Join the GCCA Zoning Committee! (link at bottom)
Our neighborhood (boundaries are 52nd Street, Cedar Avenue, 45th Street, and Locust Street) has over nine thousand residents living in a variety of building types, household formations, and socioeconomic conditions, in addition to civic institutions and several mixed-use commercial areas. The overwhelming majority of buildings in Garden Court were built in the late Victorian era into the 1920s. Demographics and social dynamics have ebbed and flowed, but unlike some neighborhoods that directly experienced institutional growth or de-industrialization since then, the original built environment of Garden Court remains remarkably in tact. Even so, as Philadelphia continues to grow for the first time since 1950, the neighborhood is experiencing price increases and development pressure that creates both risks and opportunities.
What is GCCA and its Zoning Committee?
Since the mid-1950’s, the Garden Court Community Association (GCCA) has worked to foster, promote, and develop cooperation, good fellowship, and neighborliness among neighbors, to coordinate efforts to solve neighborhood problems; and to enhance the civic and general welfare of this community. Other committees include membership, education, events, greening, and business district. GCCA established a Zoning and Development Committee to address preservation and development. The committee formulates positions, communicates public sentiment on relevant topics, and exercises the GCCA’s responsibilities as a Registered Community Organization (RCO) within the city of Philadelphia.
What Does the Zoning Committee Do?
GCCA's Zoning and Development Committee actually does not have any "real" authority over property development; that is generally exercised by property owners, Philadelphia City Council, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and other public bodies. Our role is largely as a convener, with the occasional opportunity to influence public and private decisions, for example, in 2019, we agreed to support variance requests at 314 S 36th Street in exchange for preservations of the Good Shepherd Church building, a number of design considerations for a new building on the site, and inclusion of under market rate units. The Committee meets monthly (in public and closed session) and calls special public meetings on an as-needed basis for significant proposals or initiatives. We have begun regularly collecting and sharing updates on significant projects in the neighborhood, as well as broader housing trends, to keep neighbors informed. In addition to reviewing zoning cases, this past year we formed working groups focused on historic preservation and housing affordability.
How are decisions made and actions taken?
We operate as a majoritarian body, understanding that unanimous consensus is usually not possible, and rely on the volunteer effort of our members for all we do. As occasionally required, non-binding public polls (either online or as part of a meeting) are conducted for our own information or to submit to city agencies. We listen to members of the public who attend meetings and get engaged, and also consider the viewpoints of those many who don't. We recognize that there are trade-offs between equally valid individual interests and do our best to represent the shared interests of all current and future residents and businesses and to push things in the right direction.
The GCCA Board of Directors appoints 13 voting members with 2-year terms to its Zoning and Development Committee, with an open call to fill vacancies every two years. We believe that members should be should be of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and each offering relevant knowledge or expertise applicable to the workings of the committee. The committee is always looking to expand the voices and knowledge we have at the table, and currently has four open seats.
What about meetings? And what about my kids?
The Committee has regularly scheduled meetings at 8pm on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. They used to be held in person, but since the pandemic began, we've been holding them via Zoom. As things return to "normal" we may go back to in-person or consider a hybrid model; that will be something for the committee to discuss. Finally, our meetings are family friendly! We know it's hard to make time for civic activities, and members' kids are welcome to attend... even the chair's babies/toddlers used to attend in-person, and have been known to appear on the zoom.
Apply to Join the Committee by 7/31/21
Interested or know somebody who would be a good fit? Applying is simple; just fill out the short survey linked below. In August we will review applications and, depending on the number of submissions, conduct a few informal interviews. We expect a slate of members to be confirmed by the GCCA Board at its September 13th meeting. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate them to send them to Jonas Maciunas, committee chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.