Philadelphia’s Planning & Zoning Process Receives Best Practice Planning Award

The City of Philadelphia’s Integrated Planning and Zoning Process will receive the 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice from the American Planning Association for the City’s innovative approach at leveraging the synergy between citizen education, planning, and zoning reform. The Best Practice award is for a specific innovative planning method or practice that yields lasting values in the community.

“The City’s comprehensive efforts around planning have tangible results—our citizens are better informed and more empowered; our regulations and standards are modernized and predictable; and we have a guiding roadmap for physical development and public investment in the Citywide Vision and ongoing District Plans of Philadelphia2035,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) coordinated three distinct planning activities – the Citizens Planning Institute, Philadelphia2035 (the city’s comprehensive plan), and a new zoning code and map revision. Individually, these activities educated hundreds of citizens and professionals, and engaged thousands in envisioning the future of Philadelphia and improving the way development is regulated. Collectively, they created an environment that hadn’t existed for 50 years. The city not only adopted a new comprehensive plan and zoning code but did so in the same calendar year (2011) and has moved forward with implementation:

  • The Citizens Planning Institute is the PCPC’s education and outreach entity, established in 2010 to create a cadre of informed community leaders across all neighborhoods, and to help residents become active participants in planning their communities and understand anticipated changes to zoning regulations. The CPI now boasts 145 “citizen planners.”
  • Philadelphia2035 is the city’s first comprehensive plan adopted in more than 50 years, focusing on the three themes of Thrive, Connect, and Renew.
  • Zoning reform included both the rewrite of the city’s 50-year-old code and multiple zoning-map revisions as recommended in District Plans.

“In any city, let alone one as large and politically complex as Philadelphia, undertaking either a comprehensive plan, zoning code rewrite, or citizen planner leadership program, would have been a major accomplishment,” said Dennis G. Puko, APA Pennsylvania Awards Committee chairman. “Philadelphia through 2011 to 2012 did all three, and integrated them to achieve the most positive outcomes.”

Ann C. Bagley, FAICP, 2013 APA Awards Jury Chair, said, “The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) has created a unique and effective process that is fully transferable to other planning organizations, particularly when planning and regulatory activities occur simultaneously in a short period of time. Their approach demonstrates how education results in policy reform that leads to innovative regulatory changes that in turn results in implementation of the community vision and plan.”

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger added, “The work of the City Planning Commission has engaged our citizenry to shape the future of Philadelphia on a path of sustainable growth. The Commission is actively working to implement the vision of the comprehensive plan and the new zoning code.  By updating the zoning maps and working with other City agencies on capital projects, Philadelphian’s will see this vision come alive through new trails on our waterfronts, thriving commercial corridors, and new development projects that create jobs.”

The Best Practice award for Philadelphia’s Integrated Planning and Zoning Process will be presented at APA’s National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. The process also will be featured in Planning magazine, APA’s flagship publication.

For a list of all of the APA 2013 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people’s lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Comment


Essential SSL