FNA Zoning Committee Meeting: 2429 Norris Street

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 7:00pm to 7:30pm

A proposal for a change of use from a single family residential property to a multi-unit rental.

The meeting will be held at the Fishtown Rec Center, 1202 E. Montgomery Ave. All residents of Fishtown are eligible to vote. Please bring proof of residence or business ownership in the form of a driver's license or a photo ID and a lease, utility bill, or recent piece of mail addressed to your home or business.

Comments

Pure_Fishtown's picture

Interesting that they are going to zoning after they did the work and divided the building to a multi-unit rental property.

Kenzo's picture

They already sex'd up DiCicco to override the ZBA, just in case things might turn sour at the ZBA hearing if the ZBA comm. asks where's the community support and FNA might respond "there ain't none"?

After all, if you're a friend of Mr. Spot Zoning, who needs to listen to input from community groups?

Kenzo's picture

I'm hoping we get better with Squilla and I'm soooo looking forward to Jan 2.

fuzzybottoms's picture

BUMP - this is tomorrow.

Kat's picture

Kenzo wrote:
They already sex'd up DiCicco to override the ZBA, just in case things might turn sour at the ZBA hearing if the ZBA comm. asks where's the community support and FNA might respond "there ain't none"?

After all, if you're a friend of Mr. Spot Zoning, who needs to listen to input from community groups?

Sounds like the house next door. Zoned single family, a woman bought it a number of years ago and started to make it illegally into apartments. Then she stopped paying people and it went into foreclosure. Then the person that bought it at the sherrif's sale is known for rehabbing single family homes into "boarding houses" (he owns a number of them in Philadelphia) - but I spoke to the workers who are in and out and told them that it is not zoned for that. They assured me that it was not going to happen, but it makes me nervous. I spoke to the owner a few times - he seems very nice, but I will fight that tooth and nail if that home is ANYTHING but a single family dwelling. And I will recruit Kenso as well if it starts getting nasty...

Kenzo's picture

Kat wrote:
Kenzo wrote:
They already sex'd up DiCicco to override the ZBA, just in case things might turn sour at the ZBA hearing if the ZBA comm. asks where's the community support and FNA might respond "there ain't none"?

After all, if you're a friend of Mr. Spot Zoning, who needs to listen to input from community groups?

Sounds like the house next door. Zoned single family, a woman bought it a number of years ago and started to make it illegally into apartments. Then she stopped paying people and it went into foreclosure. Then the person that bought it at the sherrif's sale is known for rehabbing single family homes into "boarding houses" (he owns a number of them in Philadelphia) - but I spoke to the workers who are in and out and told them that it is not zoned for that. They assured me that it was not going to happen, but it makes me nervous. I spoke to the owner a few times - he seems very nice, but I will fight that tooth and nail if that home is ANYTHING but a single family dwelling. And I will recruit Kenso as well if it starts getting nasty...

Most of us are zoned R10A. The "A" means "no multifamily w/o a variance."

And really, nobody should be doing a conversion from single family to multifamily without L&I permits and inspections. The reason? If you don't upgrade the electrics in the building to support the extra people, and you don't plan the egresses carefully, you are creating a deathtrap that will not only destroy your building, but the entire block. Ticking timb bombs, those illegal conversions are. Do it properly.

But I would wait to see what happens to use in the remapping. All of us are slated to have our properties re-zoned next year.

WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN WHEN MY PROPERTY GETS REZONED?
http://zoningmatters.org/facts/primer2

WHAT'S THE NEW MAP GONNA LOOK LIKE?
http://citymaps.phila.gov/ZoningOverlayConversion/
*Note: This map does not include the special controls districts that were carried over from the old zoning code. And this map is not the final map, either. Council must adopt all the Map changes before your parcel is legally-bound to the new changes.

lighterthief's picture

ugh I am so tired of these conversions/ multi new construction. Yes neighborhood growth is great but population growth projections are limited as is parking and there are plenty empty spots to fill/ My family in Dublin had a term for what happened when their neighborhood went downhill years back they said it "went flatty" meaning the beautiful old georgian row homes were turned into flats creating a less stable lower income environment. We need development that will bring long term value not just allow investors to eek more money out of a lot and put more cars and trash on the street. There are appropriate places for multi family construction in the neighborhood but NOT in my opinion on individual lots on streets of single family homes.

