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ZONING & DEVELOPMENT REVIEW

Zoning and Development Review Division

The Zoning and Development Review Division of the Department of City Planning administers the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code. The intent of zoning regulations is to allow property owners the reasonable use of their property insofar as the use is not detrimental to abutting properties or to the neighborhood. Every property in the City has a zoning classification and subsequent occupancy permit that determines how the property can be used.

The Zoning and Development Review Division is the first stop to getting a building permit in the City of Pittsburgh. The approval processes involved vary by project type and zoning district. Once zoning approval is granted, the project will be reviewed by the Department of Permits, License, and Inspections. 

*If you are planning on building something in the City of Pittsburgh, you will need to start at Zoning in the Department of City Planning.  To make the process easier, we have put together several easy to use process guides that can help to get your project moving.

Primary Roles and Responsibilities

  • Controls and Regulates Land Use within the City of Pittsburgh
  • Approves Interior/Exterior Renovations, Additions/ Expansions, and New Construction
  • Initiates Zone Changes and Text Amendments
  • Shapes Public Realm through Design Review Process

Looking for zoning maps?  They can be found in the GIS Division's Map section.

What is Pittsburgh's Zoning Code?

The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code, first written in 1958 and updated February 1, 1999, regulates land use and activities within the City boundaries.  Through regulation of private land, the code seeks to promote neighborhood revitalization, encourage a mix of uses, and support increased density to for transit oriented development.  The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code is maintained online by Municode.com and can be found here under Title Nine.

The Subdivison Regulations and Standards of the City Planning Commission adopted in March 2007 govern all subdivisions and consolidations in the City of Pittsburgh.

What are the fees?

2017 Zoning Fee Schedule

 

Zoning Approval Process

When is Zoning Approval Needed for Permits?

The Division of Zoning and Development Review is the first stop to getting building, occupancy, sign and some HVAC permits in the City of Pittsburgh.  The Zoning Division is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 200 Ross St, 3rd Floor.

Zoning Division approval is needed for all exterior construction ranging from residential decks and parking pads to new building construction.  Zoning approval is needed for most interior work too.  

Examples of projects that require Zoning approval include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • New building construction
  • Extensions/additions
  • Interior/exterior renovations
  • Garages
  • Parking pads or carports
  • Fences
  • Decks
  • Swimming pools
  • Signs
  • HVAC with outside units
  • Use changes to part or all of a building 

NOTE: A stamped survey is required for approval of all new construction, extensions/additions, and parking.


Other Applications Requiring Zoning Approval

The following projects require Zoning approval too:

  1. Institutional Master Plans: Institutional Master Plans (IMP) provide a frame work for development of institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, which control large areas of land within the City.
  1. Zone Changes: A Zone Change changes what zoning district governs the development of a property or properties. Note: It does not change the use of a property.
  1. Specially Planned Districts (See tab): Specially Planned Districts (SPD) are planned unit developments that are intended to provide a flexible framework for alternative forms of development for very large sites.  
    • Both Preliminary Land Development Plans (PLDP) and subsequent Final Land Development Plans (FLDP) of a SPD require Zoning approval.

How are Zoning Approvals Obtained?

Depending on the size and scope of the project, there are six types of approval that can be granted for above projects

  1. Over the Counter: Smaller projects with uses permitted by right can be approved at the zoning counter provided that the project meets all the Zoning Code requirements.  These uses are listed at "P" in section 911.02 of the Zoning Code.  These projects may include new construction or alterations to One- and Two-family units and the construction of accessory uses such as decks, porches, garages, and swimming pools.
    • Approval may be granted same day.
    • Although permitted by right, some projects may require additional review (such as Site Plan Review) based on size, scope, and location.  
    • Regular permit fees apply. (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules)
  2.  Administrator's ExceptionCertain uses and conditions shall be granted by the Zoning Administrator.  These uses are listed as "A" in section 911.02 of the Zoning Code.  Applications are made at the Zoning counter.  A posted notice period is required.
    • Approval may take a month.
    • Administrator Exception fees apply. 
    • If approval is granted, regular permit fees will then also apply. (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules)
  3. Site Plan Review:  Site Plan Review is administered to projects that require additional review as outlined in the Zoning Code.  In Site Plan Review, staff checks for code compliance relating to setbacks, parking, and landscape and screening requirements to name a few.
    • Design Review (see Design Review tab above) may be conducted simultaneously.
    • Review and approval may take several weeks.
    • Development Review fees apply. 
    • If approval is granted, regular permit fees will then also apply.  (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules)
  4. Zoning Board of Adjustment:  Through a posted notice and public hearing process, the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) reviews requests for variances and special exceptions.
    • The process from application to decision can take 3-5 months.
    • If approval is granted, regular permit fees will then also apply.  (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules)
      • Special Exception: Some uses and densities are permitted in certain zoning districts by special exception granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment provided specific conditions are met.  These uses are listed as "S" in section 911.02 of the Zoning Code.
        • Special Exception fees apply.  
      • Variance: Variances may be granted to projects that do not comply with Zoning Code standards.  Specific to the zoning district in which the project is located, variances may be given to projects that deviate from permitted uses, required setbacks, floor-area-ratios, and building heights without causing negative impact on the surrounding context.
        • Variance fees apply.  
  5. Planning Commission ReviewSome projects may require Design Review and approval through Planning Commission due to their size, scope and location as outlined in the Zoning Code.  The Planning Commission is primarily responsible for guiding land use and development in the City of Pittsburgh.  Planning Commission reviews zoning amendment text, major development plans as well as projects located in downtown, downtown riverfront, and public realm districts.
    • Approval may take several weeks to a few months.
    • Development Review fees apply.  If approval is granted, regular permit fees will then also apply.  (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules).
  6. Conditional Use Exception: Conditional uses, listed as "C" in section 911.02 of the Zoning Code, shall be approved by City Council after consideration from the Planning Commission.
    • Approval may take several months to a year.
    • Conditional Use fees apply.
    • If approval is granted, regular permit fees will then also apply.  (See Zoning and PLI fee schedules)

