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  1. #1
    Julia1020's Avatar
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    Default Asking the City to Clear Vacant Lot - Naive to Even Ask?

    A property located behind mine is owned by the City (as confirmed by doing a property search on the OPA site). It has become a jungle over the last few months with all of the rain, and I fear it may well take over the neighborhood (yes, I'm thinking Little Shop of Horrors here). There are vines that have started to attack the power lines and, as time goes on, could likely bring them down altogether. In addition, I expect that all sorts of wildlife (both human and animal) routinely hang out there and will continue to do so until it's cleared up. I've seen possum and feral cats and found many of those tiny little bags that routinely hold illegal pharmaceuticals.

    Any chance the City will take care of this or is this just an insanely naive question to even ask? If they will come out, who to call?
    Last edited by Julia1020; 07-31-2013 at 11:06 AM.

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    ArcticSplash's Avatar
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    There's 5 different city/state agencies that could be owning this. Which one? They all have different contact points and different policies about doing their own maintenance.

    Dept of Public Property? (which holds generic city-owned property, i.e. like City Hall itself)
    PRA? (aka RDA, the Redevelopment Authority)
    Parks/Rec?
    PHA?
    OHDC? (Office of Housing and Community Development)

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    Call 311. i had a similar situation once. after 6 mos of calls i called 6abc. they called the city who said yes it was theirs and yes it should have been cleaned out - it was begun within 3 days. they didn't believe it was as bad as it was... what they thought would take hours took three days and a flat bed truck. the thing was an overgrown myan temple for pete sakes!
    "If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they'll kill you."
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    Julia1020's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArcticSplash View Post
    There's 5 different city/state agencies that could be owning this. Which one? They all have different contact points and different policies about doing their own maintenance.

    Dept of Public Property? (which holds generic city-owned property, i.e. like City Hall itself)
    PRA? (aka RDA, the Redevelopment Authority)
    Parks/Rec?
    PHA?
    OHDC? (Office of Housing and Community Development)
    How can I determine which entity owns it...it's only listed as City of Philadelphia (with 1401 JFK Boulevard given as the address). I think another neighbor petitioned for it to be turned into a community garden, so maybe she knows which entity.

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    bluecuracao is offline Senior Member
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    I agree with Gladys, calling 311 is the way to go. They have been very helpful to me on many issues.

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    MNG1324 is offline Senior Member
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    What would Ori do?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MNG1324 View Post
    What would Ori do?
    Well, since you've asked WWOD (with the implication being that some would just handle the situation themselves and not wait for the city to respond), the answer is that the lot has actually been approved as a community garden. The neighbor just south of the lot got approval for this, but the cost involved in both clearing it and leveling it is about $4,000 (I assume it costs this much mostly to get rid of all the debris and level the ground). So, until funds can be raised by neighbors, I think the City still needs to pony up to keep the spot safe. That being said, I'm sure Ori would find a way to clear the lot himself. I'd be more than happy to put in some elbow grease but am not sure how to dispose of all the crap in there...(and I don't have $4,000 to spend on getting professionals to do the job).

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    MNG1324 is offline Senior Member
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    Yeah clearing a lot can be expensive. In exchange for extending a lease for parking for an office building I agreed to clear and put down 2m stone on a half acre lot(app. 22k sq ft). While this lot has 3 feet of debris that has since had vegetation take over, I got 3 bids that range from 60k to just over 100k and nearly half of the bids are just for disposal of debris.
    As for getting the city to act....you need to be a pain in the ass and deluge 311 with calls from neighbors, family, friends, enemies, random strangers etc. and even then it could take months to years that's why people just trespass on property. There's a legal way to acquire land it's called adverse possession but you have to have been on the land for 21 years and the owner of the property only has to give you a letter stated that you are trespassing. Good luck.

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    Julia1020's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNG1324 View Post
    Yeah clearing a lot can be expensive. In exchange for extending a lease for parking for an office building I agreed to clear and put down 2m stone on a half acre lot(app. 22k sq ft). While this lot has 3 feet of debris that has since had vegetation take over, I got 3 bids that range from 60k to just over 100k and nearly half of the bids are just for disposal of debris.
    As for getting the city to act....you need to be a pain in the ass and deluge 311 with calls from neighbors, family, friends, enemies, random strangers etc. and even then it could take months to years that's why people just trespass on property. There's a legal way to acquire land it's called adverse possession but you have to have been on the land for 21 years and the owner of the property only has to give you a letter stated that you are trespassing. Good luck.
    Oh, I know how to be a pain in the ass...I'm just not sure about how much effort to put in on this one...I don't need to get sued by the City for doing their job for them...but, if there has already been approval for a community garden, then I don't know how much they could slap me around for helping clear out the lot. I'd want to see a copy of any paperwork on the garden approval first though...So, while I wait for them to respond to my calls and e-mails, maybe I'll just bushwhack the area cloest to my property and set out garbage bags a few at a time on both streets affected by the lot...seems fair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Julia1020 View Post
    A property located behind mine is owned by the City (as confirmed by doing a property search on the OPA site). It has become a jungle over the last few months with all of the rain, and I fear it may well take over the neighborhood (yes, I'm thinking Little Shop of Horrors here). There are vines that have started to attack the power lines and, as time goes on, could likely bring them down altogether. In addition, I expect that all sorts of wildlife (both human and animal) routinely hang out there and will continue to do so until it's cleared up. I've seen possum and feral cats and found many of those tiny little bags that routinely hold illegal pharmaceuticals.

