Philadelphia Voters Approve Zoning Board, Housing Commission and Home Rule Charter Ballot Questions

Philadelphia voters comfortably voted “yes” on all four ballot questions during Tuesday’s primary election.

More than 80% of voters approved the establishment of the Fair Housing Commission as an independent and permanent entity. A question about changes to the Zoning Board of Adjustment garnered over 70% support.

More than 60% of voters approved removing gender-based references from a couple of city documents.

With 95% of the divisions reporting, here’s how Philadelphia voters responded to each of the ballot questions.

Question 1: Should the city expand the number of Zoning Board appointees and make other changes? – YES

This first ballot measure made several structural changes to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which hears cases on zoning and land issues. The zoning board will grow from five to seven members, and each of those mayor-appointed members must also be approved by the City Council. Among the zoning board, members must have certain qualifications.

Two members of the board must be members of the community, while others must include a developer, an architect, a zoning attorney, a real estate finance expert, and a person with experience in the construction industry. All must have demonstrated “sensitivity” to community concerns and preserving the character of Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The ZBA, which sometimes makes decisions on a case-by-case basis regarding proposed zoning changes, has played a significant role in citywide disputes regarding gentrification and increased urban development.

Voters approved this question with 70.76% support.

Question 2: Should the city remove gender-based language such as “firefighters” and “police officers” from the city charter? – YES

The second and third questions on Tuesday’s ballot sought to change some of the language used in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, which is the city’s largest governing document. In approving this measure, voters supported removing all gender-based language from the document, replacing phrases like “firefighters” and “police officers” with “firefighter” and “police officer.”

All references to the Mayor using “he” would be replaced with “the Mayor,” to remove assumptions based on the gender of the city’s elected officials. The language regarding any city official will be changed to refer to their title, rather than gender.

This measure was approved with 64.97% support.

Question 3: Should the city remove gender language in the educational supplement to the city charter, which governs the school district and board of education? YES

A more specific version of the previous question, this ballot measure specifically referred to the Education Supplement within the city charter. This document governs the School District of Philadelphia and the Board of Education. Voters approved removing all gender-based references to school officials within the document. All references to the superintendent that use “he” will be changed to read “the superintendent.”

The City Council approved legislation for both questions, noting that these changes make the city’s governing documents inclusive and representative of women and people of genders not represented by the current charter language.

This measure was approved with 64.97% support.

Question 4: Should the Fair Housing Commission be made permanent? – YES

This measure received an overwhelming amount of support from Philadelphia voters. The Fair Housing Commission was established in 1962 and its board members have enforced rental property regulations throughout the city and resolved disputes between landlords and tenants.

The FHC holds hearings on potentially unsafe properties and has created a resource center for renters and landlords to avoid major complaints or disputes.

Through its approval, the FHC becomes a permanent and independent agency, preventing it from being dissolved through City Council legislation. Its approval does not change anything about the structure or responsibilities of the FHC or its Mayor-appointed board.

Philadelphia voters approved this question with 80.47% support.

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