Permitting Process  

Project approval and permitting are conducted by both the Division of Zoning and Development Review and Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections.  Once Zoning approval for any land or building project has been granted, PLI will review the project and issue the appropriate permits.  

Visit PLI's website or call 412-255-2175 to learn about their processes.


For More Information:

To browse the Zoning Code, follow the link to the City Code and select "Pittsburgh Zoning Code" then "Title Nine-Zoning Code."

Call 412-255-2241 for questions about the Zoning approval process and requirements.

Zoning Applications and Forms

  • The Zoning Counter is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, except City holidays. 
  • We recommend arriving earlier than 2 p.m. to file a new application.

Select the appropriate application from the list below for your application to the Division of Zoning and Development Review. Please note that the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI) has its own required forms (see appropriate permit type on PLI's website for more details.

  1. Zoning and Development Review Application
    • This form is required for most projects, excluding sign applications, that require zoning approval prior to applying for permits at the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.
    • Projects that can be approved over-the-counter (such as replacement windows on a Single-Family Dwelling) do not need to fill out an application form.
    • Any project that cannot be approved over-the-counter (such as projects requiring Site Plan Review or Planning Commission approval) must complete an application form.
  2. Sign-Application
    • This form is required for all sign applications.
  3. Zoning Certificate/Historic Status/Violations Report Request Form
    • This form is required anytime there is a real estate closing in the City, per the State requirement that the seller/borrower inform the buyer/lender how the property is zoned; if there is an occupancy permit on file; if the current/proposed use is a conforming use; if the property is a historic landmark or in a historic district; and if there are any building code violations on file.
    • This form is not a Certificate of Occupancy and by itself does not certify that a property is legally occupied.
  4. Consolidation/Subdivision Application
    • This form is required for any plan of lots for consolidation or subdivision to be reviewed by Planning Commission.
    • To learn more about the Consolidation/Subdivision process, see our handout on the Process Guides website.
  5. Temporary Occupancy Application
    • This form is required for any application for a partial occupancy of a project under construction.  
  6. Master Plan Application
    • ​This form is required for applications for new or revised Institutional Master Plans, Master Development Plans, Preliminary Land Development Plans, Specially Planned Districts, or Planned Unit Developments.
  7. Zoning Change Petition Application
    • This form is required for any application on behalf of the owner(s) to change the Zoning District for a parcel or group of parcels.
  8. Protest Appeal Application
    • This form is required for requests for the Zoning Board to hear and decide appeals where it is alleged that the Zoning Administrator or Director of Permits, Licenses and Inspections has made an error in applying the Zoning Code.
    • This form is not for Variance or Special Exception requests to be heard by the Zoning Board. A Zoning and Development Review application is the appropriate form for such projects.
  9. Transportation Impact Study - Scoping Form
    • This form is to be completed by applicants when a transportation impact study may be necessary as part of the development review process.
    • Applicants will be advised of this requirement and asked to schedule a TIS scoping meeting with staff. Applicants should complete the form prior to attending the scheduled TIS scoping meeting with staff.
    • The Department of City Planning and the Department of Mobility & Infrastructure/DPW will jointly review and comment on all TIS submissions, with DCP providing final approval.

Zoning Fee Schedule:

The current fee schedule for Zoning and Development Review can be found here

Zoning Code

What is Pittsburgh's Zoning Code?

The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code, first written in 1958 and updated February 1, 1999, regulates land use and activities within the City boundaries.  Through regulation of private land, the code seeks to promote neighborhood revitalization, encourage a mix of uses, and support increased density to for transit oriented development.  The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Code is maintained online by Municode.com and can be found here under Title Nine.

Tips for using the HTML version of the code:

  • On the Municode.com website, look or scroll down the information in the left-side navigation bar until you see the TITLE NINE: - ZONING CODE.
    • Click the TITLE NINE: - ZONING CODE link.

 

The Subdivison Regulations and Standards of the City Planning Commission adopted in March 2007.

Pre-Application Meeting

Why Schedule a Pre-Application Meeting?

The pre-application meeting is to advise and inform applicants of the City’s development review process as it relates to planning and zoning. Approval from the Zoning Department is the first step to obtaining a building permit in Pittsburgh. To obtain this approval, projects must adhere to City laws related to land use, zoning, design, and public hearing and notification. This initial discussion at a pre-application meeting helps applicants navigate the development review process successfully.

Applicants are encouraged to come in at an early stage of project development, especially if they are unfamiliar with the Zoning Code and review process. This meeting allows applicants to find out information such as:

  • Zoning district and requirements for the project
  • Development review approval process
  • Design review process (See Design Review tab above)
  • Estimated schedule
  • Local community groups
  • Zoning Board of Adjustment information
  • Parcel subdivision and consolidation procedures

The meeting is not required as part of the approval process but is offered to assist applicants.

