ZCC is hip-deep in code re-write

June 9, 2010

By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

With the World Cup a couple of days from commencing in South Africa, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger thought a soccer reference might be in order for the state of the current Zoning Code re-write efforts. 

“I never quite understood when soccer games end,” he said, referring to the international game’s lack of a game clock. “The referee just kind of pulls out a [whistle] and says, ‘Game’s over,’ so I’m going to have to move on … Change is going to be a constant in this process until the moment comes when we get it in front of Council. We’ll try to give you ample warning, unlike in soccer, [when the final whistle] seems to come as a big surprise, to me anyway.”

Greenberger, newly minted as the permanent deputy mayor for economic development (he was the acting chief since Andy Altman departed the post a year ago), was referring to the efforts of the Zoning Code Commission. The ZCC has a lot of soccer left to play, perhaps a full half, and is hip-deep in changes to its Module 2 (zoning districts and uses).

“We sometimes have to make decisions about what the big topics are and what you’ll be most interested in,” said Eva Gladstein, the ZCC’s executive director.  “We don’t always get that right. So I want to encourage the commissioners and the public to look at the full document. The whistle has not blown yet.”

The ZCC was briefed Wednesday by John Grady, vice president of real estate services for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which recently completed its “Industrial Land Use and Market Study.” (Click here for Monday’s PlanPhilly latest story on the study.)

If you make it, mend it or send it, those are the kinds of activities that represent industry in the city today,” Grady said. “They intersect in all different segments of the economy, and they have at their core those traditional kinds of industrial tenants around manufacturing, repair and distribution.”

“We’re very grateful that [PIDC] has done the work they’ve done, because it’s very hard to a have good industrial discussions unless someone has done this work,” commented Don Elliott, senior consultant for the Denver-based Clarion Associates, one of the firms hired for the massive re-write. “You end up being very conceptual, where people start being pro or con, without knowing why.”


Elliott’s main order of the day was the first revision (or “change memo”) of Module 2, addressing zoning and overlay districts. Click here for the ZCC’s 148-page PDF file for Module 2, prepared by Clarion Associates, LLC and Duncan Associates, in association with Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC; Claflen Associates; Dyett & Bhatia; Portfolio Associates; and CHPlanning, Ltd. It encompasses “base zoning districts,” “overlay zoning districts” and use regulations.

Land use and zoning attorney Peter Kelsen, chair of the ZCC’s Work Plan Committee, said groups have been formed to study four main topics of Module 2 – regulated uses; daycare; eating and drinking establishments; and recommended modifications for the Center City overlay. Kelsen said his committee was also beginning its preview of Module 3.


*  The ZCC next meets in full on July 14, and its final summer meeting is scheduled for Aug 11.

*  The ZCC and the City Planning Commission, with the firm Sage Communications, have started a new media and communications campaign. “It’s a very short-term assignment, basically a throw the month of June,” Gladstein said. Sage is expected to deliver message strategies for the “Philadelphia2035” master plan, the zoning code reform and the kickoff for the Citizens Planning Institute, in the fall. Funding for the effort has been applied for but not yet received.

*  Zoning Code Commissioner Eleanor Sharpe, the associate director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Community Partnerships and a Penn professor, has accepted a position as planning director for the city of New Rochelle, N.Y., just north of New York City. New Rochelle, known nationally as a very walkable town, is “still a relatively affordable place in ritzy Westchester County,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which recently named it among the best places in the country to raise kids. Greenberger said he was grateful that Sharpe volunteered to continue work on the ZCC through the fall. As for her new gig, “I told Alan that I’d be calling – a lot,” Sharpe said.

*  Next month, the ZCC will be receiving Module 3, the longest of the new code’s modules, from its team of outside consultants. “It’s going to be a a significant amount of information, and our consultants are going to need our feedback so they can start integrating the various modules of the code,” Goldstein said.

*  Ten more community workshops – in each councilmatic district – are being scheduled for the fall, said Zoning Code and Planning Commissioner Natalia Olsen Urtecho.

Contact the reporter at ThomasWalsh1@gmail.com.

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