In latest River Wards house collapse, two homes are ‘a total loss’

The announcement comes less than two months after a similar situation occurred at 633 and 635 E. Thompson Street in early February.

The city Department of Licenses and Inspections announced Thursday that both properties at 2624 and 2622 Tulip St. “are a total loss” and will be demolished by a certified contractor appointed by L&I.

The announcement comes less than two months after a similar situation occurred at 633 and 635 E. Thompson Street in early February.

“Mayor Kenney and City officials are outraged by the negligent construction practices that led to the recent home collapses and threatened public safety,” the city said in a statement. “We believe that dangerous situations like the collapses on Tulip and Thompson Streets stem from a combination of the City’s building boom, changing soil conditions, and careless contractors.”

On Monday, March 18, an unsafe and unpermitted excavation of 2624 Tulip’s basement undermined the foundation of 2624 and the adjacent property, 2622. L&I evacuated 2622 immediately and there are no known injuries.

In addition to issuing multiple violations to the contractor of 2624, L&I intends to take action to revoke the contractor’s license and is considering referral to the DA’s Office for possible criminal investigation.

The city has not named the contractor of the property, however it was noted that the contractor and the owner of 2624 are the same entity. According to property records, the owner of 2624 E. Tulip St. is Wharton Homes LLC.

A statement provided to the Star by city communications director Deana Gamble criticized contractors who “are opting to take shortcuts” to avoid the time and costs associated with excavating the proper way. The statement also said there were almost 80 inches of rain in the last 14 months in parts of the city (nearly double normal rainfall), which saturates and weakens the soil and stone basement walls.

According to the statement released by Gamble, L&I is attacking the issue in the following ways:

1. Calling administrative hearings and revoking contractors’ licenses when they exceed permits in an egregious manner

2. Working with engineers to create a mailer to go out with water bills, explaining the danger of digging out basements and asking the public to call in any incidents of soil removal from properties

3. Restarted weekend patrol inspections to look for work without permits and work exceeding permits

4. Making referrals to the District Attorney to request a criminal investigation

5. Focusing L&I’s Audits and Investigations Unit on the types of permits that are being abused by residential contractors. (This unit performs random inspections beyond the legally required scheduled safety inspections.)

6. Increasing referrals to OSHA to hold contractors accountable under federal law

7. Assigning full-time quality control inspectors to the River Wards and Point Breeze areas to reinforce good practice

8. Starting mandatory pre-construction meetings with residential contractors

The statement urged homeowners to invest in “quality contractors.”

“We urge homeowners to also insist on safe procedures,” it reads. “We know that Philadelphia has small rowhomes and there’s often a desire to dig out a basement to increase living space; however, homeowners and developers must invest in having the work done properly by a quality contractor. This is to protect people and properties by getting the right permits and L&I inspections.”

Residents should dial 311 to report any contractors they see digging in a basement.