The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter states:
“The City Planning Commission shall prepare and adopt, from time to time modify, and have custody of a comprehensive plan of the City showing its present and planned physical development. The comprehensive plan shall … provide for the improvement of the City and its future growth and development and afford adequate facilities for the housing, transportation, distribution, health and welfare of its population.” (Section 4-600)
“The zoning laws of a city should be related to its physical development planning. This relationship is to be achieved by having the City Planning Commission prepare proposed zoning ordinances, which as a matter of practice may embody regulations and maps. However, the enactment of proposed zoning ordinances into law is a function of the Council.” (Section 4-601)
Philadelphia2035 is the city’s currently adopted Physical Development – or Comprehensive – Plan. While a physical development plan looks far into the future, it deals with the projects, policies, and changes we need to start making today to create a more livable, healthy, and economically viable city in the future. Philadelphia2035 makes recommendations for actions that the Mayor, City Council, government agencies, and community partners can take to invest in neighborhoods and increase the city’s competitiveness in the global economy.
Broader policy recommendations were adopted as a first component of the Comprehensive Plan called the Citywide Vision (June 2011). Geographically specific recommendations are contained within District Plans, which are being prepared for every section of Philadelphia (2011 – 2017).
The relationship between planning and zoning
Zoning laws are one of the most direct ways to shape the physical environment. As such, they are a critical implementation tool for any physical development plan. This is why an overhaul of the city’s 1960s zoning code was completed from 2007-2012, beginning during the administration of Mayor John F. Street and achieving adoption during the administration of Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
Zoning laws apply to property. As such, they must be mapped. Much of Philadelphia remains incorrectly mapped, as much of the city’s land use has changed in the last 60 years due to massive losses in population and industrial sector jobs. Zoning remapping to reflect both current and desired land uses is critical for streamlining development and aligning community preferences with regulation. As the Charter describes, the process of remapping involves PCPC and City Council.
PCPC can recommend zoning changes based on two things: 1) feedback from residents that it receives during District Plans, and 2) analysis that it undertakes to determine changes in population, employment, and development patterns. It is then up to City Council to make zoning re-mappings a reality through acts of legislation that officially change the zoning regulations. The process is complex, but fortunately it can be iterative and collaborative. The next section describes how PCPC, City Council, the city’s residents, and other agencies can work together in the coming years to lay the foundation for a better Philadelphia.
Integrated Planning and Zoning Process
PCPC will use Philadelphia2035 as a guide for working with City Council to identify and enact zoning map revisions using the city’s new zoning code , and educate and empower citizens to play an active role in this process through its education and outreach arm, the Citizens Planning Institute. These three components – planning, zoning, and public engagement – make up the Integrated Planning and Zoning Process.
Where We Are in the Process
The New Zoning Code
Philadelphia City Council passed Bill No. 110845 on December 15, 2011, which repealed and replaced Title 14 of the Philadelphia Code (Zoning and Planning) with The Final Report of the Zoning Code Commission. Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed the bill into law on December 22, 2011. The law dictated that the new Zoning Code took effect on August 22, 2012. It also dictated that the PCPC issue a 1-year report to City Council on how the new Zoning Code is performing relative to the previous code. This report was prepared and delivered to City Council by the 1-year anniversary of the new code, August 22, 2013. PCPC is currently scheduling briefings with Council offices to describe the report’s findings and to begin discussions about possible amendments to help the code work better for community groups, developers, and legislators. With the new code in place, PCPC also looks to start discussions with Council offices about moving forward with zoning remappings identified through Philadelphia2035.
The Comprehensive Plan (Philadelphia2035)
District Plans are the current focus of PCPC’s work. These plans apply the recommendations of the Citywide Vision at the local level, identifying opportunities for zoning changes, public facility improvements, and other infrastructure investments.
A full schedule and other information is available here.
The Citizens Planning Institute
The Citizens Planning Institute educates citizens about the role good planning and implementation play in helping to create communities of lasting value through a series of core and elective classes taught by local practitioners and experts. Since its launch in November 2010, CPI has graduated more than 150 citizen planners, community leaders and engaged residents from more than 75 neighborhoods. The application for the Fall 2013 course series – the 7th to be offered – will begin in September 2013.
The CPI is expanding as the integrated planning and zoning process accelerates with the implementation of the new Zoning Code and ongoing District Plan projects. The CPI runs occasional training series on the new Zoning Code throughout 2012. Check the site frequently for updated schedules and new training opportunities.
Be A Part of the Process