The Process of Reform

After 50 years, Philly's successful zoning reform was all about the process!

philadelphia, pennsylvania, zoning, civic participation, sustainable communities, transit-oriented development, open space planning, community engagement


Nancy Templeton


Marguerite Anglin


Brittany Coyle

In August 2012, the new Philadelphia Zoning Code went into effect, replacing an antiquated and complex 600-page document that has undergone 50 years of ad hoc changes. To guide the reform, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) aligned the new zoning code with Philadelphia2035, the City’s first comprehensive plan in 50 years.

In 2010, the Citizens Planning Institute (CPI) was created to educate citizens about the role good planning and development regulations play in shaping their communities. The 145 “citizen planners” trained through CPI guided the citizen engagement process, providing essential community input.
The District Plans created during this outreach informed zoning remapping, the critical final step in zoning reform. This integrated

process for leveraging citizen education and input, planning,
and zoning garnered PCPC the APA National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice.

As a key partner in the reform process, WRT identified
elements of the existing code that hindered redevelopment
and sustainability goals. This included an assessment of minimum lot sizes, contradictory design controls, excessive parking requirements, pedestrian and transit amenities, opportunities for urban agriculture and transit-oriented development, and green building practices. WRT also
developed the open space and natural resource regulations
and created new maps and diagrams to better illustrate the
intent behind specific zoning regulations.