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U. cancels plans to build two of five fresh air food plazas

(02/13/98 10:00am)

Noise and overcrowding fears led officials to change their minds on where to put the two vending sites. Bowing to pressure from faculty and staff members, University officials said yesterday they had abandoned plans to build two of the five proposed fresh air food plazas designed to offer vendors an attractive place to operate away from the campus' crowded streets. Faculty and staff members protested the two locations near 34th and Walnut streets -- one next to Bennett Hall and the other behind Van Pelt Library -- because of potential nuisances such as the noise and smell from the carts, as well as possible problems caused by over- crowding. University officials have selected two other locations, in the vicinity of 34th and Walnut streets, as alternate sites. But Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official, said he would not identify the sites until plans are finalized. "While vending is an important issue, the message was clearly conveyed to us that such an act [of building the plazas] cannot and should not take place at the expense of the academic and other missions of the University," Shannon said. The fresh air food plazas will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage, water lines and improved lighting for vendors at the cost of $1 a month for five years. The University announced last week that construction on the first plaza -- on 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets -- would begin in March. Construction on the remaining four plazas, including the new sites, will start shortly thereafter, according to Shannon. University officials are moving forward with the plans to construct all the food plazas as a result of Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's introduction of an ordinance yesterday to regulate vending on and around campus, Shannon said. Construction on the food plazas was originally slated to begin in December. But University officials postponed their plans when the passage of the proposed vending ordinance was delayed because of a dispute between Penn and vendor and consumer groups. Faculty and staff members opposed the plazas -- which remain separate from the ordinance proposals -- for a variety of reasons. Several faculty members felt the potential noise and food odors coming from the Bennett Hall plaza would be too distracting, according to Political Science Professor Jack Nagel. While only a handful of faculty members openly expressed opposition to the site, the general attitude among professors is, "if it's going to be a problem for the educational mission, then let's find another location," Nagel said. Library employees opposed the plaza that was slated to be be built behind Van Pelt Library on the 3400 block of Walnut Street because of the potential problems it would have created for people trying to enter the facility. "It would have created havoc and would have made it much more crowded for [staff] to pass through," said Jim Gray, who works in the Van Pelt Library and is a tri-chairperson of the African American Association of faculty and staff members. Also, the Undergraduate Assembly passed a resolution challenging plans to build a plaza next to the Gimbel Gymnasium on the 3700 block of Walnut Street. But University officials said plans for that plaza have not changed.

Newly-revived U. group to rate landlords

(02/11/98 10:00am)

The Penn Consumer Board was asked to collect data on real estate owners to help students rent wisely. After a three-year absence, students will again be able to use the Penn Consumer Board's landlord ratings survey in their quest to find the best possible off-campus residence. The student group's survey will rate about 100 University City landlords on a variety of issues ranging from rents to ease in getting repairs done. The results will be published in a booklet tentatively scheduled for release on April 1. "[The survey] is a really good way to gauge good landlords, bad landlords and what to look for in housing," PCB member and College sophomore Sara Shenkan said. The PCB, originally founded in 1970 by two students who felt they had been cheated by an unscrupulous landlord, was active at the University until three years ago. Mihaela Farcas of the Office of Off-Campus Living approached College junior Hillary Aisenstein -- an Undergraduate Assembly member who has been involved in various community initiatives -- last summer about restarting the group and the survey. Aisenstein then recruited four other students to help out. The group will begin its efforts by sending surveys to area landlords with questions on basic issues, such as rates for different properties, by the beginning of next week. Next, the group will create surveys to be sent to the approximately 4,320 undergraduates living off-campus, a group that makes up nearly half of Penn's undergraduate population. Questions will deal with all aspects of their living experience, such as difficulties with appliances, mail and repairs. The board's members hope to draft the survey and send it out by the end of next week, according to Aisenstein. Once the members of the board complete the survey, they hope to expand the group to include such activities as writing sample leases that landlords could use and serving as an intermediary between students and other area tenants, according to Aisenstein. "PCB has the potential not just to do the survey, but to become an off-campus student association," she said. The main goal of the group is to make the transition from on- to off-campus living easier, according to PCB member Jason Miller, a College sophomore. "PCB serves as a way for students to gather more information in order to avoid trouble," he said. The PCB also aims to improve the standards of the landlords it rates. "Hopefully, if the landlords know that the PCB will be rating them, they will work harder to do a good job," Miller said. Student responsiveness is critical to the success of the survey, according to Managing Director of Community Housing Diane-Louise Wormley. "I hope students will take the time to fill out the surveys, because it helps them and all the students that come after them," Wormley said. The student group has received assistance from the Office of Off-Campus Living, which is providing the group with funding and the addresses of students living off campus. Wormley refused to say how much funding the group is receiving. Wormley, who oversees the Office of Off-Campus Living, said the guide is an "important" resource. "The more information you have from the people who have actually lived in the places you are looking at, the better choice you will be able to make," Wormley said.

Wormley all set for role as U. City promoter

(02/11/98 10:00am)

