Philadelphia Permits Go Online!

Philadelphia Permits Go Online!

This was written shortly before L&I closed its permit center and review boards due to the coronavirus outbreak. For an update on the situation, please see 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.

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Philadelphia EZ Permits

Philadelphia EZ Permits can be used to renovate single-family homes like these

The City of Philadelphia offers a type of building, electrical, and plumbing permit called an EZ Permit.  This is because it’s easier to get than a normal permit (don’t look at me like that – I’m not in charge of naming this stuff).  Philadelphia EZ Permits are the source of a lot of hope and a lot of confusion for homeowners and developers.  In this post, we’re going to try to clear some of the mud off the Philadelphia EZ Permit.

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Philadelphia Building Permit Checklist

This development could have used a Philadelphia building permit checklist

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.

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How to Open a Restaurant in Philadelphia

how to open a restaurant in philadelphia — like these ones on South Street

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.

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Zoning Guide: Philadelphia Sign Permits

The sign for Famous Fourth Deli in Philadelphia: an example of a building with a philadelphia sign permit

Zoning Guide to the Philadelphia Sign Permit

Welcome back to Permit Philly’s Philadelphia zoning guide!  In this series, we’ve covered commercial zoning in Philadelphia, single-family residential zoning, multi-family residential zoning, and that sweet sweet hipster zoning.  Now we’re going to talk about the Philadelphia sign permit.  Warning: this story features graphic descriptions of bureaucracy.

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Philadelphia Zoning Guide: Industrial Zoning in Philadelphia

Industrial zoning in Philadelphia

Industrial Zoning = Hipster Zoning

Welcome back to Permit Philly’s Philadelphia zoning guide!  In this series, we’ve covered commercial zoning in Philadelphia, single-family residential zoning, multi-family residential zoning, and the age-old question, “Yo, can I turn my single-family house into a multi-family house?”  But you’re not here for that conventional stuff: you’re into the darker, grittier, back catalogue of Philadelphia zoning.  Artistic zoning.  Hipster zoning.  You want to know about old factories, and the best places to start a craft brewery, and where to get like just a super fly loft space for your innovative yet socially empowering start-up.  You’re the kind of person who walks around Kensington, sees graffitied factory towers, and thinks, “I bet we could use this as a distillery but also a community center.”  You want to learn about industrial zoning in Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia Zoning Guide: RSA Zoning

Welcome to Permit Philly’s RSA Zoning Guide!

If you’d like to see the other parts of this series, click here.

Hello again!  After last week’s discussion of commercial zoning in Philly, it’s time for some lighter reading in our Philadelphia zoning guide: residential zoning!  Specifically: RSA zoning districts!

I can feel your excitement.

But this stuff is important, because most of Philly is zoned residential.  Most of the zoning or permitting cases I’ve worked on involve a homeowner asking, “Can I do                with my house?”

You are more than welcome to contact Permit Philly to ask that or any other question.  But in the meantime, here are some answers to your essential concerns about residential zoning – specifically, Philly’s RSA zoning classification.

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Philadelphia Zoning Guide: CMX Building Overview

Philadelphia Zoing Guide

Welcome to Permit Philly’s Philadelphia Zoning Guide!

I was recently at a neighborhood meeting where a member of the group casually observed that the Philadelphia Code allows for an 8.5-foot-wide garage, but should really allow only a 9.5-foot-wide garage.  If you are this person, you might not need this blog post.  But for most of us in Philly – and especially for developers and ambitious homeowners – It’s useful to go over the uses and general Philadelphia zoning rules about buildings to get a sense of what the City does and doesn’t want.  So here’s our Philadelphia zoning guide series.

First, we’ll handle the commercial buildings that also allow residential use:  Commercial MiXed-use, or CMX.

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After You Apply for a Philly Building Permit

Philly building permit

What Happens After You Apply for a Philly Building Permit?

To apply for a Philly building permit, you must create a package of material – usually plans and a set of forms – to submit to the Department of Licenses and Inspections (check out our building permit overview for more on that process).  L&I may not accept the package – they may take a look and decide that your plans aren’t clear enough, or that you have included sheets which don’t apply to the project.  But if all the materials are in order, they’ll accept the application.

So that means you’ll get your permit, right?

Not always.  Just because L&I accepts your package to review doesn’t mean that you’ll get a favorable review.  Here’s a quick summary of everything that can happen to a Philly building permit application once it enters the L&I conveyor belt.

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