Following deadly collapse, Council committee issues report on demolition standards

A special City Council panel created in the wake of the Center City building collapse that killed six people in June today released a report calling for stricter oversight and new licensing requirements for contractors, as well as increased resources for the Department of Licenses & Inspections.

The committee, which held five hearings this summer, produced 71 recommendations, from creating a new licensing category for demolitions to requiring property owners’ signatures on permit forms.

Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr. led the panel, which emphasized the difference between demolitions managed by the city and those by private contractors.

The city, the report says, has high standards and a good record of worker and resident safety for projects it manages. Private demolitions, however, face lax regulation and are sometimes run by fly-by-night contractors with little regard for safety.

The goal of the 71 recommendations was to bring private projects in line with many of the city’s standards.

In the June 5 tragedy, a wall from a private demolition project fell onto a Salvation Army thrift store next door, at 22nd and Market streets, crushing six people to death and injuring a dozen more. The property owner and contractor have been criticized for allowing unsafe demolition practices, although the project was approved and inspected by the city.

Councilman Jim Kenney, a committee member, said the city needs to refocus its efforts regarding demolitions.

"The Licenses & Inspections Department is not a commerce department," Kenney said. "It is a public-safety department."

The question of how much the proposed regulations would cost the city to implement and contractors to follow will be an issue as Council and the administration tackle the report in the coming months.

“The cost of safety? Priceless,” said Jones, who noted that he knew one of the victims of the June 5 collapse at 22nd and Market streets.

Council is requesting that the administration will go “line by line” to itemize the costs of the recommendations.

Days after the collapse, Mayor Nutter issued an executive order that similarly increased standards for private demolitions. He also called on Council to adopt some measures that would require legislative action.

Council members said they included some of the mayor’s proposals in their report and went much further.

Also on the committee were Council members Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Bobby Henon and Jannie Blackwell.

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