Newly Exclusionary Zoning Expected for Approval in Philadelphia Neighborhood

The Philadelphia City Council is expected to approve new zoning for Society Hill over the objections of the Planning Commission and city planning staff.

September 29, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Society Hill Historic Buildings

Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock

Proposed zoning changes for a tony part of Philadelphia would impose new height limits and require more parking for new development, despite the recommendations of planning staff and vocal criticisms from the media. 

"Philadelphia City Council is poised to approve new, restrictive zoning rules for Society Hill this week, over the objections of critics, including the Planning Commission, who said the bill will thwart the city's goals on affordable housing, historic preservation and climate change," reports Pat Loeb. 

Explaining the specifics of the zoning changes proposed for Society Hill, Loeb writes: 

The bill would limit building height in the neighborhood, which runs from the Delaware River to 8th Street, between Walnut and Lombard. In some parts of it, buildings could not exceed 45 feet, limiting how much housing could be built there, decreasing the chances for creating mixed income units.

It also increases the number of parking spaces required for new development despite the city's goal of reducing private car use to relieve congestion, improve safety and fight climate change.

Clearly, the zoning changes expected for approval by the Philadelphia City Council run afoul of most of contemporary planning thought about the racist and discriminatory effects of exclusionary zoning and the negative financial and environmental consequences of parking regulations. Society Hill has been accused of playing by its own rules before, as described in detail by Inga Saffron, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a column published in November 2019.

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