Nutter to hold anti-blight roll-out in Richmond

Tak­ing names and hand­ing out steep fines for broken win­dows and doors, the city is rolling out a tough new blight-fight­ing ini­ti­at­ive in Port Rich­mond.

The city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions this week planned to of­fi­cially launch a three-pronged ap­proach to deal­ing with the own­ers of va­cant, blighted prop­erty.

Fran Burns, the agency’s com­mis­sion­er, was sched­uled to hold a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day in Port Rich­mond to out­line a va­cant-land ini­ti­at­ive. The event will take place at noon today on the 3000 block of Rich­mond Street, near In­di­ana.

The pro­gram fea­tures:

• A re­search team that culls sev­er­al data­bases to find ac­cur­ate names and ad­dresses for the own­ers of va­cant prop­er­ties.

• En­force­ment of a “doors and win­dows” or­din­ance that al­lows L&I to charge own­ers $300 per day per open­ing for each door and win­dow that is not func­tion­al. The city also can at­tach li­ens to the own­ers’ per­son­al as­sets and is con­sid­er­ing tak­ing the prop­er­ties to sher­iff’s sale for L&I debts.

• Ded­ic­ated days in Mu­ni­cip­al Court, where Judge Brad Moss hears cases in­volving these prop­er­ties.

“You can’t just leave your prop­erty va­cant in Phil­adelphia,” Burns said.

The ef­fort ac­tu­ally has been on­go­ing since April, and L&I work­ers have con­duc­ted more than 1,500 va­cant-struc­ture in­spec­tions. Some 1,300 of those in­spec­tions have led to en­force­ment, and many of those prop­er­ties are now oc­cu­pied.

Of the 176 prop­er­ties that L&I has cited for win­dow and door vi­ol­a­tions two or more times, 50 own­ers have com­plied, the city said last week.

The first “blight court” ses­sion took place on Sept. 20. Of the 48 cases lis­ted, 35 were entered in­to a con­sent agree­ment, mean­ing the own­ers must in­stall win­dows and doors with­in 30 or 60 days.

Those 35 cases will gen­er­ate more than $87,000 in rev­en­ue to the city from pay­ment of li­cense fees, back taxes and fines.

A second court date was set for this past Tues­day.

Let­ters from the city so­li­cit­or and L&I seem to be hav­ing a big­ger im­pact than a mere vi­ol­a­tion no­tice.

“We’ve seen good suc­cess already, and it’s made a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence,” Burns said.

The com­mis­sion­er said her in­spect­ors, su­per­visors and re­search­ers are ec­stat­ic with the ini­ti­at­ive’s early suc­cess.

“They feel really good about this pro­gram be­cause they see the fruit of their work,” she said.

At the same time, re­search­ers have been un­able to track down many own­ers, and they’ve found that oth­ers have died.

In all, there are an es­tim­ated 20,000 va­cant prop­er­ties in Phil­adelphia, a huge chore to at­tack.

“We’re real­ist­ic,” Burns said.

Still, she noted, at­ten­tion has to be paid to the prob­lem. Va­cant prop­er­ties dis­cour­age in­vest­ment and en­cour­age squat­ters and an­im­als. The struc­tures de­teri­or­ate and can cause dam­age to ad­ja­cent build­ings.

“There are a lot of neg­at­ive im­pacts,” the com­mis­sion­er said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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