Newsletter: 🗳️ Election Day Next Tuesday / 🌇 In Defense of Affordable Housing / 🏞️ Keep MLK Open for People

Weekly Newsletter, Issue 146


The primary election is NEXT TUESDAY, May 18, 2021.

Mail in ballots: The deadline has now passed to request a mail-in ballot, but if you already have a mail-in ballot, it must be RECEIVED by your County Election Office by Tuesday, May 18th, 2021 at 8pm EST.

You can either mail it or use a voting drop box (locations listed here).

In person voting: Polls are open on election day from 7 A.M. - 8 P.M. You can check your voting location here.

Helpful Election Links:


Show your support for better city planning, transit, bike lanes and housing with our new T-Shirt designed by Philly-based artist Miriam Singer!

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On Wednesday, 3rd District Councilmember Jamie Gauthier issued a statement of opposition to the zoning variance request for a proposed apartment building with affordable units at 48th and Chester in a section of West Philadelphia where existing homes are selling for above $500k.

This case was more high-profile than most because of the "poop NIMBYs" who were going around collecting fecal samples to scare people into thinking the project was some kind of health threat. But in reality, it's a very normal apartment building that looks almost exactly like the ones around it, except that it would offer some very significant affordable housing for a fully privately-financed project.

That's why Councilmember Gauthier's statement opposing the variance was such a disappointment to read. With about 80% of her office's statement spent touting the project's benefits, her own words show us that she knows exactly what's at stake, but she still chose to yield to the loudest "No!" shouted in the room. That she still felt she needed to oppose it anyway shows there's something badly broken about our housing politics.

Frustratingly, the development company already made several concessions to anti-development activists that made the project worse, like reducing the number of affordable units in favor of a shorter building and a higher ratio of parking. But they didn't get any extra political support in the end for it. This is on a lot that is well served by transit with high-quality connections to University City and Center City jobs. The project team still plans to take their case to the Zoning Board of Adjustment in June, with the affordable housing deed restrictions still part of the plan, so it's still possible it could be approved anyway.

Here at 5th Square, we recognize the need for affordable housing throughout Philadelphia, through both public and private development. This is especially true in areas of our city that already expensive, or are experiencing rapidly rising housing prices creating displacement pressure on our most cost-burdened residents. In Philadelphia, there simply isn’t enough affordable housing for the large number of residents at the low end of the income scale, so we need all of our elected officials focused on getting that housing built in reality.

This is also a moment where we, as neighbors, renters, and homeowners in Philadelphia, need to come together to reaffirm that the goal of affordable housing politics has to be actually creating the affordable housing—not just empty ideological posturing, or worse, regular old selfish NIMBYism stealing the rhetoric of social justice movements.

If you agree we need major changes in local housing politics to help more elected officials say YES to more quality mixed-income housing proposals like 48th and Chester, sign up to volunteer with our housing committee, and get involved in this advocacy work in your neighborhood!


The City announced on Monday their intention to bring motor vehicles back onto MLK Drive the first week of August.

Emma Lee/WHYY

We would hate to see this waterfront asset become the high-injury highway it once was before the pandemic, and any future plans for this roadway needs to accommodate the needs of all users, not just motorists.

As Iresha Picot put it eloquently in a recent opinion piece for the Inquirer, "Prioritizing a safe space for the wellness and health of Philadelphians should always trump vehicle traffic. Keep MLK Drive car-free permanently."

If you haven't already, please sign onto the Bicycle Coalition's petition to reimagine MLK as a street for the people.


SEPTA Forward: Bus Revolution Survey - As part of SEPTA's bus network redesign, they will be looking for input from transit riders and community members throughout the process.  Please take a moment to tell them your hopes for the project and early thoughts about SEPTA’s bus services. The survey will take 2-3 minutes to complete. 

phila2035: The 25th Street Transportation Safety Study - The 25th Street Transportation Safety Study will look at ways to improve traffic and road conditions along 25th Street. The study will cover the area from Washington Avenue to Passyunk Avenue. The project will partner with nearby residents and businesses to propose short- and long-term safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) and Michael Baker Intl., a transportation planning firm, will guide the study and engagement.

Philly Tree Plan Survey - Shape the future of :deciduous_tree: in Philly! Philadelphia is developing a 10-year strategic plan for future planting and care of Philly's trees based on the experiences and needs of Philadelphians. Complete the public survey here.

PennDOT 2021 Automated Vehicles Survey - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced the launch of a survey designed to gain an understanding of Pennsylvanians' perceptions and knowledge of automated vehicles. The survey seeks to gauge Pennsylvanians' understanding of the technology, level of comfort and expectations.

