So what would you think if someone told you that they had cleaned up a part of the city that was an eyesore? You'd probably be pretty happy, especially if it was in your neighborhood, wouldn't you? It's not like there's a section of the Philadelphia Daily News that asks citizens what part of town they want cleaned up or repaired... Oh wait, there is.
So why is the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority so bent out of shape over liability for the cleanup of a vacant lot in Point Breeze? It seems that Ori Feibush took it upon himself to spend $20,000 to clean and improve the lot after multiple attempts to purchase the lot from the city, according to the Daily News. (The city, however, claims Feibush had never expressed any interest in the lot before September.)
Now City Controller Alan Butkovitz is criticizing the Redevelopment Authority by calling its response unreasonable. He's calling for city agencies to help citizens make improvements to city-owned eyesores, according to the Daily News.
But what about the Redevelopment Authority's liability concern?
Sure, there's the theory of premises liability that holds the owner or possessor of a property liable for dangerous conditions on the property. In general, this liability attaches when these conditions are discoverable and left unrepaired or not warned about.
However, when the premises is owned by a government entity, certain immunity laws limit the government's liability for any injury. However, Pennsylvania's sovereign immunity law does not prevent citizens from suing because of dangerous conditions on public sidewalks and state property.
Here, it would be surprising if someone sued the city for the improved lot. In the lot's prior condition, there were more risks of city liability because there were homeless camps, mounds of trash, and general overgrowth, according to the Daily News. Now the lot has been cleared and benches have been installed.
Still, it's possible for the Authority to be liable for injuries. Now that there are benches and trees, it is more likely that people will actually step foot on the property, which they were unlikely to do before.
Overall, it seems like the improvement is just that, an improvement. The city needs more of it, and should come up with a way for everyone to benefit from these types of actions by citizens.
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