A Bella Vista resident is furthering his affinity for fairness as a member of a City agency.
Earning his living as a landlord, Greg Pastore increasingly appreciates Philadelphians’ wishes for fairness when approaching authority figures on residential matters, especially those of his neighboring Bella Vista tenants.
Through membership on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the 46-year-old has strengthened that awareness since November and is implementing guidelines he and peers established in helping to write the City’s first new zoning code in more than five decades.
“I do take pride in having been involved in its composition and now its execution,” Pastore said last week from his home on the 600 block of Pemberton Street. “I feel like when I’m at our [Center City] headquarters that I’m always thinking about other people and seeing that they are heard and respected.”
A self-professed “process guy,” he sates his demand for equality along with four fellow advocates who gather Tuesdays and Wednesdays to handle use and dimension variance requests and special exception cases. With the first regulatory overhaul since 1960 having taken effect Aug. 22, he is immersing himself in its proper enforcement yet has not become an inflexible wonk.
“I’m just thrilled it’s come to fruition because I know how hard many people worked on it and how many stakeholders there are,” Pastore, whose former role as Zoning Board Commissioner aligned him with the document’s 30 other scribes, said. “So far, I’ve noticed a drop in our cases and a dwindling in the list of refusals, which means people have probably gained a better sense of what they can and can’t do.”
Having logged 14 years as a presence on the Bella Vista Town Watch, including a stint as its president, he had felt he would appear on the short list of candidates to fill the City entity’s void created by the Aug. 14 death of Queen Village’s Jeffrey Rush. Shortly after the passing of his acquaintance, who had served on the board since February 2011, Pastore received outreach from Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger’s office to see if he would consider joining.
“I told them, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,’” he said of his autumn appointment. “There are only so many people who have the wherewithal, the time and the flexibility in their lifestyle to join, and I’m one of them. I had thought all along if someone were to offer me a spot that it would be interesting to help to shape our neighborhoods, and nothing has proven me wrong.”
With the Office of Property Assessment having determined Philadelphia properties’ worth through the Actual Value Initiative, effective tax year ’14, Pastore knows residential life could become quite thorny for many dwellers, especially those who feel the City is using their decisions to upgrade their abodes against them.
“AVI, zoning and other concepts prove we have to stay mindful of what’s going on around us, and what people should understand is that the ZBA is about simply figuring out what do to when you need relief,” he said. “When we all become aware of the workings of this municipality, that lowers the temperature for everyone.”
Though he finds himself entrenched in community upkeep, Pastore had not intended to be a civic crusader, even with a social anthropology degree from Harvard University. An Abington native, he also spent time in Cheltenham, Old City and another section of Bella Vista before finding his current home 15 years ago.
“Harvard was just another place to go to school and not an influence on becoming involved in civic matters,” Pastore said. “However, the perceptions I picked up from interacting with different people made me more inquisitive about communities.”
Residing at East Passyunk Avenue and Christian Street, he maintained his neighborhood through cleanups and, after becoming a homeowner, teamed with brother Chris to buy properties. Combining his tidying background and burgeoning real estate career, Pastore joined the town watch and soon learned how passionately the approximately 7,000 Bella Vistans from Sixth to 11th streets and Washington Avenue to South Street look to uphold local pride.
“I held meetings on many cases and presented hundreds of them before the Zoning Board of Adjustment and naturally learned how eager people are to address what is and isn’t working,” he said of his Bella Vista board involvement, which he ended last month after constantly needing to recuse himself in Bella Vista-related zoning board matters. “I see my new task as an extension of that and as a way to help people to manage their time in deciding what, for example, should merit a variance.”
Pastore, whose representation of his turf to the zoning board resulted in dozens of rowhome expansions, the creation of numerous attached homes and the development of commercial spaces and condominiums, also enhanced his knowledge of the relationship between the City and occupants through last decade’s turn as a SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee member. He holds that continued examination of and appreciation for the new code should yield approvals that up the aesthetic, commercial and communal aspects of the city and in particular South Philly.
“I love traveling, especially around this neighborhood, and I’m interested in fairness,” he said. “Landlord, ZBA member, whatever, I champion that and hope to have these new rules come across as reasonable supporters of that, too.” ■
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124. Comment at southphillyreview.com/news/lifestyles.
Photo by Kathryn Poole