New Managing Director of Community Housing 'D-L' Wormley will entice faculty to move to the area. Diane-Louise Wormley has big plans for her new position as managing director of community housing -- a job in which she must convince people who would never consider living in West Philadelphia to come to the University City area. But she can't reveal what those plans are. Not yet, anyway -- the entire package still needs to be finalized, and Wormley wants to make a single announcement next month, she said. Until then, Wormley -- a longtime resident of the 4800 block of Regent Street -- is working on getting one of the University's newest departments, the Division of Community Housing, up and running. In her new position, which she assumed February 1, Wormley, 49, oversees the West Philadelphia housing initiatives and the Office of Off-Campus Living. Wormley joined the University in 1984 as a manager of tuition plans and most recently served as associate treasurer. "What I am doing is not new, but it used to be just one-tenth of someone's job," said Wormley, who is known as "D-L." "The University decided it was too important not to have someone doing it full time." Still, Wormley discussed some of the initiatives she has already begun in an effort to increase the number of permanent residents in the area. She is working on building a database of contractors, plumbers and roofers who have the experience to work on the Victorian houses of West Philadelphia. Also, Wormley is organizing seminars for future and existing homeowners on topics such as the process of buying a home and how to go about making repairs. "There's this lore of what it's like to live west of 43rd Street perpetuated by people who've never even been there," Wormley said. "Through our efforts, I want to let you consider it as an active option." The new division's first officially announced program is a Housing Fair, scheduled for April 15, where prospective home buyers can speak to all the different parties involved in buying a house, ranging from lenders to title insurance companies. "I want to try to stabilize the neighborhood and market it so people want to live there," Wormley said. Wormley also recently finalized a deal with Commerce Bank to provide "120 percent loans" to home buyers in West Philadelphia. These loans provide 100 percent of a house's purchasing price, 15 percent of that total for housing rehabilitation and 5 percent for closing costs. "This type of loan is highly unusual," Wormley said. "The banks agreed to them because they believe in the community." Wormley also hopes to revamp the World Wide Web site for the Community Housing Division and get funding to create a searchable index on the Office of Off-Campus Living's Web site. As a long-time West Philadelphia resident, Wormley did not hesitate to accept the new position. "I believe in [West Philadelphia] so much," she said. "I never considered living anywhere else when I moved here." University Executive Vice President John Fry said he thought Wormley was "an easy choice" because of her background and residence in the neighborhood. "She's a very sensitive and capable person," Fry said. "People have a lot of trust in and respect for her." Prior to her job as associate treasurer, Wormley worked as the senior manager of the Penn Plan, the University's tuition-financing program. She has previously worked at Stanford, Atlanta and Fisk universities. Wormley, a native of Hartford, Conn., earned her bachelor's degree in English from William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y.

Blue-light phones to be installed

(02/06/98 10:00am)

The 60 new emergency phones will be cellular and solar-powered. After 16 months of delays resulting from technical glitches, community resistance and industry turmoil, Division of Public Safety officials say they will begin installing 60 new blue-light emergency telephones on and around campus within the next two weeks. Following a September 1996 crime wave that culminated in the shooting of a Penn student, officials announced in October 1996 that the new phones -- which provide a direct connection to University Police -- would be installed on November 1 of that year. There are already about 150 such phones in operation around campus using older technology. Technological glitches, however, have marred the new phones. The cellular phones transmit their information through a signal back to the police station, while the older phones are directly connected to the building via a wire. The University recently signed a contract with Comarco Inc., a wireless-technology company in Yorba Linda, Calif., to provide the new blue-light phones. For about a year, officials have been testing the new technology in two similar phones, one at 36th Street and Locust Walk and the other at 40th and Locust streets, but the phones have had consistent problems. Now officials say they have ironed out those difficulties. "If the signal does not work 100 percent of the time, the phones aren't effective," Director of Security Services Stratis Skoufalos said. "We're pretty sure we're satisfied with the most recent tests of the signals." Other delays in the process resulted from the fact that the University needed approval from a variety of groups, including city officials and neighborhood groups, to install the phones in off-campus locations. "One of the major issues was we wanted the University to talk to neighbors about where the phones should go before they just put them up," Spruce Hill Community Association President Joe Ruane said. Community groups also worried that the bright yellow boxes and blue lights of the phones might detract from the aesthetics of the neighborhood. "The neighbors wanted to make sure [the phones] were noticeable, so people could see them in an emergency, but they weren't an eyesore," Ruane said. Neighborhood groups fought with the University over the design of the phones after the plan was announced. Original plans called for a large sign atop the phones, calling attention to their presence. However, community members are now satisfied with the new, signless design, according to History Department Chairperson Lynn Lees, a longtime West Philadelphia resident. Skoufalos also blamed the volatility in the security-services industry for the long delay. "There was a lot of flux in the industry," he said. "We had some difficulty in getting commitment from a stable company." Some of the existing phones based on the old technology will be replaced, but most will remain in use, according to Associate Director of Security Services Chris Algard. Construction has already begun on the bases for some of the new phones in locations on campus. After the first phase of construction, "there will be an ongoing process of installing phones until we are satisfied that the campus is adequately covered," Algard said. University officials eventually hope to have a phone installed at every major intersection on and around campus, according to Skoufalos.

U. names new dir. of security services

(02/05/98 10:00am)

Stratis Skoufalos replaces Chris Algard, who was moved to another post. The fact that the Division of Public Safety misspelled Stratis Skoufalos' name on his office door doesn't mean that officials hold the new director of security services in anything other than the highest regard. In fact, hiring Skoufalos was "an easy decision," Managing Director of Public Safety Tom Seamon said. "He had the skills, the varied background and the people at Penn were already familiar with him." Skoufalos, 51, began his duties December 17. In his new position, he will supervise Spectaguard and the non-police security in residential and other campus buildings. Also, he will oversee the purchase and installation of all new security technology. The appointment of Skoufalos, a 24-year Philadelphia Police veteran who most recently worked as an independent security consultant, amounts to a demotion for his predecessor, Chris Algard, who now serves in the new position of associate director of security services. "Chris is a wonderful technician.? [But] what I wanted was someone who could handle complex planning," Seamon said. He refused to elaborate on the reasons behind Algard's transfer. Seamon said Skoufalos and Algard will work as a team to implement the University's security initiatives, such as installing about 60 new blue-light emergency telephones, upgrading security in on-campus buildings and finishing a communications center in the new Public Safety headquarters at 4040 Chestnut Street. "With Stratis' management background and Chris' technology background both [the police and security departments] benefit," Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said. She described Skoufalos as a "great communicator." Before joining the University, Skoufalos consulted on training issues for the University Police, as well as with developing the safety ambassador program for the recently-created University City District. Skoufalos also worked in a variety of jobs during his 24 years in the Philadelphia Police Department, including posts as executive assistant to the deputy commissioner for administration. After leaving the police department in 1995, he served as the security director at Widener University in Chester, Pa., for 1 1/2 years. Skoufalos said yesterday that his goal is to work with University and Philadelphia police, Penn's Division of Facilities Management, students and the administration to make "every building and every student on this campus better protected." He also identified improving the relationship between the different security personnel -- such as Spectaguard security guards and University Police officers --Eas one of his top priorities. Skoufalos will also oversee the purchase of new security technology for the University. In the fall of 1996, the University signed a $3 million agreement with Sensormatic Electronics Corp. to purchase equipment, such as cameras and hand scanners, from the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company. He said he is currently exploring whether to buy hand and eye scanners, known as biometric devices. "We're studying the feasibility of it," Skoufalos said. "We think the technology is heading in that direction." But Skoufalos said he does not believe technology alone is a solution for security problems. "My goal is to use technology coupled with real people," he said. Prior to his police work, Skoufalos earned his bachelor's degree at La Salle University and a graduate degree at Temple University.

