Ridge Avenue project best for neighborhood

Architecture critic Inga Saffron's assessment of the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Sharswood development betrays a lack of understanding of this area's history and residents ("Out of place," Sept. 9). She should spend time in the nearby Cecil B. Moore Home Ownership Zone, where residents are proud of their spacious blocks, grassy lawns, and gardens.

By scolding developments that do not meet her lofty standards for density, Saffron insults whole categories of people for whom forced, crowded living carries painful historic connotations. Her admonishment for this lower North Philadelphia development to mimic the East Passyunk Avenue corridor is cringe-inducing. There are cultural variances in development and housing ideals. PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah has embarked on a bold plan to preserve and honor the flavor of Ridge Avenue with the goal of restoring lost glory.

When public housing does not appeal to target clientele, its very mission - to help people become self-sustaining - is in jeopardy. Saffron's fantasy for Ridge Avenue is inconsistent with the large-scale developments that have succeeded in North Philadelphia. That is why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has cited PHA's work here as a public-housing innovation in mission and design.

Darrell L. Clarke, president, Philadelphia City Council,