Councilman listed as plaintiff on appeal of Point Breeze project, swears it’s a mistake

A handful of Point Breeze community groups have filed a notice of appeal of a zoning board decision allowing Ori Feibush to build a 22-unit housing project at 20th and Wharton streets, on the site of a former warehouse that was vacant for years.

This probably isn’t too surprising, given the controversy surrounding that project and many others proposed in Point Breeze. But this one has an extra layer: Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the neighborhood in City Council and who was challenged for that position by Ori Feibush himself, is listed as a plaintiff on the appeal.

At the zoning hearing last month, Johnson’s office testified in opposition to the project. He stands by his opposition, but he swears he never wanted to be a plaintiff on the appeal. He said his name was placed on the appeal without his permission and that he’ll try to get it removed.

“I’m a Councilperson,” Johnson said over the phone on Friday. “If [neighbors] want to appeal they can go ahead and appeal, but if they want to make me a plaintiff, that shouldn’t be my role as a Councilperson.”

Johnson said he had talked to Claudia Sherrod of South Philadelphia HOMES, one of the other named plaintiffs, and said they could use his office’s testimony from the ZBA in the appeal. But he said he told her he wasn’t going to sign onto the appeal himself. Sherrod declined to share any details of her conversations with Johnson.

Deborah Cianfrani, the lawyer who filed the appeal, said it wasn’t a mistake.

“I’m not going get into anything because you’re a reporter, but the Councilperson gave his consent to be a plaintiff,” she said.

Who knows? But, it would be very odd and shortsighted for Johnson to agree to be a plaintiff and then deny he made that agreement as soon as the appeal records became public.

Feibush said it was a “frivolous appeal filed by the Councilman and his friends,” and that he intends to move ahead with the project.

“I have yet to have the luxury of building something in Point Breeze not under appeal, and we will build this under appeal,” Feibush said.

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