U. help Free Library search for new home

(02/04/98 10:00am)

More than a year after the Free Library of Philadelphia closed its branch at 40th and Walnut streets, plans for the building remain up in the air as the University has proposed five sites as temporary locations for a new branch. The 83-year-old building closed on October 26, 1996, for minor renovations such as rewiring, repainting and architectural repairs, and was scheduled to reopen within six months. Upon entering the facility, however, engineers discovered $4 million in water damage. Last summer, Free Library officials explored renovating and reopening the building -- known as the Walnut Street West Branch -- but concluded that was not feasible, according to Free Library spokesperson Mike Sydeck. The library then requested that the University help find the branch a temporary, and perhaps permanent, home. "We have identified several sites in the vicinity of 40th and Walnut streets that would accommodate a temporary library system," said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. Both Shannon and Sydeck refused to identify any of the potential sites, saying that would jeopardize the locations' availability. Community members and library officials agreed last summer that, among other requirements, the new location should be near the old one. The potential sites meet those preferences, according to Shannon. Despite the delay in finding an appropriate location, Sydeck said the library fully intends to reopen a branch in the area. No timetable, however, exists for either the opening of a new branch or the disposal of the old building, he said. The University is interested in purchasing the property from the Free Library system, according to Sydeck. Shannon declined to comment on such a purchase. Although University and library officials are concerned with finding the branch a permanent home, they are currently concentrating on finding a temporary location. "I anticipate that once a temporary location has been identified, we'll work with the Free Library system and the community to identify a permanent location as well," Shannon said. Despite the University's extensive involvement in the search for another location for the library, the ultimate decision and cost of reopening the branch will rest with the library, Shannon said. When it was open, the Walnut Street West Branch served as a place where students, professors and community members could interact. It contained bestsellers, children's books, newspapers, magazines, compact discs and videocassettes. Unlike most other libraries, the branch organized its materials by category and not by the Dewey Decimal system. Penn students also used the library as a place in which to tutor area children. In addition, Graduate School of Education students used the children's collection to experiment with alternative teaching methods. The branch closed for renovations two other times in its history. In 1959, the library's lighting was upgraded, and in 1987, the facility was closed so workers could remove asbestos that infested the building. It reopened in 1990.

Councilwoman calls meeting to settle vending bill dispute

(02/04/98 10:00am)

Hoping to bring an end to nine months of controversy over regulating vending on and around campus, Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has invited the three groups involved in the conflict to a meeting Monday designed to negotiate a single ordinance proposal. The meeting will be the first time the three parties -- the University administration, the Penn Consumer Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance -- have negotiated in several months, when each group began submitting their own versions of the proposals to Blackwell. The controversy began last May when Penn sent Blackwell a proposed ordinance regulating vending on and around campus. The community groups have sought to make the ordinance less restrictive. Last month, Blackwell asked the parties to come up with a single proposal. University officials have sought to regulate vending on and around campus for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative impact on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia, hopes that the meeting will help end the dispute. "I hope [the meeting] will be final," she said. "I'd like to bring some level of compromise that everyone can live with and move on. I think it's counterproductive to stay at this stage." The meeting with Blackwell comes after University officials declined to attend a meeting last Thursday, organized by the PCA, which was designed to bring all the parties together. Penn officials said last week they would negotiate a proposed vending ordinance only in the presence of Blackwell. At last Thursday's meeting, representatives from consumer, vending, student, faculty and community groups reached some general agreement on overarching issues pertaining to the ordinance, including an arrangement to drop restrictions on street vending if Penn fails to build five fresh air food plazas as promised. Attendees agreed to hold another meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, to try to settle the remaining issues, such as the specific areas where vending would be prohibited. Despite Blackwell's announcement and the administration's decision not to attend tomorrow's meeting, PCA officials still plan to hold the event, at which the constituencies will finalize a proposal to present to Blackwell Monday. Representatives from each of the three groups expressed confidence that Monday's meeting will result in a final compromise. Penn Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said Monday's meeting will "definitely" result in a final proposal because Blackwell will make a decision after hearing from the three groups. "Mrs. Blackwell will listen respectively to what everyone has to say," Scheman said. "Then she will reach her own decision on what's an appropriate proposal." UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said Blackwell will "consider the opinions of all the affected groups." And PCA spokesperson Matthew Ruben, said he believes a compromise is possible as long as "the University shows up in good faith."

U. officials' absence hinders progress at vending meeting

(01/30/98 10:00am)

A meeting aimed at creating a final, unified proposal to regulate vending on and around campus ended with little resolved last night, because University officials had decided not to come. The meeting, organized by the Penn Consumer Alliance, did produce some general agreement on overarching issues, but it failed to resolve most of the details that separate the different sides of the vending debate. The most significant outcome was a decision to hold another meeting next week and to invite University administrators again. The biggest difference between vendors and other activists -- whether the proposed ordinance should set up "vending-free" zones or specifically detail where vending should be allowed -- was not addressed. In the eyes of many, without the University represented, not much could be done. "The people that needed to be here [the University] weren't here. You can talk all day long, but they are the people making the decisions," said Roslyn Abbot, owner of Veda's Vegetarian Delights who came to the meeting to watch. University officials declined the invitation because they only want to negotiate the proposed ordinance in the presence of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. And they won't send anyone to the next meeting, either, according to Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman. "What's useful now is putting time into negotiating with the councilwoman," Scheman said. Blackwell will schedule a meeting with everyone involved very shortly, Scheman said. Jason Eisner, a member of the PCA who attended the meeting, said that despite the University administration's absence, the presence of representatives of so many campus and neighborhood groups made the meeting a success. "The meeting shows we have the explicit endorsement of several campus groups, so we can be confident we represent the needs of the community the University serves," Eisner said. Many in attendance expressed their displeasure with the University's absence. "Jack Shannon, Carol Scheman and Judy Rodin are not the University, the University is the people here. We have a different concept of what the University needs then what they want," said Paul Lukasiak, a member of PCA. Many student and faculty groups sent representatives. Among them were Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson and College junior Noah Bilenker, Alex Welte of the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly, and Political Science Professor Jack Nagel. Also at the meeting were David Jensen of the Spruce Hill Community Association, John Hogan of the A-3 Assembly and representatives of the PCA and the University City Vendors Alliance. These representatives made up the working committee that discussed the issues and voted on what courses of action to take. While many vendors attended the meeting, they were not allowed to speak until the last 90 seconds of the meeting. When one vendor tried to ask a question in the middle of the meeting, Lukasiak said, "It's a working meeting, not an open discussion meeting." By unanimous vote, the nine members of the meeting's voting committee endorsed a contingency clause in the proposed ordinance that would eliminate the restrictions street vending if the University doesn't build the fresh-air food plazas it has touted. They also unanimously agreed to push for safety classes, decibel level restrictions and enforcement provisions on electric generators, rather than banning them outright as the proposal now reads. These endorsements are only suggestions, though, unless the City Council decides to incorporate them into the ordinance proposal.

