Vacant Land Inventory Post for Code for Philly


The Philadelphia Vacant Land Inventory is an ArcGIS-based mapping tool that will be used to document specific characteristics about vacant and underutilized land lots in Philadelphia. Using a set of databases that already exist on a number of criteria (anything from zoning code to shade cover), the goal is to create an online mapping tool for interested parties to identify plots that are suitable for growing food and plants. This will be Phase I of a two-step process in which we will use the first map to identify plots that will need to be ground-truthed for further inspection. We hope to be able to send out teams to do the Phase II on-the-ground work in summer 2014. After the second phase of the project, the Food Policy Advisory Council’s Vacant Land Sub-committee will conduct an analysis of the findings, and present a final report to the FPAC and the Mayor.

We also anticipate potentially integrating this project with, to the extent that is feasible and useful. To that end, it is important that all data is using the same unique PARCEL IDENTIFIERS. That may require some conversation, so please be in touch!


  1. Gather information about where food production can happen in Philadelphia.
  2. Improve coordination between agencies, nonprofits, and gardeners/farmers, recognizing the synergies with other sustainability goals and increase the possibility of cohabitating sustainability infrastructure.
  3. Leverage resources and support garden/farm permanency by increasing the understanding of opportunity.
  4. Increase equity by encouraging support for areas without adequate access to food or open space, high vacancy, and high demand for urban agriculture.
  5. Increase data informed discussions with stakeholders and policy makers and access and training for advocates.

Scope of land inventory

  1. Where can food production happen in Philadelphia?
  2. What types and ranges of intensity of urban agriculture can Philadelphia support?
  3. What land is available and appropriate for urban agriculture? a. Public Land — underutilized and vacant local, regional, state, federal b. Private — underutilized (particularly large swaths) and vacant/abandoned


  1. Amassing of data
  2. Data analysis
  3. Report of findings that can inform land bank strategic planning and roll out of Philadelphia urban agriculture programming
  4. Initial non-public tool to be shared with policy makers
  5. Public tool/ web-based map that is incorporated into
  6. Data integrated into LAMA - particularly with data involving sensitivities (?)


  • Web-based
  • Capability to show and hide different criteria layers, similar to Culture Blocks

Existing Datasets

Vacant, abandoned and underutilized plots


Slope of land


Permeable surface



  • Proximity to public transportation

Socioeconomic indicators


Proximity to other gardens/parks/recreational spaces

  • (gardens)

Proximity to schools


Existing uses

Farmers Markets


Land Use


Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Parks


Tree canopy/shade cover


Proximity to stormwater inlet


Other Criteria Needed

  • Area of parcel
  • Building layer
  • Population density


  • Individuals and community members to create community gardens and farms
  • Non-profits with urban agriculture programming to identify viable lots
  • Advocates to achieve simple and transparent processes for creating permanent garden or farm spaces

About the Food Policy Advisory Council and Project Partners

The Food Policy Advisory Council of Philadelphia (FPAC) was convened in 2011 to advise Mayor Nutter on policies to improve Philadelphia’s food system. Our mission is to facilitate the development of responsible policies that improve access for Philadelphia residents to culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound, and affordable food that is grown locally through environmentally sustainable practices.

The FPAC currently has 6 active sub-committees working on internal Council policies and relevant issue areas: Governance and Membership, Communications and Outreach, Anti-Hunger, Local Food Procurement, Zero Waste, and Vacant Land. The Vacant Land Sub-committee is chaired by FPAC member Amy Laura Cahn at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, which also hosts the Grounded in Philly website. The Vacant Land Sub-committee members who are partners on this project include representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Temple University, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


Hannah Chatterjee

FPAC Coordinator


Amy Laura Cahn

Vacant Land Sub-committee Chair


Project Activity

Update #3

New Data sets: Vacant Lot Cleanups -

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Locations -

Update #2

One more note on data. I am working to get a database of publicly owned underutilized land (i.e. land that the city or state wouldn't sell, but could be used for urban ag). I'll holler when I get it.