Enforcing zoning is not arrogance

I feel compelled to write a response to a letter which appeared in the Sept. 10 issue of the Local referring to the “arrogance” of those who have serious reservations concerning the granting of a variance for the installation of a parking pad on East Evergreen Avenue. [“CHCA driveway efforts misplaced”]

First, has the letter writer been involved with this issue from its inception or is she just venting some rage at “Richard”? She appears to be giving her opinion without benefit of the experience of the variance application and process. She should be reminded that a variance may be granted in cases of hardship; having to carry groceries from a street parking space to your door does not appear to be a hardship, especially for younger residents.

The policy against parking pads is one supported by the city. As the ZBA appears to have no requirement to explain its decision to grant a variance, it would be interesting to know the basis for that decision.

She should also be aware that the policy is citywide, applying to “non-historic” as well as “historic” neighborhoods. It is to preserve the residential essence and safety of neighborhoods, not their historical significance. Thus it is not “the right for the CHCA to tell neighbors what they can or cannot do on their own properties” but the responsibility of a community to see that the laws applying to residents of the city are observed.

Otherwise, I must assume that the writer would have no objections if one of her neighbors were to build a high-rise because no one should tell that person “what they can or cannot do on their own properties.”

This issue involves a private parking pad. Why would the letter writer devote so much of her missive to abusing the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation policies? Wouldn’t she better pursue that issue at a meeting of the Parking Foundation?

Yes, there are parking pads on the Hill. Are they legal or not? Has the letter writer done any research into those that already exist?

The writer cites a landscaped pad on East Gravers Lane. She should realize that landscaping is not required. It is up to the discretion of the homeowner, and this homeowner installed gravel up to the lot line before applying for a permit to build the parking pad.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that while the present owners’ vehicle may fit on the pad, a subsequent owner may have a larger vehicle that would block the sidewalk. Would the letter writer then do her best to remedy the situation so that pedestrian safety would be ensured?

I must return to the comment about arrogance. I find that word offensive and misapplied. I am not “afraid of any kind of change that will ruin our precious historic district” because I am not so ignorant as to think we live in a “precious historic district” averse to all change. Chestnut Hill is a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, a reason why I and many others moved here. A place where quality of life issues are important.

Elliot Rood

Chestnut Hill

Zoning isn’t easy

Understanding zoning isn’t especially easy, but it helps to know that zoning laws do not exist to protect “historic society.” They are citywide codes that are there to protect the quality of life for homeowners who invest in any neighborhood.

Where there are less active civic groups, these laws are often disregarded and whole neighborhoods suffer. We are lucky to have professionals on our zoning committees, professionals who devote a lot of time to this volunteer job.

The history that one might concern themselves with is the history of the work that the CHCA has done for over 60 years to ensure that Chestnut Hill is one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods in which to live. It wasn’t always.

Wherever anyone buys a house, they need to look carefully and critically before they buy. Tight parking in parts of Chestnut Hill is not hidden from potential buyers and it’s not a new phenomenon. Many, many residents have managed this issue for many years.

Marie Lachat

Chestnut Hill

It’s easy to critique critics

Greg Welsh’s rant about Craig LaBan [“Chestnut Hill restaurateur strikes back at reviewers,” Sept. 10] reminded me that not much has changed in the almost 30 years since I was a restaurant critic (for the Philadelphia Daily news from 1986-88).

Then, as now, writers of Mr. Welsh’s ilk seemed to think that restaurant critics are in the business of promoting the industry they cover. That’s the job of the chamber of commerce, civic associations, and similar organizations, Mr. Welsh. Writers like Mr. LaBan are reporters, not public relations agents.

A restaurant reviewer doesn’t need to be “sensitized” any more than sports columnist does. Or a theater critic. What they all need to be is knowledgeable, fair, and accurate. I think any reasonable person without an axe to grind would agree that Mr. LaBan has demonstrated those qualities.

Mr. Welsh’s suggestion that Mr. LaBan can write anything he wants because he has “nothing invested and nothing to lose” is absurd. If he had anything invested in the restaurant industry, how could he possibly be objective? Equally ridiculous is Mr. Welsh’s assertion that Mr. LaBan is destroying the restaurant industry. In fact, restaurants are stronger, more diverse and more interesting than at any time in Philadelphia’s history. (Remember the days when you could count the number of decent places to eat in Philadelphia on one hand?)

After a scathing review I wrote of his restaurant, the owner called my editor to complain. He said he was prepared to sue the paper but was told by his attorney that it wouldn’t work because business was too good.