For large-scale projects, find out about Major Development Advisory Meetings.

Who is Eligible?

Anyone with a proposed project in the City of Pittsburgh, such as new construction, renovation, master plan, high wall sign, or demolition.

Smaller, simpler projects which may be approved at the Zoning Counter may find it faster to address any questions at the Counter, however, they are still welcome to set up a pre-development meeting.

What Do I Need to Bring?

The applicant must bring only a map of the development and surrounding parcels and be able to discuss the proposed use(s). If the applicant has more information to present, they are encouraged to do so, even in draft form. These items may include:

  • Site area map
  • Site plan or survey
  • Photos of site and context
  • Landscape plan
  • Building elevations
  • Perspective renderings

Who Will be There?

City Planning staff may include the Zoning Administrator, zoning staff, design staff and the neighborhood planner. The applicant is welcome to bring other individuals involved in the project such as the property owner, architect, developer or other parties.

How Do I Schedule This Meeting?

Please click here to complete a form that solicits contact and general project information.

You may email the form to:
zoning@pittsburghpa.gov,
Fax: 412-255-2561
Phone: 412-255-2241

You may also complete it at the Zoning Counter (200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219).

After the form is submitted, you will be contacted within two business days to confirm receipt and as soon as possible thereafter to set up the meeting. We will make every effort to schedule meetings to occur no later than two to three weeks from receipt of the Pre-Application Form.

Meetings are held at the Department of City Planning, 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh. When the meeting is scheduled, a specific floor and room location will be confirmed.

What Should I do After the Meeting?

The applicant will be advised what the next steps will be in the development review process related to planning and zoning. This will vary by project type.

Please contact other agencies such as the Department of Permits, Licenses, and InspectionsDepartment of Public Works, and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to find out about other approval processes for your project.

For more information, contact the Office of the Zoning Administrator at zoning@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2241.

Major Development Advisory Meeting

Major development advisory meetings are offered to larger-scale projects to explain the City’s development review process. Each meeting brings together relevant review agencies, authorities, and City Departments. They are designed to give applicants an overview of each department’s requirements so that they can successfully navigate the development review process. In addition, these meetings serve to notify City departments of proposed major projects.

Applicants are encouraged to come in at an early stage of project development, especially if they are unfamiliar with development regulations in Pittsburgh. However, it is recommended that projects be past the conceptual stage to allow the department and agency staff to provide more project-specific guidance.

Pre-application meetings are not required as part of the approval process but are offered to assist applicants.


What is a Major Development?

Large-scale developments are generally any one of the following projects:

  • New construction costs more than $2 million.
  • New construction totaling more than 50,000 sq ft.
  • New construction in overlay and special purpose districts with additional development guidelines.

City Planning staff will determine whether a project will be considered a major development based on the specific project information. For example, a parking garage with a large square footage may be a relatively simple development without water and sewer hookups.


How Do I Schedule this Meeting?

Please click here to complete a form that solicits contact and general project information.

Email: zoning@pittsburghpa.gov
Phone: 412-255-2241
Fax: 412-255-2561

You may also complete it at the Zoning Counter (200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219).

After the form is submitted, you will be contacted within two business days to confirm receipt and as soon as possible thereafter to set up the meeting. We will make every effort to schedule meetings to occur no later than two to three weeks from receipt of the Pre-Application Form.

Major development advisory meetings may be held the first and/or third Mondays each month at 11:00 a.m. at 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. The dates may occasionally change based on holidays.

Meetings are held at the Department of City Planning, 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh. When the meeting is scheduled, a specific floor and room location will be confirmed.


What Do I Need to Bring?

The applicant should bring a site plan of the project and be able to discuss the proposed use(s). If the applicant has more information to present, they are encouraged to do so, even in draft form. These items may include:

  • Site area map
  • Photos of site and context
  • Landscape plan
  • Building elevations
  • Perspective renderings

Who Will be There?

Representatives from those agencies relevant to the specific project approval will be present. These may include:

  • Department of City Planning
  • Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections
  • Department of Public Works
  • Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
  • Allegheny County Health Department
  • Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The applicant is welcome to bring those involved in the project such as the property owner, architect or developer.


What Should I Do After the Meeting?

The applicant will be advised at the meeting what the next steps will be in the development review process. This will vary by project type. Department representatives will also inform the applicant if additional meetings with their particular departments will be necessary.

For more information, please contact the Office of the Zoning Administrator at 412-255-2241 or zoning@pittsburghpa.gov.

Certificate of Occupancy

When do I need a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy, also known as an Occupancy Permit, shall be required for the lawful use or occupancy of all land, structures or premises, including accessory uses such as parking, fences and sheds. A valid Certificate of Occupancy is required to obtain a building, sign or HVAC permit. Anytime a change in use occurs, a new Certificate of Occupancy is required.  

