Liza Casey and Tom Pederson

Urbanizing GIS: Philadelphia's Strategy to Bring GIS to Neighborhood Planning

Urban planners have a need to differentiate between the qualitative aspects of environments but maps have a tendency to sterilize reality. Even when colored thematically, they some how lack sufficient expression to depict the character of a neighborhood. In Philadelphia, our parcel base map depicting Ludlow, a neighborhood where the average value of a single family home is less than $5,000, looks just the same as the one in Rittenhouse Square where the average home value is over $300,000. The average parcel size is just about the same. The streets have the same width. There are areas coded as parks in both vicinities. Somehow, the maps do not convey the stark hopelessness of Ludlow or the old world affluence of Rittenhouse Square. They lack any intuitive indication of quality of life.

Philadelphia has decided to encourage its neighborhood based planners to take advantage of the City's investment in GIS by allocating funds to Community Development Corporations (CDCs) for GIS hardware, software and training and by providing base maps of the neighborhoods. The hope is that the CDCs will be able to create unprecedented views of their neighborhoods and present development proposals and grant applications that can better illustrate both need and impact. What the CDCs need to show--quality and character of environment -- cannot be classified with the same ease with which one can classify soil types. As a tool, GIS, had its roots in environmental studies. This paper is a discussion of how Philadelphia is trying to apply GIS effectively to the complex and emotional circumstances that surround neighborhood planning in its dense, troubled, urban environment.

The CDCs and Philadelphia's Strategic Planning Program

During the late 1960's and the 1970's the federal government realized the great needs of the inner cities which had long been in decline. This was made evident by legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 and by funding programs which included the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The CRA mandates that lending institutions implement loan and investment programs that support inner city redevelopment as a requirement for expansion elsewhere. The CDBG program provides federal funding for urban renewal and, in particular, housing development.

Community Development Corporations (CDCs), inner city neighborhood organizers with a goal of neighborhood revitalization, emerged in the 1970's in this environment. They were participants of the funding and support generated by the "War on Poverty". While their overall interest was in community development CDBG dollars have drawn the CDCs primarily towards housing development. Since CDBG recipients are encouraged to develop projects for which CDBG funding complements non-public dollars, the CDCs are in position to sponsor projects which meet both the CDBG requirements and those of other reinvestment organizations such as those developed to comply with CRA requirements.

In Philadelphia it is the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) which has the responsibility for distributing the 79 million dollars of CDBG money that is allocated each year to the City. OHCD has currently apportioned part of those funds to support about twenty-five CDCs.

In 1994, thirteen of these CDCs were given funding to develop five year strategic plans. OHCD realized that project oriented neighborhood investment tended to produce isolated projects that did not impact the neighborhood as a whole. The strategic planning process was therefore put in place to take a more comprehensive approach to planning urban neighborhood redevelopment. As part of the strategic plan program OHCD gave selected CDCs ArcView 1.0, hardware, training, digitized maps and data in order to enable them to take advantage of GIS technology

as part of their strategic planning process. Their package included a mapbase that contained the street casings, property parcels, and data associated with those parcels including ownership, property type and assessed value from the Board of Revision of Taxes; tax delinquency from the Revenue Department; and occupancy status from the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

Neighborhood mapping, particularly as a planning tool, seems natural and relevant in the hands of neighborhood organizers. As Doug Aberley says in Boundaries of Home: Mapping for Local Empowerment, "If images of our neighborhoods, our communities, and our regions are made by others, then it is their future that will be imposed. But if maps are made by resident groups, individuals who have quality of life as a goal, then images of a very different nature predominate." OHCD and the City of Philadelphia strongly support community based planning. This was big factor in the City's successful bid for a 100 million dollar federal Empowerment Zone grant. The first of the five principles used to guide the proposal process was "Neighborhood-level planning results in the greatest long-term commitment" (Empowerment Zone, 1994).