MUTCD Comment - Demand Safe Road Designs For Pedestrians - The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) dictates how roads are built in the US and has for far too long benefitted driver convenience over pedestrian safety and mobility. The first major update of the MUTCD in over a decade is currently being revised and taking public comment. we urge you to take this opportunity to weigh in and demand more protections and amenities for our roadways’ most vulnerable users.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021, 6:45 PM - 8 PM
Ride of Silence 2021

The annual Ride of Silence is an international ride that honors bicyclists killed or injured by motor vehicles and highlights the need for motorists to share the road with bicycles. This police escorted ride will start at City Hall, on the North Apron, with a short memorial ceremony and slow bike ride that will travel an 8-mile route at 9.5 miles per hour through Center City before ending the Art Museum for a memorial bike lift. Rain or Shine.

Friday, May 21, 2021, 5:30 PM
MLK Drive - Ride, Walk, Roll, Scoot

MLK Drive has been a huge asset to Philadelphians over the past year. It would be awesome if all 5,509 people who signed the petition to reimagine its future (and anyone who wants) came out to ride, walk, roll, and scoot on May 21st at 5:30pm!



WHYY / 'Change is hard' Why the future of a car-free MLK Drive remains in flux

The Philadelphia Inquirer / As Philadelphia advances streetscape plan for Spring Garden, historic buildings fall to neglect

The Philadelphia Inquirer / Martin Luther King Drive will be reopening to cars on weekdays in August / Let’s Declare This the Summer of Play

The Philadelphia Inquirer / Is it time to ditch Philly’s iconic cobblestones? | Pro/Con



Volunteer with 5th Square


The Housing Alliance is looking for session ideas and presenter interest for the 17th Annual Homes Within Reach Conference from December 1-3, 2021 at the Hershey Lodge. This year's theme is The Road from Surviving to Thriving. As the country and the Commonwealth move toward the end of the pandemic, we must break down the barriers that keep people from living healthy, fulfilled, and comfortable lives. (Due 5/14)

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is seeking proposals from individuals, artisans, or local businesses to lease space and operate a high-quality and unique retail operation on the boardwalk in Spruce Street Harbor Park (SSHP). The experience or concept offering should reflect the vision and values of Spruce Street Harbor Park.

PA Dept of Health WalkWorks - Funding Opportunity Announcement for the Development of Active Transportation Plans and Policies to Establish Activity-Friendly Routes that Connect to Everyday Destinations. Due 5/14

PHFA - 2022 Housing Policy Fellowship Program Application - The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency ("PHFA") is accepting applications for the 2022 Housing Policy Fellowship Program. The Fellowship will provide an opportunity for the selected recipient to undertake a project/program that addresses a housing issue of significant interest/relevance to the applicant. PHFA is attempting to create a cadre of new leaders that will think creatively and broadly about possible solutions to the ongoing affordable housing needs of Commonwealth residents. Due 6/18

2020 Latinos and Planning Division Student Scholarship - The purpose of the LAP scholarship program is to foster increased interest in the study of urban planning within the Latinx student population at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels. The program is open to third and fourth year undergraduate students and first and second year masters degree students. One scholarship of $500 will be awarded to be used for fees, books, or academic materials. Due 5/31


Bread & Roses Community Fund / Director of Grantmaking

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation / Summer Jobs

Transit Forward Philadelphia / Transit Fellow

Philadelphia School District / Cooks, Managers, Lead Food Services Workers, Utility Workers, Utility Drivers

Fairmount Community Development Corporation / Executive Director

The Hope Center / Senior Research Associate, Research Associate, Graphic Designer, Manager of Marketing, Office Manager, Summer Internships

City of Philadelphia / Vaccine Volunteer Coordinator

City of Philadelphia / Communications Manager

City of Philadelphia / Senior Manager for Climate Mitigation

City of Philadelphia / Office Manager, Office of Councilmember Jamie R. Gauthier

Philadelphia Housing Development Corp / Chief of Staff

PIDC / Navy Yard Community Engagement Coordinator, Navy Yard Project Manager

City of Philadelphia, Department of Commerce / Director of Communications

East Coast Greenway Alliance / New York & New Jersey Greenway Coordinator

South Philly Food Co-op / Cashier & Guest Services Associate, Grocery & Wellness Department Clerk, Produce Department Clerk

Character Lab / UX Strategist

The Nature Conservancy / Finance Manager

Drexel University / Urban Planning Adjunct

NLArts community art program / Executive Director

Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia / Deputy Director, Membership Associate, Bilingual Bike Share Community Liaison, Bike Share Community Liaison

Mural Arts Philadelphia / Manager of Tours and Group Sales, Project Manager, WorkReady Program Coordinator

Nerd Street Gamers / Director of Marketing - Partnerships & Integrated Campaigns

The City of Philadelphia’s Energy Office / Project Manager

The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia / Director, Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange, Communications Manager

5th Square is Philadelphia's urbanist political action committee.

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