L&I main office on 11th floor of Municipal Services Building | Image via Google Street View
Questionable goings-on in L&I land again? It depends on whom you ask. According to the Inquirer’s Alfred Lubrano, the Department of Licenses and Inspections allowed nine “inexperienced and uncertified inspectors” to conduct “around 600 inspections of unsafe buildings in a single week last month.” Adding to the murky affair, each of the nine newbies “then recorded their work in L&I’s database under the name of another man, an experienced inspector with the agency.”
Could this be a symptom of the department’s desperate attempt to stay on top in an ocean of bureaucratic, financial and/or managerial issues? Maybe. But the department already has a less than stellar reputation (even City Controller Alan Butkovitz has critiqued L&I as being neglectful when it comes to inspecting unsafe buildings in a timely manner), so why this now? “This story is built on a host of unnamed speakers, who raise a host of safety and legal issues that are completely without merit,” said Commission Carlton Williams in an email to Property. He went on to explain the process:
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Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco
Watchdogs have said for years that Philadelphia’s Licenses & Inspections department is dangerously underfunded.
It was a victim of the recession, enduring cutbacks in staff under Mayor Michael Nutter. During his budget address Thursday, Nutter proposed an additional $5.5 million for the department next fiscal year, which would translate into 43 new employees. By 2018, he said L&I plans to boost its staff by 20 percent.
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News of an illegal demolition having taken place on Poplar Street last spring has emerged, the Inquirer‘s Alfred Lubrano reports:
Little more than a year after a botched demolition triggered a Center City building collapse that killed six, a demolition company took down nearly half a block of buildings in Philadelphia’s Fairmount section without obtaining the required permits, an Inquirer investigation has found.
In addition to not having permits for the demolition of the five Fairmount buildings, Lubrano writes, Ashaw Demolition also razed “a house that had been in a family for four generations.” The owner claims in court documents that Ashaw never informed them of the demolition.
Even more bizzare, though? Lubrano reports the company is on the city’s master demolition list, “an exclusive club of companies called on when the city needs to demolish buildings.”
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Photo Credit: Curtis Blessing
City Controller Alan Butkovitz has released another report critical of Philadelphia’s Licenses & Inspections department.
The review, “Vacant Properties Creating Neighborhood Nuisances,” (below) says L&I is failing to hold the owners of vacant, dangerous buildings accountable and keeping inaccurate, outdated records.
“There is no excuse for putting lives at risk due to deteriorating and collapsing buildings,” said Butkovitz today at a press conference announcing his findings. “The city cannot wait until another tragic incident happens to stimulate action.” Read more »
Last month’s roof collapse at Lululemon on Walnut Street is sure to have rattled most of us who remember the June 2013 building collapse that left six dead.
Fortunately, only minor injuries were reported and the yoga store has since set up a temporary base elsewhere. However, the question remains: What exactly caused our most recent (at least, according to public knowledge) collapse scare?
Billy Penn’s Anna Orso spoke to Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney who specializes in collapse cases, who pointed to winter-weather water as the possible culprit: pointed to
Less of this, please.
Local: Mayor Nutter creates a board to check on post-building collapse reforms
Politicians looove appointing commissions that issue recommendations. And they often seem to equally love letting those recommendations collect dust on a bookshelf somewhere. Read more »
Months after the botched demolition that left six people killed in the neighboring Salvation Army store, Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order that created the Special Independent Advisory Commission. The group was tasked with studying the ins and outs of the Department of Licenses and Inspections and presenting recommendations for its improvement. Those findings were finally published last week.
SIAC chairman Glenn Corbett and executive director Peter Vaira spoke with Marty Moss-Cane of WHYY’s Radio Times about the commission’s data yesterday in an interview, which you can listen to here. Below, some snippets:
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The Inquirer reports this morning that a “blue-ribbon panel” is recommending that the Department of Licenses & Inspections be split into two agencies — one focused on construction, the other on the remaining licenses offered by the existing department.
The report comes a year after demolition on a neighboring building caused the deadly collapse of the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market streets.
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For Pete’s Sake had been in the midst of an expansion recently. The bar at Front and Christian had been working to expand to a second floor. On Tuesday afternoon, the Queen Village bar suffered a partial collapse. Luckily no one was injured, but that doesn’t mean lives weren’t impacted.
This Saturday, August 22nd at 6 p.m., Old Swede’s Church is hosting a fundraiser that will help offset any employee and staff hardship during For Pete’s Sake’s closure. Admission is just a donation and there will be food and drink plus music from Sweetbrier Rose, North Lawrence Midnight Singers and Paul Fejko.
Roof Collapses at For Pete’s Sake Pub Building [Property]
For Pete’s Sake [Official]
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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