Difficulties Bringing GIS to the Neighborhoods

The City has already funded almost $100,000 to bring GIS to neighborhood planning. The program is still in its first stages. While the concept has been acclaimed by City officials and the CDCs themselves, implementation has brought to light obstacles on a number of very different levels. The ability to apply computer modeling to the planning process "is predicated on the basis of a rational technocracy in which the requisite data for planning can be obtained." (Batty, 1979). Philadelphia has been aware of the need to restructure its land records or address-based databases for more than five years and the concept of an Integrated Database of Land Records (IDLR) has been on the table equally long. The City is, however, faced with a host of problems common to large cities with an investment in standalone legacy systems.

Among the problems is the lack of standardization in the recording of addresses--the key that links land record databases to each other. (Philadelphia, it should be noted, has started work on a system to cross-reference the address variations used in different City databases.) Other practical problems include diverse operating environments, incompatible equipment and equipment ineffective at meeting the demands of GIS technology. During implementation we became aware of still other impediments. For example, the great diversity in the ability of the staffs of the various CDCs to grasp the techniques involved in the application of GIS technology and dissimilar techniques for the collection of data.

Further, as the program progressed an entirely different category of problems emerged, much broader than the program itself. The maps began to seem very limited in their ability to portray the qualitative aspects of a neighborhood environment. Because we can see the coverages given to the neighborhoods in the context of the citywide mapbase, we are in a position to notice that the maps have a kind of uniformity that is disconcerting in comparison to the very distinct physical and social disparities in the neighborhoods. They tended to "foster the notion of a socially empty space" (Harley, 1988). Our analysis of these limitations is the focus of this paper.

Insufficient Symbology

If one follows the premise, that "maps are models of the world--icons if you wish--for what our senses see through the filters of environment, culture, and experience," then the CDCs do not seem to have sufficient tools to make appropriate models of their neighborhoods (Aberley, 1993). With the parcel base maps, tax assessors data, tax delinquency and vacancy data, there does not seem to be any way, for example, to convey the beautiful old stone buildings which are such a part of Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood. Those that were turned into multi-family dwellings are simply so coded. Those that were vacant and boarded are coded as vacant tax delinquents. There does not seem to be a means to convey the value of this wonderful architecture to the neighborhood or what it is worth as a resource. The same applies to mapping the locations of local cultural or community value, such as a famous family owned barbecued chicken place on the corner which is a social gathering place for the neighborhood. Nor is it apparent how to map other elements that make the environment unique such as wall size murals or statuary created by local artists, stores selling ethnic foods and other imported goods, local restaurants, blocks of particularly well kept houses, blocks of houses with details that reflect a certain building style, or lively commercial corridors.

Similarly, there is no ability to communicate the shocking degree of abandonment and dissipation in some of the neighborhoods. Crumbled buildings, burned out abandoned cars, trash strewn lots and streets, broken glass and graffiti are in evidence everywhere but not on the maps. For example, in the map of the Ludlow neighborhood, in north Philadelphia, the neat little parcel lines, which correspond to its original development, seem to suggest some kind of active ownership interest whereas, in fact, whole blocks have been completely abandoned or demolished and former owners are long gone owing the city as much as 27 years worth of back taxes.

The point of a CDC map is to allow politicians and decision- makers to see both the problems and potential in proposed neighborhood planning activites, and how that neighborhood might be affected by their funding strategies. The lack of ability to portray cultural and social values, and the quality of the environment, limits the map's potential as a medium for the expression of the needs of an individual neighborhood in its strategic plan. Of equal concern is that now the CDCs can easily produce maps, there is a real potential for the maps to be misleading, however well-intentioned their makers. "Maps are a major tool for decision-making. . . .Poorly designed maps may convey false ideas about the facts represented by the data, and bias the decision-making process" (Buttenfield, 1991). Further,

. . .graphics software no more guarantees good maps than word- processing software assures good writing. . . .Beware of software products that promise instant maps. Unfortunately for many would- be map makers, not all developers of software are aware of the principles of cartographic design. And unfortunately for many software users, it is possible to produce an attractive, well- balanced map with neat symbols and crisp labels that is a confusing, graphically illogical puzzle (Monmonier, 1993).

