Lynn and Cliff Landes, founders
217 S. Jessup Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Welcome to the Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS)
*PSSS postcard for window or distribution!
We are dedicated to the preservation, repair, and restoration of Philadelphia's historic small streets. PSSS is a collaborative effort to improve our small streets.
Please feel free to use this website as a forum to communicate with other members, report information, ask questions, etc..
In order to be on the Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District (PHSPTD), the street must not be paved over. However, PSSS does not limit our activities to designated streets only. We will support efforts to reclaim paved historic streets, as well. In fact, the Streets Department has indicated that it will consider approving plans to restore asphalted streets if the costs are covered privately.
Pavers (not pavement), makes sense to us, in terms of their practicality, beauty, and abating storm water run-off (that's if the City would stop requiring concrete underneath the pavers!). Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Water Company has a "green streets" program that uses porous asphalt, a toxic waste product of the petroleum industry, and a plastic landfill liner to contain stones (like a cistern), as its answer to stormwater runoff. We hope they reconsider that approach.
Below are lots of links and information. Please take the time to review. We greatly appreciate your participation, comments, and questions.
Lynn and Cliff Landes
GOV'T DOC LINKS: more info below..
MAY 2014: GOOD NEWS! One of our main goals is to stop unsightly "plumbers patches". A pilot program to allow homeowners to contract historic street restorations through their plumbing contractors will run from July to December 2014. Residents will save $450 on their permits. Previously, plumbers felt that they had to pour an asphalt or concrete patch. Homeowners had to wait years for the city to get around to restoring the patch, which rarely occurred. Now, homeowners have the option to contract for the restoration work to be done immediately! So, congratulations to everyone. We think that this is a good first step toward putting an end to unsightly "plumbers patches", and it wouldn't have happened without your support. Thank you! Now we need to put an end to plumbers patches permanently! They are blighting our community and wasting taxpayers dollars. What's the point of restoring a historic street if the very next day a contractor can pour a plumbers patch!
See link: http://www.philadelphiastreets.com/highways....
See Plan Philly article: http://planphilly.com/eyesonthestreet/2014/05/20/historic-street-repair-pilot-program-starts-in-july
If you want your historic street repaired: Please write a letter and gather signatures from your neighbors and send them to the list of government officials below. Send a hard copy to the same people. Also, get residents to write their own personal letters. That's very effective as well. You need to make a strong case. The Streets Department likes to restore these streets in clusters. So, it is a good idea to suggest other nearby streets for restoration at the same time. Point out things like the streets' unsafe condition, how often people visit, how many people live on these streets, and the streets location near other tourist attractions. Also, provide photos and measurements of streets to be restored. The petition could read something like the following: "The Philadelphia residents below respectfully request that the Philadelphia Historical Commission and Streets Department restore the following streets through the special annual fund allocated for this purpose." Although, the City has a dedicated fund of $100,000 per year to repair streets, you can also look into additional fundraising and the letting of private contracts, as well as applying for grants through organizations, such as The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
What can you do now to make sure our historic streets are properly maintained? Support the proposals below. E-mail your city officials and suggest the following changes to city policy:
Proposed changes to city ordinances, regulations, and/or policies:
1. Plumbers patches: No more asphalt or concrete repair patches, please! Repair these streets as they were intended - PICK THEM UP AND PUT THEM BACK DOWN AGAIN! Good News: From July to December 2014, property owners have the option to restore the streets at their own expense (with a $450 reduction is the permit fee). Although this is a good first step, we believe that immediate restoration by the property owner should be a requirement, not an option. Plumbers Patches are an unsightly blight on Philadelphia, often resulting is potholes, which are safety concerns for pedestrians and vehicles alike, and adversely affecting our property values.
2. Construction: The Streets Department should consider using the Netherlands model of 15 inches of pulverized concrete (we prefer modified aggregate) and on top, 2-6 inches of sand (of good quality, not like the sand on a beach), rather than an 8-inch concrete base with 1 inch cement/sand topping. A concrete base increases storm water run-off, makes it difficult to access utilities, directs water toward homes, and after excavation, concrete chunks generally get thrown back into plumbers ditches, thereby creating future subsidence problems. Also, the spacing between the bricks and stones should be minimal to making walking and biking easier and safer.
3. Accidental paving: The Streets Department should check first with the Historical Commission that a street is not designated part of the historic cartway before crews pave it.
4. Historic curbs: Currently, the Historical Commission only has control over the flat surface of these historic streets. Historic curbs should be protected as they are integral to the structural design of historic streets.
5. Private financing: There should be an official protocol in place for residents to contract out to reclaim their streets with either their own funds or through grants. At the current rate of repair, it will be 70 years before all the streets are fixed. April 2014:Good news! The Streets Department has indicated that it will consider allowing private financing, although an official policy is not yet in place. Residents should contact the Streets Commissioner directly if their want to pursue this course of action.
6. Public information: April 2014: Good news! The PHC has put more information online (see Gov't Doc Links at top), although we (PSSS) still have links to more information that the PHC, such as a map of the historic streets.
7. Public meetings and input: This should be standard practice. Public meetings should take place in a timely manner on which streets get restored, how, and in what order. April 2014: Good news! Last year (2013) the Streets Department did contract out a survey of all the historic streets. And in April the Streets Department met with our organization. It was a very satisfying experience. More work to do, of course...