edit to add.. looking at the building it is a former corner store with apartments above so not so bad but my above opinion stands in general

jbette01's picture

lighterthief wrote:
ugh I am so tired of these conversions/ multi new construction. Yes neighborhood growth is great but population growth projections are limited as is parking and there are plenty empty spots to fill/ My family in Dublin had a term for what happened when their neighborhood went downhill years back they said it "went flatty" meaning the beautiful old georgian row homes were turned into flats creating a less stable lower income environment. We need development that will bring long term value not just allow investors to eek more money out of a lot and put more cars and trash on the street. There are appropriate places for multi family construction in the neighborhood but NOT in my opinion on individual lots on streets of single family homes.

edit to add.. looking at the building it is a former corner store with apartments above so not so bad but my above opinion stands in general

Yeah, the art museum is full of 'flatty' conversions...and is also a total craphole. People definitely dont pay top dollar to live there at all.

Not saying all conversions are positive, but they arent all negative either.

I miss the sarcasm font. Also miss the lurker count.

dan

jbette01 wrote:
I miss the sarcasm font. Also miss the lurker count.

sarcasm font is probably fairly easy to re-add

lurker count is unlikely b/c Drupal7 no longer creates session IDs for anonymous users

lighterthief's picture

jbette01 wrote:
Yeah, the art museum is full of 'flatty' conversions...and is also a total craphole. People definitely dont pay top dollar to live there at all.

Not saying all conversions are positive, but they arent all negative either.

I miss the sarcasm font. Also miss the lurker count.

excpet the art museum has a totally different housing stock - very large old homes that are not very sustainable in today's market. We have TONS of tiny little houses and even most of the larger homes are small by Art Museum standards. Stuff like onion flats and ice house are great for the mix. Cramming apartments into narrow row house lots not so much in my opinion. The neighborhood should be cautious about how much of this is allowed because once it starts its hard to roll back.

Kenzo's picture

I don't have an opinion on the aesthetics of multiunit conversions.

My complaint has to do directly with the Fire Code. There are cowboy conversions all over Philadelphia that are absolute firetraps. Mayfair has them and when they are discovered they get referred to the PFD for an inspection as well as to L&I.

The problem has to do with egress. If cheap gypsum is used for the drywalls with a low fire code rating, if a room catches fire you have about 6 minutes or less before it turns into a flashover. People on the high floors who might have their access to the common stairs blocked will have no alternative exit but to jump out the windows if the conversion didn't plan for a new fire tower/reconfiguration of the stairs or an outside fire escape.

Short of the change in egress, the better solution is to sprinkler the building so that a flashover is not even possible.

We got plenty of multifamilies where neither has been done, the alarm is not central (yet another requirement for multiunit conversion... if the smoke alarm goes off in the bottom floor unit the alarms should be going off on all floors).

I don't know how many of them there are in our neighborhood, but I do know this is a problem L&I and PFD have been battling for YEARS.

Cowboy conversions are deathtraps, and when they go up, they can take out several homes on a block along with them.

It really bothers me that this ZBA appellant has already been rumored to be doing the work and is only NOW going after the variance. That's not how the process works.

Lauraska's picture

Maybe it's because I moved here from a city where EVERYONE lives in apartments so I know that there can be tenants who suck and tenants who my rent but are still heavily invested in their communities...I just don't think that a rental/multi-unit should automatically be shot down. That being said, I DO believe in the urban planning concept that multi-unit buildings are better suited for the areas of a neighborhood that are closest to public transportation and I DO think there should be a certain level of caution when dealing looking at these applications. Is each unit going to be 250 sq ft? Then shoot that puppy DOWN. But if we're talking about 1250 sq ft floor through apartments with nice fixtures and amenities, they are not likely going to be rented to folks who might destroy the place.

Kenzo's picture

250sqft? 450sqft minimum more like, especially outside of Center City.

Floor-through or not; the issue with multi-family conversions that neighbors should worry about the most is fire code safety. Trash/noise second, then parking, and what kind of tenants are occupying, last.

If the fire code is not being obeyed, I don't care if this is a top-end up do with SubZero fridges and marble back splashes. It should be shot down.

I have real concerns about that since work was already started/done/continuing and the variance isn't even approved by Zoning. If you didn't have your variance and you're approaching FNA now for it--how did you get all the other construction permits, I wonder? What did you put on those permits? Smells funny.

Maybe the developer will just say they've been doing demo work and not any interior configuration.

