Effective July 1, 2017, the City of Philadelphia established a single Department of Planning and Development. The Department will have three divisions. The Division of Planning and Zoning will include the Art Commission, the Historical Commission, the City Planning Commission, and the staff for the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Division of Development Services will include the development services group which had previously been a part of the Commerce Department. Lastly, the City’s office of Housing and Community Development, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Land Bank will be organized within the Division of Housing and Community Development.
The idea for the reorganization has been promoted by City Council President Darrell Clarke since 2015 and was approved by the voters as a charter change in November of that year. In connection with the establishment of the new Department, the Land Bank and the Historical Commission, along with the Development Services section will increase staff. The remaining sub-groups will not enjoy staff increases.
Within the new Department, particular attention will be paid to the Land Bank which has enjoyed only limited success since its creation in 2013. While the Land Bank faces challenges associated with assuming duties previously held by a range of departments and agencies, its most acute challenge is likely securing approval for transactions from City Council, particularly in light of the Council’s historic informal policy (known as councilmanic prerogative) of requiring approval from the District City Councilperson in connection with the sale of city property.
The different city offices and agencies which are being coordinated within this single Department will not immediately relocate, so the Department’s offices will continue to be spread among different floors of 1515 Arch Street and 1234 Market Street. This unorthodox approach will present management challenges to the Director of the Department, Anne Fadullon.