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Spring 2018 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.

“Completing CPI makes you see the city, your neighborhood and your potential a little differently. Being around like-minded people gives you the drive to make a difference.”Kelly E. Wiles, Fall 2017

Core Session 1- The BIG Picture- Planning in the City              April 11, 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. 

Ian Hegarty, Upper North / Upper Northwest Community Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission 

Unit 2: Community VisioningA plan is a written testimony of faith in a community. It begins with a “vision” that focuses on improving the quality of life for everyone who lives there. Leading a community visioning process does not require special training or education. What is needed are individuals who can listen, direct, work as a team, and let go so others can follow through. Whether your organization is hiring a consultant or embarking on a DYI planning effort, it’s essential to know how to facilitate community conversations to shape community vision. Learn how to get started, conduct workshops, and engage with the community through a case study of the Logan Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan.

Garlen Capita, Senior Associate, Urban Designer, WRT

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

Core Session 2- Zoning and Land Use                                     April 18, 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)

Core Session 3- The Development Process                                April 25, Wed., 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. Ms. Strong served as PEC’s Vice President of Community & Economic Development before joining the Rebuilding Community Infrastructure team.
Stephanie Wall, Deputy Director of Community & Economic Development, People’s Emergency Center


  • electives graphic



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- Preparing Your Community                                   May 2, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: The Office of Sustainability (OOS) is responsible for setting a vision for a sustainable Philadelphia. Greenworks is a framework to reach ambitious visions on the topics of food and water, air, energy, climate, natural resources, transportation, waste, and civic engagement. This introduction to Greenworks will focus on the vision that all Philadelphians are prepared for climate change and the reduction of carbon pollution. In our city, climate change will make summers hotter and winters wetter. Sea level rise may put waterfronts and low-lying neighborhoods at risk. Through use of an Equity Index, OOS will work with communities who are impacted much more than others by environmental stressors, like heat. Individuals, neighborhoods and institutions like businesses, schools and churches are all part of the solution.

Richard Freeh, Office of Sustainability

Unit 2: “Bringing Neighbors to the Table” fosters understanding about how community leaders help each other during a disaster. Specifically, the role of emergency management will be highlighted. Participants will role-play different community jobs, make difficult decisions about how to respond, and coordinate resources with each other during a disaster. This workshop is in a role playing “game” format, and encourages everyone to participate in decision making.

Lynn Fisher, Community Preparedness Program Manager, Office of Emergency Management
Emma Giardina, Community Resilience Coordinator, Office of Emergency Management

Elective #2:  Accessing Free City Information                          May 9, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

The City of Philadelphia creates a wealth of information every day that can be used to verify, understand and even predict what might happen next on your block. From business licenses to road closures, proposed zoning changes to sheriff sales, data about what has happened or will happen on a particular property or street is recorded daily in city records.  How does one access this information and put it to use?  In the last few years the city has worked to make information more accessible and easier to use by the public.  This session will introduce new web applications released in the last year by the city and how these apps can help Citizen Planners answer questions, prepare for zoning meetings, and gather information for grants and project proposals. 


  • Learn about all the uses of, the all-in-one tool for finding permits, violations, zoning, 311, crime and vacancy by address and exploring locations using current and historical maps, and aerial and street view imagery.
  • Learn how to use to visually explore all of the mapped data released by city. With OpenMaps, uses can explore individual topics like tobacco sale sites or view maps in combination like registered historic sites overlaid on base zoning districts with demolitions sites added.
  • Learn when and how to use the Vacant Property Data Model or map to identify likely vacant buildings and map percentages of vacant property by block.
  • Provide feedback on and how the city should expand what the tool can do.
  • Learn how to provide feedback to correct or add landmarks to the city’s base map of streets, buildings and culturally significant sites.
  • Gain understanding of how the city publishes open data – where to find it and how to use it.
  • Gain understanding of the why property addresses can be so different by department or city service and what the city doing to unify records, especially for E-911 operations.  

Mark Wheeler, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Data and Enterprise Architecture and Geographic Information Officer (GIO), Office of Innovation and Technology
Sara Mattio, GIS Analyst, Office of Innovation and Technology
Tim Haynes, Sr Lead GIS Analyst, Office of Innovation and Technology
Kistine Carolan, Data Services Director, Office Digital Transformation and Open Data

Elective #3: Safe Streets & Vision Zero                                       May 16, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1 – Vision Zero Introduction:
Every year in Philadelphia, around 100 people are killed in traffic crashes. In response to this statistic, and the lives behind it, Mayor Jim Kenney signed an Executive Order to create the Vision Zero Task Force, committing Philadelphia to working to eliminate traffic deaths on Philadelphia’s streets by 2030. Learn more about Vision Zero, its priorities, and principles.

Charlotte Castle, Vision Zero & Neighborhood Programs Coordinator, City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems (oTIS)

Unit 2 – Designing streets for people:
Complete Streets are streets designed and operated to ensuring the safety of everyone on them no matter if you choose to walk, take transit, bike, or drive. When Mayor Kenney established the Vision Zero Task Force & Program, he hired Kelley Yemen—the nation’s first-ever Complete Streets Director—to lead these efforts. Use Legos—yes, Legos!—to learn more from the City’s Complete Streets Director about street designs that improve the walkability and safety of streets.

Kelley Yemen, Director of Complete Streets, City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems (oTIS)

Unit 3 – Neighbors Toolkit for Safer Streets:
To improve walkability and safety of neighborhood streets, Streets Department invites neighbors to apply for traffic calming tools, such as speed cushions. Learn more about these tools, how an engineer evaluates neighborhood traffic safety projects, and how neighbors are invited to apply.

Kasim Ali, Action Chief Traffic Engineer, City of Philadelphia’s Department of Streets

Presentations & Pizza Workshop                                  
May 23, Wednesday, 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”.

  • 2017 spring happyhour 2
CPI Happy Hour!  April 4, 5:30-7:30pm 
(Location to be determined...)

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.

Apply Now!

Become a Citizen Planner

Applications for the Spring 2018 course series are being accepted through March 21st.