Coronavirus and Philadelphia Permits (Update)

Coronavirus in Philadelphia (Update)

Greetings from Permit Philly’s top secret quarantine lair! We are furiously washing our hands and really getting deep into Netflix’s recommended list of Intense Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead. (It’s mostly Salt. Don’t judge.) We hope you and yours are safe, but also hope we can use some of this newly free time to let you know what’s happening to Philadelphia permits during the COVID-19 shutdown. [UPDATE: Construction is legal again as of May 1st; however, there are a lot of limitations on the sort of construction that can continue. Notably, only permits issued on or before March 20 allow construction for now. Review Philadelphia’s guide to restarting construction right here. You can also read the Governor’s order for reopening construction sites. Philly city offices are still closed, so read on for an explanation of how permits are being processed during the closure.]

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Philadelphia Permits and Coronavirus: The Basics

NOTE: This post was written on Tuesday, March 17th before Governor Tom Wolf shut down all construction in Pennsylvania on March 19th, and before construction was allowed to resume in May 2020. If you’re looking for the current state of the COVID-19 shutdown in Philly, as it relates to permits and construction, please see this article.

Hey Philly! Quite a week we’re having. On Friday, March 12th, the City’s permit center closed for the installation of a new software system. On Monday, March 16th, the City shut down all of its own non-essential functions and shuttered non-essential businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The permit center in the Municipal Services Building and the district offices are closed to the public till at least the 27th. Despite all this, remote work and construction are both exempted from this order, [UPDATE: this order was issued before the statewide shutdown of construction sites] so we can still process Philadelphia permits during coronavirus!

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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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Permit Philly is on the Radio! (Or a Podcast. Whatever.)

Philadelphia Permitting on the Radio

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!

Find our episode right here, or on Apple Podcasts or Google Music.

EZ Sign Permit

The Reach Lofts sign in Fishtown — an example of a sign that could be permitted by an EZ Sign Permit.

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.

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Top Five Things Realtors Should Know About Philly Permits

Top five things realtors should know about Philly permits

Realtors ask me a lot of questions about permits.  They want to know what they’re allowed to do with a property in Philly, how to get a legal construction project off the ground, and how to get rental licenses (so many rental licenses).  Some of these questions are specific to one project.  But some apply to almost any property in the City of Philadelphia.  I’ve culled the most common questions and areas of interest to give you the top five things every realtor should know about Philly permits.

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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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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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