Vending meeting set for this afternoon

(01/29/98 10:00am)

All the parties who got an invitation to a meeting today designed to finalize a unified proposal to regulate vending on and around campus will attend the event -- except for University administrators. The administration's absence means the main player in the controversy will be missing from what organizers expect to be a productive session. The meeting, announced earlier this week by the Penn Consumer Alliance, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the Quadrangle's McClelland Hall. University officials declined the invitation because they only want to negotiate the proposed ordinance in the presence of Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. Still, PCA is holding the meeting as planned and will subsequently present its proposal to Blackwell. "If [the University] wants to talk with us they know where to find us," PCA spokesperson Matthew Ruben said. Blackwell said Monday she would call for a meeting on the ordinance in "the next couple of weeks." Many representatives of student and faculty groups are scheduled to attend the meeting. Among them are Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson and College junior Noah Bilenker, Alex Welte of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Political Science Professor Jack Nagel of the Faculty Senate. Also scheduled to attend the meeting are librarian Jim Gray, representing unionized employees; librarian John Hogan of the A-3 Assembly, which represents staff members; Jim Bean of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly; David Jensen of the Spruce Hill Community Association; and representatives of vending and consumer groups. Roberta Doherty, Middle East bibliographer at Van Pelt Library, will moderate the meeting. The conflict between the University and the vendor and consumer groups began last May when Penn submitted a proposal for an ordinance regulating vending to Blackwell. The community groups objected to the proposal and have sought to make the ordinance less restrictive. Earlier this month, Blackwell called on the University, PCA and the University City Vendors Alliance to submit a single proposal to her. The parties have clashed over specific terms of the ordinance. The proposal would then be sent to Blackwell, who would introduce it to the City Council for debate and an eventual vote. At yesterday's University Council meeting, Bilenker, GAPSA Chairperson Sanjay Udani and A-3 Assembly Chairperson Donna Arthur each criticized the University's decision not to attend today's vending meeting. Udani said he was taken aback by the University's decision not to attend the event, stressing that today's meeting will provide a perfect forum for compromise. "All groups involved in the dispute will be represented," he added.

U. rejects vending meeting without city councilwoman

(01/28/98 10:00am)

University officials will not take part in a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, designed to allow all parties to the vending controversy to hammer out a unified proposal. Instead, University officials want to negotiate a proposed ordinance regulating vending on and around campus only in the presence of Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, according to Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman. "You can't do [vending] negotiating without Mrs. Blackwell there," Scheman said. "The ball is in her court." But Penn Consumer Alliance spokesperson Matthew Ruben said he expects the meeting, organized by his group and announced Monday, to be held as scheduled, with or without University officials' participation. No official decision has been made on whether to hold the meeting. Earlier this month, Blackwell called on the University, the PCA and the University City Vendors Alliance to submit to her a single proposal. The parties have clashed over specific terms of the ordinance. On Monday, the PCA called for an open meeting among representatives of the University, the UCVA and the PCA as well as groups representing students, faculty members and staff. The meeting, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Quadrangle's McClelland Hall, is geared toward creating a final proposal. The proposal would then be sent to Blackwell, who would introduce it to the City Council for debate and an eventual vote. The conflict between the University and vendor and consumer groups began last May when Penn submitted a proposal for an ordinance regulating vending to Blackwell. The community groups have sought to make the proposals less restrictive. Blackwell said yesterday she would organize a meeting with the three main groups involved in the conflict. The meeting would occur during "the next couple of weeks," she said. "We intend to meet with everyone and see what everyone has," Blackwell said. "Our goal is to make one final proposal." Ruben said his group "has no desire to go against Blackwell." PCA members felt that Blackwell's public statements encouraged someone to organize a meeting independent of her, according to Ruben, an English graduate student. "We stepped in and filled the breach," he said. As of last night, representatives from the Faculty Senate, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Undergraduate Assembly and a labor union had all told Ruben they would attend tomorrow's meeting. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said he is disappointed with the University's decision. "It's irresponsible, but the University has continually been irresponsible in this process," Goldstein said. "The people who really care about the issue will be at this meeting." University officials have sought to regulate vending on an around campus for several years, citing safety concerns and vendors' negative effect on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. Although no vending plan has been finalized, the University will most likely begin construction on several of the five proposed fresh air food plazas, in particular the 40th Street location, soon, Scheman said. These designated areas will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting for vendors at a cost of $1 per month for five years. If University officials are reasonably confident that City Council will enact an acceptable plan, Penn will begin construction within the next few weeks, Scheman said. "To be able to go ahead, we're in a position of having to take a lot of risk," Scheman said. "We have to believe there's enough support that something we want will resemble the final legislation." Officials hope the plazas will be done by the summer.