Although GIS technology has escalated the interest in and demand for maps by those involved in urban planning at any level, if the CDCs were still making handcolored maps they would be faced with the same issues. The problem with mapping urban neighborhoods is that traditional map design has not included to any significant degree the social, cultural and environmental features of the urban neighborhoods. Rivers are easy to identify on maps, as are roads. There is a science of cartography and textbooks that describe the historical development of techniques which portray geographic features. (Robinson, Sale, Morrison, 1978; Raisz, 1938 and 1948; Raisz, 1962; Monkhouse, Wilkinson, 1963 and 1971; Monmonier, Schnell, 1988). The development of the symbology for these features is documented. For example, there is a whole chapter in The Power of Maps on how the symbol of hill sign has been developed (Wood, 1992).

Because of this lack of appropriate traditional symbolic cartographic representation, the question becomes: How can social, cultural, and environmental values be mapped when there is no symbology for their expression? The difficulty of this question has already been recognized.

...time and again, supposedly educated people draw boundaries for some new project on a map without reasonable regard for the people or the region to be effected. Rather than integrate buildings and other constructions with the landscape, the land is made over with bulldozers from border to border as a primary step in project implementation...The problem is that human and environmental considerations are far more difficult to code neatly into map symbols than the geometry of construction or destruction (Muehrcke, 1986).

In the keynote address of the 1990 GIS/LIS conference, John R. Borchert spoke to this same question in a much larger context. He states that "the central organizing goal in geographic study is to understand the evolution of the geographical structure of human settlement," and, further, that "the human settlement machine can be portrayed and conceptualized only in the language of maps, with the accompanying, distinctive problems of symbolization, generalization, scale, and projection." He believes that GIS will let these maps be created although he stresses it will require a lot of "motivation and persistence" because of the difficulty in dealing with "the underlying characteristics of the subject matter" (Borchert, 1990).

Suggested Approaches

While the problem of mapping human elements has been recognized, suggestions of any means to resolve this issue are rare. Research on this subject uncovered f ew examples of attempts to map the cultural and environmental aspects of urban environments. In those that we found see below we recognized some of the same issues now facing the CDCs.

In the late 1960's the Society for Human Exploration was founded under the leadership of William Bunge. The Society planned a series of maps called the "Detroit Geographical Expedition" which intended to be a human exploration of the earth's surface. One of the products of this expedition were these two maps which were intended to show the geography of children. The two maps show buildings, streets, vacant land and water but they also show living trees and shrubs versus dead trees and shrubs, rubbish and trash versus defined play areas and gym equipment and tricycles- cycles and scooters versus trucks, automobiles and fences. The two maps effectively depict the differences in the environments of the children who live in the confines of these two neighborhoods (Wood, 1992).

Figure 1: Detroit Geographical Expedition Maps of the Bloomfield Hills and Mack Avenue areas of Detroit. Courtesy of the Guilford Press.

One of the most interesting studies that we found was of Manteo, a community in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Manteo was lucky to have Randolf Hester in the role of community designer. It was a dying town bypassed by the highways built in the 1950's to direct traffic to the beaches of the Outer Banks. To preserve itself the town wanted to capitalize on its local small town charm to attract tourism. As its planner Hester was able to help the residents identify and preserve their valued life-styles in the face of change and keep Manteo from sacrificing its community traditions and destroying their valued places to find them replaced by a "phony folk culture." The key to Hester's success was his ability to get the community to focus on the places that the community collectively valued that became known as the "Sacred Structure" (Hester, 1982).

The feelings of the town as to the relative importance of various places were polled in a number of ways. When forced to choose between economic development and preservation of places which had a higher value than dollars the community had clear responses. The places they chose were the "settings for the community's daily routine" not places appealing to the eyes of trained professional planners. The result was a map of the Sacred Places. This map differed drastically from other official town maps and documents on which "most places essential to the social life of Manteo were not included...not in the zoning ordinance, not in the visual inventory, not in the list of historic sites" (Hester, 1982).

Figure 2: Manteo's Map of Sacred Places. Map used with permission of Randolph Hester.

