Philly City Council committee advances bill that would make sure neighbors benefit from certain big developments

Pat Loeb
December 04, 2019 - 4:13 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia developers have long offered Community Benefit Agreements as a way to overcome neighborhood opposition to controversial projects. But a bill that advanced in City Council Wednesday would make them mandatory for certain developments. 

Fishtown neighbors were not thrilled when HSP Gaming wanted to open a casino on the Delaware riverfront in 2008, but they came around to the idea when the developer offered to refurbish nearby athletic fields and buy computers for neighborhood schools. 

The bill approved by a City Council committee would give developers no choice but to negotiate such local supports if their development gets any city financial assistance or would impact neighborhood health, aesthetics, economy or social fabric.

No developers spoke at the hearing, but several community activists, such as Jihad Ali, testified in support.

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"As a participant in CBAs, everything that is outlined in this bill are things we requested," Ali said. 

Ebony Griffin of the Public Interest Law Center warned that developers should not be able to get off the hook with what she called "bats and jerseys" agreements.

"For a CBA to be meaningful, it must include meaningful benefits and accountability safeguards," Griffin said.

The bill now goes to the full Council for a vote next week.