How to Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy

  1. Verify Whether or Not You have a Valid Certificate of Occupancy: The Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI) File Room is the source for the complete collection of Certificates of Occupancy.
    • To inquire as to whether there is an occupancy permit on file for your property, complete PLI's request form and email it to plirecords@pittsburghpa.gov. This form is also available at PLI's permit counter (200 Ross St, 3rd Floor) weekdays 8 am-3 pm, excluding City holidays.
    • Please be sure to include any alternate or previous addresses available.
    • If there is not a Certificate of Occupancy on file that exactly matches the current use of the property or if you do not have a valid Certificate of Occupancy, you must apply for one through the Zoning Office and PLI.
  2. Apply for a Certificate of Occupancy: The applicant must apply in person at the Zoning Counter during business hours Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Department of City Planning offices at:
    • ​​​200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15219  
    • The applicant must bring a valid photo ID, a valid address, a plot plan or survey (if required), and a check or money order for the fees. 
    • Please note that some projects may require additional review such as Site Plan Review or approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustments or the Department of Public Works.
  3. Verify Whether it will be Required to Submit a Plot Plan or Survey: A Plot Plan or Survey is required for properties that have on-site parking, decks, and other accessory structures or uses that are not explicitly included in a valid Certificate of Occupancy, as well as for any application that includes new construction.
    • A stamped and sealed survey is required for any application that includes parking or new construction of a primary (or main) structure.
    • A hand drawn plot plan may be acceptable for other applications. Information about plot plan and survey requirements can be found here.
  1. Complete Application at Zoning Counter: Once the Zoning Office has approved the application, the applicant will go to PLI for their review and approval and to pay the fees.
    • For an Occupancy Only application, the fees will be $70. 
    • If there is another permit (building, HVAC, sign) with the application, there will be additional permit fees (see PLI’s fee schedule for more information).
    • All fees must be paid by check or money order made payable to "Treasurer City of Pittsburgh."

Design Review

Design review is an important part of the permitting process in the Department of City Planning. Architects and developers work with staff to help ensure high-quality development in Pittsburgh. Successful design improves quality of life, enhances neighborhood character, and provides economic and environmental benefits.

Projects that Require Design Review

Pittsburgh's Zoning Code requires design review for many types of projects, based on size and zoning district. All projects requiring Site Plan Review and a Development Review Application must undergo design review. Specifically, these projects include:

  • New commercial construction
  • Commercial renovations/ additions
  • New residential construction of 3 or more units
  • Master plans
  • High wall signs
  • Projects located Downtown or in other select neighborhoods
  • Projects required by the Zoning Code or the Zoning Administrator

For information about setting up a pre-application meeting with zoning staff please see the "pre-application meeting" tab above.

Design Review Process

Applicants should begin the design review process at an early stage of project development when changes in the project can still be made. To begin, applicants complete a Development Review Application, available online here or at the Zoning Counter at 200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor. Applicants can also set up a preliminary meeting with zoning and design staff to discuss the project and approval process. Please click here for information about setting up a pre-application meeting with zoning staff.

The extent of the design review process can vary depending on the scale and scope of the project, necessary review, and what urban design issues or criteria are present in the project.

Submission Requirements

Please see the supplemental handout Design Review Submission Requirements for a list of what drawings and renderings are required, based on the type of submission and the stage of review.

Staff Design Review Process

All Design Reivew starts at the staff level. After a Development Review Application is filed, City Planning design staff and the appropriate neighborhood planner make an initial evaluation of the project using information submitted by the applicant.

During this initial review, City Planning design staff develops a list of Urban Design Targets for the project. The goals are specific to the project but are broad, not prescriptive, and serve as a checklist for the applicant. These Urban Design Targetsguide the project throughout the review process, although a project may meet some of the goals on initial submission. In developing each set of targets, staff draws from relevant master plans and design guidelines.

At this stage, City Planning design staff determines what type of further design review is necessary, either staff design review or the Contextual Design Advisory Panel (CDAP) review. 

If a project continues with staff review, the project representative meets with staff and works to address the project's urban design targets. The process is complete when the applicant has met all the design-related zoning requirements and addressed the design targets to the fullest extent possible.

Design Review Handouts

 

Contextual Design Advisory Panel

What is CDAP?

The Contextual Design Advisory Panel (CDAP) is comprised of 8 members with expertise in the physical development of the City. The panel's mission is "promoting quality of life in the City of Pittsburgh. CDAP achieves its mission through professional, voluntary design assistance to maximize the economic, civic, contextual, and aesthetic value of new development projects impacting the public realm." To fulfill this mission, CDAP advises the Department of City Planning by reviewing and providing design guidance on selected, higher profile projects throughout the City.

CDAP is an advisory panel, not a commission. Together with staff design review, the panel works to resolve design issues through professional peer critique before the Planning Commission conducts its review. This frees the Planning Commission to focus on its responsibility of assuring that new developments are consistent with the overall planning objectives of the City. Some examples of these core considerations are:

  • The extent to which each development proposal addresses successful design, public space enhancement, context sensitivity, and sustainable urbanism.
  • Ensuring that projects feature well designed buildings and landscapes that engage both users and the streetscape. Buildings should also make appropriate connections to adjacent sites and to the larger neighborhood.
  • The use of green building materials and designs which consider the longer-term impact and use of a single project.

Projects Reviewed by CDAP

Projects CDAP may review range from building additions and high wall signs, to multi-parcel developments and master plans. Staff evaluates each project and its surrounding context and determines whether CDAP review would be beneficial. This determination will be made early in the review process. The criteria considered include the size of the project, complexity of the design context, and impact on the public realm. Generally, CDAP reviews: 

  • Project Development Plans
  • Preliminary Land Development Plans
  • Final Land Development Plans
  • Master Plans
  • High Wall Signs
  • Larger projects undergoing Site Plan Review

Members

  • Eric Booth, AIA
  • Anne Chen, AIA, LEED AP
  • Jen Gallagher
  • Greg LaForest, AIA, LEED AP
  • Vivien Li
  • Karen Loysen, AIA
  • Kate Tunney, AICP, LEED AP
  • Page Thomas

CDAP Handouts

How does CDAP review projects?

