Morning Headlines: Nutter and Clarke Propose Opposing Plans For Department of Licenses and Inspections

Photo by Bradley Maule from  June 5, 2013 collapse at 22nd and Market.

Photo by Bradley Maule from June 5, 2013 collapse at 22nd and Market.

Since the June 2013 building collapse (and an unknown number of other crumbling properties), the Department of Licenses and Inspections has been under particular scrutiny. Excuses ranging from a dearth in funds to simply having its hands tied have been heard time and again, which may be why the department will soon get an overhaul.

CBS Philly’s Mike Dunn reports Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke will be presenting their respective proposals for restructuring L&I today, but appear to be going in opposite directions for how to go about it:

Mayor Nutter is expected to release the recommendations of a task force he created after the Market Street tragedy. The chief recommendation will be a restructuring of the city administration, so that the Department of Licenses and Inspections is split in two.

One new department would oversee all demolition and construction in the city. The other would handle L&I’s other functions like permitting.

Meanwhile, Clarke has a different idea… Read more »

Morning Headlines: Roof Collapses At For Pete’s Sake Pub Building

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

Nobody was hurt, but that was a close one! The building that houses For Pete’s Sake Pub in Queen Village partially collapsed yesterday around 3:30pm. According to Philly.com, L&I is looking into what could have caused the roof of the three-story property (with apartments on the top two floors) to fall through.

Thus far, L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said “a zoning permit for interior renovations of the second and third floors” was granted to Peterbuilt Construction back in June. That permit was changed a few weeks ago to include floors and stairs, and an L&I inspector paid a visit to the site just last week to go over “building and fire safety with the contractor.”

No violations have been found at the site.

L&I probes partial building collapse in Queen Village [Philly.com]

In other news…

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City Finally Dismantles Boarded Up Frankford Home

frankford home fire 2013

4712 Worth Street (center)
Photo credit: Google Street View.

It’s not even city-owned blight, which begs the question…if it had it been, how much longer would it have taken? After almost a year of neighborhood meeting complaints and 311 calls to the city, the boarded up charred remains of this Frankford home are finally being removed. And at a heavier penny than usual, too.

John Loftus of the Northeast Times reports that after 4712 Worth Street burned down last July, the city stamped it with the ever ubiquitous “imminently dangerous” label and barred its entry. (Although a neighbor says possums and raccoons still managed to settle in.)

Read more »

Signs Now Required on Work Sites in Philadelphia

The city passed many new regulations in response to the building collapse last year. Yesterday, it unveiled another one: Detailed signs are now required at demolition and construction sites. The idea is that the detailed information will make it easier for the citizens of Philadelphia to report problems with work sites to the city.

For projects larger than three stories, a 3-by-5-foot sign is required. Smaller projects get a yellow one-pager with the same information.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: After Collapse, L&I Warns Homeowners to Check Foundations

Photo prior to collapse courtesy Google Streetview.

Photo prior to collapse courtesy Google Streetview.

The Inquirer has details on what caused Monday’s Cobbs Creek rowhouse collapse. L&I told Jason Grant that the homes at 6015 and 6017 Spruce collapsed because the foundation beneath their shared party wall had been deteriorating over decades.

The culprit, according to L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams, was a foundation that had been made of rubble stone and mortar. Modern construction relies on foundations made of continuous slabs of concrete, but older construction commonly used the same mixture found on Spruce Street.

An ominous warning about how easily deteriorated foundations can lead to structural problems:

Generally, Williams said, even one loose or missing stone in a rubble wall – which can get dislodged as mortar surrounding it gradually deteriorates to dust – may lead to a collapse.

If reading that gave you heart palpitations, Williams has a suggestion:

Williams noted Tuesday that many homes in the Northeastern United States were built with rubble stone and mortar foundations. He and L&I Emergency Services Director Scott Mulderig said anyone with turn-of-the-century or early-1900s homes should check basements at least yearly for loose or missing rubble stone; a dusty or sandlike buildup of deteriorated mortar; or water that could signal a compromised foundation or wall.

Most importantly, no one was hurt in Monday’s collapse. Grant talked to one of the homeowners who was at work when she got the news and raced home to find her two Scottish deerhounds – both safe.

A self-described pragmatist, she said, “Good things happen, bad things happen – you just hope the good ones outweigh the bad ones, but sometimes they don’t.”

More news this way …
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Morning Headlines: Deteriorating Stone Wall in East Falls Costs Locals

East Falls - W. Penn and Midvale driveway screenshot

Beginning of driveway between W. Penn and Midvale, from Vaux Street corner.
Photo credit: Google Street View

Picture this: the 85-year-old retaining wall that divides your yard from the back street’s common driveway starts deteriorating. The damage extends for two blocks, and if unaddressed, will result in the collapse of your rear deck (as well as those of your neighbors). The city then does a structural report on it, which verifies its danger, and says you and other affected residents must pick up the repair bills.

That’s exactly what happened to some locals from East Falls.
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“There Are Going to Be Some Legal Issues”

hoops deli

Google Street View image of HOOPS at 42nd and Chester circa 2012.

The former HOOPS Deli & Market at 42nd and Chester had a side wall collapse yesterday morning, and is now being torn down entirely. The wall caved in due to adjacent construction activity by Shafer Properties LLC, City Paper’s Ryan Briggs reports.

Thankfully, HOOPS has been closed for a long time, so no one was eating a cheesesteak when the wall fell in. But the Shafer construction site did have an outstanding L&I violation going back at least a month.

HOOPS was owned by the University of the Sciences — presumably post-sandwich making. Briggs:

Read more »

Yet Another Rowhome in Philadelphia Collapses; Owner Had Racked Up L&I Violations

The Daily News’ William Bender is back on the house collapse beat in Tuesday’s Daily News, reporting on a house collapse at 61st Street and Glenmore Avenue in Southwest Philly. One home collapsed Sunday night, displacing five. L&I inspected the block, and deemed 16 more homes unsafe.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the collapse. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy to find the owner:

Read more »

L&I Says Rowhome Collapse That Caused Injuries “Is Not a Big Deal”

strawberry mansion rowhome

A Google Street View image shows 3026 and the surrounding homes in 2011.

Around 10:40 this morning, a large chunk of an imminently dangerous building on West Diamond Street fell on top of two workers for Gama Wrecking. A witness to the events at 3026 Diamond told Action News “it was a freak accident, wrong place at the wrong time.”

It’s an unfortunate reality that demolishing imminently dangerous buildings — L&I’s current bailiwick — is itself a dangerous task, even when, as in this case, workers adhere to every safety regulation and procedure and wear all required gear.

Read more »

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