U. holds open house for Public Safety's new home

(01/28/98 10:00am)

The $3.5 million building unifies the department in a single location just west of campus. Amid balloons, fanfare and cameras from local television news crews, people from all over the University community gathered yesterday to celebrate the opening of the Division of Public Safety's new, $3.5 million headquarters at 4040 Chestnut Street. The official unveiling of the renovated two-story warehouse fulfills one of Public Safety Managing Director Tom Seamon's long-term goals: the consolidation of all campus security operations. The spacious, nearly-windowless facility -- located far west of the center of campus -- houses University Police and Public Safety's Special Services division, in addition to Spectaguard security operations and the campus' electronic-security center. "The building bespeaks our continued commitment to this community and its safety," University President Judith Rodin told more than 100 people who spilled out of the building's large roll-call room. Just one year ago, Public Safety operations were scattered in four different locations: a townhouse in Superblock, a two-story brick annex behind it, a building on the 3900 block of Walnut Street and an office in Graduate Tower B at 37th and Chestnut streets. Last January, the department consolidated some of its operations into a mini-station on 40th Street. That space will soon house the offices of the University City District. Also, dispatchers will continue to work out of the townhouse at 3914 Locust Walk for a few more months as the department readies a new communications system. One of the new features of the headquarters is the PennCom center, which is connected to high-speed cameras atop the station. Although the cameras can focus on any location on campus, they currently monitor the immediate area. Television monitors at the center also cover all parts of the headquarters, including its loading dock and holding cells. The center also has a terminal that monitors cameras at many campus buildings, including the Graduate School of Education and the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Normally, guards at the center will not continually keep tabs on those cameras, but if an incident occurs, the center will quickly receive pictures from the scene. The new building also has holding cells, unlike the old Public Safety headquarters on Locust Walk. Additionally, it has an exercise room and an expanded dining area -- amenities they didn't have in the past due to a lack of space. The department began moving into the new building during winter break. After Rodin's remarks, Seamon, a former deputy Philadelphia Police commissioner, introduced Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Neal by saying he hoped his former boss "wasn't too jealous" of the new facility. Seamon joined Penn in 1995. Neal said he did feel some "envy," and that the new headquarters "goes a long way to provide service to the West Philadelphia area." At the conclusion of the ceremony, Seamon presented Rodin and Executive Vice President John Fry with honorary University Police badges. With the new badges, the two will have additional parking privileges, Seamon joked. But Seamon said that Rodin and Fry would also have to serve with other police officers. "You can count on us," Rodin said. Following the presentation, Seamon led the attendees on a tour of the facility.

Brochure aims to link students, area residents

(01/27/98 10:00am)

The booklet is intended to improve relations between students and community residents. Local residents often complain that Penn students living off campus throw loud parties, dump trash wherever they want to and fail to interact with their non-student neighbors. Now administrators, student government leaders and community groups have created something they hope will remedy the situation: a brochure. The pamphlet, to be distributed beginning February 2 to all University students living off campus, advises students on such issues as safety, rules for holding parties, trash collection, neighborhood beautification and community involvement. It represents the University's first attempt to provide off-campus students with a single document that addresses many common concerns, according to Office of Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan. The University's Office of Off-Campus Living currently distributes separate information sheets on different aspects of off-campus living. "It's meant to bring both the community neighbors and the students together," Bryan said. "We want students to have a common understanding of what living in West Philadelphia is about." The main purpose of the brochure, entitled "Tips for Living Off Campus," is to encourage increased interaction and involvement between students and community groups such as the Spruce Hill Community Association, which helped write the brochure. Membership in the group, which handles the area from 40th to 46th streets between Market Street and Woodland Avenue, is open to all residents. "It will serve as kind of a welcoming from Spruce Hill to students who will reside there," Bryan said. Bryan's office, the the Office of Off-Campus Living and the Undergraduate Assembly's West Philadelphia Committee also collaborated on the brochure. College junior Hillary Aisenstein, a member of the UA committee, said the brochure will improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods by helping to bring students and local residents together. "When the student and community neighbors know each other they are nicer," Aisenstein said. "They do things for each other, like students helping to set up a neighbor's computer or driving someone to the grocery store." The brochure also helps students deal with their landlords, explaining students' rights as tenants, how to get repairs done and where to go if students encounter problems. It also lists the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of a variety of community members, such as SHCA President Joe Ruane, University administrators and a UA representative. Bryan said he got the idea for the brochure last spring when he received a number of calls from area residents complaining about parties students were holding at their off-campus residences. "I went out to talk to the students and neighbors and found out they have never met each other," Bryan said. He decided that "it was time to find mechanisms to bring students and community members together." The brochure is the latest effort by administrators and students to bridge the gap between the different groups living in University City. During the previous semester, it held a series of "Getting to Know Your Neighbor" receptions. These programs, jointly sponsored by the University and the SHCA, were designed to increase the interaction between students and the surrounding community by bringing them together in a social environment. Three receptions were held last semester, and another is planned for February. Although the student-community efforts are on a relatively small scale, Aisenstein cautioned against underestimating their importance. "It's only a brochure, but it contains a lot of helpful hints that will make life better for everyone in the community," Aisenstein said.

Vending group aims to finalize proposal

(01/26/98 10:00am)

In an effort to reach a final compromise in the ongoing controversy over regulating vending on and around campus, a consumer group called on all parties involved in the dispute to hammer out a unified proposal at a campus meeting later this week. The proposal would then be sent to Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who would introduce it to council for debate and an eventual vote. Earlier this month, Blackwell had called on the University, the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumer Alliance to negotiate a unified proposal to submit to her after the groups clashed over the precise terms of the new ordinance. Members of the consumer group hope Thursday's meeting will lead to an accepted version of the bill, according to PCA spokesperson Matthew Ruben. The problems between the University and vendor and consumer groups began last May when Penn submitted a proposal for an ordinance regulating vending to Blackwell. The community groups have sought to make the proposal less restrictive. It was unclear last night whether the Penn administration would send representatives to the meeting. Jack Shannon, Penn's top economic development official, and Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman did not return telephone calls for comment last night. "This is an issue that will affect the entire University community, as well as the vendors, local businesses and Penn's neighbors," said Ruben, an English graduate student, adding that "it is essential that all of these stakeholders play a role in the decision-making process." University officials have sought to regulate vending on and around campus for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative effect on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said he believes the meeting could result in a final compromise -- that is, if the University cooperates with the other groups. Although the consumer group hopes to hold the meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the Quadrangle's McClelland Hall -- where University Council meetings are normally held -- it is waiting for the University to waive the fee for using the space. The PCA expects to receive the waiver, Ruben said. But if Penn officials refuse to lift the charge, the meeting will be held in Houston Hall. The PCA has invited representatives from a number of groups -- including the UCVA and the administration, as well as groups representing students, faculty members and staff -- to the meeting. Representatives from these groups would form a 14-member committee that will vote on a course of action, such as endorsing one proposal for submission to Blackwell or choosing one proposal as a basis for submission and fine-tuning it later.

