Planning is about the future - and a future full of uncertainty rightly creates anxiety among people who feel exposed to changes beyond their control. This is why planning, zoning and development have gained such unlikely prominence in this election: Our dysfunctional development institutions leave residents wanting assurances that their blocks will be improved and not degraded by change. This is especially true when development is expanding to neighborhoods that have not changed in decades.
The essential policy goal, therefore, is two-fold: We need processes that residents know are fair and open, and those processes need to generate outcomes that residents can anticipate and rely on. That is why I have devoted so much time on the campaign trail to planning and zoning issues. As mayor, I will name qualified members to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Historical Commission. I will empower the work of these commissioners and their staffs by funding their work, involving them in strategic decision-making, and most importantly listening to their advice and implementing their decisions.
I will direct the Planning Commission to lead a broadly representative and comprehensive modernization of our zoning code for approval by City Council and the mayor. I will return the Zoning Board of Adjustment to the limited role of hearing appeals and granting hardship variances, and end its current practice of creating new zoning for every project it reviews.
I will charge the Planning Commission and neighborhood organizations with updating citywide and local plans that preserve neighborhood quality, identify opportunities for smart growth, and align future amenities with large-scale development such as waterfront renewal and transportation investments. By taking on the tough challenges of transforming planning and zoning in Philadelphia, we will produce a vision of the future that residents can work toward rather than fear.