Civic News

City Licenses and Inspections new web app maps vacant properties, violations, more [UPDATED]

The city launched a Licenses & Inspections web app this past weekend, as part of a larger L&I site redesign. Use the tool at Phila.gov/map. The searchable map plots L&I-related data, like vacant property and lot permits, demolitions and violations. This is the first step in a broader effort to release L&I’s data and make […]
Updated 8/13/12 12:43 p.m. with more details on the new site and app after the press conference.

The city launched a Licenses & Inspections web app this past weekend, as part of a larger L&I site redesign.

Use the tool at Phila.gov/map.

The searchable map plots L&I-related data, like vacant property and lot permits, demolitions and violations. This is the first step in a broader effort to release L&I’s data and make it more hacker-friendly. How liberated this L&I data will be and how it will relate to the still back-burnered ‘License to Inspect’ app from PlanPhilly and Azava is yet to be determined.

We’ll get back to you with more details after the press conference at noon.

Open data geeks can do a little dance — L&I is halfway there in its effort to release its data, a spokeswoman says.

Previously, the L&I website didn’t offer a lick of data, says spokeswoman Maura Kennedy. Now, the site is practically an L&I data overload. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Here’s just a preview of the cool stuff you can do on the site: Search for a property and see all L&I’s interactions with a specific address. Check the status of a neighbor’s vacant property violation. Find an up-to-date calendar of zoning hearings, which was so sorely lacking in the community that one civic hacker made his own. Search a list of licensed contractors in the city, in order to make sure you’re hiring a legitimate roofer.

Kennedy calls the site overhaul “revolutionary.”

The project, a collaboration between the Office of Innovation and Technology and L&I, has been one year in the making. Kennedy says her office feels good about the data’s accuracy.

“We’re displaying what’s in our system,” she says.

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The next step in L&I’s transparency efforts is still murky. The city says it plans to release its data to everyone via an API but would not say when.

Chief Enterprise Architect Officer Clinton Johnson says the city is still working on cleaning up the data and making sure it’s accurately presented. This process has taken months, as we reported earlier this summer.

He added that he wanted newly-hired Chief Data Officer Mark Headd to review the API. It’s still not clear how soon Headd will start in his new position.

The city was similarly hesitant to commit to any timeframe for the PlanPhilly/Azavea project “License to Inspect.” The project, which has been in the works for nearly three years now, is meant to be a more comprehensive app than the city’s. Kennedy said the city was still “very much committed” to the project, but Johnson said that right now, there is no firm end date in sight.

“The L&I package is a great start but the License to Inspect app which is built out and ready to roll (all we need is for the department to give us the data feed) is much more fulsome,” said PlanPhilly Managing Editor Matt Golas. “License to Inspect will come with user notification prompts and will be equipped with exportable data which will allow the public to search and analyze records, journalists to search for stories, and developers, legislators and civic groups to search for trends.”

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