Let Me Count the Reasons Why It Is Cool to Be A Planner in Philadelphia Right Now

1. The new Philadelphia Zoning Code went into effect TODAY! This comprehensive rewrite is an update to the 1960s zoning code. A lot of the credit should go to the nearly 80% of voters who voted in the May 2007 primary in favor of a ballot question to reform and modernize their city’s zoning code.

Some of the highlights include:

  • The stated purpose of the new zoning code includes to “promote sustainable and environmentally responsible practices” including to “encourage water conservation” in support of the City’s sustainability goals as laid out in Greenworks Philadelphia
  • A new CDO, Central Delaware Riverfront Overlay District is created for the anticipated zoning standards that will be adopted as part of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.
  • Multi-family residential, commercial, and institutional properties are required to include connections to proposed and existing bicycle and pedestrian paths that border their properties as outlined in the Commission’s Philadelphia Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.
  • New parking design standards allow for the use of pervious paving material and require use of pervious paving material if more than 20 spaces beyond the minimum off-street parking requirement is provided.
  • Vegetated roof structures are allowed to extend up to 5 feet in commercial, industrial and special purpose districts (just 30 inches in residential districts) above the stated height limit.

More info at Zoning Matters: http://zoningmatters.org/

2. A brand new website for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) also went live today. The revamped site is a much better representation of the quality plans the Commission is producing and more effectively directs users to important resources such as the new zoning map and the Citizens Planning Institute.

More info at Philadelphia City Planning Commission: http://www.phila.gov/cityplanning/Pages/default.aspx

3. An awesome new blog also from the PCPC. Started this month, this blog included several posts with the heading “Countdown to the Code” in anticipation of the zoning code’s effective date. PCPC staff did a fantastic job of explaining some of the trickier nuances behind the new code such as how the code actually promotes access to healthy food and what SP-PO-A and SP-PO-P zones will do (actually I still don’t understand these ones but they have something to do with open space so they have to be good!). I don’t know about you, but I read this blog and I am happy to be a planner!

More info at Philadelphia Planeto: http://philadelphiaplaneto.com/

4. A new and improved website was also launched for the Licenses and Inspections (L&I) department last week. This overhaul makes the zoning permit and inspection processes much more transparent and utilizes GIS to allow the community to view many City-wide datasets previously inaccessible to the public.

More info at Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses & Inspections: http://www.phila.gov/li/Pages/default.aspx

5. The third completed district plan from the Phila2035 comprehensive planning process was released yesterday in draft form. The plan for the Lower Northeast District included several rounds of community input focused on major issues such as how to improve the Roosevelt Boulevard (for all users) and how to reconnect the Frankford Creek to the community through a proposed greenway and strategic infill development.

More info at the Lower Northeast District Plan website: http://phila2035.org/home-page/district/lower-northeast/

6. Also released in draft form last week was the City’s Complete Streets Design Handbook which came out of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation Utilities (MOTU) with support from a steering committee including PennDOT, the Water Department, PCPC, SEPTA, DVRPC, and others.  Check back here soon for my summary of the green infrastructure elements of the plan and their synergies to other improvements such as bike/ped safety.

More info on the Philadelphia Streets Department website: http://philadelphiastreets.com/handbook.aspx