Mr. Welsh accuses Mr. LaBan of being a bully, which is unfair and mean spirited. However, I think Mr. Welsh might want to look in the mirror for a good picture of one.

Sam Gugino

Chestnut Hill

One West story was advertising

The article, “New homes at old Magarity site find eager buyers” by Paula M. Riley in the Sept. 10 Local read like a combination real estate advertisement and Richard Snowden testimonial. I know the Local is funded by the Community Association, but I thought the front page at least was supposed to be for real news. The article’s author used phrases like, “For Snowden, part of being a good neighbor is …” and, “Snowden hopes that residents who are concerned about the size realize the intentions and resources that were dedicated to this design.”

None of the pronouncements attributed to Mr. Snowden were prefaced with “Snowden said,” or were even enclosed in quotes. It was as if they were being delivered by his press secretary. Not good journalism in my opinion. As for my own worthless two cents, I think the whole project is just what Germantown Avenue needs — millionaires in five-story-high penthouses looking down on us.

Jim Harris


Bye-bye Chestnut Hill

I was born on April 18, 1959, at 1:35 a.m. at Chestnut Hill Hospital, but, as the story goes, told by my mother, I should have been born on April 17. According to her, the doctor went to a play that night and didn’t get back until after 1 a.m., which possibly explains my late entry into the world and maybe my theatrical bent as well!

I don’t know if this story is true or not true but I’ve always loved it because it has the quirky perspective of Chestnut Hill that I’ve always loved as well. Even though I didn’t grow up here, I’ve always felt it as part of me. My mother, Gina, worked at the Chestnut Hill Hospital as a nurse, and my father, Chick, worked at the Cricket Club as a golf pro.

I’ve loved the Wissahickon woods, the beautiful Morris Arboretum, some of the people, some of the time, and not so much at other times when we get nit-picky or uptight about things. That’s my honest heartfelt feeling about this little Philadelphia town of Chestnut Hill as I’m leaving it now.

I’m moving to the West Coast, to beautiful southern Oregon, for a new life adventure. So I’m saying goodbye to the beautiful shops, yummy restaurants and my friends here. It’s the right move for me. I believe one needs to take big risks in life in order to grow, but boy is it hard to leave the place where I grew up.

For all its flaws and frailties, Chestnut Hill is a wonderful, sweet place that I will always remember. For any one who wants to be in touch, you can find me at: www.anniehart.com, and I hope to see you back in Chestnut Hill one day soon.

Annie Hart

Chestnut Hill

Thanks to Thai Kuu

The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is grateful to Thai Kuu for a generous donation of delicious Thai food for our SUPPER program. We received a wonderful phone call from the the Chestnut Hill Business Association that Thai Kun had some extra food to share. Atchara Cooley very generously delivered trays and trays of food for the 120 people we served that night at SUPPER. What a generous community we live in!

The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel


Another dramatic cancer survivor

That article on the doctor who had Stage 4 cancer (“Local doctor with Stage 4 cancer found life-saving diet,” Sept. 3) was absolutely wonderful. I could not believe how much it reminded me of an uncle of mine.

My uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 15 years ago. He was 68 at the time. The traditional treatments did not work, as in your article. My uncle, who lived in Virginia, went on the Internet and found a clinic in Tiajuana, Mexico, that claimed it had injections that would cure cancer. They wanted a $25,000 down payment.

We all told my uncle that it was a scam, but he was desperate. We finally talked him out of it, but then he found the macrobiotic diet on the Internet, and he tried that. It was very, very, very hard for him because he had always been a meat-and-potatoes guy. But gradually the tumors did shrink, and everybody was thrilled. He was told by the doctors that he might only survive for two years, but he actually lived 12 extra years, and we all thought it was because of the diet.

Like Dr. Sattilaro in your article, my uncle could not stay on the diet because it was so strict. He did live to be 80, though, and I think he would have lived several years longer if he could have stayed on the diet.

I think your article will be helpful for anyone who has cancer and does not get the relief they need from chemotherapy and radiation.

Donna Munoz


So proud of his parents

Thank you for your wonderful tribute to my father and mother, Koey and Anne Rivinus (“Legendary Hill historian would have been 100 this year,” Sept. 10).

As I look back, I always wonder how they both had time to do all that they did. In addition to all the conservation work that my father did in the Chestnut Hill area, he was also the head of the streams committee at his fishing club on McMichael’s Creek in the Poconos. His vast knowledge of conservation, coupled with his persuasive management style, helped him protect one of the premier trout streams in Pennsylvania.

Thank you. It made me proud once again to be the son of such accomplished and dedicated parents.

Mark C. Rivinus

Boston, Mass.