City can be remapped in 3 years for $3 million, Planning Commission says

Out-of-date zoning maps are bad for everybody. On the one hand, they slow down the pace of development by forcing builders to get extra approvals for projects that are appropriate for neighborhoods but prohibited by obsolete zoning classifications. On the other hand, they sometimes permit projects that are totally out of character with certain communities—think about all that formerly industrial land in Northern Liberties.

And the city’s zoning maps are out of date. The City Planning Commission has been working to update the maps for each neighborhood, and so far has completed 7 out of 18 district plans.

The Planning Commission says it can get the entire city remapped in three years for an additional $1.1 million a year, according to a letter submitted to City Council by Commission director Gary Jastrzab in June. The letter was sent in response to a request from At-Large Councilman Jim Kenney, who said during a committee hearing in the spring he wanted the remapping to be accelerated.

The additional money would allow the Commission to hire nine additional staff city planners and to increase the resources of the Citizens Planning Institute, which works on community engagement in the planning process.

Councilman Kenney said he wanted to get the request quickly so Council could put the additional resources into the budget. The letter was sent before the budget deadline, but the request so far hasn’t been granted.

It’s not just staffing limitations at the Planning Commission that’s keeping the remapping from being completed, though. According to Jastrzab’s letter, Council has so far only enacted 13 of the 138 remapping ordinances prepared by the Planning Commission since 2011. It estimates there are still around 350 ordinances to prepare.

Read Jastrzab’s letter here.

About the author

Jared Brey, Zoning and development reporter

Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper, Business Journal, and Metropolis. 

Jared grew up in Montgomery County and moved to Philadelphia in 2005. He has since lived in Brewerytown, the Italian Market, North Central, Bella Vista, and East Passyunk. He believes he will stay in South Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey, or send him tips at

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