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Fire Department and L&I: STOP 303 s 51st street!

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We demand that the Philadelphia Fire Department and L&I halt all permitting for 303 s 51st street.

Community members of West Philadelphia are demanding that The Philadelphia Fire Department (Fire) and Licenses & Inspections (L&I) Agencies act on their authority to ensure the safety of surrounding residents and the community at large in regards to 303 s 51st street.

A 33 unit building a half block from Malcolm X Park has been proposed to break ground August 2020 despite the many serious health risks it poses. As a flag lot nestled behind and surrounded by homes with only one entrance/exit, it would also sit on top of a former car mechanic/chop shop making the soil potentially toxic to the neighborhood. 

Developers Callahan Ward have dismissed the safety concerns of the community. They’ve denied us access to their environmental testing results and they’ve refused to make any concessions to mitigate the negative consequences this project will have on the neighbors. This makes us dependent on the city to protect us, however, despite wide-spread community requests for their action and numerous email/phone calls campaigns and meetings with Fire and L&I, no action has been taken.

Which begs the question, why doesn’t fire safety and environmental health precautions apply to our working class and predominantly black neighborhood?

"Fire Apparatus Access" section 503.1.2 of the fire code explains Fire Officials are authorized to require more than one access road when a single road has the potential for impairment. The very nature of this site alone ensures it does not adequately provide for unimpaired access to all portions of the facility and the exterior walls of the first floor, yet Commissioner Thiel or L&I have failed to act.

The International Fire code referenced and enforced by Philadelphia allows jurisdiction for Fire Officials such as Commissioner Thiel or L&I to halt a given project based on project-specific conditions, giving them the authority to request additional fire apparatus access or to subjectively allow or disallow a project. There is no legislation required or political partiality. 

Most homeowners surrounding this dangerous site are community elders. Where will they go if harmful pollutants are released into the air during a global pandemic that causes respiratory distress? Where will they go if the groundwater is polluted? If their homes are compromised by digging in their backyards? Where will they go if a fire erupts behind their 100-year old home and fire trucks can't get in? Why would the city take this risk now?

Fire Commissioner Thiel and L&I, we demand you halt all permitting procedures for 303 s 51st street. Please perform the duties for which you were appointed and ensure our health and safety.Thank you,

The Community of West Philadelphia



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