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Spring 2017 Course Descriptions

All classes include time for Q&A with presenters and an interactive group exercise at the end of the session to help you “lock in” what you’ve learned. You’ll receive handouts at each session, as well as a syllabus with reading suggestions prior to each class. We pack a lot into each class, so it’s important that you plan to arrive PRIOR to the 6:00pm start time, to get settled, talk to your classmates and get some dinner! (included in course fees) Download PDF version.

Core sessions are required as well as at least 2 of the 3 electives. Pizza and Presentations Workshop session is optional.

"I didn't realize how many resources were available and how many questions could be answered with a little research. Every night after class I've felt so excited and empowered and ready to share!"--Fall 2014 participant

Core Session 1- The BIG Picture- Planning in the City               April 12, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: What is Planning? Everyone is a planner- in the sense that we all prepare for the future. Learn the tools and principles city planners use to assess current conditions, chart a future vision, and get things done. At a city planning level, you will learn about the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) and its staff, the role it plays, and how other city agencies work with it. You will get an overview of the citywide comprehensive vision- Philadelphia 2035 (adopted in 2011) and how citizens are involved in developing the 18 District Plans- the second phase of the plan. Learn how planning influences decision-making in the city, as recommendations in the District Plans are being implemented. 

Martine DeCamp, City Planner & West/South/Central Cluster Leader, PCPC, 

Unit 2: Mantua: A Neighborhood Case Study. Community engagement happens when organizations and individuals in a community build ongoing relationships of reciprocity and nurture respect for what was, what is, and what is to come. Learn how one community is developing a collective vision and mobilizing resources to improve public safety and increase the availability of affordable housing. Get a grassroots look at what it takes to manage change and coordinate multiple programs and partnerships. Michael Thorpe, CPI graduate, will provide his perspective on neighborhood planning and taking on a leadership role.  

Donna Griffin, Proprietor, Community Capacity Builders
Michael Thorpe Sr., Executive Director, Mt. Vernon Manor CDC, Citizen Planner (Fall 2011)

Required reading“Introduction to Planning in Philadelphia”- handout to be sent prior to the first class.

Core Session 2- The Development Process                              April 19, Thursday, 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: The Development Process- the Private Side.
Learn from an experienced, mission driven private developer who has renovated and restored more than 250 vacant, deteriorated commercial and residential units in the Philadelphia region during the past 28 years and currently owns and manages more than 700,000 square feet of space. You’ll learn the steps to get projects done and the financial constraints and other road blocks all developers face. The roles of various stakeholders impacting development will be discussed, in addition to tips on how to work with community developers to get the desired results for your community.

Ken Weinstein, President of Philly Office Retail, LLC, entrepreneur & real estate developer

Unit 2: The Development Process- the Non-Profit View.  
People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has invested over $65 million to improve the quality of life for residents of the Lower Lancaster Avenue neighborhoods: Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, and West Powelton. Through its community development work, PEC is beautifying open spaces and developing eco-friendly affordable housing as well as mixed-use buildings along the local commercial corridor. Learn about their new affordable housing project at 4050 Haverford Avenue that replaced a large vacant lot with a 20-unit building specifically designed for low-income artists, an essential part of the Lower Lancaster community.

Stephanie Wall, Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development, People’s Emergency Center

Core Session 3- Zoning and Land Use                                          April 26, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: The Zoning Code.  
Understand the reasons why zoning has evolved as an important tool of planning. Zoning regulates land uses and the type, size, and height of buildings. Real projects will be used to demonstrate three methods of zoning “relief” from the zoning code:  variances, special exceptions, and zoning remapping. Gain a better understanding of how to navigate the code and what the steps are to learn what can be built on a lot and what approvals a project needs. Learn the limitations of zoning, as well as the elements in the zoning code that help preserve neighborhood character.

Donna J. Carney, CPI Director, PCPC
Andy Meloney, Senior Planner for Implementation, PCPC

Unit 2: Zoning & Citizen Involvement. The zoning code includes standards for citizen participation in the development process, including “RCOs”- Registered Community Organizations. Learn how a recent CPI grad rallied her neighbors and worked with her community civic group to influence development in her community.

Judy Walterson, member of West Powelton/Saunders Park RCO, Citizen Planner (Spring 2016)

  • spring 2017 cpi electives



Elective class topics change each semester. If you are selected to participate in the Course, you must select a minimum of 2 of the 3 electives to earn the Certificate of Completion. 


Elective #1- Community Organizing + Asset Mapping                   May 3, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: Surveying the Landscape of Your Community
We’ve all heard the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but what does it really take to affect change in your community? How do you build on existing assets and organize? Building on the tactics of planners and political organizers, learn about how you can use asset mapping and community organizing tactics to advocate for your community or cause. The course will outline both successful, and not so successful tactics, using local case studies where simple planning tools were used to understand both the physical and cultural landscape of communities and build capacity among residents and local groups. 

Mary C. Morton, AICP, Urban Designer + Planner, WRT

Unit 2: Case Studies
Salima Suswell is a Campaign Communications Director, currently working on a campaign to elect a front-runner in the race for Philadelphia District Attorney.  Salima has previously helped organize a successful city-wide campaign to get the City to acknowledge major Muslim holidays. This large-scale mobilization effort involved volunteer “community navigators” embedded in neighborhoods who helped build relationships. Find out the concrete tools and steps Salima and her fellow organizers used to mount this successful effort and apply them to your own course project idea!

