Zoning. Ok it’s not the most interesting issue, but without zoning codes cities would be a mess. Zoning keeps homes and factories from being neighbors, prevents communities from becoming overpopulated, and makes sure buildings aren’t too tall and have enough parking, among other things.
Unfortunately, zoning in Philadelphia has become a nightmare. The city’s first zoning map was made in 1933 and basically recorded land use patterns that had developed. The last major revision of the map happened in 1962, almost 50 years ago. Since then, more than 1,000 amendments have been made to the code. Bottom line: Philly zoning code is complex, outdated, and can’t adapt to the city’s recent residential and economic growth.
The city planning office is more than aware of these zoning problems and unsurprisingly, the task to revise the zoning code hasn’t been easy. Philadelphia citizens spoke up for a new zoning code in 2007, when an 80 percent approval by voters established the Zoning Code Commission. And, the Commission is having success–a new zoning code has been drafted. In September, the four-year process could come to fruition when the City Council votes on the new code proposals.
Now, the Commission is again looking for the public’s help. The Next Great City Coalition is asking Philadelphians to sign a petition, urging City Council to approve the new zoning code.
Still not convinced to sign? Here’s the pitch from Bryan Collins, the Philadelphia outreach coordinator for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture):
“For four years, dozens of neighborhood and community groups, urban planners and development experts, have actively helped to shape the new code that is simpler, reflects modern urban realities and just makes more sense,” says Collins. “The commission held public meetings, studied other cities and rewrote the code with the goal of promoting job creation while respecting and preserving neighborhoods. With City Council poised to take a final vote on the commission’s proposals in September, Philadelphians can seize this historic window of opportunity by signing the petition and showing their support.”
For more information about Philly zoning, check out the Commission’s website. For some quick facts look here.