Housing Policy

Philadelphia Politicians Want to Ban Bay Windows

The supposed symbol of gentrification has become the target of city politicians.

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Philadelphia is finally cracking down on Public Enemy Number One: bay windows.

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has introduced an ordinance that would ban these protruding windows in the neighborhoods of Point Breeze and Grays Ferry. Balconies would be verboten too. His aim, he says, is to prevent undue clashing with the traditional brownstone homes that populate the area.

"I call them pop-out windows," he told local radio station WHYY last week. "That's where we have these monstrosity developments with windows with aluminum siding that are green or orange or blue, and they don't fit on these blocks that are all red-brick rowhouses."

For some, the bay windows that have been popping up on new townhomes and condominiums throughout the city are just the most outward sign of the city's rapid gentrification.

"They are an icon of that change, and maybe for a lot of people, they are an icon of unwelcome change," Patrick Grossi of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Johnson's bill passed unanimously out of committee last Wednesday, and the full city council may vote on it this week. It is expected to pass easily.

The bill has nevertheless courted opposition. The city's Streets Department has said the ordinance would be essentially unenforceable, as well as a strain on limited city resources.

The Inquirer's editorial board has also opposed the measure, deriding the idea that gentrification could be stalled by selectively targeting a few of its most transparent symbols. The paper calls this the "bay windows theory"—a play on the "broken windows theory" of policing.

That editorial also notes that this kind of microregulation of buildings' outward appearance could be used to block the development of affordable housing that doesn't perfectly match a surrounding neighborhood's aesthetic.

There's a more direct way trying to preserve Philadelphia's stock of brownstone rowhomes could lead to greater gentrification and affordability problems: Historic preservation is expensive, since historic buildings require wealthier owners that have the money to prevent them from falling apart.

This is a point made by free market urbanist Alain Bertaud on a recent episode of the podcast Econtalk.

"You cannot maintain a brownstone unless you have a lot of money. And it's the same thing with any historical building," said Bertaud. "It will have to go to rich people. If not they will deteriorate very, very quickly."

Compared to other large cities, Philadelphia remains relatively affordable—in part, perhaps, because it has been more welcoming of development.

Yet the more and more minute regulations the city passes governing how home and apartments have to look, the more chances NIMBYs will have to stop needed new development it its tracks. Johnson's bill is relatively limited, but it could represent a dangerous slippery slope.

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  1. window tax?

    1. Let’s just outlaw entropy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics was never meant to apply to brownstones.

    2. “window tax?”
      Well at least that’s a transparent tax.

  2. What would it cost to build a high wall around Philadelphia? One with guard towers, spotlights, barbed wire on top, triple reinforced steel doors, etc?

    Oh, sorry, I forgot this is a libertytarian webzone. Well think about it like this. Just wall it in as a kind of zoo exhibit for the rest of America to gawp at and take lessons from. Yinz up in Scranton take note; if Philly proves too expensive then yinz alls is getting walled the fack in.

    1. Well I suppose Scranton isn’t really in yinzer territory and Scrantonians who tried to pass themselves off as legit true yinzers would probably get a Yuengling bottle full of piss upsides their heads from the proud and noble union men to the west who would would rightly take offense at such a heinous act of cultural appropriation.

      1. Yinzer is Pittsburgh, right? How far out does that designation creep I wonder?

        1. Philadelphia I meant to say.

          1. I thought “yinz” was a Pittsburgh thing. I could be wrong.

            1. You’re not, but other places have a similar slightly drawlier “you’unz” that sounds similar.

            2. It is, and gets about as far east as Altoona/Bedford.

              “Youz” is Philly.

              1. I’m a Pittsburgh yinzer. I’ve heard it said in Ashville N.C. It seems the Scotts-Irish from Pittsburgh migrated through the Appalachians and took the dialect with them.

    2. Has been action starts staging daring escapes that involve fighting mutants in the city streets?

  3. I used to work for the City and I can safely say we probably have the most corrupt mayoral/council regime in the US. If you really want to get triggered, look up councilmanic prerogative. These people are literal Soviet commissars.

    1. Oh f accidental flag, sorry! The new comments system makes that too easy!

      1. The solution is to flag all comments.

  4. I wonder do all these city council assholes live in houses that are equivalent to 1682 standards? If not then for shame on them changing the original vision of Filthadelphia.

