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Re: Building a proper porch

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For any of you still interested in the effects of the porch collapse, my friend signed a lease last week in Wrigleyville (an area dominated by 3-story masonry buildings w/ wooden back porches)... there were some 5 pages added to the lease with provisions like "no more than 5 people may occupy the porch area, no grills or other flammable objects may be used or stored, etc etc etc." - a bunch of CYA since the thinking is that a majority of the porches have been "designed"/constructed similarly to the collapsed porch.

>>> rbengrguy(--nospam--at)aol.com 07/22/03 08:16AM >>>
From: Bob   Johnson

FYI

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Building a proper porch
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July 22, 2003

The city has done a vigorous job of going after Philip Pappas, the owner of the building whose porch gave way on June 29, killing 13 young people and injuring more than 50.

The North Side landlord has been cited for alleged violations at the Wrightwood Avenue apartment building. He also faces charges in connection with a host of alleged infractions at more than three dozen other properties he controls that were inspected after the accident. Appropriately, the courts will decide Pappas' culpability.

But the administration of Mayor Richard Daley must face the fact that the city has sent mixed messages about porches and their proper use.

On the day of the accident, Buildings Commissioner Norma Reyes said that porches were meant for entering and leaving apartments--not for parties. But only a few weeks earlier, she issued a press release reminding property owners to inspect their porches before entertaining. The release added that use of gas grills on wooden structures represented a fire hazard and advised people to exercise caution.

After the accident, officials said that if the porch that collapsed had been built to specifications spelled out in the city code, it safely could have held 12 people. The figure appeared low, since the code sets a standard of 100 pounds per square foot and a legal structure containing a maximum of 150 square feet could have handled 15,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, even the 12-person total implies use for entertainment.

Some Chicagoans live in three-flats and six-flats whose back porches and landings are so small that the idea of throwing a party would never cross their minds. But city officials certainly must know that landlords in neighborhoods that attract young renters use big porches as a marketing tool.

Daley has said his administration is willing to look at code revisions as it seeks ways to prevent a disaster similar to the one on June 29.

But as they ponder options, they should consider amending the code to create two permit categories: porch, whose maximum size is small enough to discourage social categories; and elevated deck, with appropriately higher construction standards that assume use for entertaining.

And, as with elevators, officials should think about a requirement to post capacity limits. That way, tenants and visitors alike would have the ability to look at the placard, count noses and make personal safety choices.

Once good code revisions are in place dealing with new construction, Daley must grapple with sensible ways to ensure the safety of the thousands of existing porches throughout Chicago.

Separately, the mayor and his aides have to face the reality that some people--correctly or not--believe that getting a building permit for a porch is a time-consuming and frustrating experience. The city contends Pappas failed to obtain a permit for the porch that collapsed and allowed it to be built in a substandard manner. Obtaining a permit ensures that plans will be checked for code compliance and that the finished product will be inspected.

Landlords must be assured they will not suffer for doing it the right way.


Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune

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