Report on PSSS's Annual Meeting with Streets Department

From: Lynn L.
Sent on: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 11:59 AM

Hi all – We had a very good meeting with the Streets Department at Starr Garden Park, April 1. In total, 26 PSSS members (many from the 200 block of Hutchinson Street) attended to hear from three high ranking officials from the Streets Department (see names and titles below). Councilman Squilla sent his representative Sean McMonagle. The meeting was very informative on both sides. Lots of questions were asked and comments made.

The Streets Department is clearly responding to PSSS concerns. Last year the Streets Department hired a contractor to conduct a survey of all the historically designated streets in order to better assess the situation. They even found a few more streets to add to the list. Streets is ranking all the streets according to their condition, historical significance, and other criteria. Many members gave input on that subject, specifically the issues of street usage, property values, and public support. A few people also talked about their preference not to have concrete under their streets, which is PSSS’s position. Streets responded that it was to protect the utilities, but we think that concern is misplaced. At any rate, we need to continue to work on that issue.

We asked the question, what if residents of a street that has been paved over and is not on the historic inventory, want to restore it at their own expense? The Streets officials said that in that case, residents should contact the department. We suggest you start with Nancy Sen, Director of Transportation and Planning, and your local city council representative. Councilman Squilla chairs the Streets Committee.

It appears that no decision has been made on which streets will be selected to restore next. In fact, we forgot to ask when restoration will resume, so we have to send an email to Streets on that subject. Streets did made it clear that every other year the department receives $200,000 for this program (opps, we thought it was every year). In order to properly fix the historic streets in a timely manner, Streets would really appreciate our support at City Council meetings for an increased budget. We will send you an email on the exact date.

Regarding “plumber’s patches” (and again responding to PSSS concerns), last year the Streets Department put a pilot program in place that gives the property owners a $450 discount on their $500 plumber’s permit application, if they restore their own streets using a licensed contractor. Although this information is on the Streets website, residents of historic streets have not yet been officially notified of the program. That will soon be remedied. A letter from Streets will go out sometime this spring.

Snow removal was also discussed. Streets is considering establishing a special exception for very small streets (7 feet wide or less). We have been pointing out for some time that in heavy snow conditions, we need our sidewalks for snow storage and should only be required to shovel paths to our front doors and the street (if a plow doesn’t come). We also thanked Streets because this year we got much better snow removal service from the city. In response to PSSS past input, this winter the Streets used much smaller equipment that did not damage our streets.

Lastly, and not to do with anything historic, we brought up the issue that dogs (and at least in one case, a person) were getting shocked on the crosswalks at 11th and Locust. It seems that the combination of snow, salt, and underground wiring was giving dogs a nasty shock. In fact, using a EMF (electromagnetic field) detector, we found other areas that also registered high for EMFs. That was a big surprise to the Streets officials at our meeting. Although many dog owners had called PECO to complain, no one had call Streets. Streets said that they would look into it.

We must say that our experience with the Streets Department over the past several years has been positive, in that they definitely respond to our concerns. We just need to keep plugging away. Thanks again to all who attended and to our members in general. Your participation is vital to the repair and restoration of Philadelphia’s scenic small streets!

Lynn and Cliff Landes, founders
The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS)
217 S. Jessup Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215)[masked]

Streets Officials in attendance:

Nancy Sen, Director of Transportation and Planning
Darin Gotti, Chief Engineer
Steve Lorenz – Chief Highway Engineer

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