By Matt Blanchard
John Street’s last-minute appointments to the Zoning Code Commission finally turned up at the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, five months after the ZCC began its work, and two days after Street’s administration was officially over.
Among them is Street’s own son, Sharif Street, a real estate attorney with the politically-connected firm Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, who seemed to leap right into the morning discussion, a review of the Water Department’s operations.
“This is just the issue for a guy who’s dedicated a good portion of his professional career to land use issues,” he said.
Their arrival answers a perennial question on the 31-member board: “Where are Street’s people?” But it raises a second question: “How long can they possibly last?”
The five mayoral appointees to the ZCC serve at the pleasure of the mayor, who is now Michael Nutter. A spokesman for Nutter’s office, Doug Oliver, said the mayor will reconsider Street’s appointments.
“There will be a complete review of all boards and commissions,” Oliver said, “Including that one.”
But with about 100 different boards and commissions active in the city, Oliver said this review “will take a little bit of time.”
Despite their late arrival – and uncertain future – the Street appointees bring considerable experience to the commission.
John Gallery is the executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the city’s leading advocate for historic preservation – a concern which is only partially represented on the board today. A Harvard-trained architect, Gallery was the founding director of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development in the late 1970s, worked with Ed Bacon at the Planning Commission, and is a founder of Urban Partners development consulting group.
Patricia Smith was the director of John Street’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), a $295 million redevelopment initiative to demolish blighted structures and prepare urban land for redevelopment. She’s since moved on to become Director of Special Initiatives for The Reinvestment Fund, a respected Philadelphia-based non-profit that harnesses private capital for redevelopment projects in the inner city.
Sharif Street is a real estate attorney at Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, and has worked on affordable housing development deals in 14 states. A graduate of Penn Law School, Street served as chief legislative advisor to State Senator Shirley Kitchen (D, Philadelphia). He made an unsuccessful run for an at-large seat on City Council in 2007. He says he is not sure why his father waited so long to make his appointments to the ZCC.
The identity of two other Street appointees (the mayor gets five) have not been confirmed by Planning Commission Staff.
The departure of Janice Woodcock from the City Planning Commission leaves her deputy, Gary Jastrzab, as the acting chair of both the Planning Commission and the ZCC.
Jastrzab is a PCPC veteran of 27 years, having headed the housing unit, and more recently the strategic planning and policy division. A native of Buffalo who retains touches of the accent, he received his MA in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.
Jastrzab said he could shed no light on who Woodcock’s permanent replacement might be.
After five years as the high-spirited chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, David Auspitz resigned the post ahead of his expected replacement. Mayor Nutter had criticized the board under Auspitz’s tenure as unpredictable and akin to the Judge Judy television program. Read the Inquirer story here.
That means Auspitz is off the ZCC, too, replaced on Wednesday by Rev. William Hall, the ZBA’s new chairman. Hall, who has been described in the press as John Street’s pastor, has not yet returned calls for an interview.