Opposing sides examine vending issues

(01/22/98 10:00am)

How many vendors should be allowed on Walnut Street? Do vendors in front of the Penn Tower Hotel pose a safety hazard? Does the University's proposal contain loopholes that might give Penn an even greater ability to regulate vending on and around campus? These are some of the fundamental questions and issues that continue to divide vendor and consumer groups from the University as both sides prepare to sit down to create a unified proposal to regulate vending. The problems between the University and local vendors and consumers began last May, when Penn submitted its first proposal to regulate area vending to Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The fight intensified in late November when the University gave her an updated and more detailed proposal. Blackwell will present the legislation to the city council after the three groups finalize a single proposal. Council returns for its next legislative period January 27. University officials have sought to regulate vending on and around campus for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative effect on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. On January 12, the Penn Consumers Alliance and University City Vendors Alliance sent Blackwell their revised versions of the University's November proposal. The revisions offered by each group seek to make the ordinance less restrictive. "The main area of contention is Walnut Street," University City Vendors Alliance spokesperson Scott Goldstein said. There are currently 21 vendors on Walnut Street, almost all of them in trucks, according to Jason Eisner, a member of PCA. The University's proposal bans most vending on Walnut Street. The PCA proposal, by contrast, restores some of the vending in this area, allowing seven trucks and two carts on the south side of Walnut in spots not outside retail storefronts. The UCVA proposal reduces the restrictions on Walnut Street even further. It bans vending only on the north side of Walnut between 34th and 36th streets and within 20 feet of the entrance to any retail establishment. Another issue is the proposed boundaries of the area regulated by the ordinance -- essentially, what is defined as "University City." Penn proposed regulating the area bounded on the north by Lancaster and Powelton avenues. The UCVA eliminates a two-block area bordering Filbert Street, one block north of Market Street, from area covered by the ordinance. The PCA revision, however, limits the area covered by the ordinance to that south of Filbert. "We feel that it's [Blackwell's] prerogative [to ban vending north of Filbert," Eisner said. "Neither our group nor Penn should be mucking around trying to make laws for areas that we have nothing to do with." In addition, the groups differ somewhat in defining the areas in which vendors pose safety risks. All three groups agree that vending should be prohibited in front of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania at 34th and Spruce streets. As part of the University's proposal, however, vending is also banned in front of parts of the Penn Tower Hotel across the street. "Access to the hospital and other patient-care facilities, such as the Penn Tower, needs to remain open and unimpeded," said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. The Penn Tower Hotel is operated by the University's Health System and contains hospital offices and facilities in addition to hotel rooms. The PCA plan, on the other hand, calls for six sidewalk vending locations in the area. The UCVA proposal also allows for vending in the locations near the Penn Tower Hotel. Another of PCA's main concerns is the number of "loopholes" present in the University's proposal. For instance, Penn's proposal apparently requires vendors to be at their locations during all hours of operation, discouraging them from going to the bathroom or getting supplies, Eisner said. Eisner also claimed the University proposal's restrictions may prevent the availability of the 100 vending spaces promised by Penn officials. Shannon could not be reached for comment on these allegations. "PCA's most important contribution may be to close these loopholes," Eisner said. "If the administration objects to our changes and fights to keep the loopholes open, we'll know they're planning to use the loopholes to eliminate vending through the back door." But Shannon said the proposal is sufficiently detailed. "In our minds, we believe the proposed ordinance is detailed enough to ensure that vending continues to be part of the University, but in a way that is better regulated and controlled," he said.

U. stirs controversy by not closing on MLK Day

(01/20/98 10:00am)

Banks were closed yesterday. So were public and parochial schools, City Hall, state and federal government offices, libraries and post offices, all in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The University, however, remained open. All public institutions must close for the holiday, which celebrates the life of the late civil rights leader, who was slain in 1968. But the University, a private institution, is under no obligation to cancel classes or close offices. Although University policy allows students to miss classes for this holiday and others, Black Student League President Rasool Berry said failing to cancel classes prevents students from fully celebrating the holiday. "Students shouldn't have to make that sacrifice [of missing class] to take the time to contemplate what Dr. King really means," said Berry, a College junior. But University spokesperson Ken Wildes said closing the school would not be an appropriate way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "Universities aren't about closing; they are about engaging in meaningful discussion," Wildes said. "You close for snow." The University's celebration of King's birthday expands far beyond just the nationally specified day, Wildes noted. Last Tuesday, Penn kicked off its third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration with a memorial service sponsored by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. More than 30 campus organizations are participating in the 7-week-long celebration, entitled "The Vision Lives on? Recapturing the Spirit." "This is a time when we should engage in discussion and learn more about Dr. King's work," Wildes said. But Berry said the University has no excuse for not closing to honor King. The policy of other colleges and universities in the area and across the Ivy League varies greatly. Classes were canceled at Drexel, St. Joseph's and La Salle universities in Philadelphia yesterday, while students at Villanova University and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science attended classes. Classes at Temple University do not begin until today. Students did not have classes at Harvard University in celebration of the holiday, unlike their counterparts at Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities. Dartmouth College altered its class schedule to allow for holiday observance. Brown University students return from winter break tomorrow. According to Penn policy, instructors must allow students to celebrate King's birthday and all other holidays by missing class. Instructors are also forbidden to give exams on certain holidays, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday.

Penn opposes Phillies stadium near campus

(01/16/98 10:00am)

