Save Irving Street
from private ownership!

home / news / summary / research / legal / photos 


April 10, 2014:  Our legal battle to Save Irving Street from private ownership has failed.The Commonwealth Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision which was to grant us our private easement rights, but also to allow the adjacent property owners to claim Irving Street as their private property.  According to the decision, Irving Street may not be blocked or in any way inhibited from use by easement holders.  At least that is good news for us.  Unfortunately, the public can be denied access. (read decision here)

Summary:  The adjacent property owners to Irving Street, the Bigas-Valedon and Navarro's of 221 and 223 S. Jessup Street respectively, have filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please to gain title to the east end of Irving Street.  We are objecting (see Legal) and contend that Irving Street is a public street and should be put on the City Plan to ensure public access for current and future generations.

If Irving Street is on The City Plan:

If Irving Street is annexed by adjacent property owners:


Backgound: How we got here

 

There was a meeting in August 16, 2007 of the residents of the 200 block of S. Jessup Street, at the request of the adjacent property owners to Irving Street, the Bigas-Valedon and Navarro's (Julie Seda-Bigas and Modesto Bigas-Valedon of 121 S. Jessup Street and Victor J. Navarro and Cheryl Navarro of 123 S. Jessup Street).  The Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's asked the neighborhood for support in erecting a gate between their houses, effectively fencing off historic Irving Street.  Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's complained about nuisance behavior and illegally parked cars; these were complaints that many neighbors knew first-hand were exaggerated, if not groundless, and viewed their complaints as an excuse to annex Irving Street. (It should be noted that the Bigas-Valendon's had just purchased their house in 7/5/06 and the Navarro's in 4/5/07.  The Navarro's permanent residence is in Doylestown, Pa.)

 

It was suggested at the meeting that the street could be made into a pocket park. Many neighbors adamantly opposed the idea.  After several months of neighborhood discord, the adjacent property owners appeared to drop the idea. Although it should be noted that in December of 2007, the attorney for the Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's, Richard DeMarco, sent an email to the Philadelphia Historical Commission requesting information regarding the status of his clients historically designated houses and the historic cartway of Irving Street. The Historical Commission staff member responded that a permit was needed to install a gate across Irving Street. 

 

The privatization of Irving Street appeared to lay dormant until January of 2011, when surveyors from the City, who were contracted by the Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's to determine their property lines, appeared on the scene.  An email from us, asking the Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's what was going on, went unanswered.  However, the survey office confirmed our suspicions that the Bigas-Valedon's and Navarro's were once again taking steps to privatize Irving Street.  We retained an attorney and began an intense effort to save Irving Street.  (read Legal Summary)

_____________________________

 

More on Irving Street

Irving Street, east of South Jessup Street, has been in the public domain for nearly 200 years.  Together with South Jessup Street, they constitute one of the most unique and charming intersections for small historic streets in Philadelphia.  This tiny crossroads is a gem.  It is in the famous Philadelphia “Gayborhood” and a favorite stop for walking tours, artists, and photographers, offering that favorite "Kodak moment".   It has also appeared in feature length movies and commercials.  It is a landmark. 

 

The streets contained within the block bordered by Locust and Spruce, from 11th to 12th, are also part of the Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District, sometimes called the Historic Cartway, which includes the entire stretch of Irving Street.  However, the protection afforded by the historic designation is limited, and applies only to the flat surface of the road, not curbs and sidewalks.  More importantly, should the east end of Irving Street be privatized, the property owners can deny public access, and apply for permits to erect a gate and use the cartway as a carport. 

 

Although the east end of Irving Street may receive limited protection by the Historical Commission as a historic cartway, the Commission has control only over the flat surface of the cartway, but not the historic curbs and sidewalks, which are the property owners responsibility.  Currently, the Bigas-Valedon's have blocked Irving Street with planters and the Navarro's have a garden where a sidewalk should be.  Both property owners have curbs, which are their responsibility, that constitute a tripping hazard. (see photo).  They have been asked to correct this situation, but so far, have refused to do so or even to respond to our requests.


Should Irving Street be privatized, we are very concerned that current or future owners will restrict public access with a gate.  Although we have also been told that the adjacent property owners have no intention to do so in the “near future”, that begs the question:  If they don’t restrict access with a gate, how else would they control the alleged “nuisance behavior” and “illegally parked cars and trucks" that they have complained about in the past?  And although the Historical Commission has told us that they will, more than likely, not allow the street to be gated, the adjacent property owners or future owners, can appeal that decision and ultimately prevail.  Why should the City of Philadelphia and its citizens take that risk?

 

We believe that in order to keep Irving Street in public hands, thereby preserving its historic integrity and guaranteeing it remain a street open to the public, the City of Philadelphia should take the necessary steps to put it on the City Plan. We would very much welcome any support you may have to offer (see writing tips), including financial assitance.  Also, please visit our legal Summary and research page, which charts the history of Irving Street.  It's an interesting look back in time.

 


Our supporters include: numerous neighbors (see letter to Weekly Press), other Philadelphians and visitors  (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/irvingstreet/), The Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides (http://www.phillyguides.org/), and the preservation group - SaveOurSites.org.

 


Organizers: Cliff and Lynn Landes have lived in Philadelphia since 2001.  Lynn is a life-long activist and freelance journalist (see www.LynnLandes.com)  and Cliff is a retired airline pilot and Pennsylvania Air National Guard pilot.  They have three children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. Lynn and Cliff can be contacted at 217 S. Jessup Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 / lynnlandes@earthlink.net / 215-629-3553