City Planning Commission seeks zoning changes in East Torresdale

East Torresdale residents’ desire to preserve open space has prompted the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to seek a series of zoning changes in the neighborhood.

City Planner Larissa Klevan delivered an overview of some proposed changes during the monthly meeting of the East Torresdale Civic Association on Feb. 13. Residents responded by requesting additional modifications to the neighborhood’s zoning map.

Ultimately, Klevan hopes that the commission and residents agree on a new map that City Councilman Bobby Henon can introduce as legislation. Any zoning changes must be approved by council and signed into law by the mayor.

Most of the proposed changes involve single homes in the neighborhood with large yards. Neighbors have complained for years about developers buying up these larger properties, only to demolish the old homes and subdivide the land for profit. In many cases, the community has no say in the process because the newly created parcels satisfy the pre-existing zoning requirements. Most of these properties are zoned RSD-3 (a residential single detached classification).

Klevan recommends assigning stricter zoning, RSD-1, in areas of the neighborhood that have the greatest potential for subdivision. The new zoning would increase the minimum dimension requirements of subject properties.

The city planner’s initial proposal to the ETCA was to apply new zoning to an area of about 15 square blocks just south of Grant Avenue between Fluehr Park and Leon Street. Affected properties would be on both sides of Frankford Avenue near St. Katherine of Siena and All Saints Episcopal churches.

Several ETCA members suggested expanding the affected area to include homes along Convent Lane and Aubrey Avenue east of Frankford, as well as those east of State Road between Grant Avenue and Fitler Street. Klevan said that planning commission staff would review the additional areas to determine if the existing properties meet the requirements of the stricter zoning classification.

In addition to the sweeping residential components of the new zoning map, Klevan also proposes to change the commercial properties around Torresdale train station from CA-1 (auto-oriented commercial) to CMX-2 (commercial mixed use). The latter designation is more suitable for neighborhood-friendly businesses like corner stores and coffee shops, she said. Klevan further proposes to assign more restrictive commercial zoning to a pair of Frankford Avenue parcels at Arendell Avenue and Convent Lane.

In an unrelated topic, the civic association voted not to support a zoning variance appeal by a local dentist who wants to expand his practice at 9521–23 Frankford Ave.

Dr. Pablo Sotelo has three operatories or treatment rooms inside a converted two-story home. The building is 1,380 square feet. He wants to build a two-story addition of 1,300 square feet. The expanded practice would have six operatories. The doctor also wants to create a handicap parking spot in the front yard and three employee parking spots in the backyard.

Several immediate neighbors questioned the doctor about several concerns including open space, stormwater drainage and vehicle traffic in and out of the property. One local resident identified himself as Sotelo’s patient and spoke highly of the doctor. But ETCA members sided with the immediate neighbors and voted 20–4 against the expansion. ••