Philadelphia's Approach

Although a map with little hearts showing "Sacred Places" may not be exactly what the CDCs need, the map represents a mapping concept the CDCs should apply. The first strategic plans, which at the time of publication had been delivered to OHCD as final drafts, represent a broad range of efforts to depict neighborhood circumstances. Looking at them as a whole, one cannot help but be moved by the hope for recovery made explicit in each. The circumstances that surround many of these neighborhoods are blocks and blocks of crumbled structures that breed a culture of drugs and crime, and vacant land, land that is the residue of collapse and abandonment strewn with trash that will decay before it is collected. Interspersed on these blocks are the properties occupied by the people who live there. "United by common threads of culture and geography, they are also isolated both from the larger community and from each other by concerns of safety and breaks in the physical and social fabric" (Ceiba, 1995).

The strategic plans are proposals for reweaving these breaks. The use of the Sacred Structure framework for mapping in Manteo guided the community to an assessment of their values. Although the circumstances are vastly different when mapping Philadelphia's urban neighborhoods, the same kind of awareness of the components of their environment can help make neighborhood residents aware of their community values and solidify them behind proposals, and opportunities for change.

The answer for the CDCs is, obviously, not a simple solution that we can profile in this paper and implement through our roles as promoters and supporters of the GIS project. However, we can propose suggestions, some that we would like to try to implement, and some that will require substantial develpment before they can be accepted as meaningful cartography.

When new constructs that need to be mapped become part of human experience, such as roads and services to meet the needs of automobiles at the turn of the century, new symbology was created. When we look at road maps now, the significance of the map features need little or no interpretation because road maps are now part of our culture. But when they were first being designed, the symbology had to be created. An example is the Rand McNally road map of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin for 1917. The map includes a legend that depicts a unique symbol and number for each of the thirty-five "auto trails" depicted on the map. The symbol was also attached to telephone poles and trees along the roadway for easy identification by the motorist since traveling by car was so new. Even though there are now far more roads and highways now than is 1917, current Rand McNally road maps contain only five or six variations of the shield (a derivative from the early symbols) which we know to represent highways.

Figure 3: 1917 Rand McNally road map with legend including unique symbols for each road. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The recognition of the relevance of community based planning, particularly in relation to urban revitalization, is new in the sense of the support it has received in Philadelphia (Peirce, 1995). Maps used in the planning process will necessarily be attempts to map features not already easily recognized. There will be an awkwardness to the process just as the map with thirty-five different road symbols seems awkward to us now, but the process has to start somewhere.

Hand in hand with the newness of this subject matter is GIS technology which has changed the process of development and production of maps. In the mid 1900 century, there was an earlier "major technological breakthrough" when the technique of engraving maps on wax, or cerography, was introduced. Initial etchings could be done on wax rather than on copper or stone and the wax allowed the use of letterpress type in place of laborious hand engraving of the letters. While this enabled increased production of commercial maps, critics concluded that it encouraged overlettering and that between 1842 and 1950 gave "a characteristic mechanical appearance to American maps" (Schwartz & Ehrenberg, 1980).

Clearly, the CDCs can and should take advantage of GIS technology, just as the commercial map making industry benefitted from cerography. However, they need to find ways to push through the awkward period and avoid the mistake of allowing this new ease of production to dilute awareness and pursuit of the meaningful presentation of information. We propose a three tiered approach that includes standardization, structured classification, and the development of appropriate symbology.


Of these three techniques, standardization, will likely be the least difficult to implement. On the surface, standardization may seem at odds with the intention to express a neighborhood's uniqueness but uniformity of the mapped elements can provide a context in which decision-makers can better discern that uniqueness. CDCs now have cartographic freedom to display the parcel based information however they choose. The strategic plans include maps that show vacant structures in black, blue, and brown. The impact of the differences of occupancy status between neighborhoods is diluted by the variety of the color schemes, forcing the map reader to constantly refer back to the legend on each map for assistance.

If the City standardized on a single color scheme for occupancy status, tax delinquency, or property type, and did so not just for the CDCs but for the agencies that focused on housing, planning, and inspecting, the significance of the information on maps displaying this data would become more easily recognized. If, for at least some of the data elements, the decision-makers, service providers, and neighborhood planners all used the same color schemes, the differences between the neighborhoods relative to those elements would become more readily apparent. It would lead to a familiarity with the symbology--a shared vocabulary. A map showing vacancy or tax delinquency or public ownership would become recognizable as such whether its source was a CDC, OHCD, or the City Council. A map illustrating an extreme situation such as public ownership in Ludlow would stand out in a visual inspection and need little or no interpretation. To an audience familiar with the coding, the map would have much greater impact.


