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Civic

Jan. 15, 2013 2:52 pm

License to Inspect: use this web app from PlanPhilly, Azavea to keep track of city property violations, construction permits and more

License to Inspect, the government transparency web app that’s been roughly three years in the making, launched this week on PlanPhilly, along with a website redesign for the news outfit focused on planning and zoning. Powered by a public-private partnership between PlanPhilly, Callowhill GIS firm Azavea, the William Penn Foundation and the city’s Department of Licenses […]

License to Inspect, the government transparency web app that’s been roughly three years in the making, launched this week on PlanPhilly, along with a website redesign for the news outfit focused on planning and zoning.

Powered by a public-private partnership between PlanPhilly, Callowhill GIS firm Azavea, the William Penn Foundation and the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I), the app provides “full access to [L&I's'] online records,” PlanPhilly reported. You can find data on the city’s many types of building permits and property licenses, as well as property violations it’s issued. Read more about License to Inspect’s features on PlanPhilly.

Use the app here.

License to Inspect comes after the city released its own L&I web app, though the PlanPhilly/Azavea app was meant to include more data than the city’s app, as we previously reported. Stakeholders had described License to Inspect as a major step forward for government transparency and open data, but three years later, it almost feels overshadowed by recent major data releases and tools like the city’s L&I web app.

We’re waiting to hear back from License to Inspect partners on if the API for the data used is available.

The API that License to Inspect uses was released in November as part of the source code for the city’s L&I mobile app, said Azavea founder Robert Cheetham. Find the API here. Even though it took three years for the city to release the API, Cheetham is pleased with it. “It’s nicely designed,” he wrote in an email, “there is good documentation and they have released it with a version number (so future releases won’t break existing apps).”

Civic hackers, take note: Even though License to Inspect uses plenty of L&I data, it doesn’t use it all, Cheetham said. That’s because Azavea wanted to focus on data that PlanPhilly’s readers would be interested in. For example, Azavea included property violation data but not, food preparation license data. There are still opportunities for civic hackers to build tools with the L&I API.

Full Disclosure: Technically Media, our parent company, was involved with PlanPhilly’s website redesign.

Updated 3:50 p.m. 1/15/13 to add more information about the API.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Technically Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.

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