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What is a Comprehensive Plan?

A Comprehensive Plan is the City's game plan for making policy, attracting investment and determining the most effective use of tax payer dollars. A Comprehensive Plan is created through a process that allows residents to voice their opinions and make suggestions about how the City can grow gracefully over the next 25 years. It will help elected officials, decision makers and residents make Pittsburgh an even better place to live, work, learn, play and thrive.

Why is a Comprehensive Plan needed?

A Comprehensive Plan allows the City to be proactive and seize opportunities instead of reacting to problems after they arise. It is a means for identifying, prioritizing, coordinating and funding projects that may involve many partners and funding from multiple sources.

Over the years, the factors that elected officials and other decision makers need to consider when making land use and investment decisions have grown increasingly complex. Adapting to challenges such as market fluctuation, environmental change, and a shifting population is never easy, and requires a great deal of coordination within the City and with other partners in the region. To decrease the impact of these challenges and to seize opportunities that arise from them, the City of Pittsburgh has begun an ambitious planning process that is designed to address life in a 21st century city.

The Comprehensive Plan process will be inclusive. It will consider the needs and the requests of the residents and other stakeholders. It will analyze existing conditions in the city, discuss future trends, look at how other cities are doing things, and choose which goals to pursue here in Pittsburgh.

The result of this mix of professional and public input is PLANPGH, an official Comprehensive Plan document that will encompass the City's vision and policy recommendations for future land use, infrastructure, and public services.

What are the benefits of having an adopted Comprehensive Plan?

Creating and using a Comprehensive Plan will provide several advantages:

  • The planning process will produce a focused vision of what the city's needs and aspirations are, resulting in priorities for future resource conservation, growth and investment;
  • Residents and other stakeholders in the city will work together to coordinate decisions about such things as land use, transportation, public facilities, open space, parks and recreation, environmental protection, economic development, housing, and other issues;
  • When City Council adopts PLANPGH, residents are assured that their voice has been heard and that decisions will follow the goals and recommendations outlined in the plan;
  • A current Comprehensive Plan with accompanying ordinances and design guidelines gives the City a competitive edge by creating a development climate that is strategic, proactive, predictable, and cognizant of needs, data, and resident input.

Who is responsible for developing the Comprehensive Plan?

The Comprehensive Plan will be created through an inclusive process involving residents, government, business leaders, community groups and other stakeholders. In partnership with City government, stakeholders will share the responsibility for implementing the plan. Pittsburgh's Department of City Planning will serve as the primary organizer for the effort with assistance from other relevant departments and authorities.

What are the components of the plan?

A Comprehensive Plan is just that--comprehensive. It examines a whole host of issues in concert with one another so that we can see how decisions in one area might affect outcomes in another.

Local government is the backbone of Pennsylvania's government structure, so it is crucial that planning happens at the local level. All municipalities in the Commonwealth of PA are encouraged to have a Comprehensive Plan. The Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) outlines nine components that should be included in a Comprehensive Plan. However, as the state's two largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are exempt from the provisions of the MPC and are, thus, afforded a certain level of flexibility in their approach.

The City of Pittsburgh will study twelve components in its Comprehensive Plan:

  1. Open Space, Parks and Recreation
  2. Cultural Heritage
  3. Transportation
  4. Public Art
  5. Urban Design
  6. Public Facilities and Services (City-owned properties)
  7. Energy
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Economic Development
  10. Housing
  11. Education
  12. Land Use

Some of these components may be combined or undertaken in a different sequence than listed here, as funding becomes available or new needs arise.

Typically, one team of professionals is hired to look at all components over the course of 18-to-24-month planning process. Sometimes this time period does not allow sufficient time to develop specific recommendations or detailed steps about how to implement them, resulting in a plan with worthy goals, but few results.

In order to assure a more useful level of detail, the City has elected to take more time with each component of the plan, hiring expert teams to work with residents, City departments and authorities, community groups, investors and other stakeholders to craft specific recommendations for the issues they care and know most about.

In what order will the components be prepared? Why?

A Comprehensive Plan is much like a novel with each chapter leading into and influencing the next. The first components of PLANPGH to be examined will be Open Space, Parks and Recreation; Cultural Heritage; Transportation; Public Art and Urban Design.

These first four components were strategically chosen because they:

  • are currently high priority issues facing the City of Pittsburgh;
  • are closely inter-related;
  • create a strong framework upon which later Comprehensive Plan components can be based;
  • create the ecological and physical “connective tissue" for the city;
  • encompass a substantial portion of the City's land area, thereby maximizing the efficiency of and public investment in the Comprehensive Planning process;
  • are directly regulated by the City of Pittsburgh.

Later components will be addressed based on priority, availability of funding and with the help of partners who share responsibility for those components. For instance, the City of Pittsburgh is not directly responsible for the education system. However, the City does have influence over such things as transportation, urban design, and neighborhood development, all factors that impact the viability of schools.

