"Spruce Hill Community Association"

Spruce Hill committee pledges help for Studio 34’s zoning woes and neighbors’ concerns

Posted on 24 April 2015 by Mike Lyons


Studio 34 needs a “nightclub” permit to keep hosting large events like the City Kitties benefit auction pictured here. Photo from City Kitties.

A couple of dozen supporters of Studio 34, the yoga and arts space at 4522 Baltimore Ave., breathed a collective sigh of relief last night when the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee vowed to help figure out a way to get the studio compliant with city codes.

Studio 34 needs a “nightclub” permit to continue to hold events like dance recitals and art shows that it has held since it opened eight years ago. A few residents who live near the studio are concerned that if Studio 34 vacates the building one day (it has a 20-year lease) the nightclub permit might be used to open an actual nightclub. The building’s owner also owns the nearby Fiesta Pizza.

The ordeal began a couple of years ago when an organization rented Studio 34 to host a large event. They set up a bunch of folding chairs, but didn’t leave an aisle, a code violation. Later a city inspector came around and suggested that Studio 34 needed a special permit to hold large events that weren’t part of its core mission as a yoga studio. Since another part of its mission is providing community space for all sorts of events, Studio 34’s co-owners have decided to pursue the permit.

“We just want to do it above board,” said co-owner Jim Peniston.

The zoning committee committed to helping Studio 34 and nearby residents figure out a way to get the permit, but have some limits placed on it. For example, there could be a stipulation that the permit has an expiration date.

“No one is anything but complimentary about what you guys are doing,” said zoning committee chair Barry Grossbach.

While no decision was made at last night’s meeting, the board promised to be supportive of Studio 34’s efforts while reassuring neighbors that they won’t someday live near a rollicking, nighttime hot spot.

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Limited free Spruce Hill Association membership offered

Posted on 06 May 2013 by WPL

SpruceHill_logoIf you live in the area between Market Street and Woodland Avenue and between 38th and 46th Streets (see map here) read on. For a limited time, the Spruce Hill Community Association is offering new members the first year of membership for free, no strings attached. Upon request from SHCA we are publishing their official statement regarding the membership drive:

SHCA is dedicated to serving the community, and we want you to get involved with us. We work on issues that matter – education, zoning, clean-ups, neighborhood plans, public safety. We put on great events like the annual May Fair and the Halloween Parade. And our communications keep members in the loop about community news and events.

To apply, please email Richard Guffanti at with your name, address, and phone number(s).

For more information about SHCA and what it does, visit the Spruce Hill Community Association website.

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Outreach effort to begin on proposed building at 43rd and Baltimore

Posted on 24 April 2013 by Annamarya Scaccia

43rd&BaltimoreThe firm behind the proposed residential housing project at 43rd and Baltimore will soon begin to seek community input, including the launch of a forum-like website, according to a letter from the chair of the Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee.

We first reported on the 92-unit residential complex proposed for the vacant lot at the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, across from Clark Park, a month ago. Since publishing the story, a lively discussion on what this development would mean for West Philly took off, with a number of residents emailing concerns to Barry Grossbach, chair of the Spruce Hill Zoning Committee. Grossbach recently addressed those questions in a statement released by the Spruce Hill Community Association.

“Here is what we know. The property owners sought, and were given, a ‘conditional’ zoning permit subject to design committee approval by City Planning,” writes Grossbach. “The site, currently zoned Rm1 under the new code, does not require any parking as part of any multifamily development. This is particularly important to understand given the emails insisting that Spruce Hill not allow this lack of parking to stand. The plans submitted by the owners meet the requirements of the code under Rm1 zoning, and lamenting the lack of parking will not address those concerns in a meaningful way. A ‘conditional’ permit is good for one year, and the clock does not start ticking on any time schedule until the owners seek to change ‘conditional’ to ‘permanent.’”

