Handful of Northeast vacants deemed unsafe

Local eyesore: A fire-damaged property on the 900 block of Griffith Street is shown. City Controller Alan Butkovitz said the home is vacant and dangerous and should be razed. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

There are more than 100 vacant homes in Philadelphia that are in such bad shape that they should be torn down immediately, City Controller Alan Butkovitz said last week. They’re just too unsafe to leave standing, he said.

“Each of these properties are all a time bomb ready to go off,” Butkovitz said Feb. 11.

Most of the city’s most dangerous vacant privately owned homes are in South Philly, the controller said, but there are a handful in the Northeast.

He pointed to a fire-damaged property on the 900 block of Griffith Street as a vacant and dangerous house that should be razed.

Among some of the other Northeast homes the controller’s office said were unsafe or hazardous were on:

— The 5100 block of Cottage Street;

— The 1200 block of Alcott;

— The 1300 block of Pratt;

— The 1400 block of Rosalie;

— The 1600 block of Harrison St.

— The 6500 block of Edmund;

— The 600 block of Welsh Road;

— The 4700 block of Roosevelt Boulevard;

— The 4600 block of Marple Street;

— The 7300 block of Whitaker Avenue.

“There is no reason why all of these imminently dangerous properties are standing,” the controller said. “There is no excuse for putting lives at risk due to deteriorating or collapsing buildings.

The demolitions could cost the city about $9 million, Butkovitz said.

Not only could the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections tear down 101 buildings that Butkovitz pointed to in a report he released last week, but L&I needs to hire 80 to 100 more inspectors to bolster the work of 56 now on the payroll. Butkovitz said he recommended the city add more inspectors nine years ago.

Mark McDonald, Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman, said the administration just got the controller’s report and needs time to look it over. He did point out the city has increased the number of L&I inspectors; 35 have been hired.

He also said the city reduced the number of imminently dangerous buildings from 628 in the 2013 fiscal year to 301 in the 2014 fiscal year.

In the same time period, McDonald said, the number of buildings that have been cleaned and sealed have gone from 1,491 to 1,950.

The controller said his staff looked at more than 1,200 privately owned vacant structures that had been issued L&I violations. Most had multiple violations, Butkovitiz said, for everything from high weeds and trash to collapsing structures.

“We identified 101 that were considered either imminently dangerous, unsafe or hazardous,” he said.

Of those, 20 were subject to on-site observations by the controller’s staff.

Some had collapsing roofs, falling down support walls, unsealed entries and broken windows.

The controller’s staff reported some of the dangerous conditions to L&I, Butkovitz said, and three already have been torn down.

The controller knew which properties are vacant because the city issues an annual $150 vacant property license. Butkovitz said those annual license renewals should be bumped by $250 if owners neglect their properties.

Butkovitz is not the only city official to look over the large amount of vacant structures in Philadelphia.

A bill proposed last year by City Councilman Dennis O’Brien (R- at-large) targeted large vacant commercial and industrial structures and called for the city to keep them in a database. ••

See an unsafe home?

Anyone who sees an unsafe vacant home can report it to the City Controller’s office at 215–686–3804.