When will PLANPGH be complete?

The Plan will take approximately five years to complete.

What are the benefits of this approach?

This slower more methodical approach allows the city to:

  • Gain a greater level of detail than is typical of most Comprehensive Plans;
  • Increase opportunities for residents to get involved in the planning process. Each plan component will provide opportunities for involvement through committees, community meetings, focus groups, surveys, and public events. Every effort is being made to find creative and fun ways to connect with the community. With twelve different components in this plan, there will be many more opportunities for community input than in a typical comprehensive planning process;
  • Draw people into the issues they care most about, increasing the likelihood that they will stay engaged throughout the whole process;
  • Employ specialized firms to handle the various components of the plan, allowing for an expert and focused end result;
  • Better allocate staff time to manage and facilitate the process;
  • Get started right now!

Why is it important to participate in the City's Comprehensive Plan process?

By participating in the Comprehensive Plan process the residents and stakeholders will have a voice. Participating is a chance to express your opinion, ask questions, suggest possible solutions or simply get a better perspective on what is going on in Pittsburgh.

How will the City integrate all twelve plan components?

The twelve components of PLANPGH will be integrated by:

  • Addressing universal goals that will guide every plan component. These goals are to:
    1. Strengthen Pittsburgh's position as a regional hub City and enhance its global significance.
    2. Provide equal access and opportunities for all to live, work, play, learn, and thrive.
    3. Grow and diversify Pittsburgh's economy and its tax base.
    4. Foster a sense of citywide community while strengthening neighborhood identities.
    5. Capitalize on Pittsburgh's diverse natural and cultural resources.
    6. Respect and enhance the relationship between nature and the built environment.
  • The plan's organizational structure:
    • Each of the twelve plan components will have a Management Committee consisting of 10-20 residents who are actively engaged as professionals or volunteers in that given component. The Management Committee assists City Planning staff by providing their knowledge, data and outreach to their respective communities.
    • A PLANPGH Oversight Committee, consisting of one Management Committee member from each of the individual plan components, will steward the plan throughout the entire five-year project to assure that recommendations from each plan component are given consistent consideration.
  • "Cross-pollinating" Management Committees, so that important organizations or key people that work on many different issues are represented on multiple committees;
  • "Cross-pollinating" consultant teams. For example, one consultant team with expertise in open space and cultural heritage planning is the lead firm for the Cultural Heritage Plan, and also a sub-consultant for the Open Space, Parks and Recreation Plan.
  • Strategically timing the plan components so that each one builds on the other, and plans with overlapping issues are undertaken together;
  • Using a common source of information to assure consistency between the various plan components. The City's new on-line database, called PGHSNAP, will be the foundation for all of the plan components;
  • Using consistent formatting, graphics and content for all PLANPGH documents;
  • Using Department of City Planning staff as Project Managers for each plan component, allowing for a single point of reference for all plans to come together;
  • Pursuing new Federal funding streams that encourage integrated planning.

How will the City integrate neighborhood plans?

A Comprehensive Plan is a city-wide look at the many layers of the physical and social fabric of the city. Because neighborhoods are one of the city's most unique features, PLANPGH will incorporate feedback about and from neighborhoods in a variety of ways:

  • PGHSNAP, the City's on-line database of city and neighborhood information, will serve as the baseline data source;
  • Project managers and consultant teams will work with neighborhood planners to pull together current neighborhood plans as background research for each plan component;
  • Management committees will have neighborhood advocates included from across the city to bring both their knowledge and a passion for their neighbors' needs;
  • Community meetings will be dispersed throughout the city to capture the diversity and varying needs of the city's unique neighborhoods;
  • Neighborhood planners will be working closely on each component of the plan and will be taking information to and from the community as the process unfolds.

In general this process will determine common neighborhood issues, provide a foundation for future neighborhood plans, and physically, economically and socially connect the city's communities. Although a city-wide plan, key neighborhoods and districts within the City may emerge as priorities. PLANPGH will create an overall city-wide strategy upon which neighborhoods can base their own plans, assuring that neighborhood plans are compatible with each other without sacrificing each neighborhood's unique community character.

How will the City's Comprehensive Plan relate to Allegheny County's Comprehensive Plan (Allegheny Places, December 2008)?

Municipal plans are required to be consistent with their neighbors' plans and with the county in which they reside. PLANPGH will build on the momentum and vision created by the Allegheny Places County Comprehensive Plan, while drilling into a finer level of detail about city resources and land use processes.

Whom should I contact for more information?

For more information about PLANGPH, the City of Pittsburgh's first-ever Comprehensive Plan, visit this website or contact Andrew Dash, Senior Planner, Department of City Planning at 412.255.0760 or 412.255.2200.

Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor | Noor Ismail, AICP, Director
City of Pittsburgh | Department of City Planning
200 Ross St, 4th Floor | Pittsburgh, PA 15219
©2010 City of Pittsburgh