I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Heather Duffy
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 26, 2004

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Q: Can you explain why those of us who live in one of the city's historic districts must get the Historical Commission's approval for any alterations to the facades of our houses, but there's no problem with people putting up those unsightly Lew Blum towing signs, which deface any historic facade?

A: In 1682 William Penn founded Philadelphia. In 1955 the Advisory Commission on Historic Buildings, now known as the Philadelphia Historical Commission (PHC), was founded to preserve our fair city's centuries-old history. PHC's responsibilities include the designation of historic buildings and structures, and the regulation of their appearances. Richard Tyler, a historic preservation officer with PHC, offered up a city code that requires parking lots and private properties, including those designated historical, to have the towing signs in question. The code mandates that "all parking lots and private property have posted in a conspicuous place near entry which can be easily seen by the public a sign no smaller than 36 inches high and 36 inches across" that says unauthorized parking is prohibited and vehicles will be towed. The sign must also convey information on the towing company; charges for towing, impounding and storage; and where the vehicle will be taken. Tyler doesn't like the signs either, but he hasn't taken it up with the rest of the Commission. "I can see why someone in a [historical] district would be bothered by the signs," he says. But there's only one way to change the sign requirement: Get City Council to amend the code. There are a number of historic blocks in Philadelphia that sit in various City Council districts. To voice opposition to the strict placement and size requirements of towing signs, residents should call their councilperson's office and ask them to bring the issue before Council. To find what City Council district you're in, log on to www.phila.gov and click the City Council link on the left.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Heather M. Duffy at hduffy@philadelphiaweekly.com

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