CDAP Project Review

Design review is a collaborative process between City Planning and the project representative. The City Planning design staff and the appropriate neighborhood planner make an initial evaluation of the project using information submitted by the applicant.

  • During this initial design review, City Planning design staff develop a set of Urban Design Targets, which are tailored to the development proposal, the unique site conditions, and the neighborhood and context of the development.
  • Staff work continuously with the applicant to address the Urban Design Targets and to satisfy design-related zoning requirements. 

Projects that are identified by staff as those recommended for review by the Contextual Design Advisory Panel (CDAP) meeting, will first be reviewed by staff and have Urban Design Targets assigned, as described above. CDAP review is voluntary, but highly recommended for some projects. The applicant will update the design to address the Urban Design Targets and incorporate the staff’s comments, in preparation for the CDAP meeting.

At the meeting, the project representative presents and discusses the project, surrounding context, and design concepts. CDAP members ask questions and make recommendations to the project representative.

  • The design goals developed during the initial staff review guide the review at CDAP meetings.
  • Discussion will focus on these broad targets, which will provide consistency to the process and benchmarks to evaluate progress.

In some situations, projects will be reviewed twice by CDAP. At the second meeting, the project representative presents changes since the last meeting and provides additional visuals on the project as the design has developed.

  • The purpose of this meeting is to resolve any of the outstanding urban design goals.
  • The second meeting may not be necessary for projects that meet the design objectives in the first full CDAP meeting.

After the CDAP meeting, Staff sends a summary of the comments to the applicant. The applicant then follows up with staff to reply and respond to the comments by updating the design accordingly.  City Planning staff will summarize the Design Review, including comments from CDAP and subsequent revisions, to convey design feedback and guidance to the Zoning Administrator or Planning Commission, as the final approval determines.


Workshops

In addition to the regularly scheduled CDAP meetings, CDAP also holds workshops. Less like a formal review, a workshop is a collaborative meeting. The project representative brings their project goals and current design to the panel members who provide design guidance. CDAP can help the project representative meet their objectives while helping to create successful urban spaces.


Meeting Schedule

Regular CDAP meetings are held every other Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  in the Department of City Planning Director's Conference Room, 200 Ross Street, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh.  

Typically, up to 2 projects are reviewed at each meeting.

Stormwater

To view full version click here

About the Stormwater Review Process

The purpose of the Stormwater Plan Review is to manage runoff and encourage natural infiltration and ensure all proposed development complies with federal, state, and local regulations.

What is the Purpose of a Stormwater Overlay?

  • Managing stormwater runoff from land alteration and disturbance activities in accordance with watershed management plans.
  • Assuring that development activities do not result in increased stormwater flows.
  • Utilizing and preserving the desirable existing drainage system by preserving flood capacity of streams.
  • Stream quality maintainence and improvement in accordance with watershed managment.
  • Encouraging natural infiltration of rainfall to preserve groundwater recharge.

When is a Stormwater Plan required?

Stormwater Plan Reviews are triggered by one or more of the following:

  • 10,000 square ft. of land disturbance (any grading, excavation or fill activities that occur on a site) or 5,000 square ft. increase in impervious surface.
  • Publicly Funded Development * - Any development funded in whole or in part by public monies of at least $1,000,000, and that are in the form of any grant, loan that is forgiven or discounted below the market rate over the life of the loan, bond financing, infrastructure improvements related to a project, below-market sale or lease of property, or other form of financial assistance with an aggregate value over the life of all planned phases of development
  • Publicly Funded Redevelopment * - Any land-disturbing activity that results in the creation, addition, or replacement of five hundred (500) square feet or more of impervious surface area at a Publicly Funded Development.

How long will the process take?

The length of the review process depends on the complexity of the project.

What is required for a Stormwater Plan review?

The following drawings are the minimum required for Stormwater Plan Review:

  • Cover Sheet
  • Introduction/Executive Summary
  • Existing Conditions
  • Stormwater Analysis
  • Easements, Right-of-Way, Deed Restrictions
  • Other Permits/Approvals
  • Maintenance Program
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices

How do I start the Process?

Please e-mail Josh Lippert, Senior Environmental Planner, any electronic submissions at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov:

  • Conceptual Stormwater Plan (optional)
    • During Zoning application submission
  • Final Stormwater Plan & Completed Checklist
    • Concurrent with site plan review or Pre-Development Plan (PDP) review and approval
  • Modifications/Re-submissions
    • Any changes to a submitted Final SWM Plan require a re-submission and approval.

How do I end the Process?

After you have resolved any issues, the Environmental Planner will prepare a consistency letter for the applicant. They will also prepare the project file for the Zoning & Development Review Division.

Zoning and Building Codes

For more Information

For questions specific to the City of Pittsburgh, please email the Senior Environmental Planner. Please note that this page summarizes broad issues around stormwater management. Please consult the complete Zoning Code and Building Code as necessary for complete information on requirements.

Important Documents:

Floodplain

What is the Floodplain Overlay?

The City of Pittsburgh participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Through the NFIP, the City agrees to manage development in the floodway and floodplain, which is any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters.

