Proposed changes to brand-new Philly zoning code face council showdown

Philadelphia’s new zoning code is not even 6 months old, but Thursday it could be changed as Philadelphia City Council gets back to work. The move is outraging developers and gardeners alike.


On Tuesday, Mount Airy developer Scott Sibert went office to office, talking to council members about his opposition to the proposed revisions. The change would require an even mix of residential and commercial units in mixed-use areas. He says most projects won’t work with that ratio.

“Just think about all the main corridors that are successful in this city, South Street, Germantown Avenue, Point Breeze Avenue is starting to come up, Fairmount Avenue,” Sibert said. “So if you think about all the successful development in the past 15 years, all of this would be illegal” under the proposed changes.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Developer Robert Elfant says it can be hard to get financing without a residential component.

“I’m not talking about a situation where you want to cram 10 units into 2,000 square feet,” he said. “I’m talking about where the natural course of the building allows for a a decent amount of multiple-occupancy above.”

Growers from community gardens are upset at the changes, saying they would tie them up with red tape when the zoning overhaul was supposed to simplify the process.

Councilman Brian O’Neill proposed the zoning changes, saying tweaking the new rules can’t wait until a review scheduled for the summer.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal