Background Information

Background on the Comprehensive Plan

The City of Pittsburgh has already completed and adopted key chapters of its' Comprehensive Plan, and has seen additional components in production and final review. The adopted plans are already moving forward into implementation. At the same time, the City of Pittsburgh has been developing critical documents for the future of the City, including documents created by the City and its partners such as the Complete Streets Policy, the Affordable Housing Task Force report, OnePGH, the Climate Action Plan, the P4 Metrics document, Equitable Development: A Path to an All-In Pittsburgh, and others.

The Department of City Planning is working to integrate these plans and their overarching principles into our policy and implementation work every day, and also to fully realize these principles and strategies into a completed Comprehensive Plan for the City which incorporates those plans and then focuses on the three key elements of housing, mobility and economic development to generate a renewed, forward-thinking land use plan that touches on the needs of all communities in the City.


History of the Comprehensive Plan

Pittsburgh has a long history of comprehensive planning which has helped to shape the city and inform the work on the current Comprehensive Plan.


Project based planning begins under direction of Pittsburgh’s “Father of Park” Edward Bigelow, leading to the creation of Schenley Park, various Oakland cultural amenities, public libraries and museums.


The Pittsburgh Survey, a pioneering sociological study of Pittsburgh funded by the Russell Sage Foundation of New York City, is completed. The Survey is published in magazines, including Collier’s, in 1908 and 1909, before being expanded into a series of six books published between 1909 and 1914. The Pittsburgh Survey is considered a landmark of the Progressive Era reform movement.


Frederick Law Olmstead completes and presents a plan, "Main Thoroughfares and the Downtown District" to the City (was originally intended to be a Comprehensive Plan but was scaled back).


The "Citizen’s Committee on the City Plan" is created by business interests in Pittsburgh. A series of six reports were completed: Pittsburgh Playgrounds (1920), Major Street Plan (1921), Parks (1923), Transit (1923), Railroads (1923) and Waterways (1923). The Playgrounds and Major Street Plan were adopted by the City's Planning Commission in 1922. An update to the Major Street Plan was completed by the City in 1926.


The City conducts the "Real Property Inventory of Pittsburgh," providing the first comprehensive study of housing conditions across the City and serving as the basis for the Public Housing programs established under the Housing Act of 1937. Robert Moses prepares the "Arterial Plan for Pittsburgh," a ten-year plan for thoroughfare projects.


The Planning Commission begins preparing the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan annually.


The Planning Commission releases the "Groundwork and Inventory for the Master Plan," presenting major data on the City.


A "Preliminary Master Plan for Pittsburgh" is created including the following plans: "A Generalized Plan of Prospective Land Use," "The Prospective Major Highway Network," "The Prospective Mass Transportation System," "The Prospective Railway System," and "Recreational Facilities of the Master Planning Guide."


A Zoning Ordinance rewrite occurs based on the 1947-48 documents. A Master Plan for Riverfront and Hillside Development is completed .


A Comprehensive Plan for the City of Pittsburgh is drafted but never adopted.


Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code (PA MPC) is enacted by the State (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are exempted from the mandate to produce Comprehensive Plans in Pennsylvania).


Pittsburgh, through both the City and partners such as the Riverlife Task Force, creates a series of plans around the City's riverfront, triggering a wave of public investments in trails and open space and private investment in development.


Pittsburgh’s Downtown Plan is completed, an effort to reinforce the role of Pittsburgh's downtown in the regional economy.


The City adopts a major revision to its Zoning Code.        


A proposal is made for the completion of a Comprehensive Plan. It was intended to consist of twelve components meant to be produced over time including topics such as: open space, historic preservation, urban design, public art, transportation, infrastructure, housing, economic development, education, energy and land use.


The City releases PGHSNAP, a data resource in two parts: Asset Planning, which included data at the City-wide level, planning sector level and neighborhood level; and Action Planning, a series of metrics to determine neighborhood health.


PreservePGH, the City's Cultural Heritage and Historic Preservation Plan is adopted by Planning Commission as the first part of the City's Comprehensive Plan.


OpenSpacePGH, the City's Open Space, Parks, and Recreation Plan is adopted by the Planning Commission as a part of the City's Comprehensive Plan.


The p4 Pittsburgh initiative is created through a collaboration between the Heinz Endowment and Mayor’s Office, creating an organizing framework for growing jobs, mobilizing capital, rejuvenating neighborhoods and improving lives; it outlines the p4 guidelines which include: People, Planet, Place and Performance.


A Complete Streets Policy is developed by the City and adopted as a part of the City's Comprehensive Plan.


OnePGH, Pittsburgh’s resilience strategy, is created with help from the 100 Resilient Cities Project and the City’s Department of Sustainability and Resilience, and adopted by the City’s Planning Commission.


The Uptown EcoInnovation District Plan is adopted as the Department of City Planning’s first completed Neighborhood Plan in many years.


Neighborhood Plans, intended to be adopted as a part of the City's Comprehensive Plan, are underway in Greater Hazelwood, Homewood and the Manchester/Chateau neighborhoods.


The Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan approved by Pittsburgh City Council.


New riverfront zoning, known as the RIV, is adopted as a result of a two-year effort to protect and promote the City’s riverfronts.


Current Approach

The approach thus far has been to enact components of the Comprehensive Plan in sequence, while at the same time having the flexibility to respond to new major planning initiatives including OnePGH. The City has already put forward a preservation plan, PreservePGH, and an open space plan, Open Space PGH, and has an art plan under development, among others.

  1. Stand-alone thematic components of a comprehensive plan:

    • PRESERVEPGH identifies Pittsburgh's cultural and historic resources. It explains how these assets contribute to Pittsburgh's attractiveness, economic growth potential and living and working environments. It also recognizes the City's cultural influences — an often intangible and overlooked element of comprehensive planning. Overall, PRESERVEPGH presents a strategy to preserve the City's character and capitalize on the opportunities that cultural and historic resources offer in the 21st century and beyond.
    • OpenSpacePGH is our city’s first comprehensive guide to the optimal use of its vacant, green and recreation spaces. As one of twelve components of PlanPGH, this plan provides clear instructions and guidelines for land use and infrastructure decisions related to the ownership, management, maintenance, connectivity and programming of Pittsburgh’s open space system. Over the next 25 years, City leaders, staff and residents will be able to apply these directions to meet current and future recreation, park and open space needs. The plan will position our open space, parks and recreation system to achieve the goals identified in OpenSpacePGH.
    • Public Art Plan (in progress)
    • Pittsburgh Bike Plan (in progress)
  2. High-level, values driven planning frameworks

  3. Task force reports, policy statements, and complementary documents

Furthermore, the Department of City Planning is in the process of producing Neighborhood Plans, which will be further guided and bolstered by the implementation of a Comprehensive Plan. These plans can be found on the Department of City Planning Projects page, and include:

As the Comprehensive Planning process progresses this page will continue to be updated to reflect the current state of the Comprehensive Plan.

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