Zoning seeks to protect public health, safety and welfare by regulating the use of land and controlling the type, size and height of buildings. Some goals of early zoning codes were to prevent overcrowding and limit incompatible uses. Goals of modern zoning codes include transit-oriented development, pedestrian-friendly commercial corridors, and preservation of the historic fabric of neighborhoods.
The first zoning code was developed in 1916 in New York City, and the constitutionality of zoning laws was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1926 case Village of Euclid, Ohio vs. Ambler Realty Co. Since that time, virtually all large cities in the United States have adopted zoning codes to regulate land uses. Philadelphia, for example, adopted its zoning code in 1933, and utilized the Depression-era Works Progress Administration to conduct a complete survey of existing land conditions that culminated in the City's first zoning maps. Today, every parcel of land in the City has a zoning classification such as residential, commercial, or industrial.
The first comprehensive revision to the Zoning Code occurred in 1962, by which time many updates were needed to reflect changes that had taken place in the City. Thus, the City created a Zoning Remappingi Program in 1965 to manage comprehensive development and land use plans for the City's neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Zoning Maps show the current zoning classification for every property in the City, and are now viewable online at http://citymaps.phila.gov/zoning/.
With the establishment of the Zoning Code Commission, Philadelphia is once again working to modernize its zoning code and engage in the accompanying remapping process. Click here for a primer on the procedure for zoning map revisions. For a more detailed discussion, please see the City Planning Commission publication, "Zoning Remappingi in Philadelphia."