“Act Of God” Causes Collapse Of Garden Walls At Bella Vista Construction Site

 

L&I Inspectors at 606 S. Eighth Street | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

L&I Inspectors at 606 S. Eighth Street | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

With folks on edge after the building collapse that took six lives last week, Bella Vista neighbors were understandably worried about what appeared to be a faulty excavation job at a construction site on Eighth Street below South. The excavation, combined with heavy rains last week, had brought down a fence that divided the property, 606 South Eighth Street, from its southern neighbor. The contractor had attempted to secure the other garden walls with steel supports.

Those gave this morning and the northern garden walls collapsed. But L&I officials called to the scene this morning saw nothing really amiss. The foundation of the neighboring property had been underpinned properly, they told me. Who would be liable for the collapse of the garden walls? They wouldn’t say. Was the site dangerous? No, the contractor had filled the collapse area with dirt. Was the contractor cited? No, the issue–even though it had extended over a week and hadn’t been properly attended to, even after the tragedy at 22nd and Market Streets–was caused by “an act of God.”

606 S. 8th | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

606 S. 8th before construction | Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

The site, it’s worth noting, was the subject of previous reports about the proliferation of curb cuts in new construction row houses in violation of the new Philadelphia zoning code. After our reports galvanized neighborhood opposition to allowing two additional private garages adjacent to busy South Street, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted anyway to allow them.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



4 Comments


  1. If I can clarify, an “act of god” does not exist in the insurance world. This is a term insurance companies use to get out of paying claims. An “act of god” is nothing more than weather. If you need help understanding your policy or have experienced such fraudulent terminology from your insurance company, please contact me. I am a licensed public adjuster and consumer advocate. phillypublicadjuster@gmail.com

  2. There’s a building at 52nd & Irving that has been braced and there’s a sign from L&I that the building is in danger of collapse. It WILL collapse, it’s only a matter of time. Needs to be knocked down, ASAP.

  3. What is the point of zoning laws, and council laws, if variances are granted so lightly? The fact is, if there is not a back street entrance for a parking garage in a townhouse, there should no longer be allowances on main residential streets. Each garage — which puts an extra $100,000 or so in the pocket of the developer, steals valuable street parking which, throughout the day, may serve a half dozen cars or more in a city where garage parking has become so expensive it dissuades people from visiting city friends or patronizing businesses. (I have many friends who work in the city and would make several stops at various retailers on their way out of town if there was only a quick, cheap way to pull over and run in to give them some business without a $20 or more parking charge.) At rush hour, even more street parking is eliminated by adding an extra traffic lane — frequently which is blocked anyway by a city vehicle — police, parking authority, construction — but you’ll still get a ticket if you stop behind the obstruction.

    And, more so, each private home garage turns the last vestiges of pedestrian friendly sidewalks into dangerous obstacle courses as cars come and go, with limited visibility. And the cars pulling in and out of private garages often miss seeing cyclists in their designated lane — adding another to the long list of dangers they must struggle to avoid.

    On streets where there is a much smaller access street through the back of the home garages make sense and detract nothing — there is no street parking on those alleyways, and rarely a pedestrian or cyclist. No homeowner is given the free and dedicated use of the street parking spot in front of their home, but that is essentially what is given to a home built with a parking garage that eliminates that spot all day from anyone’s use for the twice a day (or less) access of the homeowner.

    On this mostly-commercial block of 8th Street, where these homes are being built, there are businesses that rely on their customers being able to park in those spaces now handed over — through an inexplicable variance — to the developer. There are a large number of parking garages in the area which rent out monthly spaces. I live even a block further from those garages closest to these homes and do not find it inconvenient to walk a bit to get my car. (Mostly, I walk around the city. The car is for getting out of town or errands.) And why don’t I park on the street (as I have a permit to do so)? Because there is NOT ENOUGH spaces since the relentless curb cuts which have come to the neighborhood.

    Will the city just give me a street spot in front of my home to call my own, in which no one else can park, even when I’m gone for days at a time? No. Then why do they give the same to developers to create private garages?

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