City bill would get tough on vacant buildings

Firefighters battle a five-alarm fire in a warehouse on York Street near Kensington Ave. in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on Monday April 9, 2012. (Joseph Kaczmarek)
Firefighters battle a five-alarm fire in a warehouse on York Street near Kensington Ave. in the Kensington section of Philadelphia on Monday April 9, 2012. (Joseph Kaczmarek)
Posted: April 27, 2012

IN THE WAKE of a fire that engulfed a vacant East Kensington factory and left two firefighters dead this month, City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez is adding teeth to legislation that would get tough on vacant-property maintenance.

Council's Committee on Licenses and Inspections will hold a hearing Friday on a bill, sponsored by Quinones-Sanchez, that would require large vacant commercial and industrial properties and foreclosed vacant residential properties to be sealed with commercial-quality, rustproof steel security panels or doors to keep trespassers out. There are 40,000 vacant properties in the city.

"This is about raising the standard so that we can get a handle on our large vacancies," Quinones-Sanchez said.

Under the amended bill, owners of vacant commercial or industrial buildings would be required to provide bonding to pay for sealing or stabilization. It would allow the Department of Licenses and Inspections to create a "Designated Community Partner" program to use local nonprofit and community groups to document violations like broken windows via time-stamped photos that would be sent to L&I.

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