    Any chance the City will take care of this or is this just an insanely naive question to even ask? If they will come out, who to call?
    Douse it with gasoline and light the whole mess on fire.

  11. #11
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    Call 311, use the 311 app, and/or use the 311 website. I've had some success with it. Get your neighbors to do the same thing, and contact Kenyatta Johnson's office too.

    I know the lot you're talking about, and it looks like builders have dumped tons of dirt there, so the thing really needs a backhoe to clear it out. It's a shame a garden is going there though, I never quite got the appeal of claustrophobic gardens sandwiched between houses.

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    Julia1020's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the mule View Post
    Call 311, use the 311 app, and/or use the 311 website. I've had some success with it. Get your neighbors to do the same thing, and contact Kenyatta Johnson's office too.

    I know the lot you're talking about, and it looks like builders have dumped tons of dirt there, so the thing really needs a backhoe to clear it out. It's a shame a garden is going there though, I never quite got the appeal of claustrophobic gardens sandwiched between houses.
    Ooohh...yes, on contacting Kenyatta Johnson's office (now that he's just three blocks away)....I actually did not work on the community garden petition, but it's better than what's going on there now and would keep things under control until such time as the city decides to sell it!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by the mule View Post
    Call 311, use the 311 app, and/or use the 311 website. I've had some success with it. Get your neighbors to do the same thing, and contact Kenyatta Johnson's office too.

    I know the lot you're talking about, and it looks like builders have dumped tons of dirt there, so the thing really needs a backhoe to clear it out. It's a shame a garden is going there though, I never quite got the appeal of claustrophobic gardens sandwiched between houses.

    How do you know what lot she's talking about? I can't tell and am curious.
    "If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they'll kill you."
    - attributed to both George Bernard Shaw & Oscar Wilde


    "I never clean up after my dogs, because I have trained them to run with me off leash while I ride my bike the wrong way on the sidewalk."
    - LUCas
    Originally Posted by Dave L We need to focus on banning both singers who crap on the sidewalk and dogs that annoy people with their singing. - Mondo

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    ArcticSplash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julia1020 View Post
    How can I determine which entity owns it...it's only listed as City of Philadelphia (with 1401 JFK Boulevard given as the address). I think another neighbor petitioned for it to be turned into a community garden, so maybe she knows which entity.
    If it's on the PRA's front door website it should tell you which agency.

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    ArcticSplash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the mule View Post
    Call 311, use the 311 app, and/or use the 311 website. I've had some success with it. Get your neighbors to do the same thing, and contact Kenyatta Johnson's office too.

    I know the lot you're talking about, and it looks like builders have dumped tons of dirt there, so the thing really needs a backhoe to clear it out. It's a shame a garden is going there though, I never quite got the appeal of claustrophobic gardens sandwiched between houses.
    Ugh, Kenyatta Johnson's office was called/texted to his personal cell phone, etc. for months, repeatedly, about a certain PRA lot which kinda made it into the international news cycle...

    Just sayin'

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    ArcticSplash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julia1020 View Post
    Oh, I know how to be a pain in the ass...I'm just not sure about how much effort to put in on this one...I don't need to get sued by the City for doing their job for them...but, if there has already been approval for a community garden, then I don't know how much they could slap me around for helping clear out the lot. I'd want to see a copy of any paperwork on the garden approval first though...So, while I wait for them to respond to my calls and e-mails, maybe I'll just bushwhack the area cloest to my property and set out garbage bags a few at a time on both streets affected by the lot...seems fair.
    It's not a community garden if the deed shows it's owned by the City. If someone is gardening on it they're just "occupying it". Legit community gardens the City sells off to a steward (i.e. a non-profit, or a civic/CDC, whichever).

    The City doesn't want to take liability suits for activity occurring within the property line.