Salima Suswell, CEO Evolve Solutions, LLC; National Diversity Director, Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals

Jackie is active with a group called Stadium Stompers that is focused on preventing a 35,000 seat sports stadium from being built in a residential neighborhood by Temple University. Learn about the strategies and tactics this group is employing to meet their geographically-focused goal. Jackie is a CPI grad who was inspired by the idea of "asset mapping" in her final project of identifying community assets worth supporting in traditional or unique ways.

Jacqueline J. Wiggins, Committee person, 32nd Ward, Citizen Planner (Spring 2016)

Elective #2:  Clean & Green                                                           May 10, Wed. 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: Greenworks, TreePhilly, Green Stormwater Infrastructure
Greenworks: A Vision for a Sustainable Philadelphia is the city’s comprehensive sustainability framework. First created in 2009, the Office of Sustainability updated Greenworks in 2016 with feedback from issue experts and neighborhood groups throughout Philadelphia. You’ll learn about opportunities in your community to make Philadelphia a city where all residents enjoy benefits from sustainability, including improved public health, a clean environment, and opportunities to learn, work, and prosper.

Rich Freeh, City Energy Project Manager, Philadelphia Office of Sustainability

The Soak It Up Adoption program provides grants to civic groups to help maintain the beauty and functionality of green stormwater infrastructure. Organizations who meet the eligibility requirements to receive grants must do weekly site maintenance and reporting, and have some quarterly responsibilities as well. The mini-presentation will focus on the scope of the program, eligibility and reporting, recruiting new partners, and future improvements. 

Dan Schupsky, Outreach Specialist, Philadelphia Water Department

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s TreePhilly Program has been engaging Philadelphia’s citizens in urban forestry work since its launch in 2012. TreePhilly’s goal is to increase the urban tree canopy in the city by working with Philadelphians to plant and care for trees, and to encourage interaction with the urban forest. In the first four years of the program, TreePhilly gave away almost 11,500 trees at over 70 Yard Tree Giveaway events, engaging an estimated 8,100 unique participants, almost 400 volunteers, and over 100 community partners. How will you contribute to making Philadelphia the City of Arborly Love?

Erica Smith Fichman, TreePhilly Program Manager, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Unit 2: Zero Waste & Litter
Nic will give an overview of the creation, operations and future plans of Philadelphia's Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet. This Cabinet is tasked with creating a coordinated public and private sector response to Philadelphia's litter problem while also setting Philadelphia on a path to Zero Waste by 2035. Learn about ways residents and businesses can interact with the enhanced city litter index, both online and in the community. new training opportunities for getting citizens more involved in waste reduction and litter abatement in their communities. 

Nic Esposito, Zero Waste & Litter Director, Philadelphia Managing Director’s Office

Elective #3:   Walkable Neighborhoods                                  May 17, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: Urban Life & Walking
Walking is often referred to by transportation planners as a mode of “alternative transportation”, but in fact it is the most natural way for human beings to get around and connect with their community and environment. As humans have invented new technologies to travel farther and faster, these technologies and the infrastructure needed to support them have gradually eroded the central role of walking in everyday urban life. This has led to numerous environmental, social, economic, and health consequences, but modern planners and advocates have recognized the challenge and are working to restore walkability to communities. Using examples from across the US and abroad, this unit will examine some of the ways that our built environment discourages walking and makes it less safe, some proven strategies for reversing this trend, and ways that individuals, community organizations, and government agencies can contribute to making communities more walkable.

Heather Strassberger, AICP, Healthy Communities Planner, PCPC 

Unit 2: Get Healthy with Walking!
Philadelphia contains over 2,500 miles of streets serving a great diversity of purposes and neighborhoods, yet most Philadelphians are not fully utilizing them for physical activities like walking or biking. The Surgeon General’s 2016 Call to Action on Walkability acknowledges that individuals have to make the decision to walk, but that designing communities that encourage this choice is an important step in the process. In order to create an environment that community residents believe is safe, attractive, and provides destinations within walkable distances, there needs to be significant involvement of the community in the process. Get Healthy Philly’s walkability engagement work serves engage in conversations about creating more walkable neighborhoods, assess current walking conditions in prioritized communities, document barriers to walking as identified by the community and implement an awareness campaign. 

Kelli McIntyre, MA, Physical Activity Coordinator, Get Healthy Philly, PDPH (Phila Dept of Public Health) 

Presentations & Pizza Workshop                                  
May 24, Wed. 6:00-9:00pm

Final Projects Presentations
You give a 5-minute presentation on a project that you or your organization is working on--or a “wish” project-- to get feedback from your fellow CPI participants and professional city planners. This meets the “final project” requirement. (You can also submit your course project in writing instead of giving a presentation. Templates will be provided).

This is a low-stress way to get public speaking practice and have an informal networking opportunity with your classmates!
Attendance is optional and will not be required to attain the “Citizen Planner Certificate of Completion”.

  • CPI happy hour 1
CPI Happy Hour!  April 5, 5:30-7:30pm 
Smokin' Betty's- 116 S. 11th Street (at Sansom St)

The Wednesday night prior to the first class of each new semester is a social networking happy hour where participants in the upcoming semester as well as past graduates and come out and meet each other as well as connect with old friends. It's a great way to come to the first class as a new participant and recognize friendly faces.