Council passes dozens of bills in pre-summer crunch
Before its annual summer hiatus, City Council approved dozens of bills including the lease for a new police headquarters, plans for Schuylkill Yards development, and funding for Mayor Kenney's Rebuild initiative.
Before its annual summer hiatus from hearings, City Council approved dozens of bills Thursday, including the lease for a new police headquarters, plans for West Philadelphia Schuylkill Yards development, and funding for Mayor Kenney's Rebuild initiative.
Kenney said he would sign Rebuild legislation as soon as it lands on his desk.
"I'm very excited about seeing the end result," Kenney said shortly after the vote. "I'm excited about seeing the number of young folks that will have a union card. I'm excited about the number of facilities that will be equitable and the communities where people will feel that the government cares about them and their children."
The program is anticipated to put $500 million into renovating the city's parks, recreation centers, and libraries over the next five or more years, and includes an agreement with the city's building trades aimed at ensuring a diverse workforce.
The bill to issue the first $100 million bond was approved by a 16-1 vote. David Oh said he voted against it because the legislation lacks the teeth to enforce the included diversity goals.
Council will reconvene for hearings in mid-September. Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced affordable-housing legislation Thursday sure to elicit robust debate when it does. The proposal would require developers of residential projects with 10 or more units to make 10 percent affordable.
Quiñones-Sánchez said that the hope was to have affordable homes built within market-rate developments but that a developer could also meet the 10 percent requirement by building an off-site affordable unit, paying the equivalent amount to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund, or leasing or selling an affordable unit to the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
She said that in exchange for those commitments, developers would be given bonuses on the height and size of their projects.
"Government alone cannot create the level of affordable units that the city needs," Quiñones-Sánchez said. "If there is a housing boom and there's all this private-sector capacity, how do they become part of the solution and helping us create these units in every part of the city?"
Council on Thursday also approved a plan to lease, and ultimately acquire, the former North Broad Street home of the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com for use as the Police Department's new headquarters.
The bill stipulates that the city's rent to developer Bart Blatstein for an initial nine-year period will cover debt service for renovations and repairs to the 400 N. Broad St. building, up to $15.6 million a year. After that initial term, the city has an option to acquire the building.
Council also approved the first phase of Schuylkill Yards, the 14-acre project in West Philadelphia planned by Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust.
When the legislation was passed by committee last week, the developers and surrounding neighborhood groups had yet to reach a Community Benefits Agreement. The sides were at odds over how much the developers should pay to provide affordable housing in the communities, with Brandywine offering $2.1 million and the neighborhood groups asking for more than four times that.
A spokeswoman for Brandywine declined Thursday to provide the final agreement but said that the developers had committed $3.1 million to a fund for affordable housing and that they could also fund programs related to workforce development and employee training, among other things.
Kenney also signed two bills into law Thursday.
The first bill, introduced by Councilman Derek Green, was sparked by incidents of racism in the city's Gayborhood. It gives the Commission on Human Relations the ability to order a business to close if it has multiple violations of the fair-practices ordinance and is not being cooperative in remedying the behavior.
The second bill, introduced by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, was sparked by the February vandalism at a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery. It increases the penalties for certain acts of ethnic intimidation and institutional vandalism, and allows for each act of vandalizing an individual headstone or grave marker to be charged as a separate violation.
Kenney said the laws were especially needed because the Trump administration has "empowered people to hate."
"We as cities need to continue to push back," he said. "We are the centers of diversity, we're the terms of inclusion. We will continue to be that."
Staff writer Jacob Adelman contributed to this article.