Zoning Committee & ARC

The Zoning Committee’s main objective is to provide a forum for residents to learn about and provide feedback on upcoming development projects in the neighborhood. The committee acts as a mediator between neighbors, developers, and city agencies, helping ensure development remains viable while simultaneously addressing the issues and concerns of neighbors. The committee consists of professionals in architecture, zoning, law, policy, and development.

The Architecture Review Committee (ARC) meets to evaluate project use, open space, historical context, streetscape, and parking that fits with the community master plan and urban design best practices. The committee’s members include professionals with experience in architecture, zoning, development, and design.

ARC Design Protocols

Committee Goals

  • Encourage positive development on Washington Avenue
  • Advocate for the development and preservation of our commercial corridors


  • SOSNA’S Architecture Review Committee (ARC) meetings every 1st Wednesday of the month at 7:00p at the SOSNa office, 1901 Christian Street.
  • The Zoning Working Group meetings every 1st Wednesday of the month at 7:00p at the SOSNA office, 1901 Christian Street.
  • The Zoning Committee meets every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7:45 PM at the SOSNA office, 1901 Christian Street (unless otherwise noted).
January 2018 Agenda

Zoning Protocols

I. Introduction

The Zoning Committee, a standing committee established by the SOSNA Board, holds monthly meetings to discuss all applications for zoning variances within the SOSNA boundary area.

A variance is required by the City of Philadelphia whenever the proposed size or use of a property does not conform to the Philadelphia zoning or building codes. A variance must be obtained from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Prior to appearing before the ZBA, applicants are advised to schedule an appearance before the SOSNA Zoning Committee as outlined below.

The purpose of the Zoning Committee Meeting is to provide a public forum for the discussion and review of all zoning variance applications occurring within the SOSNA boundary area. Through these meetings, residents of the SOSNA area are able to provide direct neighborhood input into this important civic decision-making process. All Zoning Committee Meeting attendees who reside within the SOSNA boundary area will have the opportunity to express their opinions by registering one of the following responses to each project: ‘support’, ‘not-opposed’ or ‘opposed’.

II. Scheduling of SOSNA Zoning Meetings

Zoning Committee Meetings are typically held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Applicants should contact SOSNA at 215-732-8446 to request and schedule a spot at the next available Zoning Committee Meeting; as the meeting calendar often fills in advance, applicants are advised to plan ahead and reach out to our Executive Director to request to be put on the Zoning Committee Agenda. SOSNA will not add new projects to the Zoning or ARC agendas until the RCO Notice has been sent to our organization by the Planning Commission. The deadline to be put on the month’s agenda is the 1st Monday of the month or at the discretion of SOSNA. To view a list of upcoming projects to be presented, view our events calendar.

III. Requirements

Applicants are to deliver the following documents to the SOSNA office a minimum of ten days prior to the date of the scheduled SOSNA Zoning Committee Meeting. Please include six (6) copies of each of the following with your completed SOSNA application form:

Should the applicant fail to provide the documents as described above by the date due, the applicant will be not be placed on the meeting calendar and the SOSNA Zoning Committee will request a continuance from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). This will prevent applicants from being permitted to present their projects before the SOSNA Zoning Committee.

Prospective zoning applicants are strongly encouraged to contact SOSNA as early as possible to minimize the possibility of a request for continuance. If a timely meeting date cannot be met, SOSNA encourages the applicant to request a continuance of the ZBA. If an applicant refuses to present before the SOSNA Zoning Committee or cannot be contacted, SOSNA will ask the ZBA directly for a continuance. SOSNA will submit a request for continuance to the ZBA if a zoning applicant has not requested a meeting with the SOSNA Zoning Committee.

  1. Deed or Agreement of Sale
  2. Zoning Refusal, calendar listing number and type of proposed variances
  3. Design documentation emailed to Programs Manager in PDF form, including the following:
    1. Site Plan – at a measurable scale of 1/8” = 1’-0”. The site plan must dimension all site limits and the building footprint. The site plan must show the relationship of the application property to neighboring properties and to the closest street intersection.
    2. Floor Plans – at a measurable scale of ¼” = 1’-0”
    3. Elevations – street front, side (if applicable), and rear elevations must be shown at a measurable scale of ¼” – 1’-0”. Elevations must show the property in the context of the adjacent properties (a minimum of 2 in either direction). All elevations must be annotated to clearly indicate the materials of construction.
    4. Site Photos – must show the application property in the context of neighboring properties.
    5. 4 (4) copies of items A, B, and C in an 11”x17” format

IV. Meeting Notice

Notice of a meeting of the SOSNA Zoning Committee is provided according to the Notice provisions set forth in the SOSNA Bylaws, as amended; by the notice rules and regulations ordained by the City of Philadelphia (available here)  and, for each property subject of an application, notice shall be posted on the subject property five days before the scheduled meeting of the Zoning Committee. Meeting information as well as meeting agendas can be found on our events calendar.

V. Meeting Outcomes

The chair (or another committee member) will call the meeting to order by explaining that the purpose of the Zoning Committee Meeting is to provide a forum for the applicant to present his/her proposal and obtain input from the Zoning Committee and concerned members of the community who live within the SOSNA boundary area.

