Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s administration will break up the oft-criticized Department of Licenses and Inspections, a major reorganization of city government that critics have advocated for years.

During a news conference Thursday, Parker announced that she will separate the agency into two divisions, each with its own commissioner. One department will focus on inspections, safety, and compliance; the other on “quality-of-life” issues and business code enforcement.

Parker’s news conference marked the second time this week she announced she would split up a city agency. She announced Monday that she is seeking to separate the Streets Department into two distinct operations — one focused on streets, the other on sanitation. Parker said she is not planning to break up any other agencies.

The mayor cast the decision Thursday as a response to L&I’s constantly expanding portfolio. The department’s core responsibility is building safety, but new regulations for homes and businesses have resulted in years of what she described as “mission creep.”

“I’m a different mayor, got a different style,” Parker said. “I’m not going to do what the previous administration did. The expectations are different. The vision is different.”

Basil L. Merenda, director of labor under former Mayor Jim Kenney, will lead the division on inspections, which will oversee construction, building operation, and demolition in the city. Bridget Collins-Greenwald, the current commissioner of the Department of Public Property, will head the quality-of-life division.

“Splitting L&I into two distinct pieces is something that was a long time coming,” Collins-Greenwald said.

Merenda and Collins-Greenwald will take over a large and beleaguered agency that has for years lost building inspectors at a rapid clip, and remaining workers have said they are overloaded. Hiring has not kept pace with the departures, alarming observers who say the conditions threaten public safety in a city where construction-related collapses are commonplace.

Parker cited The Inquirer’s “Crumbling City” series of articles about how Philadelphia’s surging housing redevelopment has led to construction safety issues, saying it “affirms why we need to be laser-focused in this area.”

Calls to reform the Department of Licenses and Inspections long predate the exodus of workers during the pandemic.

Following the deadly Market Street collapse in 2013, then-Mayor Michael Nutter empaneled a special commission to review it and consider potential policy fixes. Following a months-long investigation, the commission released a report that included dozens of findings and proposals — the number-one recommendation being to separate L&I into two agencies, one focused on buildings and one on business licensing.

In the view of the commission, L&I was subjected for decades to “continual mission creep, inadequate funding, and recurring conflicts over policies and priorities” that led to political influence and corruption. But a split never happened.

Peter F. Vaira, the former U.S. attorney who served as the executive director of the commission, said in an interview Thursday that Parker’s shakeup is a welcome change that will make city government more efficient.

“This is a big surprise. I thought it was dead as a doornail,” he said. “Good for the mayor, because it simply has to be done for good government.”

A task force convened last year by City Council issued a report to Parker in December outlining a variety of other recommendations to improve the department and increase efficiency, including removing some degree requirements to hire more staff and improving coordination between L&I and other agencies.

The task force, which Merenda chaired, also recommends increasing the department’s budget allocation, noting that L&I generates more than $87 million in annual revenue but spends just $45.7 million.

Parker, who is expected to deliver her first budget proposal to City Council in March, acknowledged that there may be budget implications but vowed that no new taxes would be proposed as a way to pay for the agency separation.

The department separations will become official when Parker signs an executive order triggering a provision in the city’s Home Rule Charter that allows “employees or divisions to be loaned to other offices.”

The city would have to amend the charter to make the set-up permanent. Charter amendments require approval from City Council and voters who weigh in on a ballot question.