1. Zoning in on the problem
This initiative will remove the politics and local infighting from the zoning process by empowering community leaders to work directly with city planning experts, zoning officials, and economists to rezone antiquated zoning designations. This will transform Philadelphia. It will jumpstart investment in our neighborhoods, bring back local jobs, eliminate urban blight, and provide neglected neighborhoods with local options to shop, eat, and work.
For distressed commercial corridors, current zoning designations are not working. Simply encouraging businesses to come to a neighborhood doesn’t revive a neglected corridor or provide local jobs. Instead, the solution lies with upzoning.
With the current zoning on Point Breeze Avenue, for example, mixed-use redevelopment is impossible without a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustments. As a result, developers have been unwilling to invest in this corridor. If the zoning on the corridor was changed to allow greater height and density, new retail would follow. Without upzoning, Point Breeze Avenue and other corridors like it will continue to decline.
Ori Feibush will bring economists, city planning experts, and leadership from Registered Community Organizations to the table to make zoning decisions so that the broader interests of neighborhoods are prioritized over the narrow interests of a few politically-connected individuals. This will allow businesses to open where commerce is needed, and homes to be built where housing is needed. Investors will rebuild crumbling storefronts and blighted properties without the uncertainty of the zoning process. Others will build homes on previously improperly zoned lots. This will provide low-rent options for people to open a small store or office and provide lower-cost housing for first-time homebuyers. Combined, this effort will bring new residents to neighborhoods, local job opportunities to commercial corridors, and amenities for all residents to enjoy.
2. Death by a thousand permits
This initiative will streamline the process for opening and operating a small business in Philadelphia.
Large companies like Comcast get all the press coverage, but small business is Philadelphia’s backbone. There are many rewards for being a small business owner: you’re able to earn a living to put food on the table; you provide a useful service or product to your customers or clients; and as your business grows, you’re able to provide employment opportunities for others. There are also benefits to the city. Local shops provide convenience, jobs, and tax revenue.
The City of Philadelphia should be an eager partner to make sure businesses are able to get started and succeed. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case. Opening and operating a small business in Philadelphia requires a number of redundant permits and licenses. In some cases, the cost for a permit is relatively inexpensive, but the fine for mistakenly not applying for the permit is thousands of dollars – and it’s pretty easy for even the most diligent person to make a costly mistake. This can make the process of starting and operating a relatively simple business in Philadelphia an absolute nightmare.
As a small business owner and entrepreneur, Ori has a firsthand perspective on the challenges facing the business community. He knows that business owners should be spending profits paying their employees more money and reinvesting in their businesses so that their organizations grow and create more jobs. Instead, Philadelphia business owners are forced to spend that money on paperwork just to keep their doors open.
To make sensible changes to these processes, Ori will conduct a comprehensive review of the required steps for opening and operating a small business in Philadelphia and then introduce legislation to streamline and simplify those steps.