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You're looking at the inaugural monthly newsletter of the Philadelphia Research Initiative, a project of the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts. We invite you to sign up to continue receiving this update free every month. We'll spotlight fresh research and trends on public affairs, and review our polls and in-depth research on issues facing Philadelphians. Learn more about the Philadelphia Research Initiative here.
A city with a plan
After years of debate and months of drafting, Philadelphia
is moving toward adoption of an updated comprehensive
plan and modernized zoning code. Together these documents, along with public input through a new Citizens Planning Institute, are the most
ambitious effort in a generation to codify a vision for
Philadelphia's form and growth.
The Comprehensive Plan (known at one point as"Philadelphia2035") was last updated in 1960 and is meant to be a roadmap for
development hopes and dreams. Its main "citywide vision" section—to be presented May 17 at the City Planning Commission and voted June 7—calls for new transit service along the Roosevelt Boulevard, a subway extension to The Navy
Yard, light rail lines connecting Center City to the Delaware Waterfront and Centennial District in Fairmount Park, and a citywide trail network. Next, the Planning Commission will begin drafting 18 district-level plans over five years with community input. Although no funding is tied explicitly to the plan, there may be opportunities to line up projects with those of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which does get federal funds for projects.
The district plans cannot be implemented without the new zoning code, which the Nutter administration has proposed for City Council consideration this month. The updated code, years in the drafting, emphasizes upfront community engagement in place of
reliance on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, incorporates design review into the
approval process for major projects, allows urban agriculture, and provides incentives for transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly design. But because it regulates so many activities in the city, the zoning code has faced line-by-line scrutiny, complaints and possible delays. On May 11, the Zoning Code Commission voted to send its preliminary report on zoning code reform to Council. Follow news about both the plan and code at PlanPhilly, Technically Philly, Zoning Code Commission, and the building association's FixItPhilly.
Closer look at rising tax collections
Property and sales tax hikes, along with the region's economic recovery, have been boosting Philadelphia municipal tax collections for many months, even amid city budget cuts. According to the fiscal watchdog Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the city's general-fund collections since July 2010 (the start of the fiscal year) are 9 percent higher than the same period one year ago, and 11 percent higher than two years ago. (PDF of report). Real estate and sales tax revenues were the main drivers. One result of increased collections, says PICA Executive Director Uri Monson, is "some breathing room" for the city's general fund, which had a thin balance at the start of the fiscal year. See our past reports on cities' budgets and pensions in 2010 and 2009.
Bucking the metro population trend
In preparing our upcoming look at the 2010 Census and our recently-published State of the City, we noticed that the Philadelphia metropolitan area grew at a faster rate (4.9 percent) in the last
decade than did metropolitan New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Boston. In fact,
it grew more quickly than all but three of the 10 largest regions in the
Northeast and Midwest.
is a reversal from the 1990s, when this region’s growth rate was the
lowest among the nation’s 10 most populous metropolitan areas—lower even than
that of greater Detroit. Even with the reversal, Philadelphia’s regional growth
rate still was far below the 11 percent growth for all U.S. metro areas, large and small. Almost
all of the fastest-growing metros were in the South and West, including Las
Vegas, Raleigh, Houston and Atlanta. Find 2010 census data at TRF's PolicyMap, and other coverage at Philly.com, PlanPhilly and Metropolis. Brookings has an analysis of child population by metro area. Also note the Center City District's 2011 State of Center City report.
City Hall's use of social media is getting noticed: Code for America says the Nutter administration's Twitter tag (@PhiladelphiaGov) ranks No. 5 in followers of U.S. local government tweeters. And the International City/County Management Association cites Philadelphia's Flickr photo feed as an "effective local government social media site."
Philadelphia by race and ethnicity 1990-2010: In coming weeks, we will look at how Philadelphia's racial and Hispanic makeup is changing. The report follows our release of Philadelphia 2011: The State of the City.
Philadelphians' views on police and city: In our 2011 benchmark poll (March), we found Philadelphians were less positive about the city, and they had solid respect for the police, among many other things.
City Councils: Our comparison study of 15 city councils (February) found Philadelphia had the longest average tenure at the end of 2010, but was nearer to the median on costs. The report, with an interactive chart, has been cited in reform efforts in Washington and L.A.
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| Notable Number
The percent of Philadelphians who are not working or not looking for work, third-highest such rate among the 50 biggest U.S. cities.
Read more in our
State of the City
|Upcoming City Events
May 17: Primary elections in Philadelphia. Details at the city commissioners page, or Committee of Seventy
May 17: Final draft of Comprehensive plan to be presented at Planning Commission. Details at Phila2035.
May 18: Parks and Recreation Commission public meeting. Details at Fairmount Park.
May 19: Urban Sustainability Forum discussion of Philadelphia water management. Details at Academy of Natural Sciences
May 20: Human Relations Commission monthly meeting. Details here.
June 6-10: City Council hearing(s) on DROP. Check for exact date here.
June 7: Planning Commission to vote on Comprehensive Plan. Details at Phila2035.
June 15: Board of Ethics meeting. Details here.
June 16: City Council final scheduled session before recess, possible vote on DROP. Details here.
| Our Most-Read Reports
City Councils in Philadelphia and Other Major Cities: Who Holds Office, How Long They Serve, and How Much it All Costs. Read here.
Philadelphia 2011: The State of the City. Read here.
Destination Philadelphia: Tracking the City's Migration Trends. Read here.
The Philadelphia Research Initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis that help Philadelphia’s citizens and leaders understand key issues facing the city. See our Reports and Briefs page.
We also conduct regular opinion surveys of Philadelphians on key issues, using nonpartisan pollsters who adhere to the highest standards of opinion research. See our Polling page.
Check our News and Data Library for primary research documents and previous newsletters.
The Philadelphia Research Initiative is a project of the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts. We welcome your comments.