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.