October 23: Tangled titles | Failed taxi auction | Century 21 opens | Automating SEPTA

Nobody bid on the new $475,000 medallions at PPA’s first auction for wheelchair-accessible taxi licenses. Paul Nussbaum reminds us that taxi medallions (which ration the privilege to drive a for-hire vehicle in Philadelphia) used to cost only $65,000 back in 2005, but as the population has grown, the number of taxi medallions has stayed the same, resulting in more expensive medallions, and higher rents charged to cab drivers by fleet owners.

The Daily News has a big feature series on how reinvestment and population growth have been changing Philadelphia, and the piece on tangled title problems is timely and important as the land bank will be able to clear titles of back taxes and tax liens on tax delinquent properties. “A person has a tangled title if he or she resides in and maintains a home — usually purchased by a family member who has since died — but is not the recorded legal owner on the title to the property…”

Democrat Tom Wolf, the frontrunner for PA Governor, wants state government to do more to assist cities with land use planning. A Wolf administration would want “more oversight over land use and development, more mixed income-mixed use development, and more technical assistance to local entities in the planning process,” says Irina Zhorov.

The owners of the parcel at 4224 Baltimore on Clark Park will go ahead and seek a zoning variance after all for U3’s 123-unit project proposal that has the support of many neighbors. Controversy flared over the past few weeks, as it appeared the owners would build a less interesting project by right, rather than go through zoning.

Transit blogger Michael Noda says platform screen   doors, if they are a first step toward automated trains, “are the best improvement SEPTA can make for itself, its workers, and (most importantly), the public it serves.”

City Council’s L&I committee is moving forward with a bill making changes to the fire code concerning large abandoned buildings, which “essentially creates a database of the “worst of the worst” commercial and industrial buildings slated to be sealed for demolition,” reports Jenny DeHuff.

Century 21’s Philadelphia store at 8th and Market opens today as the first department store they’ve opened outside of New York City in the company’s 53-year history. 

David Thornburgh, of Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, will replace Zach Stahlberg as head of the good-government group Committee of Seventy, and he wants the organization to do more to get candidates on the record with policy specifics. From his “permanent vacation” in New Mexico, Zach Stahlberg thinks this focus is appropriate because “there’s a very ordinary set of politicians running for mayor.”

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