Citing a lack of area parking and potential safety and security problems, the University has officially expressed its opposition to local developer Dan Keating's $500 million proposal to build a new Philadelphia Phillies stadium complex at 30th and Walnut streets. Keating first proposed the new stadium at the 30th Street location in the fall of 1996. At that time, the only University official who would comment was Athletic Director Steve Bilsky, who said he opposed the plan because it did not account for Penn's future development. The University's opposition to the Keating proposal hurts the chances of a stadium being built near the Penn campus, as city and Phillies officials indicated that they do not wish to alienate Philadelphia's largest private employer. Keating's proposal calls for a $500 million complex that would also include office space, cinemas and parking areas. "He was trying to put a use far too big and complicated on a site too small," Penn Executive Vice President John Fry said yesterday. Officials from the state, city and the Phillies -- as well as from Penn and Drexel, which own many of the buildings in the area -- must all agree on the terms of any stadium proposal before they determine sources of funding. The Phillies currently play in Veterans Stadium in South Philadelphia. The stadium, which also houses the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles, was built in the 1970s. Its artificial turf, concrete walls and round shape have been criticized for their cookie-cutter, unattractive style. Keating's plan is based on baseball-only ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and Jacobs Field in Cleveland that convey an old-style feel and give fans a panorama of the downtown skyline. Penn officials are especially concerned with the lack of suitable parking. Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said the plan's provisions for parking "aren't workable." "They called for using the University parking places, as if they're not used already," Scheman said. Unless Keating proposes a better solution for parking, the plan is not realistic, Scheman said. She said the University will not seriously consider any plan until that problem is solved. Another issue is the potentially negative effect the new stadium might have on security and the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhood. "If [the plan] does get farther, the neighborhoods are going to want some answers to quality of life issues," Scheman said. While Keating is committed to the plan, the Phillies are still in the early stages of investigation and have not made a decision on any of three proposed sites, according to Joe Giles, the Phillies director of business development. Giles said the Phillies were already aware of the University's concerns with the 30th Street site prior to Penn's public announcement, which was first reported in yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News. "We want to work with Penn and do something that is beneficial for them and for us," Giles said. In addition to the 30th Street site, officials are considering the northwest corner of Broad and Spring Garden streets near Center City and the South Philadelphia stadium complex as possible locations for a new ballpark. Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell is also holding off on making any firm decisions on any of the sites, according to his spokesperson, Kevin Feeley. Until there are definite plans for state funding, any stadium talks are premature, Feeley said. Keating did not return repeated calls for comment. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge has said the state will pay for one-third of the cost for a new stadium. The rest will be up to the local economy and the Phillies.

$1 m. grant will bring Penn's service program to other cities

(01/15/98 10:00am)

The world-renowned reputation of a University community-service program that fosters interaction between Penn and area public schools has resulted in a $1 million grant to replicate the program in three other cities. In November, the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps Replication Project received its third grant in the past six years from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, which gives grants to community-service and educational service programs. The 12-year-old WEPIC program promotes school and community revitalization and fosters the involvement of Penn students and faculty members with the surrounding neighborhoods. In conjunction with 13 West Philadelphia public schools, it sponsors programs, including one in which Penn students and professors teach the local students. "Some of the most exciting [university-community programming] in the country, although people don't realize it, is going on at Penn," said James Lyple, the principal of University City High School at 36th and Filbert streets. Penn first received a grant in November 1992 to determine the feasibility of replicating the WEPIC model, which is based on the University's work at Turner Middle School at 59th Street and Baltimore Avenue. In November 1994, the fund awarded Penn a three-year, $1 million grant to implement its model at other universities. After soliciting proposals from across the country, a national board selected Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, the University of Kentucky at Lexington and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With the grant set to expire last November, officials successfully reapplied for three more years of funds. The 1997 award allows the WEPIC Replication Project to continue its work at these universities and expand its efforts to three additional schools. Officials plan to solicit proposals from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mesa Community College in Arizona and Stanford University in California, among others. About 10 local and national leaders in education and community service, such as Lyple and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Ted Kirsch, sit on the board that will review the applications and select three schools, subject to the New York-based fund's approval. As they begin bringing programming to a new school, WEPIC officials try to ensure that the program is adapted appropriately to the area. "While we used the philosophy of what WEPIC stands for, we had the flexibility to adopt what our students, parents, teachers and community tell us they need," said Karen Baier, who coordinates the Miami University project in Cincinnati. Another purpose of the program is to transform local schools into centers all members of the community can use. "We have programs that operate after school, on evenings and on Saturdays that are open for the entire community," said Joann Weeks, director of the WEPIC Replication Project. As part of the programming at Miami University, local schools offer high school equivalence diploma programs, computer-training courses, parenting workshops and family involvement nights. "One of the groups has dinners each month where families can meet the student's mentor and listen to teacher presentations," Baier said. In another program, Penn students went to Shaw Middle School at 54th Street and Warrington Avenue to educate Shaw students on the dangers of lead paint. After collecting dust samples from around the community and analyzing them, the students made brochures detailing simple ways to reduce risk of exposure at home. In addition, WEPIC uses its money to hold national and regional conferences on town-gown relations. "We are trying to build a national network of universities, colleges and colleagues with an interest in this type of programming," Weeks said. The last national conference was held at the University December 11-12. People from as far away as Korea and South Africa have visited Philadelphia to observe the program first-hand.

Service group may get old station

(01/14/98 10:00am)

The Office of Student Life would move into the annex formerly used by Penn Police. A new community service center and the University's student life office appear likely to move into the two Superblock buildings recently vacated by the Division of Public Safety, according to students and officials involved in the plan. A hub designed to coordinate the work of various community service organizations would be housed in the three-story townhouse located at 3914 Locust Walk, across from High Rise North. And the Office of Student Life Activities and Facilities -- which is currently housed in Houston Hall -- would take up residence in the one-story brick building on Irving Street that had served as a Public Safety annex. The student community service leaders who proposed the hub in November finalized the plans for it to move into the old police station shortly before winter break, according to College junior Hillary Aisenstein. She explained that Linda Koons, an assistant to Interim Provost Michael Wachter who is coordinating the moves, told the group that "if you want [the police station], it's yours." The University will announce its final plans for the police station and annex later this week, Koons said. She refused to elaborate on the University's plans. Aisenstein added that she and other hub organizers toured the building recently and proposed a floor plan for the new center that was sent to an architect to determine its feasibility. OSL and the Program for Student-Community Involvement -- one of the community service groups that would occupy the hub -- are currently housed in Houston Hall, which will close this summer for renovations. The Houston Hall renovations are part of the $69 million Perelman Quadrangle project, which is designed to create a new student center in the heart of campus. The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of 1999. The space for the new hub opened up after Public Safety moved to its new headquarters at 4040 Chestnut Street earlier this month. Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said "the last I heard, it was going to be the people from [the OSL moving in]." She added that OSL officials visited the former police annex and liked what they saw. But Tom Hauber, the OSL's associate director of facilities, would not confirm the move, saying only that the office has "been reviewing the thought" of moving to the building. In November, a group of student community service leaders proposed a non-residential "community service hub" modeled on the Kelly Writers House. The hub would serve as a base for community service activities across campus. When looking for a location, the organizers confronted the issue of whether an appropriate location for the hub was closer to the academic center of campus or farther west, near the neighborhoods where the community service organizations do much of their work. English Professor Peter Conn, who met with the students who proposed the hub, said yesterday that he thought the Public Safety location was ideal because it was between "the academic side of campus and the people you are trying to reach." But former Undergraduate Assembly chairperson Tal Golomb, one of the students who worked on the hub proposal, said he had mixed feelings about the proposed location. Although the former police station is highly visible and close to the thousands of students who live in the high rises, professors and other people who never venture near Superblock might not be aware the hub exists, the College senior explained. Another of the issues the community service leaders addressed was ensuring that the hub had enough space to be successful. Aisenstein admitted that the new location is not large, but she stressed that "space is very limited and we're thrilled we got some."

