May 12: Jurors deal a blow to Councilmanic prerogative | Debating city land assessments | SEPTA exploring university contracts

The verdict in the Ori Feibush v. Kenyatta Johnson trial is in, and jurors sided with Feibush, reports Jared Brey. “The case was functionally a trial against Councilmanic prerogative, a tradition that gives Council members discretion over development and land sales in their districts. After a day-and-a-half of testimony, the jury decided that prerogative was the motivating force that led to Johnson’s refusal to sell the properties,” he writes. The City will appeal the decision. 

Northern Liberties Neighbors Association president Matt Ruben pushes back on the idea that rebalancing land assessments, which were widely believed to be too low even after AVI, constitute a ‘bait and switch’ on abated property owners, as Bella Vista attorney Steven Silver claimed in a recent op-ed for NewsWorks. He agrees with Silver, though, that higher land assessments still aren’t uniform. “This only works if the city raises all land values in a neighborhood, fairly and uniformly. And here Silver is 100 percent right: The city’s current land-value increases are partial, inconsistent, and unfair, and must be corrected, especially when it comes to vacant land.”

SEPTA GM Jeff Kneuppel told City Council that the transit authority has been in communication with Temple, the Community College of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania about including SEPTA Key as part of tuition, reports Grace Maiorano. We’ve written previously about SEPTA Youth Advisory Council’s campaign to bring a program similar to Pittsburgh’s popular university pass program to the Philadelphia region, and it appears they’ve made some headway.

Which areas are underbuilding housing in the Philly metro, relative to demand? Dave Munson takes a crack at modeling this and says Center City, University City, and parts of Northwest Philly and South Philly need to step up their housing construction. 

Washington, DC’s big zoning reform effort will legalize accessory dwellings in some areas, says Emily Brown. “In DC, households are shrinking from large families to singles or couples, while demand for housing is rising. Allowing homeowners to rent out parts of their property can help alleviate this demand, while providing income to offset the increasing cost of property.”


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