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ZBA Chair Steps Down, Mayor Kenney Picks Temple Exec As Replacement

A change is coming at the top of one of Philadelphia development's most influential bodies.

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks at Bisnow's 2019 Philadelphia Forecast event on Dec. 19, 2018.

Former City Councilmember Frank DiCicco is stepping down from his position as chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Mayor Jim Kenney has picked Bill Bergman to be his replacement, Kenney's office announced. Bergman's first ZBA hearing as chair will be on Nov. 30.

Since Philadelphia's zoning code is written into the city's charter, changes can only be made by an act of Philadelphia City Council. Short of a council bill, the only way for a construction project that doesn't meet the specifications of the code to proceed is if the ZBA grants a variance, which it does an overwhelming majority of the time. Decisions made by the ZBA can only be appealed through the Court of Common Pleas.

DiCicco had served on the five-member ZBA since 2013 and as chair since 2016, when he was picked by Kenney to replace Jim Moylan, a chiropractor who counted longtime union boss John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, recently convicted on corruption and bribery charges, among his patients. Moylan stepped down after his offices were raided by the FBI as part of its investigation into Dougherty. Moylan was eventually convicted for fraud and sentenced to 15 months in prison early last year. 

Moylan was not the only ZBA member with union ties. Changes to the roster of non-chair board members are rarely publicized, but as of early 2019, James Snell, a member of Steamfitters Union Local 420, and c served on the board.

The ZBA's connection to labor and its reputation for opacity have made it a frequent target of criticism, especially from city council, which has proposed several bills to increase its influence on the body in recent years, including one that would grow the size of the board to seven and grant the council power to approve of the mayor's appointments.

Bergman comes to the ZBA after working as an administrator and executive at Temple University since 1996, most recently as vice president for Public, Government and Community Affairs, the announcement stated. Before he held that position, he served as chief of staff to the university president, with duties that covered real estate and facilities and involved working with the city's Planning Commission and Department of Licenses and Inspections, as well as the ZBA.

Prior to his time at Temple, Bergman served for 27 years in the Philadelphia Police Department, rising from the ranks of officer to hold several executive leadership positions, the announcement stated. 

DiCicco's time on city council representing the 1st District, which runs along the Delaware River from South Philly to Fishtown, lasted four terms and 16 years before he decided against running for a fifth term in 2011. During his tenure, he spearheaded the passage of the massively influential 10-year tax abatementcredited by many in the city's real estate community with restarting development after decades of stagnation.