Under the general problem of classification, there are several areas that need attention. The first is the need to create class intervals only after careful evaluation of the impact of the intervals on the data. This is closely followed with the need to then standardize the use of those class intervals on neighborhood based maps used throughout the city.

Below is one clear example taken from the plans that shows arbitrary class intervals leading to a misrepresentation of information.

	Neighborhood One                       Neighborhood Two

       $'s Tax Delinquent                     $'s Tax Delinquent 

		1-500                               100-1,000

	    500-1,500                             1,001-5,000

	 1,500-1,0000                            5,001-2,0000

The class intervals shown here do not seem to correspond to the formal classification methods of equal interval, standard deviations, or quantiles. They could correspond to a fourth method called natural breaks, but looking at the distribution of of data within the class ranges, they do not appear to have used natural breaks either. Tax delinquency in Philadelphia is a chronic problem. 145,000 properties or 28% of the properties in Philadelphia are delinquent. Most of them are structures which are abandoned or demolished and located in blighted neighborhoods. As a consequence, the average value of a delinquent property in the CDCs neighborhoods is well under $5,000 and the yearly tax is under $100. The properties have to be delinquent for years in order to owe an amount sufficient enough to make enforced collection worthwhile. The classifications do not accurately depict the true distribution of the data. For example, the data itself shows that in Neighborhood One's 1,500-10,000 range and in Neighborhood Two's 1,001-5,000 range the data is skewed. Seventy-six percent of the properties are less than $2,000. On both maps the class ranges will likely mislead a reader who, not knowing otherwise, would assume even distribution within the class and infer a delinquency level higher than what exists. This is true on both maps, especially so for Neighborhood Two's map, since the majority of instances of delinquency fall in these ranges. In these neighborhoods properties delinquent above $5,000 are outliers, most likely properties that belonged to businesses and industries now disbanded.

"Since numeric and spatial distribution will vary among different geographic phenomena, no universal 'canned' classification technique is appropriate for determining the class intervals of all data sets" (Plumb, 1988). The CDCs need to look at all delinquency data classed in small increments, and determine for themselves what set of intervals best fits their data including the appropriate number of classes. They need to determine what it is they are trying to convey with the data and determine its use. In addition, there may be factors other than appropriate numeric classification that they will want to take into consideration when creating the intervals. For example, the CDCs often acquire properties that the City takes to Sheriff Sale. However, the City will not go through this process unless the property is at least $800 delinquent. In neither of the two classification systems above could the CDCs determine precisely which properties could potentially be acquired through Sheriff Sale.

Once the class intervals are established for tax delinquency and the other quantitative information, use of the classes needs to become standard on neighborhood maps citywide. A lack of standard classes will result in situations like the above example where not even the set of properties included is the same since, unlike Neighborhood Two, Neighborhood One includes those that are delinquent for less than $100. The reader has no way of knowing the impact of excluding those properties. The use of standard classes will put the decision-makers in position to make fairer, more informed, evaluations. It will result in a system for depicting the spacial distribution of quantitative data that will enhance the decision making process and provide a context for the audience of the CDCs maps.

Another potential classification problem the CDCs need to consider is the representation of data in thematically shaded maps, or choroplethic maps. Information on choroplethic maps can easily be misrepresented because a physical boundary, such as a census tract, may not correspond to the statistical significance of the data within that boundary. For example, a large census tract covering a less dense area, may be highlighted as the extreme of a specific classification schema. The significance of that statistic may be distorted because the visual perception of the map may imply broader occurrence of that extreme. It belies the actual density pattern of the attribute being mapped.

