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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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Morning Headlines: L&I Officials Request $2 Million From City Council

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

City-owned blight may be the hardest to get rid of, but in the meantime Licenses and Inspections has been making an effort where it can. Yesterday, L&I petitioned City Council for an additional $2 million to their funding.

If Council approves the request, according to the Inquirer’s Claudia Vargas, L&I believes it could “demolish 650 buildings and seal 1,400 in the fiscal year that starts July 1, and hire an additional 34 employees, including 26 building inspectors.”

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Morning Headlines: L&I and Shirt Corner Owner Had Prepared for Possible Collapse

Photo credit: Joe Coufal

Photo credit: Joe Coufal

A 40-foot wall that careened down while JPC Group workers carried out the Shirt Corner’s assigned demolition caused the site’s partial premature collapse on Thursday. At least, this is what Leo Addimando — the property’s owner — said during yesterday’s press conference.

Addimando said that although the fall of the wall wasn’t planned, he was aware of the possibility. L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams added that it was for this reason that “every safety precaution had been taken,” particularly in light of the June building collapse at 22nd and Market.

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L&I Cannot Count High Enough to Tally How Many Buildings Have Collapsed in Philadelphia

West Philly Building Collapse

Fun story in today’s Daily News from William Bender: The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections literally has no idea how many buildings have collapsed in Philadelphia.

To make things even better worse, the Daily News has been trying to get this data for three months!

As a blue-ribbon commission investigates L&I in the wake of last year’s fatal collapse on Market Street, the beleaguered agency said this week that it cannot determine how many buildings have collapsed in recent years because the descriptions of the incidents to which its staffers respond are buried in an unsearchable database.

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