According to Grossbach’s statement, before seeking that change, the property owner, Clarkmore LP, controlled by Thylan Associates, has enlisted the help of U3 Ventures, a local real estate advisory and development firm, to engage the community in fostering alternative design plans. The process, writes Grossbach, will include a series of insightful roundtables with residents, and the creation of (which is not yet up and running), a website dedicated to the project news and information. The plan is for the website to feature an online discussion forum moderated by “Spruce Hill community members” where residents can express qualms about issues ranging from “building size to parking concerns,” according to Grossbach’s letter. The development team will not edit the forum’s content, but will participate in the discussion.

The development group will also have a table at the Spruce Hill Community Association May Fair on May 11.

“Many of us in Spruce Hill have looked at 43rd and Baltimore with a mixture of apprehension and hope over these ‘vacant’ years—expecting that something would surface as a development scheme and praying silently that we would not only survive it but applaud it,” writes Grossbach. “We have a unique opportunity here…We have the chance to think big and bold and, hopefully, find that sweet spot in shaping development for a site that both community members and property owners applaud without reservation.”

– Annamarya Scaccia


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Community input sought for Spruce Hill planning this Thursday

Posted on 10 December 2012 by WPL

Here’s an opportunity to share your vision of the Spruce Hill neighborhood this upcoming Thursday (Dec. 13). The Spruce Hill Community Association is hosting a Community Visioning Workshop and all are welcome to come and offer their thoughts on what kind of a place you would like Spruce Hill to be. The workshop will be held at the Spruce Hill Christian School (42nd & Baltimore), beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Community input is needed for the planning process as the Philadelphia Planning Commission is working on a new District Plan and Re-zoning for West Philadelphia neighborhoods (University/Southwest District Plan). Many West Philly residents participated in the first University/Southwest public meeting on November 13 at the Enterprise Center. More details, including the summary and presentation from that meeting are available here.

For more information on the workshop, contact Barry Grossbach, chair of the Spruce Hill Community Trust, at, or leave a telephone message at the Spruce Hill Community Center, 215-349-7825.

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Fall Bird Food Drive for Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary

Posted on 10 October 2012 by WPL

Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary.

Our fine feathered friends at Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary need more food to make it through the toughest months of the year, so Spruce Hill Community Association is organizing a Fall Bird Food Drive. Residents are asked to donate a bag of sunflower seeds, suet cakes, or good quality general bird seed. Bird food is available at pet stores, supermarkets or local garden centers and nurseries.

You can drop off the purchased bird food at the following locations: Baltimore Pet Shoppe (4532 Baltimore Ave), Milk and Honey (45th and Baltimore) and Spruce Hill Community Association (257 45th St., call 215 349-7825 for open hours).

The sanctuary has four posts that hold 15 feeders. You might see over a dozen different kinds of birds there. The entrance is next to 233 S. Melville and it is open to the public. For more information, click here.


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Spruce Hill Community Association presses for delay in property tax overhaul

Posted on 13 June 2012 by Mike Lyons

The Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) is appealing to the City Council to delay the implementation of the controversial property tax assessment overhaul, the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), which could help bail out the city beleaguered school district by increasing taxes on long under-valued properties. Residents in neighborhoods where property values have far outpaced the city’s valuation could see their property tax bills double, triple or even quadruple.

City Council is expected to consider AVI legislation at Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting. The City Council has until July 1st to submit a new budget and tax rate. But the property assessments needed to implement the AVI have not been completed. That’s one of the reasons the SHCA is pressing for a delay.

In a letter sent to members today, SHCA President Ed Halligan urged the City Council to take more time to let residents prepare for what could be substantial changes to their tax bills. The extra time would also allow city assessors to do a thorough inventory and assessment of the city’s housing stock.

Several versions of the AVI have been floating around City Hall and it is unclear what the final version might look like. What does look certain is that a basic formula will hold: If your home has been assessed too low, your taxes will likely increase.

While homeowners would be hardest hit, many renters will probably not be immune from dramatic tax increases as property owners will likely look to pass on the added costs.

There are lots of resources available on the AVI and we will collect them when and if it’s passed. Meanwhile, here is a good primer on the AVI that Plan Philly put together a few weeks ago.

Below is a copy of the SHCA letter to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
SHCA letter to Jannie Blackwell

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