The block party ban and what it would take for a legal Philly dumpster pool

“For the cost of what is needed to do this legally, (you) could install an actual above-ground pool”

bus and dumpster
Brandilyn Hamm

Dumpster pool creators Justyn Myers and Jake Long did not contact L&I or the Water Department before showing everyone in Port Fishington they needed to step their block party game up.

And now, their neighbors — the entire 2400 block of Cedar Street — are indefinitely banned from block parties by the Streets Department, something that will only change at this city department’s discretion, with advisement from local police.


We have the right to deny permits when we believe public safety or public and private property has been put at risk.  In this instance, the photos clearly show a serious disregard for public safety,” explains city spokesman Mike Dunn. “Blocks are put into this status until the Streets Department and the local Police commander are confident that applicants and their neighbors are capable of behaving in an appropriate manner.”

In July, there was an average of 13 reported cases of hydrant abuse, and those are the ones the Water Department knows about. There are more, likely many more. For many Philadelphians, seeing an open hydrant during neighborhood strolls is part of the summer. The city only catches open hydrants when Philadelphians report them by calling 215-685-6300. But there’s no plan for stepped up enforcement.

Here’s the city’s explanation for why, per Dunn:

“[I]n a city of limited resources, neither the Fire Department nor the Water Department have the manpower to patrol for hydrant abuse. We ask that citizens exercise common sense, and leave the hydrants for their intended purpose: to fight fires. And we rely on the goodwill of citizens to report instances when others are ignoring common sense.”

But what would it take for a Philadelphia resident, respectful of the city’s processes, to build their own dumpster pool? After all, one wouldn’t want to lose block party privileges.  A 2013 Philadelphia City Paper report found that Philly issued more block party permits than Boston and DC, but also 3.5 times as many as New York, the nation’s largest city, 32 times more than Los Angeles, the second largest city and 1.6 times more than Chicago, the third largest city.

Indeed, Myers told us that he hadn’t ruled out doing a dumpster pool again, and that if he did, he might use a garden hose. Creating a dumpster pool doesn’t actually have to be synonymous with illegal hydrant use. L&I spokeswoman Karen Guss first told us that you’d need a building permit for it. We received further directions, which we are publishing here in full. First, though, the operative quote: “Frankly, for the cost of what is needed to do this legally, a resident could install an actual above-ground pool.”

To be compliant, you’d have to put your dumpster out of the right of way. If the dumpster is, say, in your backyard, you would have to apply for and be issued a building permit. You would also have to ensure that the dumpster pool meets all city requirements for outdoor pools, including proper drainage, fencing and electrical inspection.

From the Philadelphia Code:

A-102.13.1 Requirements. Swimming pools, hot tubs and spas that are accessory to one- or two-family dwellings shall comply with all of the following:

  1. Chapter 41 of the Philadelphia Residential Code.
  2. Appendix G of the Philadelphia Residential Code.
  3. Section B-2406.2, Paragraph 9 of the Philadelphia Building Code (glazing in walls and fences enclosing indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs and spas).
  4. Section B-3109.4 of the Philadelphia Building Code (residential swimming pool enclosures).

A-102.13.2 Swimming pools not accessory to dwellings. Swimming pools that are not accessory to one- or two-family dwellings shall comply with this section (A-102.13), the “American National Standards for Public Pools” issued by ANSI and NSPI (ANSI/NSPI-1 1991) and the Public Bathing Law (35 P.S. §§ 672-680d).”

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