Butkovitz Says City Lacks Proper Enforcement at Construction Sites

Audit Date: October 10, 2012
Audit Categories
  • Investigation
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
October 10, 2012

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Says City Lacks Proper Enforcement
at Construction Sites

City Controller’s review found minimal oversight allowed contractors
to violate codes & negatively impact quality of life for residents

Review of Construction Activity in North Central Philadelphia

Controller’s Report on the Underground Economy

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a special review of Construction Activity in North Central Philadelphia that found public health, safety and quality of life concerns for residents in the Temple University area. These conditions are a result of the city’s inadequate monitoring and enforcement of contractors and developers.

The minimal oversight and lack of communication was among the five city departments charged with construction site monitoring, which included Licenses & Inspections (L&I), Streets, Public Health, Water and Police. Some of Controller’s on-site findings included the following:
▪ Illegal short dumping of construction debris in surrounding vacant lots
▪ Lack of dust screens and filters, which can allow for pollution in the air and waterways
▪ Missing air vacuum hoses, creating pollution and reducing air quality
▪ Street lane closures without proper permits and stairs built beyond code, encroaching pedestrian travel

“The lack of proper enforcement has allowed contractors to violate various codes and negatively impact the quality of life for surrounding residents,” said Butkovitz, today at a press conference.

Butkovitz continued, “As our city continues to grow and new construction projects take place, the city needs to take an aggressive approach to protecting the quality of life for citizens in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

While reviewing the oversight practices of the responsible city departments, the Controller found the Water Department does not monitor smaller construction sites, such as those near Temple University, for compliance with debris run-off. There was no evidence that L&I communicates with the Health Department to enforce noise restrictions and air quality issues. There also was little enforcement by the city to control illegal short dumping.

In order to improve project monitoring and code enforcement, the Controller recommends the following:
▪ Develop a Memorandum of Understanding among the five departments as a means to provide guidance to and authority for any inspector observing building code violations to immediately address the conditions observed

▪ Develop a mobile application that would allow department employees to send pictures, videos and additional information into a central location where each department could review, document and determine appropriate action.

The Controller conducted the special review of the construction activity in North Central Philadelphia, near Temple University, after receiving allegations that contractors were not complying with applicable building codes and related regulations.

“We need to embrace the revitalization occurring throughout our city, but we also need to ensure that all projects are done in compliance with all codes and regulations,” said Butkovitz.