Maura Kennedy

Bill Gardner / 90.5 WESA

City officials are taking extra precautions during inspections of the Frick Building this week after a 1,300-pound chunk of granite crashed onto Grant Street early Sunday morning.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

For decades, contractors demolishing old buildings in Pittsburgh knocked them through the sub-flooring and filled in the holes with whatever was left behind. Debris, support walls, bricks and even appliances -- all topped off with dirt.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Residents, developers and businesses curious about building permits they’ve submitted or the status of construction in their neighborhood can now access information directly from their phones or computers.

William Real / Flickr

Pittsburgh’s old property violations system was, in a word, cumbersome.

“A citizen would put a call into 311. We would then print out that call here (and) manually hand it to an inspector. They would then go out, see the property, inspect it, write on the back of the paper if there was a violation and then give it to someone to be typed up, and then we’d actually mail it out,” said Maura Kennedy, director of the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections, or PLI. “That took weeks.”

The City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections is changing the way it handles appeals to its decisions regarding businesses licenses and property violations.

PLI Chief Maura Kennedy said a review of all bureau policies last year revealed that the current system — wherein Kennedy herself evaluates and adjudicates appeals — violates state law.

“Legally there needs to be an independent body that you appeal the director’s decisions to,” she said. “It’s not appropriate for the department both to be the judge and the jury.”

Flickr user Mary Helen Cochran Library

The Pittsburgh Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections has a nice little chunk of change—a bit more than $300,000—set aside for storage of records.

But the catch is the work must be done on microfilm.

The Microfilm Permit Plans Trust Fund was set up in 1986 with strict parameters about how the money could be spent, and nearly thirty years later, the city has finally decided it’s time to broaden those parameters.

One of the items Mayor Bill Peduto ran on was making the Bureau of Building Inspection its own department, which would report directly to the mayor, rather than to the head of public safety. Such a move is intended to modernize the department, among other things.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Maura Kennedy is Pittsburgh's new Bureau of Building Inspection Chief. She came to the job four months ago from Philadelphia, where she led a strategic building code enforcement campaign targeting the city's many blighted properties.

Keystone Crossroads' Irina Zhorov spoke with her about her experience in Philadelphia and her plans for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday took a tour 200 Ross St., which houses, among other offices, the Bureau of Building Inspection and Department of City Planning.

BBI Chief Maura Kennedy said they were showing off the long-awaited implementation of a decades-old technology: as of this month, every employee in the building finally has Internet access.

“Previously the building was not wired for the Internet, in large part,” Kennedy said. “So now people are actually using the laptops we purchased several years ago to do real-time data entry.”