The CDCs were given census block group coverages and census data and many of them included maps which displayed this data. Even within the small area of a census block group there is room for misinterpretation. For example, there are a number of instances where census block groups which have the least population, showed up in the highest categories of other datum such as percent unemployed or percent households on public assistance. The number of instances of unemployment or households on public assistance in the block group can be substantially less than block groups with four or five times its population even though the percentage is less in the more populated block groups. The maps, particularly when viewed individually are misleading as to where the higher concentrations of unemployed or welfare families are located. One would want to locate a social service office in an area where there is the highest number of clients not necessarily the highest percent per capita.

The CDCs need to be aware of this potential and should explore other means of aggregating quantitative data. The best means to do this will have to be researched and may require improvements in the technology. Two methods which could be applied to this situation are the use of distortion, and the use of isopleth maps.

Distortion is a technique where the size of the physical boundary is expanded or contracted to correspond with the proportion of the data being measured within that boundary. If were applied to a population map of the US, states like New York and California would appear disproportionately large and states like Nevada and North Dakota would be minuscule. Of course, the map would lose all correspondence with a coordinate based geography but, when done well, would retain enough shape, continuity, and proximity to facilitate comparison with a traditional map. The measure of the quantitative data, however, would become readily apparent.

Within these neighborhoods there are areas of similar circumstances which do not necessarily end at a parcel line or edge of a block. A technique called isoplethic mapping which is used to map a continuous phenomena could be applied to document contiguous areas representing the same conditions. The isolines, which need not conform to any specific geometry, could identify vacant land or abandoned structures where they are clustered regardless of street casings in between.

While use of these particular techniques may be beyond the CDCs, particularly because the technology at their disposal is not in place to facilitate their use, the CDCs need to be aware of the potential for misrepresentation of spatial aggregates and pitfalls inherent in various types of data presentation techniques.


The map symbols that everyone can recognize, churches, schools, windmills, oil fields, railroad tracks, airports, picnic areas, even golf courses represent physical characteristics of a general environment. There are other sets of symbols for specific fields of interest, for example there are well established symbols for those who study the earth sciences that represent glaciers, mudflats, marshes, swamps and so on (Raisz, 1962). Noted cartographer Arthur Robinson says:

Standardization of symbols can and must be accomplished for a set of maps at a given scale, such as a topographic set, but such standardization is likely to be useful only at that scale and in that combination. Special maps, such as those of the geographer or other social scientist, vary so widely in terms of scale and purpose that a large part of the cartographer's job is concerned with effectiveness of the symbols he selects or designs (Robinson, 1953).

The symbology needed by the CDCs for their strategic neighborhood plans has both a narrow scale and purpose. The maps need only be useful in a citywide discourse. The audience is limited to community members and their leaders, the providers of City services, and the decision-makers whether they are operating within City Agencies or readers of proposals for private grants or loans. The scale is small, limited to the blocks that make up a neighborhood. Still, the task is intimidating.

This task of visualizing mapped phenomena in all their detail and complexity will not be simple. It will take special effort and a great deal of experience. The job will be most difficult when you are sitting in an environmentally controlled room scrutinizing artificial map symbols, far removed in so many dimensions from the phenomena under study or the procedures used to create the map. In addition, your job is complicated by an obvious but often overlooked fact: we are all human (Muehrcke, 1986).

One of the CDC plans describes "a place for which people care beyond their private domain, and with which people associate in a broader sense. And a place that is accepted for what it is and that enables the community to create a collective identity built- on the social physical and economic orders defining that community" (Ceiba, 1995). The CDCs have clearly focused on their neighborhoods and are well aware of the significance of environmental, social and cultural components but have not mapped them. We do not believe that creating an effective symbology for the qualitative aspects of the neighborhood environments is something that will be done in the climate controlled computer room of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. It will have to evolve in concurrence with what the CDCs are producing on their own accompanied by continued attention, interaction, and experimentation.

One of the main problems gets back, once again, to standardization. The symbology we found in the plans was unique to each individual plan not just in terms of the symbol used but the subject matter the symbol represented. For example, institutions were symbolized in a broad range of ways. One map grouped all institutions such as schools, churches, hospitals and so on under a single symbol. On the other extreme was a map which used distinct symbols for each of three categories of schools and included the locations of mental health facilities, senior citizen facilities and soup kitchens. Similarly, the maps in each plan displayed commercial properties differently. Some simply showed commercial corridors as an aggregate while others color coded business types from fast food to beauty parlors. Institutions and commercial properties should be among the easiest for which to find and agree upon symbology.