8. Streets crews: The Streets Department should have a trained crew(s) to reset bricks, stones, and pavers.
9. Resident crews: The Streets Department should consider certifying residents to repair small projects.
10. Weight limit: There should be a posted signs with a weight limit for heavy vehicles.
11. Snow removal: On small streets, approximately 6.5 feet wide, residents should be required to shovel their half of the street and a path to their doors, leaving the sidewalk available to take the snow. This method requires no more effort of the part of residence in that they are currently required to clear a path on their sidewalk 36 inches wide. It will also save the small streets from damage from snow removal equipment. April 2014: Good news! The Streets Department is working on a new snow removal regulation for small streets.
2010 ARTICLE: http://articles.philly.com/2010-02-12/news/25219452_1_shovel-sidewalk-jessup-neighbors
12. Special equipment: The city and contractors should use special designed light-weight equipment to reset the heavy elements of the streets, rather than depend on backhoes and similar heavy equipment that can damage the streets. Winter 1014: Good News! Commissioner Perri contracted the use of smaller equipment. It worked great. Thanks!
13. Camac Street, the wood street between Walnut and Locust is completely rotting away. We suspect that the concrete base underneath the sand layer is holding in the moisture (even though holes were drilled into it), and also, perhaps the proper wood was not used. Maybe cypress or cedar would have lasted longer. We are also concerned that more historic street restoration money will go to Camac (which has already been repair recently) and not to other streets where residents are very anxious for their streets to be repaired (the 200 block of Hutchinson, including Bonaparte and Manning, for example).
NOTE: If you have a safety hazard, you should immediately notify the Streets Department - http://potholes.phila.gov/tap.nsf/d15d032a3... or call 3-1-1 (215-686-8686) Save the reference number if you need to follow-up.
Plan Philly articles: They are doing a good job of covering Philadelphia's small streets.
NY Times: article about controversy over making historic streets safe for pedestrians and bicycles -- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/nyregion/time-is-past-for-many-of-citys-old-cobblestones.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
Annual Report for 2012: The results of the work done on our historic streets in 2012 was somewhat predictable, as the Streets Department insisted on laying a concrete base: In general the restored streets, by contractor Spaventa & Sons, look great (200 blocks of Jessup and Warnock, 1300 blocks of Cypress and Panama). However, the mortar between the bricks is crumbling in some places, the streets are not porous and are therefore holding water, and the Belgium blocks are placed too far apart for safe and comfortable walking and riding (in cars or on bikes). On Jessup Street there is a new crack straight across the road just next to our house (217), breaking one of our old granite gutter stone in half. We believe that the crack is the result of the concrete being laid in one continuous stretch and encompassing all the street elements, not allowing for any breaks and therefore no 'give'. That said, the restored historic streets look really good.
Links and information for maintenance and construction:
Contractors for restoring sidewalks and streets,
as recommended by PSSS members:
How to add a street to the City Plan:
How to add a street to the Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District:
Various construction examples:
Netherlands: TigerStone http://www.tiger-ston... (paver installation company). From a Tiger-Stone representative, "In the Netherlands we use 15 inches of concrete debris ( pulverised concrete) and on top 2 to 6 inches of sand ( of good quality, not like the sand on a beach…) In a lot of countries the use stabilized sand, this is a mixture with cement. The most important is that the base construction is solid so in the long term the road quality can be guarantied. We use sand on the last few inches because the ‘’old’’ stones are not likely to al have the same dimensions. The sand does have the compacted with a compacting plate before paving the stones."
Portland, Oregon: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/article/7... Streets are excavated to full depth, about 13 to 18 inches below top of curb. Drainage geotextile fabric is placed on the ground surface, and a layer of 2”-minus rock drainage blanket 6-10 inches deep is laid on top of the fabric and compacted. ... The permeable pavers are then installed on the leveling bed. The space between paving blocks is filled with the fine rock, and rock and pavers are compacted. (We don't agree with using geotextile fabric as it interferes with excavation for repairs, and also interferes with subsidence, which acts as an early warning system for the formation of catastrophic sinkholes.)
From Davenport, Iowa: "We generally use six inches of 95% proctor compacted ¾” down (with fines) crushed stone material for the base, with about 1” of sand on top of that. We vibrate the bricks into the sand, then sweep more sand over the top and vibrate again to get the sand to fill the gaps between the bricks. On hills we mix in 1 part mortar to 3 parts sand to prevent the sand mixture from washing away."
From Willmette, Illinois: "This work shall consist of removing existing bricks in streets at various locations determined by the ENGINNER; removal of the existing deteriorated stone base to a depth of 6 inches, placement of a new 6 inch CA 6 base (CA is crushed aggregate), a 1 inch sand layer and replacement of the bricks."
Historic Assessment and Recommendation Report: October 2010, 200 block of South Jessup Street by Milner + Carr Conservation(Jessup Street was restored in 2012. Although it looks great, against the report's recommendation of modified aggregate for the foundation, a cement foundation was laid instead.)
HISTORIC RESTORATIONS: (We have requested the construction specifications on the projects below - Mar 13, 2013)
Washington Place, Troy, NY:
O & P Streets, Georgetown, DC:
Phil LaCombe, Director and Co-Founder, Small Streets
Paul Daniel Marriott & Associates
3140 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Washington Place, Troy, NY
O & P Streets, Georgetown, DC
OTHER RESOURCES --
Phil LaCombeDirector and Co-Founder, Small Streets
Paul Daniel Marriott & Associates
3140 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016