Zoning Code workshops on tap

The PPCE is collaborating with Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects (under its umbrella organization the Center for Architecture) to conduct a series of deliberative workshops to provide input to the Zoning Code Commission (ZCC) in their effort to define the public engagement process that will be part of the new zoning code.

These workshops provide an opportunity for the development community and civic leadership to meet, first alone and then together, to help formulate the basics of how communities will have a voice in development decisions in their neighborhoods. For the first time, neighborhoods and developers will help define how the process should work. And by building common ground up-front, we’re more likely to have a project review process that will be transparent, effective and enriching to the neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

The first workshop, set for January 19, 2010, will be for the development community. This group includes developers who have presented a project to the ZBA (Zoning Board of Adjustment) within the last two years and professionals (architects, planners, engineers and lawyers) whose involvement in development includes interacting with the ZBA. CDCs (Community Development Corporations) and NDC’s (Neighborhood Development Corporations) with development arms that have initiated or completed construction within the last two years are included here.

The second workshop, set for January 23, 2010, will be for community leadership.  This group includes neighborhood based organizations such as civic associations, CDC’s, NDC’s, and NACs (Neighborhood Advisory Councils), BIDs (Business Improvement Districts), neighborhood business associations and geographically-based chambers of commerce.

The final workshop, set for January 27, 2010, will be for representatives of the first two workshops.  At this time, we’ll work to consolidate outcomes from the first two sessions, identifying areas of common ground that can lead to a process in which both sides have constructive roles.  Where possible, we’ll identify trade-offs people are and are not willing to make as well as tensions that need to be resolved.

All workshops will be invitational.  Organizations will be invited to send one person and identify a second to be an alternate, should the first person not be able to participate.

The project will serve an advisory function, developing a set of common ground principles, and perhaps a model, for the project review process.  For its part, the ZCC has agreed to respond to the common ground principles by acknowledging the substance of the report and the ways in which it will and will not address that substance.  This does not mean that the ZCC has agreed to apply all of the principles that emerge from these deliberative workshops.  The ZCC has, however, agreed that it will explain which principles it adopts and how and why, and which it decides not to adopt and what it does instead and why.

The results of the workshops will be available on this web site, as well as on the zoningmatters.org, AIA and WHYY websites.

In finding common ground among developers and citizens, we expect to accomplish two things.  First, we will set the stage for a process where all those concerned can act to realize a vibrant vision of our city.  Second, we will model a process that might resonate in other large cities where the citizens and developers have common goals, but are struggling with processes that encourage conflict, not creativity.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Harris Sokoloff, Executive Director
Center for School Study Councils
University of Pennsylvania

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