ZCC Report: Assessment of Philadelphia Zoning Code

Zoning Code Commission Report: Assessment of Philadelphia Zoning Code

Please find attached at the bottom of the page the executive summary of the new assessment report produced for the Zoning Code Commission.  Here are some of the key observations:

Organization, Format, and Usability

  • The code’s organizational structure needs a complete overhaul.
  • Basic regulations governing matters such as parking, signs, and accessory uses should be consolidated into easy-to-use chapters.
  • Many uses, terms, and regulations are dated if not antiquated.
  • The code needs more tables, graphics, and other ease-of-use features.

Residential Zoning

  • The number of residential zoning districts can be greatly reduced though elimination and consolidation.
  • Some R zoning categories provide a poor fit with the physical characteristics of existing neighborhoods.
  • Many residential zoning classifications are seldom used.

Commercial and Mixed Use Zoning

  • Zoning districts should be consolidated, where possible.
  • Create incentives to encourage reuse and redevelopment of commercial properties.
  • Include pedestrian shopping street standards into the city’s “standard” commercial zoning regulations.

Industrial Districts

  • The city needs to consolidate industrial zoning classifications.
  • Permitted use lists should be modernized to allow for a broader range of light industry and “business park” developments.
  • Some land should be rezoned into more flexible non-industrial classifications.

Special Districts

  • Special districts make the ordinance confusing and difficult to administer.
  • Existence of special controls is not adequately communicated through the existing code’s structure.
  • There is redundancy among some special districts; many regulate the same or very similar matters.
  • The boundaries and descriptions of special districts are not always clear.

Sustainable Development

  • The new code should include provisions addressing accessory energy generation (wind and solar) devices, as well as energy conservation and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The code should accommodate community food production and access to local produce.
  • Landscaping and tree protection standards should promote expansion of tree cover, which would contribute to increased absorption of carbon dioxide and reduction of the “urban heat island” effect.

Sign Regulations

  • The sign chapter should contain all the basic rules and regulations, most of it in table format.
  • Sign regulations should be predictable and consistent and allow businesses adequate opportunities for business identification and the advertising of goods and services without specialized review.
  • Special district sign regulations need to be more standardized and predictable.

Urban Design

  • The city should consider creating a Center City zoning classification that consolidates the special rules and special districts that apply throughout Center City.
  • The urban design standards of many of the special districts need to be refined and coordinated so that they are working toward implementation of the same objectives.
  • The city needs to consider a targeted approach to design review, building on the proposal recently put forth by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

Parking and Transportation

  • Off-street parking regulations are out-of-date, inflexible, and in some cases require too much parking.
  • All of the parking regulations should be contained within a single parking chapter in the new code.
  • The code should do more to accommodate shared parking arrangements and to recognize the role of transit and other modes of travel on parking demand.

Rehab, Reuse, and Reinvestment

  • The current code is too inflexible on expansions and alterations of nonconforming situations.
  • The current code lacks contextual development standards that would accommodate redevelopment that is in keeping with existing neighborhood conditions.

Administration and Procedures

  • The Zoning Board of Adjustment handles an extraordinarily high number and variety of cases.
  • Procedures need to be made more transparent and user friendly.
  • The City’s heavy reliance on “use variances” should be reduced.
  • Staff should be given greater authority to approve minor changes to plans and/or to authorize minor modifications of standards in well-defined circumstances.

Citizen Priorities for New Zoning Code from Councilmanic District Workshops

  1. Providing a clear, fair and efficient zoning approval process
  2. Involving the public in development decisions
  3. Protecting existing neighborhoods from development impacts
  4. Encouraging redevelopment of existing buildings and sites
  5. Types of commercial, industrial or mixed-use development allowed in different parts of the city
  6. Types of housing allowed in different parts of the city
  7. Promoting sustainable development
  8. The size and design of new buildings
  9. The size, design, or location of landscaped areas
  10. The size, design, or location of parking areas

The full report can be found on www.zoningmatters.org.

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