Ask the appellant if he's installed the fire alarm on all floors yet and the sprinkler system. If he gives a dodgy answer to either, I would pick up the phone and call (215) 686-1356 the next morning and request a fire code safety inspection for the property, after you ask PFD if the owner has already had the building inspected for such.

lighterthief's picture

Lauraska wrote:
Maybe it's because I moved here from a city where EVERYONE lives in apartments so I know that there can be tenants who suck and tenants who my rent but are still heavily invested in their communities...I just don't think that a rental/multi-unit should automatically be shot down. That being said, I DO believe in the urban planning concept that multi-unit buildings are better suited for the areas of a neighborhood that are closest to public transportation and I DO think there should be a certain level of caution when dealing looking at these applications. Is each unit going to be 250 sq ft? Then shoot that puppy DOWN. But if we're talking about 1250 sq ft floor through apartments with nice fixtures and amenities, they are not likely going to be rented to folks who might destroy the place.

my opinion is not about tenancy any housing type can get bad tenants (plenty of single family houses around here with awful tenants) if not maintained and fancy finishes will last only a few turnovers anyway. It is about land use. In a city with tons of available and developable land why cram more and more housing into already crowded neighborhoods. The narrow-lot row house parcels do not accommodate multi family very well and the on-street parking is burdened by the additional units.The lot sizes do not allow for off street parking.

I love to see more innovative housing typologies that will accommodate those who do not want to live in a row house - convert the warehouses, build densely on the empty spaces near the el, get apartments above shops on Frankford and Girard but don't over saturate the already dense neighborhood blocks with stacks of little flats it will not add lasting value just make a speculator richer now.

fnazoning's picture

The neighborhood voted against this project. The local vote (within 500 feet) was 1 in favor and 4 opposed and the community vote (outside 500 feet) was 4 in favor and 3 opposed. The total vote was 5-7.

TLP's picture

Kenzo wrote:
I have real concerns about that since work was already started/done/continuing and the variance isn't even approved by Zoning. If you didn't have your variance and you're approaching FNA now for it--how did you get all the other construction permits, I wonder? What did you put on those permits? Smells funny.

Per the zoning meeting last night (someone correct me if I heard this wrong), the only work that has been done so far is exterior - both stablizing the walls structurally and cleaning up the outside. They haven't done any interior work, because they were refused that permit and sent over to Zoning. The building is already subdivided (illegally) and has been for many years, and this variance would make it official.

EDIT: Making that last bit clearer.... The building was subdivided illegally by a previous owner. The current owner is applying for the variance to maintain the subdivisions.

Kenzo's picture

TLP wrote:
Kenzo wrote:
I have real concerns about that since work was already started/done/continuing and the variance isn't even approved by Zoning. If you didn't have your variance and you're approaching FNA now for it--how did you get all the other construction permits, I wonder? What did you put on those permits? Smells funny.

Per the zoning meeting last night (someone correct me if I heard this wrong), the only work that has been done so far is exterior - both stablizing the walls structurally and cleaning up the outside. They haven't done any interior work, because they were refused that permit and sent over to Zoning. The building is already subdivided (illegally) and has been for many years, and this variance would make it official.

EDIT: Making that last bit clearer.... The building was subdivided illegally by a previous owner. The current owner is applying for the variance to maintain the subdivisions.

This is good clarification.

I am not opposed to multi-fam done properly. The questions the developer should allay are:

1. Units and their sqft living spaces
2. What changes are going to be made to the building for emergency egress. Due to the addition of so many gypsum walls in the building, sound from a battery-op smoke alarm in a basement doens't travel up to the higher floors.
3. Where's the central smoke alarm / sprinklers. [If you don't have plans for either, that's a BIG BIG problem]
4. What provisions are you making for garbage collection.
5. Noise abatement
6. Where is the contact information for the primary owners of the structure... does it show on BRT?
7. Are the electrics being upgraded... was the building knob-and-tube before? If so, are you ripping ALL of that out and putting in 60-100A service for each unit? [If no, big big problem].
8. Have you/are you going to, remove all the lead paint possible from the structure?

If the developer is not giving clear and concise answers about any of these 8 questions, particularly No. 2 and No. 3, that's a big concern. BIG.

BTW a developer usually always approaches a civic due to an L&I permit refusal. They have to put the permits across the counter first and get the refusal, then go to the ZBA and schedule a hearing for a variance request (to vary over the zoning).

That's when you should request from the developer all the plans and permits they had sent to L&I and to remind them to get on the ZBA calendar. If they don't have any of that I would be very suspicious.