Council to push for tighter demolition standards

Posted: August 17, 2013

Philadelphia City Council will introduce legislation next month to strengthen the regulation of demolition practices, requiring contractors to develop safety plans and post them at every demolition site, along with the names of building owners, contractors, subcontractors, and city inspectors who signed off on the plans, according to the chairman of a special Council committee.

"We want the contractors to say how they're going to do the demolition, whether it's by hand or with heavy equipment, what they're going to do to protect other buildings, and it will be listed at the site so people will be able to walk up and say, 'Where's that shoring for the wall over there?' " said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.

"We're not asking for anything that is pie-in-the-sky unreasonable," Jones said. "We want someone looking over the shoulders of contractors . . . and we want enforcement. If we put laws on the books and don't enforce them, that's wrong."

Jones spoke Thursday at the end of the fifth day of Council hearings on demolition practices, spurred by the June 5 building collapse at 22d and Market Streets that killed six people and injured 14.

He said legislation to change demolition and construction practices would be introduced when Council returns from its summer break Sept. 12.

Most of the suggestions paralleled new requirements already announced by Mayor Nutter two days after the collapse.

But Council will insist on some additional items, Jones said, such as a specific telephone number at the Department of Licenses and Inspections that citizens could call with complaints.

Routing those calls through the city's 311 system has not worked, Jones said.

"People want to talk to someone knowledgeable," he said. "We want someone at L&I who is technically savvy to be able to pull up an address and see what is going on."

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, chair of Council's L&I committee, said a new computer system being installed should facilitate reforms.

Witnesses at the final Council hearing included Walt Krzyzanowski, a registered master plumber representing multiple plumbing associations and Plumbers Union Local 690. He criticized the Nutter administration for dissolving the city's Plumbing Advisory Board and declining an industry offer to teach the plumbing trade to city building inspectors.

Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or

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