Both the City and residents benefit from this participation. The primary benefit for residents is the ability to purchase flood insurance, which most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover. To maintain these benefits, the City must adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that meet state and federal standards.

Where are the Floodplain Regualations?

The NFIP requires municipalities participating in the program to adopt floodplain regulations that meet state and federal standards. In Pittsburgh, these regulations are located in the Zoning Code, in Section 906.02 "Flood Plain Overlay District" of the Municipal Code.

How do I determine is my property is in the Floodplain or Floodway?

Both FEMA and the City of Pittsburgh have maps online and houses may be searched by address.

FEMA’s map is available here.

  • For a faster search, unclick the box marked “1% Annual Chance Depth of Flooding”.
  • Please note that areas marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” are also subject to the regulations of the Flood Plain Overlay update.

Pittsburgh's map is located here.

  • To use the Pittsburgh map, click on “layers” at the top of the map and turn on “Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood”.
  • It may be helpful to turn other layers off, the color is a light pink.
  • All of the properties located in the "Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood" are subject to the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

Frequently Used Terms

  • A Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is created by the NFIP and generally shows a community’s base flood elevations, flood zones, and floodplain boundaries.
  • The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is the land in the floodway and floodplain at high risk of flooding. These areas are indicated on FIRMs as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” and are subject to the regulations of the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.
  • A floodplain is the land which is subject to flooding from an adjacent watercourse or any area subject to unusual or rapid accumulation of surface waters from any source.
  • A floodway consists of the actual waterway as well as any adjacent lands that must be reserved in order to alleviate the 1% annual flood without increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.
  • Base flood elevation is the projected height of the water in the 1% chance annual flood.

My property is in the Floodplain or Floodway. What does that mean to me?

FEMA has determined that properties mapped as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) have a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. These areas are marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” FEMA maps.

  • Please note that FEMA also maps the 2 percent annual chance of flooding, but this is not regulated by Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

For property owners in the existing and newly mapped SFHA areas, insurers may require flood insurance and different building and development standards will apply. No building or site changes will be required to existing development sites with valid certificates of occupancy, so long as no changes or alterations are made.

New Construction: What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

All new construction in the floodplain will be required to be in full compliance with the current regulations. Generally, all new commercial construction will be required to be flood proofed or elevated 18” above the base flood elevation. Generally, all residential construction will be required to be elevated 18" above the base flood elevation.

Existing Development:  What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

Improvements are permitted to existing structures. For work that costs less than 50 percent of the value of the structure, no additional requirements are triggered.

Work that costs more than 50 percent of the value of the structure is termed a substantial improvement and the structure must come into compliance with the ordinance.

Why do I need to Complete the Floodplain Application?

As part of the NFIP Program and to maintain benefits for residents, Pittsburgh is required to document the review process for all  land development in the floodplain and floodway. This includes items like paving and outdoor storage that  previously may not have needed a permit from the Zoning Division or the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.

Completing the application is necessary for the City to meet this NFIP requirement.

What is Flood Insurance and do I need it?

Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is not a governmental requirement or regulation, but it may be required by your mortgage lender. If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your insurer will require a policy. Renters may also purchase insurance.

My Property is not in the mapped Floodplain. Can I buy Flood Insurance?

Yes, anyone may purchase flood insurance, both renters and owners.

How do I obtain Flood Insurance?

To obtain flood insurance, please talk to your local insurance agent or visit  www.floodsmart.gov, which is the official website of the National Flood Insurance Program.

What if I feel my property is not in the Floodplain, even though it is mapped within one?

The City of Pittsburgh does not have the ability to remove properties from the FEMA floodplain maps. If you believe your property was incorrectly included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you may submit an application to FEMA for a formal determination of the property's location and/or elevation relative to the SFHA. 

To find this form, visit  www.fema.gov and search for “homeowners” or visit here for the letter guidelines.

For more Information

Please note that this page summarizes broad issues around the floodplain and floodway. Please consult the Zoning Code and Building Code, as necessary, for complete information on requirements.

  • For general information on floodplain management, please visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • For specific questions, please contact Josh Lippert at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2516.

Application Documents:

Other Important Documents:

Institutional Master Plan

What is an Institutional Master Plan?

Institutional Master Plans (IMP) provide a framework for development of institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, which control large areas of land within the City. These institutions are unique because they generally contain a greater density of development than surrounding areas, are a source of substantial employment, and are usually located immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

As such, the IMP allows the institutions the flexibility to plan and develop project and campus-based standards for building height and mass, parking, urban design, and neighborhood compatibility.

Finally, the IMP provides a level of understanding to the public and the community about the potential growth of institutions and the resultant impacts. All institutions located in Education Medical Institutional (EMI) zoning districts are required to have a current IMP.

What needs to be in the Institutional Master Plan?

A complete outline of topics and issues required to be covered in an IMP is detailed in Section 905.03.D.2 of the Zoning Code.

These topics broadly are:

  • Planning Horizon of 10 and 25 Years
  • Mission and Objectives of the Institution
  • Existing Property and Uses
  • Needs of the Institution
  • Ten-Year Development Envelope
  • Twenty-Five-Year Development Sites
  • Transportation Management Plan
  • Environmental Protection Plan
  • Open Space and Pedestrian Circulation Plan
  • Urban Design Guidelines
  • Neighborhood Protection Strategy

What is the first step in the IMP process?

