ZCC to make tough decisions on zoning recommendations
ZCC Regular Session
The Zoning Code Commission was briefed today on the major changes consultants are proposing to update Philadelphia’s zoning system. The 90-page report of detailed recommendations is organized to serve as an outline for the new code. Consultants call for big reforms, reducing the number of base districts from 55 to 32 and consolidating 33 overlay districts into 11. They want to introduce graphics and tables to make development standards clear and simplify use regulations. The most radical changes are related to approval procedures. The consultants asked the ZCC if there is support for reducing variances by making more uses by-right, based on stronger and more objective standards.
The recommendations are grounded in a detailed assessment of the existing code, an analysis of best practices from other cities, and input gathered from code user interviews, public outreach meetings, an online survey, and ZCC feedback. Proposed changes reflect the ZCC’s overarching goals to simplify the code and streamline approval processes. The new code would be reorganized from 21 chapters down to six and significant changes related to each chapter as presented in the report are identified below:
- General Provisions
All provisions addressing authority, interpretation, and relationship to other regulations located in one place.
New section clarifying the role of adopted plans in zoning administration.
Transitional provisions to explain how the city will manage the transition from the old code to the new code.
- Administration and Procedures
All decision-makers, approval procedures, decision criteria, and procedural requirements consolidated into one chapter.
Review bodies, decision-makers, and appeal bodies for each type of approval summarized in one table.
Notice requirements refined and summarized in one table.
Variance procedures narrowed and criteria strengthened.
More decisions made at staff level based on more objective standards.
- Zone Districts
All zone districts grouped into residential, commercial/mixed use, industrial/special purpose, and overlay zones.
Base districts reduced from 55 to 32.
Overlay districts reduced from 33 to 11.
New consolidated Center City Overlay district.
Each zone organized to include a purpose statement and district-specific standards, if any.
- Use Regulations
All permitted, certificated, special, and regulated uses consolidated into four use tables – one for each group of zone districts.
All use-specific standards consolidated in one place and cross-referenced to the uses they affect.
Certificated uses changed to by-right subject to objective standards where possible.
Accessory uses and structures listed and clarified to reduce needs for variances or interpretations on decks, porches, etc.
New temporary uses section.
- Development Standards
All regulations on how land and buildings are developed consolidated in one chapter.
All dimensional standards consolidated into five tables.
New standards on sustainability, circulation and mobility, landscaping, natural areas, and lighting.
Form and design standards expanded to address residential/commercial boundaries and commercial corridors.
More objective and enforceable standards to support administrative decision-making.
Sign provisions consolidated into one section based on a permitted sign table.
All off-street parking requirements consolidated into one table.
All definitions consolidated into one chapter.
Rules of grammar and text construction defined to support more predictable administrative decision-making.
Rules of construction for key parameters – building heights, setbacks, build-to lines, and open space – defined to support more predictable administrative decision-making.
Initial comments from the ZCC focused on public reaction to consolidating residential and neighborhood corridor districts and reducing the number of variances – the same issues consultants need to know the ZCC supports in order to move forward with the code rewrite. Members discussed how best to communicate proposed zoning changes to the general public, especially when many recommendations still require debate and the commission is on a fast track to get the new code completed.
Each ZCC member will have about two weeks to review the recommendations and identify critical issues before comments are compiled in advance of the briefing to City Council on September 24. A city-wide public hearing is tentatively planned for October 7. Issues raised by the commission, members of council, and the general public will be discussed at the next regular meeting of the ZCC on October 14 at 8AM, 1515 Arch Street, 18th floor.
