Happy New Year! Permit Philly hopes everyone has recovered from the Mummer apocalypse and a month of eggnog. Since we have a brand-new year on our hands, I thought it would be a good idea to review what’s changed in Philadelphia permits over the last year, and explain how the changes affect you. So here are the top five things to know about Philly permits in 2019.
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 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.
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.
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.
Welcome to Permit Philly’s Philadelphia Multifamily Zoning Guide!
If you’d like to see the other parts of this series, click here.
Oh my god we’re back again. We’ve covered Commercial MiXed-use (CMX) and Residential Single-family Attached (RSA) zoning in our Philadelphia zoning guide. Now it’s time to tackle Philadelphia multifamily zoning.
We interrupt Permit Philly’s zoning guide for an important message.
In this blog we’ve been slowly progressing through the Philadelphia Zoning Code’s classification of properties (if you’d like to see the series, click here). But today we’re not going to do that: today, we’re going to talk about rezoning property in Philadelphia. Specifically, we’re going to answer the question seemingly everyone has about multifamily buildings in Philadelphia:
Can I re-zone my single-family building as a multi-family building?
Nope! Next question.
Okay; it’s a little more complicated than that. Let’s take this step by step: