From the desk of Lance Haver, Director of Civic Engagement for Philadelphia City Council:
There is a very important question on the November 3rd ballot: Should existing and scattered development and planning services be consolidated under one Department that reports directly to the Mayor?
This proposal — which was crafted with the support of the Nutter Administration, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, the Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition, the Greater Philadelphia Association of REALTORS, and the Development Workshop — would consolidate scattered City services into one Cabinet-level Department responsible for planning, zoning and housing.
Currently, there are 10 City offices and agencies that regulate, approve, and are involved in planning and development. They are not connected or accountable to each other. This has created a confusing and frustrating environment for those who want to help Philadelphia grow and prosper. More significantly, this confusion has allowed city government to evade accountability.
The proposed charter amendment would make all of these offices and agencies answer to one city Department, accountable to one Cabinet official who reports directly to the Mayor.
The Department of Planning and Development will oversee three Divisions that will be organized as follows:
- The Division of Planning & Zoning will oversee the Planning, Historical, and Art commissions, as well as the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- The Division of Development Services will function as the customer service arm of the department, and will assume oversight of the city’s Development Services Program, which assists developers in navigating the approval and regulatory process in Philadelphia.
- The Division of Housing and Community Development will assume all duties and responsibilities of what is currently known as the Office of Housing and Community Development and will manage the Housing Trust Fund Oversight Board. The Division will be authorized to convene the representatives of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Land Bank to facilitate coordination among these entities. A Housing Advisory Board composed of stakeholders from the public and private sectors will be created to advise the Division in its preparation of a multi-year Strategic Housing Plan and the goal of preserving and increasing affordable, workforce and market rate housing.
Council President Clarke is urging you to join your community group and neighbors in supporting this charter change. If Ballot Question No. 2 is approved, the buck will stop with one Department head who reports directly to the Mayor. This reform not only streamlines various City functions and makes them more user-friendly, it also creates accountability by vesting this responsibility in a single Department.