Zoning Watch 2009 Archives
- 12/09/2009 Module 1 of the draft zoning code due December 31, but developers and community groups discuss their biggest concerns in January     (CurrentCurrent)
- 12/09/2009 ZCC releases results from opinion survey on draft recommendations     (CurrentCurrent)
- 12/01/2009 Q&A     (Current)
- 12/01/2009 Q&A     (Current)
- 11/18/2009 Zoning Code Commission adopts modified recommendations for new code; the role of public input remains a question     (CurrentCurrent)
- 10/31/2009 Neighbors fear new streamlined zoning will cut them out of the process     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/30/2009 Survey Results: Zoning should incentivize shared parking and bike parking for new businesses     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/29/2009 New zoning should protect neighborhoods but changes must be enforced     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/29/2009 Survey Results: ZCC needs to improve regulations for parking in new residential construction     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/28/2009 Survey Results: Time for the Zoning Code Commission to improve parking in neighborhoods     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/27/2009 Survey Results: Parking near workplace creates congestion     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/26/2009 Survey Results: Parking problems hit home     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/22/2009 Neighbors want a lot of say about what is built in their community     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/20/2009 ZCC and PCPC propose strategy to coordinate efforts     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/14/2009 ZCC debates zoning recommendations for public input     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/08/2009 Upcoming Zoning Code Hearing Times and Locations     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/07/2009 Community leaders tell ZCC they want power over their own destiny     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/07/2009 ZCC Hiring Program Coordinator     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/23/2009 Public hearing on draft zoning recommendations October 7     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/09/2009 ZCC to make tough decisions on zoning recommendations     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/09/2009 Next steps for the new code     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 07/08/2009 Zoning Code Commission weighs in on best practices     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 06/10/2009 Can best practices from other cities meet Philadelphia’s needs?     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 06/10/2009 What is the future of industrial lands in Philadelphia?     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 06/10/2009 Zoning Code Commission selects Phase II Consultant Team     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 05/13/2009 Message on Zoning in Philadelphia: Simplify     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 05/13/2009 Phase I Next Steps: Best Practices Report and Discussion     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 04/27/2009 Phase II RFP Now Posted     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 04/17/2009 Submit Comments to the ZCC: Full Code Assessment and Executive Summary Available for Review     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 04/08/2009 ZCC Reacts to Code Assessment     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 04/08/2009 Phase II RFP Soon to be Released     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/24/2009 What Do Philadelphians Want Most from the Zoning Code Commission?     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/13/2009 What Do the Experts Say About Philadelphia’s Existing Zoning Code?     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/13/2009 Zoning Experts Recommend Fixes to the ZCC     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/12/2009 Tell the ZCC What You Think: Interim Assessment of Existing Code Available for Review     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/12/2009 Phase I Civic Engagement Process Ends with Input from the 2nd District: Give the Public More Say, Strengthen Existing Neighborhoods, and Fix the Process     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 03/04/2009 Redevelopment and Public Say are Key Issues in the 4th and 9th Districts     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/24/2009 100 Participants in the 3rd District Call for a Fair and Efficient Zoning Process     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/19/2009 Top Priorities for the 5th District: Protect Neighborhoods, Encourage Redevelopment and Improve Process     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/11/2009 Experts and Public Agree on Zoning Priorities     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/11/2009 ZCC Grapples With Big Zoning Issues: Variances and Civic Input     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/05/2009 Neighborhoods, Process, and Design of New Buildings are Priorities for the 1st District     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 02/03/2009 6th District: Improve Zoning Process and Protect Existing Neighborhoods     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/26/2009 8th Councilmanic District Speaks Out on Zoning     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/14/2009 Code Evaluation Update     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/14/2009 ZCC Forms Civic Engagement Committee, Creates Vice-Chair Positions     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/14/2009 ZCC Director in Place     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/14/2009 Community Outreach Begins – 5 of 10 Meetings Scheduled     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 10/20/2009 BIA supports ZBA quorum bill and asks for more reforms     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/18/2009 Efforts underway to reduce delays at ZBA and speed up review     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 01/14/2009 Consent Calendar Proposed for ZBA     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 11/25/2009 Regulating digital signage – attend seminar December 4     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/08/2009 Zoning Reform Nightmares     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 09/08/2009 FixItPhilly Parking Survey     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 06/18/2009 Council passes bill to create riverfront overlay district     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 06/04/2009 Rules Committee Supports Waterfront Zoning     (CurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 05/20/2009 Will developers be welcome in Fairmount Park?     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)
- 05/20/2009 Waterfront Zoning Approved by Planning Commission; Public Hearing June 3     (CurrentCurrentCurrent)