Sánchez has been butting heads with Council President Darrell Clarke, who doesn't want Council members to lose too much of the control they have over development decisions in their districts now.
Clarke rightly blames the executive branch for much of the confusion involved in land disposition in the city. But he must see that the land bank won't work if it is subject to the prerogatives of Council members.
Sánchez's bill already gives Council too much ability to foil a deal. Half the bank's board would be appointed by Council. Buyers must get a letter of support from a district Council member, and later seek full Council approval.
If that isn't bad enough, an informal agreement not in Sánchez's bill would allow only district Council members to introduce legislation authorizing land sales in their districts. That's a road filled with the potential for corruption, with developers feeling the need to curry favor with Council members.
And Clarke wants to make the process worse by involving a committee that would slow the process by essentially duplicating many of the land bank's functions. He says the committee needs to vet land up for sale. But that's the administration's role.
The administration should make sure the land bank doesn't get property that would better serve the city as a park or street. The zoning code determines any future uses of property and the Zoning Board hears any objections. There's no need to add to the bureaucracy.
The land bank is a good idea, but only if its operation is clean, open, simple, and fast. Council should have a role in property disposition, but it shouldn't control it. The process should include a point for Council members to weigh in and then step aside.
For too long, Philadelphia has lived with the toxic combination of blighted properties and bureaucratic red tape. There are at least 40,000 derelict properties in this town, draining revenue and sapping the enthusiasm from too many neighborhoods.
Clarke should support Sánchez's bill. Any amendments should reduce Council's role and help put to rest the city's reputation among developers as a town where who you know too often means more than what you propose.
Cleveland streamlined its land disposition process when political and development interests decided that making it work was far more important than who controls it. Philadelphia can do that, too.