Happy New Year from Permit Philly! We don’t want to shock you, but we have something terrible to report: 2020 was a bad year. I’m sorry you had to hear it from us. But bad years aren’t the same as unimportant years, and in 2020 there were a lot of important changes to the Philadelphia permit process that will affect development in 2021. Here are the most important: the top 5 changes to the Philadelphia permitting process for 2021.Continue reading “Top 5 Changes to the Philadelphia Permitting Process for 2021”
This was written shortly before L&I closed its permit center and review boards on March 16th, 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. For an update on this situation and other permit regulations, please see our blog here.
If you’ve read this blog, you might have marveled at the complexity of Philadelphia permits. Maybe not the way that you might marvel at a sunrise, but definitely the way you gawk at a the 76 interchange with the Vine Street Expressway at rush hour: there’s a lot happening, very slowly, in a creaky system designed decades ago, and everyone involved is a little testy. And even though there’s always renovation, big problems in the system are never solved. In the Philly permit system, one of the glaring problems is that you can’t submit applications online. But that’s changing: finally, after literal years of delay and false starts (this really is like highway construction, now that I think about it), Philadelphia permits are going online.Continue reading “Philadelphia Permits Go Online!”
Last month, Eleena de Lisser invited me (Brett) on her show – the Jumpstart Philly Real Estate Radio Show – to talk permits! Permit heads and paperwork junkies, I see you: this is everything you ever wanted to know about Philadelphia permitting, Licenses and Inspections, permit violations, and the exact turning radius allowed for a vehicle crossing a curb cut in a residential lot!
(It didn’t get that technical.)
Eleena asked me about Permit Philly – how it started, how I started working in permits despite a background in music, and what services Permit Philly provides to those sailing the dark, repetitive waters of Philadelphia permitting. We talked a little about the permitting process, and touched on building permits, changes to Philadelphia’s building codes earlier this year, zoning permits, and variances.
Eleena is a great host, and you should check out her show! Don’t worry: it comes in the form of a podcast. She has a million interesting guests, and also me! Give the episode a listen, then read more about Philadelphia permitting in the Permit Philly blog – and when you’re sick of that, listen to some more of the Jumpstart Philly Real Estate Radio Show, or just check out Jumpstart Germantown itself!
If you hang out with developers and architects in Philly, you’ll probably pick up their vibe these days: severe stress. Why? Because on April 1st, we get a slew of official changes to the Philadelphia building codes. Yep, the city of Philadelphia will switch over to the 2018 International Building Code for non-residential construction, and the 2015 International Residential Code for residential construction. All new zoning permit and building permit applications will be reviewed under the standards of the 2018 IBC and 2015 IRC. This is probably going to be a mess: plans drawn up under the previous code regime are still under review, and architects and developers may have drafted plans for work under the old codes – only to find that, as of April 1, those plans aren’t up to date.
But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe! Prepare now for the changes to the Philadelphia building codes, and it’ll go off without a hitch. These are the four things you need to know about the upcoming changes to the building code. (Exclamation points for appropriate dramatic effect.)Continue reading “Four Things to Know About the Building Code Changes in Philly”
The City of Philadelphia can be a cruel mistress. When filing permits, it’s common to be told that the thing you’ve done 176 times needs to be laid out a different way the 177th time – but then, on the 178th time, to go back to the regular way. Sometimes, the way the application process works depends on which staffer is on lunch. This is life on the mean streets of 1401 JFK Boulevard.
But every now and again, the City smiles upon us all, and cuts away some of its own red tape. It has recently cut some tape around its troubled sign permits by creating what we in the permit game have previously only dreamt of: EZ sign permits.
There’s a very important phrase in Philly’s Department of Licenses and Inspections literature that doesn’t mean much to anyone outside of development in Philadelphia: prerequisite approval. So today, Permit Philly is going to answer some questions about this process.
The most common question I get here at Permit Philly is, “What permits do I need to build this?” As documented in our blog, Philadelphia has a dense administrative system that might require you to get a lot of permits. “It depends on the project,” is the answer I usually give. But people don’t just want to know the specific permit they need: they want a conceptual picture of the permitting system. A Philadelphia building permit checklist.
And wouldn’t you know it: there is a Philadelphia building permit checklist, made by the City itself. You can find it right here.
But before you dive into it, let’s give you a companion piece: an overhead view of the permitting maze in Philly.
You’re ready to open a restaurant in Philadelphia. You have everything you need: a great building, all the right equipment on order, a dedicated team, and some amazing recipes. Now you just need to get a food license from the City of Philadelphia. Is that just one form? Maybe a little inspection?
Not quite. While you do need an inspection from the Health Department to operate a restaurant, and there is a simple form that says “Food License,” actually getting complete approval to open a restaurant in Philadelphia can be a long and complicated journey. As Philly Health Commissioner Thomas Farley once said, “The night is dark and full of terrors.”
Okay, maybe he didn’t actually say that. But getting officially certified to open a restaurant in Philadelphia can be a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re in for. Fear not! Permit Philly is here to break down the process for you.
In this space, we’ve explained what zoning districts are, and summarized the three main categories of zoning district: commercial, residential (single-family and multi-family), and industrial. We’ve even reviewed the basics of sign permitting. So you might think that our Philadelphia zoning guide is complete!
… you would be wrong.
Having a zoning code with detailed regulations for each parcel of land in the city might seem like the definition of a zoning code. But Philly’s zoning code doesn’t merely define types of parcel. It also sorts those parcels into geographic units. In certain areas of the city, it’s not enough to know that your property is considered RSA-5 (that is, residential single-family, attached). Your property might also fall under regulations for the Center City district – CTR – or the Central Delaware district – CDO. There are twenty of these in all, and they are called Overlay Districts.
Let’s talk about parking rules in Philadelphia. You have to abide by them, even though you may not know what they are, and every living human in the city has a very angry opinion about them. Many RCOs rage against developments without parking. Residents want their curbside parking secured – keep the new people away from my spot! is the cry from people who moved to Northern Liberties only six years ago. As more people move to Philly, the tide of grumbling increases. Everyone is angry about parking.
And this anger reaches City Council pretty quickly. Right now, the Council is debating a new bill to require stricter parking rules in Philadelphia. [update: this was written in 2018, but Council is pretty much always debating parking bills.] Specifically, the bill would require more parking spaces to be constructed with each new development in the City. You might have seen some of Plan Philly’s outstanding reporting on this – take a look at this interview and this article for a good introduction.
Since the future of parking rules in Philadelphia are in some uncertainty, I want to quickly review the overall zoning rules for parking spots in the city, and talk about the ways in which the new bill might change them.