But, here, standardization is not enough. The CDCs are right to include symbology for institutions but they need to move beyond and begin exploring icons for the cultural, social and environmental elements. Once they are aware of the potential this kind of symbology represents, we think they will naturally bring creativity and expression to the task of building the symbols for use in their maps.

We already found the plans had employed some innovative techniques such as one map which displayed drug troubled areas with brown streets and areas plagued by prostitution with, appropriately enough, red streets. This technique made it easy to see the physical relationship between these areas and schools, churches and other facilities used by the neighbors. Coloring the streets could blocks or blocks symbolize vicinities distinguished in other ways such as very good with a high concentration of children.

Surely the CDCs can find something better to represent points of interest than the little red squares Rand McNally uses. It may seem silly to start with but they need to experiment with icons of different sorts and there are lots of considerations they will have to address--How is a block garden represented? If they choose to use a little flowering tree, then is it important to distinguish gardens that are the result of neighbors cultivating an empty lot from the gardens built by Philadelphia Green (a local program which funds and assists in the conversion of lots to gardens)? What about a garden that contains statuary--would they combine symbols? What kinds of symbology might they want to use for social behavior? Do they want to use the same symbol, as Manteo did, for places like the famous chicken barbecue place, a bingo parlor and the place where the senior citizens gather to play dominos and watch the activities around them. Or do these represent different categories of place value? What about aesthetic or architectural value--do they use a miniature classical building to symbolize unique architecture? Do they symbolize the urban style graffitiesque murals? Do they distinguish them from murals created by the Anti-Graffiti Coalition?

Clearly it will take some time to find the answers and "motivation and persistence." (Borchert, 1990). It will take more time for the symbology to become as familiar to the Philadelphia planning and development communities as the Rand-McNally picnic area symbol is to map users in general. However, we are not aware of these questions ever having been collectively discussed in Philadelphia's planning community. Just getting those involved started talking about it is a big step. Getting community input on symbology for its environment will likely bring forth definitions for features that we as outsiders would never have considered. "There are often many truths in a place or an area right before our eyes, and yet we're not aware of those truths (or features, or facts) until a depiction or a symbol or even a diagram shows them to us. That is one reason why we need maps not only of far away places we've never seen but of the very regions we live in" (Greenhood, 1964)


The problems facing inner city neighborhoods have grown only worse since the 1970's "War on Poverty." Drugs and violence have increased. Continued abandonment and decay have further depressed the environment. Philadelphia is counting on the residents, the CDCs and others involved in neighborhood planning to find the investments that will best take these neighborhoods to the 21st Century. The CDCs will continue to need support but we are very optimistic about their use of GIS for analysis and presentation and pleased with the results we have seen. If they can focus on the process of mapping their environment we think that the resulting maps would have the potential to have critical impact in changing public policies, documenting development strategies, and convincing decision-makers to risk new financing approaches.

"Men may find God in nature, but when they look at cities they are viewing themselves" (Schwartz & Ylivsaker, 1968). Support of their effort is vital because what happens to these neighborhoods has an impact on everyone.


We would like to thank Belinda Mayo, Assistant Director, Community Development for the Office of Housing and Community Development. Without Belinda's insight into the potential of GIS technology for commuity planning there would have been no effort to bring GIS to the CDCs. Without her incredible patience and understanding during long periods of delay due to administrative and technical problems the effort would have long since ceased. Because of her we are looking forward to the time when the CDCs will be using GIS to the full extent of its potential.


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Liza Casey, Program Manager-GIS
City of Philadelphia
Mayor's Office of Information Services
1234 Market St., 18th Fl.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: 215-686-8174
Fax: 215-686-8258

Thomas W. Pederson
(Consultant on Philadelphia
GIS/CDC Implementation Project)
Doctoral Student University of Pennsylvania
City and Regional Planning
322 Meyerson Hall, 210 S. 34th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel: 215-898-9420
Fax: 215-898-9215