THE COALITION’S MISSION:
The Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition is a Pennsylvania non profit corporation created in 2014, directed by board of volunteers nominated by a federation of civic associations which have united to advocate on a non partisan basis for quality of life issues and, further, to share resources, best practices and economies of scale for the benefit of the Coalition and of its member organizations.
THE COALITION’S ACTIVITIES:
At an April 2014 organizational meeting, the Coalition identified four topical areas for committee activities:
Schools and Education
Zoning and Land Use
Taxes and City Finance
Anti SLAPP Legislation
In addition, the delegates created four operational committees:
The activities of the committees are described in the Initiatives portion of the website.
THE COALITION’S HISTORY: 2007 to the present
A. THE COALITION & ZONING CODE REFORM (2008 - 2012): In 2007, the development community and the Nutter administration persuaded City Council to create a ballot question calling for a 32 member Zoning Code Commission to issue recommendations to reform the City’s Zoning Code. The Code had been enacted in 1961.
After the ballot question passed in the May 2007 primary, four civic associations, calling themselves the Crosstown Coalition - Center City Residents’ Association, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, South of South Neighborhood Association, and Society Hill Civic Association - met in the offices of Steve Huntingon, the first Chair of the Coalition, and decided to pool their funds and expertise in order to ensure a place at the table for communities in the Zoning Code Commission process.
The four civics published 13 recommendations in November of 2009, the first of which, “Improved Participation of Community Groups” led to the codification of Registered Community Organizations. Other Coalition goals, such as Civic Design Review, zoning category consolidation, and bonus revision also found their way into the current Code.
The Coalition soon expanded to include seven other organizations - East Falls Community Council, East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, Old City Civic Association, Overbrook Farms Club, Queen Village Neighborhood Association and South Broad Street Neighborhood Association.
Until the new Code’s enactment in August of 2012, Coalition representatives met approximately every two months, attended each monthly meeting of the Zoning Code Commission (there were more than 50 such meetings), and had weekly interactions with members of the Commission and its staffers. Coalition volunteers published approximately 200 pages analyzing the numerous topics raised by zoning code reform. The new Code, enacted in 2012, contained many suggestions advanced by the Crosstown.
B. THE COALITION & REALTY TAX REFORM (2012 - 2014) – No sooner had the new Zoning Code Commission shut down in 2011, than the Nutter administration announced the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), a realty tax reform program. The reform efforts arose from a series of Inquirer articles published in 2009 which highlighted both the inequities in City assessments and the “Patronage, Politics, Secrecy and Delay” of the City’s assessment agency, the Bureau of Revision of Taxes (BRT). Through AVI, the administration proposed to reassess the City’s 490,000 properties on a market value basis.
The associations in the Crosstown acknowledged the inequities in the City’s assessments. However they were concerned whether an accurate reassessment could occur within the proposed tight time parameters and whether AVI would adversely impact gentrified neighborhoods where newcomers had driven up the market value of homes occupied by long term residents.
This concern turned to alarm in May of 2012 when the administration announced intentions to pass a realty tax before the reassessments were published. The Crosstown mobilized and successfully lobbied for a one year delay in the implementation of the AVI reassessments. In the process, ten new members joined – Bella Vista Neighbors Association, East Kensington Neighbors Association, East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, Fishtown Neighbors Association, Hawthorne Empowerment Association, Packer Park Civic Association, Pennsport Civic Association, Washington Square West Civic Association, West Powelton Sanders Park RCO, and Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association.
Once the reassessments were finally issued, the Crosstown funded research by a graduate student which led to the publication of a 37 page study: ”Actual Valuation: A Flawed Initiative?” authored by Walter Spencer, a Center City Residents’ Association volunteer. Among the findings of that report:
Homes with sale prices over $1million were assessed at below market value while homes with sale prices below $50,000 were assessed at double their market value.
Land constituted less than 2% of the assessment of condos at the Ritz Carlton, Ten Rittenhouse and 1706 Rittenhouse.
The Coefficient of Dispersion, a metric used to evaluate the accuracy of mass appraisals, did not meet industry standards (15%)
In addition, the Crosstown prepared “The AVI Appeal Guide” a 37 page “How To” manual counseling homeowners whether and how to appeal AVI assessments and arranged neighborhood based information sessions.
C. THE COALITION INCORPORATES 2014 - 2017
Having worked together for six years on zoning and taxes, the members of the Crosstown decided in 2014 to convert from an ad hoc federation focused on limited topical initiatives to a broader purposed 501c 3 non devoted to non partisan advocacy for quality of life issues and sharing resources, best practices and economies of scale for the benefit of the Coalition and of its member organizations. In April of 2014, a board was created, officers were elected and dues were assessed to each member in proportion to their yearly income.
The Coalition's achievements during its first three years are described in the Crosstown's annual reports (indexed under "Publications" on this website) but highlights included:
EDUCATION SUMMITS - Each year since 2015, the Coalition's Education Committee, chaired by Jeff Hornstein, has held an Education Summit providing workshops and networking for education activists in general and, in particular, the members of the Coalition's Education Committee (FONE - Friends of Neighborhood Schools).
CANDIDATE'S QUESTIONNAIRES - For the 2015 Mayoral Primary, 5 candidates answered a 16 item questionnaire as did 14 of 19 Council candidates, a process that was repeated in 2017 when 5 District Attorney candidates and 3 Controller candidates completed an 11 item questionnaire.
ZONING/LAND USE - The Crosstown Zoning Committee allied with the Building Industry Association and the Development Workshop to revise the provisions of the Center City Overlay (Bill 140721) and to amend the Bill restructuring the City's land use agencies and creating the new Office of Planning and Development.
BEST PRACTICES SUMMIT - In 2016, the Crosstown invited all of the City's Registered Community Organizations to a "how to" workshop on running a civic association. 39 groups attended.