    Since the address on OPA's site you said was 1401 JFK, it's likely it's the Department of Public Property or PRA.

    Go here -> PRA Available Properties

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    Julia1020's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArcticSplash View Post
    It's not a community garden if the deed shows it's owned by the City. If someone is gardening on it they're just "occupying it". Legit community gardens the City sells off to a steward (i.e. a non-profit, or a civic/CDC, whichever).

    The City doesn't want to take liability suits for activity occurring within the property line.


    Since the address on OPA's site you said was 1401 JFK, it's likely it's the Department of Public Property or PRA.

    Go here -> PRA Available Properties
    It's actually not a community garden at this point. My neighbor just heard at the end of June that her petition had been approved. This was after she'd been stalking the city to clean up the vacant lot. Getting no response from asking the city to do it's job cleaning the lot, she petitioned to be able to at least turn it into a garden (so she could legally get onto the property and try to clean it herself)...even then, they only approved the petition verbally and have not come through with the paperwork...so, it's still sitting...collecting critters and becoming a blight. If the city doesn't like liability, then why do they leave lots like this? If some kids find their way back there and get stuck by a needle, then I say the liability is the city's. If the vines growing like wildfire keep finding their way into my A/C compressor, then I also say the liability is the city's. Apparently, it used to be an abandoned house, and the neighborhood had to complain because kids kept playing in there. I used the link above for the PRA and the lot does not appear to be theirs but my neighbor indicated that she does think it belongs to them....

    Is it illegal to send mail to Kenyatta's home address? Or, maybe I'll make a poster of the lot and hang it on a utility pole outside his house.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ArcticSplash View Post
    Ugh, Kenyatta Johnson's office was called/texted to his personal cell phone, etc. for months, repeatedly, about a certain PRA lot which kinda made it into the international news cycle...

    Just sayin'
    Fortunately for him, we don't have the funds for Lotgate Redux!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Julia1020 View Post
    It's actually not a community garden at this point. My neighbor just heard at the end of June that her petition had been approved. This was after she'd been stalking the city to clean up the vacant lot. Getting no response from asking the city to do it's job cleaning the lot, she petitioned to be able to at least turn it into a garden (so she could legally get onto the property and try to clean it herself)...even then, they only approved the petition verbally and have not come through with the paperwork...so, it's still sitting...collecting critters and becoming a blight. If the city doesn't like liability, then why do they leave lots like this? If some kids find their way back there and get stuck by a needle, then I say the liability is the city's. If the vines growing like wildfire keep finding their way into my A/C compressor, then I also say the liability is the city's. Apparently, it used to be an abandoned house, and the neighborhood had to complain because kids kept playing in there. I used the link above for the PRA and the lot does not appear to be theirs but my neighbor indicated that she does think it belongs to them....

    Is it illegal to send mail to Kenyatta's home address? Or, maybe I'll make a poster of the lot and hang it on a utility pole outside his house.

    You've got some invasive trees in there which will grow to significant heights if not dealt with. I know it has to look bad for the city to deal with it, but at the same time I wouldn't want to bank on it that they'll clear it out anytime soon. Could you at least cut back the taller invasive trees growing? At this point all you'll need is a pruner.

  20. #20
    JakeL is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julia1020 View Post
    It's actually not a community garden at this point. My neighbor just heard at the end of June that her petition had been approved. This was after she'd been stalking the city to clean up the vacant lot. Getting no response from asking the city to do it's job cleaning the lot, she petitioned to be able to at least turn it into a garden (so she could legally get onto the property and try to clean it herself)...even then, they only approved the petition verbally and have not come through with the paperwork...so, it's still sitting...collecting critters and becoming a blight. If the city doesn't like liability, then why do they leave lots like this? If some kids find their way back there and get stuck by a needle, then I say the liability is the city's. If the vines growing like wildfire keep finding their way into my A/C compressor, then I also say the liability is the city's. Apparently, it used to be an abandoned house, and the neighborhood had to complain because kids kept playing in there. I used the link above for the PRA and the lot does not appear to be theirs but my neighbor indicated that she does think it belongs to them....

    Is it illegal to send mail to Kenyatta's home address? Or, maybe I'll make a poster of the lot and hang it on a utility pole outside his house.

    You've got some invasive trees in there which will grow to significant heights if not dealt with. I know it has to look bad for the city to deal with it, but at the same time I wouldn't want to bank on it that they'll clear it out anytime soon. Could you at least cut back the taller invasive trees growing? At this point all you'll need is a pruner. Ideally, you should pull them up by the roots, so that they won't send new shooters out, but I suspect they may be a bit too big now and you'll just have to deal with cutting them back on a regular basis.

 

 

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