Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 9, 2017

PA Appeals Court Rejects City’s Issuance of Violation Notice that was Based Purely on Aesthetics

Rufo, the owner of TR Gretz, LP, which owned the Gretz Brewing Building, received a violation notice from the Department of License and Inspection, stating that the Property was vacant, lacked doors and windows with frames and glazing, and constituted a “blighting influence” as defined by section PM-202 of the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code. The City of Philadelphia appealed the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County reversing the decision of the City’s Board of License and Inspection Review, which affirmed the Department of License and Inspection’s issuance of the violation notice.

On appeal, the City argued that the trial court erred in not enforcing the Windows/Doors Ordinance because that provision was rationally related to promoting the public health, safety, and welfare, and did not have a purely aesthetic purpose. Rebecca Swanson, Policy and Communications Director for the Department, testified on behalf of the City that “numerous studies” have shown that securing properties deemed blighting influences with boards or masonry rather than operable windows and doors “contributes to blight within the neighborhood, all sorts of problems.” The court found that Swanson’s testimony was conclusory because she failed to offer even a cursory explanation for her assertion, or specify which study supported her assertion.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court, finding that while the City could consider aesthetics in using its police power, it could not exercise its police power based on aesthetics alone.

Rufo v Board of License and Inspection Review and City of Philadelphia, 2016 WL 7421335 (PA Cmwlth 12/22/2016)


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