DN Editorial: Zoning win: A code that's good for us

HOW WILL Philadelphia be different after it begins operating as a truly modern city?

We may begin answering that if Council approves next week, as expected, a new zoning code that it voted out of committee yesterday after a hearing that began calmly and ended in a few fireworks.

In fact, the range of yesterday's hearings provided a living example of what seems very right with the new code: It doesn't please everyone. And that's a sign to us that the years of work it has taken to create a new code, involving countless public meetings, workshops, hearings and forums, and more negotiation than many Middle East peace talks, has worked, and yielded a sound code.

Finding common ground among citizens, developers, homeowners, businesses and elected officials is always tough, and on something as complicated as zoning, nearly impossible. The process usually guarantees one outcome: At least one group is going to be a big loser and one will be a big winner.

Then again, the current zoning code is so broken, full of patches and overlays and work-arounds that we're not sure anyone has won. Certainly not developers and builders who have been forced to cut their way through bureaucratic and regulatory chaos to get anything done. And not citizens, who have had no clear path to having their say.

That's why Zoning Code Commission chief Eva Gladstein gets credit for shepherding this through, making sure all the players got a say, engaging thousands of citizens and code users in the long and arduous process of rewriting the code.

City Council also gets credit for wrestling this monster to the ground. That took something that they don't always exhibit: a willingness to work together through a big complicated challenge and not give up until it was finished - even when they didn't always get what they wanted.

Does that mean we're becoming a modern city, run by grownups? The vote next week will answer that; we'll be grown up and believe it will happen.

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