It is recommended that the institution and their planning consultant hold a pre-application meeting with City Planning staff to discuss the IMP process and requirements specific to each project.

To schedule this meeting, please email  zoning@pittsburghpa.gov or call 412-255-2241.

May institutions file for a zone change with the IMP?

Yes, this process should be run concurrently with the IMP. Please speak to a City Planning staff member about this application.

How do I make an application?

  • Submit a Development Review Application,
    • Available on the City Planning website
  • Five hard copies of the draft IMP
  • An electronic copy of the IMP
  • The application fee

How much is the fee?

The fee is one of the following:

  • $10,000 for less than 3 Acres
  • $18,750 for more than 3 Acres

Only checks or money orders payable to “Treasurer, City of Pittsburgh” are accepted.

Fees are non-refundable, including if the IMP is not approved. Additional fees are assessed for projects outlined in the IMP and zoning changes.

What happens after an application has been filed?

First the scoping for the traffic analysis will be completed. The institution and their consultant will have a meeting with City Planning and Public Works transportation staff to discuss what should be included in any transportation study.

While the transportation analysis is being completed, the draft IMP goes through the City Planning staff review process. This includes reviews of accessibility, neighborhood compatibility, zoning, and urban design. The design review is the only review with a formalized process.

What is the design review process?

The design review process is the review related to architecture and urban design. For IMPs, this encompasses the urban design guidelines and the location, height, and setbacks of the buildings within the ten-year development plan. This process includes staff design review and the Contextual Design Advisory Panel.

For more information about design review, please visit the design review page.

What community outreach should the institution do?

Early and throughout the planning process, it is recommended that the applicant reach out to multiple community stakeholders, including neighborhood groups, adjacent residents, City Council representatives, other institutions, and other relevant stakeholders.

In addition, as required by the Zoning Code, City Planning will mail surrounding property owners and post around the institution notice of the IMP filing 21 days prior to the Planning Commission hearing. Please note that this requirement should be included in any time frame estimate for approvals.

What is the Planning Commission process?

City Planning staff work with the applicant throughout the review process. After staff has determined that all of the required topics are adequately addressed, the IMP is scheduled for Planning Commission review.

The Commission meets bi-weekly on Tuesday afternoons with briefing starting around 1:00 p.m. and the public meeting starting at 2:00 p.m. A briefing to the Commission is the first step. This is an off-the-record presentation to introduce the project to members. It also provides the opportunity for the Commissioners to ask questions they want the applicant to further address.

Then the project returns two weeks later for on-the-record hearing and action. A full presentation is made again and then public comment is taken. The Commission will generally vote at that meeting to approve or disapprove the IMP. If the Commission disapproves the IMP, then it still proceeds to City Council, where it needs an affirmative vote by at least seven members to be adopted.

At each hearing, City Planning staff will introduce the project and then a representative of the institution or their planning firm will make the presentation. A computer and projector will be set up.

Presentations must adhere to the following:

  • The applicant is requested to bring the presentation on a CD or thumb drive for both presentations.
  • Twelve paper copies of the presentation are also required for the on-the-record hearing. 
  • The presentation should include highlights of all the topics covered in the IMP.
  • The most focus should be placed on the proposed projects in the ten-year development plan.
  • The presentation should last between ten and fifteen minutes. 

Planning Commission meetings occur in the first floor conference room at 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219. When entering from Ross Street, turn right in the main lobby and walk down the hallway to the meeting room.

What happens after the Planning Commission Process?

City Planning staff prepare legislation to send to the Law Department for review and then to City Council.

What is involved in the City Council process?

The City Clerk’s office schedules the IMP for a City Council committee hearing. The applicant should work on this scheduling with the City Council member for the location of the institution. The applicant presents to the Council committee and public testimony is heard. If approved in committee, the IMP is voted on during a full Council hearing.

How long does the IMP approval process take?

The entire process, from making an application to City Council approval, takes approximately six months. This varies depending on the complexity of the plan and on Planning Commission and City Council schedules.

When can an institution receive approval for the projects identified in the IMP?

For new buildings proposed in the IMP, Planning Commission and/or Zoning Board of Adjustment approval may be required after the IMP is approved. This approval will be specific to the building and require design review and zoning review. The Planning Commission procedure is similar to that for the IMP, although City Council approval is not required. For information about the Zoning Board process, please visit the ZBA page.


For more information, please consult the Zoning Code, including sections 905.03.D and 922.12. For additional questions, please contact

Kate Rakus

kate.rakus@pittsburghpa.gov

412-255-2470

This guide is available as a PDF for printing--other DCP processes are also outlined here.

Interim Planning Overlay Districts

Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD)

Governed by Chapter 907.02 of the Zoning Code, the intent of the Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD) is to provide a mechanism for interim zoning controls:

  • In geographically defined areas of the City where current use, height, area or procedural controls are found to be deficient.
  • When other code provisions do not address such deficiencies.
  • When ongoing planning studies may inform the preparation of permanent controls which would be appropriate for the area.

Unless otherwise specified in the text of each individual IPOD district, all use, height, and area provisions of the underlying zoning districts shall apply. Unless noted with the special districts below, all provisions of Article I, Article V, Article VI, Article VII, Article VIII, and Article IX of this Zoning Ordinance shall apply. In instances where there is found to be a conflict between the provisions of the IPOD and the underlying zoning district or any of the above Zoning Ordinance Articles the more stringent of the regulations shall apply.

