Community Benefit Agreements: Wynnefield Advocacy and Development

Community Benefit Agreements, or CBAs, are contracts between community-based organizations and developers that establish developers’ commitments to provide a range of benefits related to a proposed project. Meaningful CBAs, with substantive goals, transparent negotiation, and measures of accountability, can be used to address environmental impacts, educational gaps, housing insecurity, and other pressing issues in communities that have historically faced disinvestment.

We support the use of meaningful CBAs as an environmental justice tool for these communities to have a say in the impact of development. Read more about Community Benefit Agreements in our testimony to City Council.

We represented the Wynnefield Residents Association (WRA) in negotiations with PECO to establish a CBA in connection with the construction of a new electric substation in their neighborhood. WRA and other residents of Wynnefield only found out about the substation project by happenstance, when a member happened upon construction work. The zoning code did not require PECO to hold meetings or post notices in the community in relation to the project.

We support the use of meaningful CBAs as an environmental justice tool for historically disenfranchised communities to have a say in the impact of development.

WRA quickly organized to determine the concerns of neighbors related to this major industrial development, notifying their Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones and their State Representative Morgan Cephas. WRA retained Public Interest Law Center staff attorney Ebony Griffin in April 2017.

WRA held a series of community meetings to determine their shared goals for a Community Benefits Agreement starting in January of 2018, and began negotiating the CBA with PECO, with our assistance, in April 2018. On November 19, 2019, WRA members ratified a final Community Benefits Agreement. The agreement provides annual grants for community organizations, job-training programs for local residents, and continued landscaping and maintenance of the area surrounding the substation.

This process of negotiation has allowed this Philadelphia community to have a voice in determining the environmental and economic impact that development will have on their neighborhood. This input and self-determination, which has so often been denied to communities of color like Wynnefield, is crucial to environmental justice.

View a summary of this CBA.

December 4, 2019
We share testimony with City Council on how to ensure that Community Benefit Agreements are meaningful and representative

November 19, 2019
Wynnefield Residents Association (WRA) ratified a new Community Benefits Agreement with PECO

September-October 2019
The final draft of the CBA was revised before being presented to WRA membership for approval

August 2019
Final meeting between WRA and PECO discussing the CBA

April 2018
First meeting between WRA and PECO to discuss the CBA

January--August 2018
A series of community meetings are held to gather input on the Community Benefits Agreement

September 26, 2017
PECO holds community meeting for Wynnefield and Overbrook residents.

July 2017
WRA retains the Public Interest Law Center

February 2017
WRA informs Councilman Curtis Jones and State Rep. Morgan Cephas about the new planned substation.