Originally Posted by Don't Be That Guy
The developer was already sitting aside part of their TIF towards the city's new affordable housing fund, which seems like a reasonable comprise.
Honest questions here. The developer's attorney said that they met all of the planning requirements, so what unfulfilled criteria did the Planning Commission base their decision on? Who does ELDI answer to and how do they legally dictate what is or isn't acceptable? They certainly aren't elected or appointed.
I have no real opinion on the quality of this project, but what's the point of a zoning code or development standards if the Planning Commission isn't going to follow them when making decisions? That sends a very negative message to anyone doing business in or with the city.
As far as I can tell, the developer in no way violated its side of the deal. Indeed, the City in some ways may have violated the deal even before yesterday, since part of the agreement to sell Enright Park involved the developer getting development rights to build affordable housing at the "Mellon's Orchard" site at the corner of Station and N Euclid (that site was ultimately given to another developer).
I think LG poisoned the well locally because it refused to work with ELDI. ELDI has been engaging in a difficult balancing act in the neighborhood. On one hand, unlike most community development corporations, it's not only run by the local business groups, but has a for-profit arm. This means they benefit personally from gentrification. On the other hand, they want to be seen by the community at large as having the interests of East Liberty residents at heart. The compromise they seem to have staked out is to allow market-rate new construction to take place, but also to ensure that the raw number of affordable units does not decrease. You can see this in the new development west of Centre Avenue - they had the new Larimer development fully built out, moved the East Liberty Gardens residents there, and are now going to demolish and rebuild that development.
LG refused to play ball with ELDI in terms of finding replacement units for the Penn Plaza residents to move to. This was the only real reduction in affordable units (not counting the dribs and drabs in smaller buildings which get flipped) since the towers came down. It's a big issue for the neighborhood and the organization, and has caused neighborhood anxiety about gentrification to reach a fevered pace. I haven't talked to anyone at ELDI recently, but I am guessing their goal is to leverage replacement affordable units, at which point they'll be happy to green light the project.
But yes, looking beyond the local issues, this shows why zoning as it is practiced in the U.S. has turned into a terrible thing, because these tools can (and usually are) used towards bad rather than good ends. You shouldn't need to have a political strategy to get any major development built.