An IPOD shall be in effect for no more than eighteen (18) months from its effective date, except that one (1) six-month extension may be granted by Council if requested by the City Planning Commission before the end of the 18-month period.

IPODs Currently In Effect:

 

IPOD-5: Interim Planning Overlay District for the Riverfronts

IPODs No Longer in Effect:

Specially Planned Districts

What are Specially Planned (SP) Districts?

SP Districts are intended to provide a flexible framework for alternative forms of development on very large sites of City-wide importance.  These create efficient, functional and attractive urban areas that incorporate high quality urban design, a variety of public amenities, and protection of natural resources.    

What is a Preliminary Land Development Plan (PLDP)?

A Preliminary Land Development Plan, or PLDP, is a master plan for specially planned districts and include details for infrastructure, development patterns, landscape design, and architectural details and is accompanied by zoning text that is specific to the SP District.    

What are the Minimum Thresholds for the Establishment of a SP District?

The following thresholds are used for the establishment of a SP District: 

  • Development site must comprise a contiguous area of land no less than fifteen (15) acres.
  • One hundred (100) percent of the land in an SP District shall be controlled by the applicant from the time of application through ownership or sales options.
  • SP District shall be in a location that is suitable for the proposed development, evidenced by compliance with plans and policy documents adopted by the Planning Commission and by demonstrating compatibility with development in adjacent areas.

How are Specially Planned Districts Created?

After a public hearing, Planning Commission votes on the PLDP and makes a recommendation to City Council on the Zoning Code text.  After a public hearing at City Council, the Council may vote on the legislation.  Finally, the Mayor may approve the Zoning Code text.   

How are Individual Building Projects Approved in a SP District?

  • Once a PLDP and subsequent zoning changes have been approved, building plans are reviewed in the form of Final Land Development Plans (FLDP).
  • FLDPs are subject to the City's design review process and final approval by Planning Commission.
  • An FLDP is approved based on its compliance with the previously approved PLDP, unless an updated PLDP is submitted and approved with the FLDP application.

Pittsburgh's Specially Planned Districts include:

Zoning FAQ's

What are the Hours of Operation?

  • The Zoning Counter is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, except City holidays. 
  • We recommend arriving earlier than 2 p.m. to file a new application.

Do Building Permits Require Zoning Approval?

  • All building permits, which are issued by the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections, require zoning approval, including those for interior renovations. 
  • However, only some will require a plot plan (change of use, new parking, fences, additions, etc.). 
  • Please consult a zoning specialist. 

Can I Come in to Look at Someone's Plan or a Specific File?

  • Yes.  Once an application has been filed, it is public record. 
  • Viewing public records is free, but copies are $0.50 per page. 
  • The Zoning Counter accepts check or money order only, payable to “Treasurer, City of Pittsburgh.”

How Can I Find Out if there is an Occupancy Permit for a Property?

  • We suggest that you contact the File Room in the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections at 412-255-2175. They have on file all the occupancy permits that have ever been issued for a property.

Can a Single-Family Home be Turned into a Two-Family Home if the Zoning is R2? 

  • Not necessarily.  The district may allow a two-family dwelling but certain code requirements must be met, including side yard setbacks, lot area, and parking requirements. 
  • Please consult a zoning specialist.

How do I Change the Zoning of a Parcel?

  • Please consult the Zoning Administrator. 
  • Make sure your intention is to change the zoning of a property rather than simply wanting to change the use of the property. If, so please set up a pre-application meeting.  

When is a Zoning Certificate Required? 

  • A zoning certificate is required whenever there is a real estate closing on a property or when the property is being refinanced.
    • It is a document intended for the benefit of a buyer or lender to let them know how the property is zoned, if there is an occupancy permit on file, if the property is in a historic district, and if there are any building code violations on file. 
    • It can be obtained for $100.00, check or money order made payable to "Treasurer, City of Pittsburgh", by mailing in the zoning certificate form.

How Can I Resolve a Dispute About a Property Line? 

  • Property line issues are not handled by the City.  You should contact a magistrate or an attorney.

Do I Need Special Approval to Run My Business Out of My Home? 

  • The Zoning Code refers to this as a home occupation. 
  • A home occupation can be approved at the Zoning Counter if it meets certain criteria listed in the zoning code.

Who Do I Contact About Consolidation and Subdivision of Property?

  • Please call the office of the Zoning Administrator at 412-255-2241.

Can I Obtain a Copy of the Zoning Code?

  • The zoning code is available on the Municode website.

How Can I Inquire About City-Owned Property?

  • Call the Real Estate Division in the Finance Department at 412-255-2300.

Whom Do I Contact Regarding Flood Plain Information?

  • Contact Josh Lippert, Environmental Planner, at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2516.

How Can I Obtain a Handicapped Parking Space on the Street, Have Yellow Lines Painted, etc?

  • Contact the Traffic Division in the Department of Public Works at 412-255-2872.

Whom Do I Contact About Burglar Alarms?

  • Call: 412-255-2260.

Whom Do I Contact About Fire Alarms?

  • Call: 412-255-2181.

Zoning Board of Adjustment

The ZBA meets most Thursday mornings in the municipal building at 200 Ross Street, 1st Floor Conference Room, Pittsburgh.  After entering the building from the Ross Street entrance, make a right and walk to the end of hallway to enter the Conference Room.  

2017 Meeting Schedule

FAQ's about the Zoning Board of Adjustment