Tell City Council: Don't Override the Society Hill Overlay Veto!

Society Hill NIMBY ('Not in My Back Yard') activists have been lobbying Councilmember Mark Squilla to help them make their neighborhood even more exclusive, and despite the Mayor vetoing this push at the end of last year, the bill is back again and likely to pass City Council this Thursday.

We only need 6 members of Council to block a veto override vote. Call today and ask them to vote against Bill 200094 to take a stand against exclusionary zoning in Society Hill and against separate zoning rules for our wealthiest neighborhoods.

Society Hill is a neighborhood built upon city-led urban renewal and displacement of working-class residents, deliberately leading to the upscale million-dollar rowhouses we know today. So it’s no surprise that the Society Hill Civic Association’s latest proposed zoning overlay would go even further, limiting most of the area to a 45-foot height limit. When no other neighborhood in Center City has this restrictive a limit for commercial zones, Society Hill is tightening their exclusivity and refusing to absorb their fair share of the demand for high-end housing. This will only send housing pressure outward to vulnerable neighborhoods in South, North, and West Philadelphia and accelerate displacement. As the city's Housing Action plan states, strong market neighborhoods like Society Hill should accept even higher density in order to both facilitate on-site affordable housing, and ensure steady revenue in the Housing Trust Fund, the city's major source of affordable housing funding.

For preservationists, the news is not good either, as the overlay would exempt Society Hill from all of the recently passed zoning bonuses for historic buildings, including allowed uses and removal of parking minimums, placing adaptive reuse projects here in jeopardy and increasing the risk of "demolition by neglect." Letting a handful of residents define Society Hill’s urban context, while ignoring its history of wanton urban renewal that demolished “nonconforming” midrises, is the epitome of hypocrisy and the opposite of good preservation policy.

Councilmember Squilla claims that the bill came out of a multi-year process that was open and fair. This is blatantly false, as Society Hill Civic Association had full control over the plan, not the City's Planning Commission. As an RCO, they require membership fees to be a full member, and merely getting the newsletter often doesn't tell the whole story, just like what had happened with the closed-door bike lane deal for Spruce/Pine. The public can't know what was deliberated unless fully led and coordinated by the Planning Commission.

Now is the time to act. 

Sign and share this petition to help spread the word, and contact City Council today to tell them: Vote NO on Bill #200094!