with Councilmembers Curtis Jones and Blondell Reynolds Brown: https://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/affordable-housing-philadelphia-tax-abatement-qunones-sanchez-20171204.html.

2. In 2012, City Council voted to eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements for many zoning districts, because parking minimums increase housing prices, driving, and traffic congestion. Will you vote to eliminate the last of the minimum parking requirements still remaining in the zoning code, which would mainly affect Center City, University City, and areas near the subways?

Yes, and I am on record in support of these reduced requirements. I believe that mixed-income housing requirements better leverage development capacity to serve our neighborhoods. More importantly, reactivating SEPTA and PPA-operated surface lots can increase our long-time residents’ longstanding need for residential availability far beyond the capacity of new developments.

3. The same 2012 zoning reform bill contained language legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which allow property owners to have an additional rental unit on their property. City Council unfortunately never finished the job, and didn't write in which zoning districts should permit ADUs. Where would you allow ADUs?

Yes. As Chair of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections, I have worked alongside our progressive Commissioner David Perri and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to develop legislation that legalizes small, quality, affordable units; that promotes first-floor accessible dwellings along deactivated commercial corridors; that affords density to transit-oriented developments; and that authorizes other cost-efficient forms of quality, accessible, living for seniors and other under-served populations seeking stable, basic housing amenities.

4. In 2017, City Council revamped the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay ordinance, which would allow greater density and less parking within 500 feet of designated transit stations. Will you support a citywide bill designating TOD overlays for all city transit and regional rail stations?

Yes, I have led district councilmembers in the adoption of transit-oriented overlays, and am working to adopt similar legislation for all El stops in my district. Transit-oriented development is low-hanging fruit for affordable housing development, positive climate change, and the economic growth of our region.

5. What should be Philadelphia's strategy for keeping neighborhoods affordable as they see more growth and development? Is City policy striking the right balance now, following City Council's recent affordable housing package? If not, what is left to do, in your opinion?

Keeping families in their homes is the most important thing we do as legislators. Securing housing as a human right is more important than ever in a city where more than half of all families are considered cost-burdened because they pay their rent or mortgage at the expense of food, medicine, clothing, and childcare. Over the past ten years, I have led the enactment of nationally recognized anti-displacement programs that prevent against eviction and foreclosure through renter and buyer assistance, tax relief, housing counseling, courtroom diversion, legal assistance, and comprehensive social services. In my district, I have led the production of hundreds of affordable units through public and private investment and developed new models to preserve existing units. Over the past four years, I led City Council’s debate about mandatory inclusionary zoning, a construction tax, an increased mixed-income housing program, and doubling the city’s Housing Trust Fund for the preservation and production of affordable homes. I led working groups comprised of national policy experts, regional industry professionals and local civic organizations. I led hours of debate in public forums and on the City Council floor. I did not let perfect be the enemy of the good. Our compromise included a drastically expanded mixed-income housing program and the city’s first-ever commitment of resources for the preservation of affordable homes in the amount of $100 million. But compromise is not enough. I will continue demand that the Mayor and City Council enact an even more ambitious and comprehensive housing agenda, with a better plan repurpose our 40,000 vacant spaces, to provide rental subsidy in a market where rents far outpace incomes, to leverage private investment for preservation through sweat equity models like Jumpstart Germantown, and to deepen incentives for accessible, affordable, transit-oriented development. Last January, I laid out the foundations of my comprehensive housing plan in this Philadelphia Inquirer editorial: https://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-affordable-housing-maria-quinones-sanchez-20180126.html