U., area groups work to resolve vending issues

(01/13/98 10:00am)

Vending and consumer groups have been trying to make the proposed ordiance less restrictive. After months of debate and the urging of a government official, University officials, vendors and consumers are finally ready to sit down at the bargaining table and hammer out a unified proposal to regulate vending on and around campus. The conflict between the three parties began last May when the University submitted its first proposal to Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The fight intensified in late November, when the University gave her an updated proposal. Yesterday, the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumers Alliance sent their revised versions of the University's November proposal to Blackwell. The revisions offered by each group seek to make the ordinance less restrictive. The next step is for all three groups to compromise and create one unified proposal, something each of the groups said it is prepared to do, according to Blackwell. "The only way to do this is a public process," she said. "We have to maintain an open dialogue [among all involved groups]." Blackwell will introduce the legislation to City Council after the three groups finalize a single proposal. Council returns for its first session of the next legislative period January 27. All three parties agree that vending should be prohibited in front of existing or future retail locations, in residential areas and where safety is a factor, such as the area around the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. But despite the parties' general agreement on these issues, wide gaps still exist on many key issues in the legislation. In the most marked difference between the proposals, the University's version eliminates vending on most of Locust, Walnut, Chestnut and Sansom streets, restricting it to the western side of 38th Street, Spruce Street between 36th and 38th streets, 40th Street between Spruce and Locust streets, 33rd Street near the Palestra and Market Street between 34th and 40th streets. The UCVA's revisions would eliminate many of these restrictions, while the PCA version wants to move vending sites closer to campus. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said reaching agreement on the issue of where vendors will be allowed to operate may present the largest difficulty to the party. "It's crucial not to take away public land without providing desirable alternatives on Penn's campus," Goldstein explained. Fifth-year Engineering graduate student Jason Eisner, a member of PCA, echoed Goldstein's sentiments. "With the exception of the negotiations over locations, I think it will not be difficult to reach a compromise," Eisner said. The University's proposal also bans the use of a power generator within 100 feet of a building containing classroom, office, or housing space. The vendors and consumers' plans, however, would allow the use of generators provided they do not exceed a certain decibel level. In addition, Penn's version of the ordinance establishes a University City Vending Advisory Board which would review vending regulations and recommend applicants for certain locations. The board would be made up of nine members -- seven of whom are affiliated with the vending business, the retail business or the University, and two who are not directly connected to the issue -- serving one-year terms. The University's proposal allows Penn administrators to select most of the board's members. But the PCA calls for them to be elected by their separate constituencies, such as undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members. In a promise separate from the proposed legislation, the University agreed to build five fresh air food plazas on and around campus to house 45 vendors. The plazas would be built in five areas: behind the Van Pelt Library on Walnut Street, between Gimbel Gymnasium and the adjacent parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Street, on the eastern side of 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets, at the corner of 34th and Spruce streets and next to Bennett Hall at 34th and Walnut streets. The revisions offered by the PCA seek to ensure the construction of the plazas by placing the proposal into the legislation. Although Penn Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said she expects that the negotiation process will be difficult, she stressed that the issues "very possibly can be worked out" and that the parties already agree on most major issues. Goldstein, who operates a vegetarian food truck at 36th and Walnut streets, agreed, noting that he is confident that the parties will be able to reach a final compromise.

Groups fight vending proposal

(01/12/98 10:00am)

Vendors and consumer groups, fed up with the University's latest proposal to regulate vending on and around campus, are taking matters into their own hands. The University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumers Alliance have each revised the University's most recent vending ordinance proposal, and the two groups will present their versions of the ordinance to Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell today. The proposed revisions seek to make the ordinance less restrictive. University officials claim that vending trucks and carts block sidewalks and roads, make the campus more dangerous and reduce Penn's attractiveness to retailers who pay rent and taxes. The fight between the University and vendors and consumers began last May when Penn officially submitted its first proposal to Blackwell. The University's latest proposal, submitted to Blackwell on November 25, led to a new round of protests from the groups. The groups' revised proposals are the result of a recent meeting between Blackwell, University officials, UCVA and PCA officials and others. "When we met with the councilwoman on the 19th of December, she said we should present her with our ideas," UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said. The University's proposal prohibits outdoor vending in front of existing or future retail locations, in residential areas and in locations where safety is an issue -- points neither the UCVA nor the PCA challenges. The bill would also eliminate vending on most of Locust, Walnut, Chestnut and Sansom streets. In addition, the proposal bans the use of power generators within 100 feet of a building containing classroom, office, housing or activity space, and creates a University City Vending Advisory Board to review vending regulations and recommend applicants for certain locations. The revised proposal offered by the UCVA would change many of the location regulations to "protect and preserve the public property locations that have always been our right to occupy," according to a letter Goldstein is sending to Blackwell today. The UCVA's proposal allows the use of generators, provided they are under a certain decibel level. Separately, the University has promised to build five "fresh air food plazas" on and around campus that would house 45 vendors. The PCA proposes to include the food plazas in the legislation to ensure their construction, reduce the restrictions on generators and move vending sites closer to campus. Under the University's proposal, Penn administrators select most of the members of the advisory board. But the PCA calls for them to be elected by separate constituencies, such as undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members. Despite the new challenges, Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official, said he does "not expect to see much revision in the [University's] ordinance." Goldstein, however, said he thinks the vending ordinance will undergo major changes before Blackwell submits it to the City Council. Blackwell did not return repeated phone calls Friday. She will introduce some form of the legislation soon after City Council returns this month from holiday break, and public hearings on the bill should be held later this spring.