    1. Excuse me, Lenape Indians were there first. Anything not wigwam is desecration.

      1. But that’s cultural apporiation.

  5. just before I looked at the paycheck four $6755, I accept that my friend could realey making money in there spare time online.. there friend brother haz done this less than 22 months and resently cleard the morgage on their appartment and purchased a great new Acura. I went here,

  6. “You cannot maintain a brownstone unless you have a lot of money. And it’s the same thing with any historical building,” said Bertaud. “It will have to go to rich people. If not they will deteriorate very, very quickly.”

    Oh, for fuck’s sake, they’re passing a law ain’t they? Henceforth, neighborhoods will only be gentrified by poor people.

    It’s not fair that rich people are richer than poor people and the Democratic Socialist party aims to fix that. Regardless of which socialist gets into office after Trump, there will be no more of this nonsense about some people having more than others just because they have more than others.

    1. And they’ll fix it by making everyone poor, except the nomenklatura.

  7. More information about our glorious comrade Kenyatta Johnson:

    Councilman Johnson chairs the Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities and the Legislative Oversight Committee. He also serves on the following committees: Finance; Streets and Services; Licenses and Inspections; Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Public Health and Human Services; Public Safety; Housing Neighborhood Development and the Homeless; and Technology and Information Services.

    A lifelong resident of Point Breeze, Councilman Johnson is a product of the School District of Philadelphia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Mansfield University and a Masters Degree in Government Administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

    http://phlcouncil.com/KenyattaJohnson/

    1. Does Councilman Johnson get paid for each committee he’s on?

    2. Fels shits out a lot of wannabe politicians and bureaucrats.

      1. École Philadelphiale?

    3. A degree in “government administration”. Motherfucker went to college to learn how to stick his beak in where nobody wants it.

      -jcr

  8. Not all bay windows have to be alum clad they can match the existing structure if they wanted to.

  9. These hoity-toity types that want balconies and bay windows should be forced to swill cheap beer from a can while sitting on their front stoops, and cheer/bitch about the Phillies (depending solely upon the result of the last pitch) like normal Philadelphians!

  10. The people running Philly’s government couldn’t find their asses with both hands and a map. They are that stupid.

  11. They should ban Michael Bay movies instead

  12. Everyone in Filthadepthsia competes for biggest a-hole. It’s usually a tie but every so often you’ll see someone pull ahead of the pack.

  13. So he is openly complaining about the color?
    He wants a ban based on color?
    Is that right?

  14. Maybe not all of them but whoever designed that monstrosity should be tarred and feathered. Looks like it was made out of legos by a hyperactive 8 year old.

  15. City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson is the kind of useless asshole who usually ends on on the board of an HOA, harassing neighbors who paint their door a color he doesn’t like.

    Shame on anyone who ever voted for him.

    -jcr

  16. The truth is that the generic modern apartment/townhouse design style is garbage. I’ve basically never met anybody who found the style attractive… It was literally designed around the cheapest materials to build out of, which is why they look so ugly and cobbled together.

    In another decade or two everybody will think of these things like orange shag carpet, or the ugly design of 60s apartment buildings with all those little rocks on the siding that were inevitable painted in an ugly beige color.

    I’m not saying anything should be banned… But when there is such unanimous agreement that a style is fucking hideous… Maybe developers should spend the extra few percent of total costs and make them not look like shit? I mean once could have an entirely brick faced building that fit in the neighborhood, required less long term maintenance, AND people would find it more attractive… Yet they never do. It’s always the same ugly aesthetic.

    IMO there is an untapped market for NON butt ugly new construction, and it blows my mind that nobody here in Seattle is doing it.

    1. Well, the market has nothing with what Seattle will allow, so – – – – –

    2. There ought to be a law!

      1. Nah. Developers just need to be lined up and shot for destroying the aesthetics of entire formerly nice to look at cities!

  17. I’m cool with bay windows. It’s bow windows that piss me off. All of the gentrification and none of the floor space.

  18. affordable housing

    All housing is affordable: affordable by their buyers & renters.

  19. Cue Groucho Marx singing,”I’m Against It”.

  20. Read the headline as “Gay Windows” and thought, “Okay, there’s some actual inequality the LBGTQ community can rally around!”

  21. “window tax?”
    Well at least that’s a transparent tax.

  22. It is a very great idea. In Europe, some developers forbid investors to build windows and balconies on their own, which are contrary to the construction plan. For example, the developer of this house https://new.flatfy.md/ru/%D0%B6%D0%BA-circului-%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%91%D0%B2

  23. […] increase interior footage, and boost curb appeal. So, why the ban? There are several reasons. Per Councilman Johnson, “…we have these monstrosity developments with windows with aluminum siding that are green or […]

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