L&I hopes to open office near campus

City Council could approve two new Licenses and Inspections offices in rapidly developing areas.

City Council will vote to approve two new Department of Licenses and Inspections districts before it goes out of session for the summer. One of the district offices will serve the Temple area because of the increase in development in the area.

With City Council’s approval, the department would oversee districts in the Temple and Point Breeze areas of the city. Currently, L&I oversees five geographic districts throughout the entire city. Offices would be located in both new districts to monitor the increased development.

The Temple area and the Point Breeze area have been major development “hot spots.” There has been an increase in construction permits and licenses unlike anywhere else in the city, which prompted L&I’s proposal to create the new districts, said Karen Guss, L&I’s director of communications.

Guss said City Council was “very supportive” of L&I’s creation of the two new districts.

“This office would be a way for the city to be more efficient in monitoring development in the Temple University area, responding to the volume of applications for city services in a timely manner and — just as important — being engaged with our existing residents in the area,” City Council President Darrell Clarke wrote in a statement.

Clarke represents much of the area in North Philadelphia where the development boom has been taking place.

According to the department’s website, L&I regulates construction by reviewing construction plans and conducting building inspections. The department monitors land use and zoning in the city and enforces city construction codes and regulations.

Currently, the university’s construction east of Broad Street is overseen by the Northeast District Office, on Castor Avenue near Shelmire Avenue, and development west of Broad Street is covered by the North District office, Guss said.

The North District office is on Rittenhouse Street near Wakefield, approximately a 25-minute drive from Main Campus.

There will soon be a specific office located closer to the Temple area to have “inspection staff located more in the heart of where” development is increasing, Guss said.

L&I and the city’s Department of Public Property selected a location for the office at 15th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, but an opening date has yet to be determined, Guss added. City Council has to approve the creation of the new districts before the city can take out a lease on the space.

The department expects there to be community engagement and outreach with the formation of the new district and office in the Temple area.

“The idea is that [the inspectors] will become familiar with the projects that are going on in the Temple area, the developers who are working there, what the neighborhoods are like, and just be able to develop relationships,” Guss said.

She added that there “tends to be friction” between students living near residents and having an office in an area where this occurs will help the department understand “the real problems.”

Earlier this month, The Temple News reported that several developers have not followed the Historical Preservation Ordinance in historical corridors around the university like Diamond Street, and due to a lack of resources, L&I cannot enforce the historical district codes.

“It’s too soon to tell what we’ll be able to accomplish concerning these complaints specifically,” Guss added. “The constraints that apply to L&I all over the resource-challenged city is prioritizing safety first. Our focus is always on safety. Certain types of laws can be difficult to enforce.”

“One thing that is important is that property owners are responsible for following the rules, regardless of whether someone is coming after them and writing tickets,” Guss said. “Hopefully, by being closer and having more personal interactions, we can enforce that message that owners are responsible for their property.”

Kelly Brennan can be reached at kelly.brennan@temple.edu or on Twitter @_kellybrennan.

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