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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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.
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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.
Continue reading “Parking! Parking! Parking!”
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.
Continue reading “Philadelphia Zoning Guide: Industrial Zoning in Philadelphia”
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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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.
Continue reading “Philadelphia Zoning Guide: CMX Building Overview”
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Philadelphia Building Permits
Whether you’ve just bought your first house or are an experienced contractor, a Philadelphia building permit can be a confusing document. Not the permit itself: the process of getting the permit. Depending on the project, there might be a lot of documents required to successfully acquire a Philly building permit; and if these documents aren’t prepared in the right way, City departments reject the permit application. Because of this, Permit Philly has prepared a little guide to help you understand when building permits are needed in our city, and how to apply for them.
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In our last post, we covered the basic terms and ideas of the zoning process in Philly. Now, let’s talk about the most complicated parts of the process: The Philadelphia zoning variance and special exception process.
In Philly’s zoning rules, property owners or tenants might want to use their space differently than Philly’s zoning code allows. This can be done, but only after special applications are filed, neighborhood groups review the proposal, and the Zoning Board of Adjustment approves the proposal.
Continue reading “Zoning or Use Variance”
If you’re confused about the Philadelphia Zoning Code, don’t worry! You’re in good company. The law that governs zoning in Philadelphia is quite complex, but the actual process that comes out of it isn’t so bad. Here are the zoning basics of our city.
Continue reading “Zoning Basics”