All attendees will be asked to sign in, providing their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Then, for each project, a voting sheet will be distributed for all attendees, on which they may indicate their ‘support’ or ‘non-support’. A copy of the voting sheets will be forwarded to the Councilperson to verify support or non-support for the project by community members.

The order in which applications will be heard is predetermined by the Zoning Committee Chair and shall be indicated on the published agenda. This order is typically based on the anticipated length of time required for adequate discussion. The Zoning Committee will introduce each applicant, read aloud the refusal explaining the variances sought, and ask the applicant to present their proposal to the Zoning Committee. A minimum of one property owner must represent the applicant property at the Zoning Committee Meeting iin order to recceive a vote. As previously mentioned, the applicant is strongly encouraged to have his/her architect, attorney, or other representatives present.

After the applicant, his/her attorney, architect, or other representative has completed their presentation to the Zoning Committee, the Committee Members shall have first opportunity to ask questions and or comment on the project. Once the Committee has no further questions, the chair will take questions and brief comments from others in attendance. In order for everyone to have a fair chance to participate, community members are asked to speak only when recognized by the chair. If a question or comment has not been addressed to the satisfaction of a community member, he or she should request the opportunity to speak again and not engage in dialogue with the applicant. Interaction between community members and applicants is expected to be conducted in an orderly manner at all times and not to become argumentative.

VI. Zoning Committee Guidelines

  1. The South of South Neighborhood Association Zoning Committee has nine members, seven primary and two alternates, appointed by the SOSNA Board of Directors.
  2. There shall be a Chair and a Vice-Chair of the Committee. The Chair—who shall be a SOSNA Board Member chosen by the Board—oversees the Committee. The Chair shall interface with the Board and write letters to the ZBA and City Council reflecting the viewpoints of the Board, the Committee and the public. The Vice-Chair shall act as a liaison between the Zoning Workgroup and the Committee.
  3. The Committee members shall serve staggered, two-year terms. Four Committee member terms shall commence in even number calendar years; the remaining five terms shall commence in odd number calendar years. There is no limit as to the number of terms one can serve. At least one Board member shall be present at and participate in every Committee meeting.
  4. Committee members are required to attend each monthly zoning meeting (3rd Wed at 7pm) and are strongly encouraged to attend the Workgroup meetings (1st Wednesday at 6:30pm) The Committee Vice-Chair or a designated alternate must attend each meeting of the Workgroup.
  5. The Committee presides over the zoning meeting, providing the initial questions and comments to each applicant. A member of the Zoning Committee moderates the meetings. The Committee must prepare for the meeting in advance according to guidelines adopted by the Committee.
  6. The Committee, in forming its opinions and moderating discussions, shall act in the best interest of the entire community. In reaching its opinion(s), the Committee shall consider the impact of any proposed use on the goals and objectives of applicable community development plans— including the SOSNA Economic Development Plan, the Walkability Plan, and any applicable plan or study of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Opinion letters shall not be based on strict compliance with the variance analysis set forth in the Philadelphia Zoning Code or the Municipalities Planning Code; rather, opinion letters shall reflect the Committee’s opinion on whether the application would have a negative or positive impact on both: (i) near neighbors and (ii) the community in general.
  7. The Zoning Chair or designee will circulate zoning plans to relevant SOSNA committees prior to the public monthly zoning meeting for their review. Said committees will provide an electronic memo to the chairperson or testimony at the hearing with their comments. Those comments will be incorporated into the SOSNA Zoning letter to the ZBA at the chairperson’s discretion.
  8. The Zoning Committee’s position is communicated to the ZBA in a letter from the Zoning Committee Chair taking one of four possible positions:


    • Support – reflects a consensus, though not necessarily unanimity, among Zoning Committee and community members in favor of the application.
    • Non-Opposition – reflects a generally favorable disposition toward the application among Zoning Committee and community members, but recognizes significant opposition by some near-neighbors and/or other interested parties.
    • Deferral – reflects division among Zoning Committee and community members to the degree that the Zoning Committee cannot assume either a favorable or unfavorable position, and therefore defers to the ZBA.
  • Opposition – reflects a consensus, though not necessarily unanimity, among Zoning Committee and community members against the application.

If an application is opposed by near neighbor(s) of the proposed use, the Committee shall offer the applicant the option of submitting the application to mediation and continuing the meeting on that application until the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Committee. If the applicant requests mediation, a member or members of the Zoning Committee shall seek to facilitate a mutually acceptable agreement between the applicant and the presumably aggrieved neighbor(s). A reference to a mutually acceptable agreement, if any, between the applicant and the presumably aggrieved neighbor(s) shall be noted in the Committee’s opinion letter to the ZBA.

VII. Provisos

The ZBA is willing to include community recommendations as provisos as long as they are enforceable by Licenses and Inspection (L&I). If the community and developers have come to an agreement that are beyond the ability of L&I to enforce, these agreements need to be put into writing and signed by both community representatives and the owner/applicant. As long as the agreements are reasonable, the ZBA will read them into the record of the ZBA proceeding so that they become part of the case record.

Who Should Get Involved

If you’re interested in the zoning and development process, the Zoning Committee may be right for you. Our committee is comprised of detail-oriented individuals who spend at least 4 hours a month to become experts in the zoning code and attend monthly committee and work group meetings.

Want to join the Zoning Committee? Let us know today!

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