South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Good Neighbor Agreement proposed for South Side businesses, residents


April 15, 2008

Two presentations headlined the April 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum: one, about the proposed Good Neighbor Cooperation Memorandum, and the other about a proposed expansion of the UUBU 6 Restaurant.

The meeting began with Josette Fitzgibbons, of Mainstreets Pittsburgh, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, giving an overview of what led to the proposed Good Neighbor agreement.

The result of a year's worth of work, it came out of the same movement responsible for the bar legislation, she said.

To try to deal with the "boiling over of Carson Street," various strategies were employed. They include: a committee of the forum reviewing special events permits; examining valet parking; and asking, "What can we do to foster an environment of education and cooperation on Carson Street?"

From the latter emerged the Good Neighbor agreement, an idea spurred from similar agreements Megan Stearman of the URA found in other towns facing challenges similar to the South Side.

The draft agreement, which is not legally binding, operates as a pledge by participating parties to comply with all applicable laws; to cooperate to establish the safety and prosperity of the South Side; and more.

The parties are: business owners; landlords; bar and restaurant owners; institutions; residents; and community organizations.

Each party has pledge items applicable to their specific role on the South Side, such as "the business owner shall ensure that no persons under the age of 21 years shall consume alcohol on the premises" for bar and restaurant owners.

For landlords, a pledge item is: "Landlords shall ensure that tenants will maintain an appropriate noise level which is acceptable to neighbors."

Ms. Fitzgibbons said they are talking with universities regarding students who rent on the South Side.

They are also working on the structure of the plan. One suggestion involves creating subcommittees within each zone to handle quality-of-life issues like crime, litter, and parking. Each zone would then appoint a zone leader who would report incidents to the plan administrator on at least a weekly basis.

That way, when city administrators hear about a problem from leaders that the zones can't handle, they know it is a serious, continuing problem that is not being addressed by authorities.

To a question about the plan administrator, she said those details have not yet been worked out.

But they will be putting together a proposal for funding once all the applicable organizations are on board.

Ms. Fitzgibbons said she is willing to talk to other groups about the agreement. She can be contacted via email at the URA.

In the other presentation, forum member Janice Serra and Brad Palmisiano, of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, discussed the proposed expansion of the UUBU 6 Restaurant through a rooftop deck with indoor seating.

But first they provided a brief history of the Pius St. establishment.

Its opening almost two years ago in a residential area was opposed by many neighbors, and zoning was denied. The owners appealed to the county Common Pleas Court, which upheld the city Zoning Board of Adjustment's decision. They then appealed to the state courts, which gave the okay.

Their request for an expansion of the non-conforming use would double the seats from 80 to 160, and increase the floor area by 56 percent.

The laws allow for a 15 percent increase in a residential area, said Ms. Serra.

The expansion requires 21 more parking spaces but, according to zoning documents, none has been provided, she said.

As before, residents expressed concerns at the zoning hearing about noise, parking, garbage, emissions, and more.

The Zoning Board denied the request, and the owners again appealed to Common Pleas Court, which is where the matter currently lies.

Ms. Serra and Mr. Palmisano wanted to inform the forum of the matter in light of neighbors' concerns.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan said he would invite the owners, the Lench family, to give a presentation at the May 13 forum meeting.

Next, Mr. Brannan said he received a phone call from attorney Louis Caputo, who appeared before last month's forum with client, Durid Aboud.

His family plans to open a 65-seat Mediterranean restaurant, with liquor, at 2126 Carson St. in three months.

In the phone call, Mr. Caputo said they would provide the forum with floor plans and menus, as requested at the meeting.

An attendee said the Abouds applied for an amusement license – which was granted — and a license for Sunday sales, although Mr. Aboud said at last month's meeting there would be no live entertainment or loud music.

Regarding the widening of East Carson St. between 25th and 34th streets, Mr. Brannan said a town meeting on the matter will be held this summer.

The project, designed and engineered by the URA, is expected to begin in September, and cost $10—$11 million.

Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side Local Development Co., said construction will last two years, with stoppages in November so as not to impact Christmas shopping. During those stoppages, off-Carson St. work will occur.

On the topic of the proposed condominium project on the former police station/jailhouse property in the 1300 block of Sarah St., Mr. Brannan said the forum was unable to reach a consensus. That information was conveyed in a letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Landmark Property Development LLC wants to build nine condos on the site, and was seeking the forum's support prior to an appearance before the Zoning Board.

At last month's forum presentation on the matter, residents complained about the height, impact on the neighborhood, parking during construction, and that a planned single staircase violated the national building code.

Landmark continues to meet with the Design Committee of the South Side LDC.

Regarding Pittsburgh's 250th Anniversary celebration, Mr. Belloli said while the bike race route through the South Side is still unclear, it appears the longer route to 18th St. is the leading option. That route has support in the Mayor's Office and of the Allegheny Conference.

On June 28, the "American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania presented by Highmark Healthy High 5" bike race will pass through the South Side.

Local organizations are working on activities designed to promote the district. Mr. Belloli said an effort is underway to line up food vendors to supplement existing ones.

Mr. Brannan distributed copies of a February 28 letter from Richard Fellers, chief operations officer of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. In it, Mr. Fellers thanked the forum for its involvement in the process for selling the former South High School, although the end result "was not the action that you recommended."

The school board authorized the sale of the former high school to Gregory Development for $1.1 million.

The Fourth Annual South Side Spring Cleanup will take place on April 19, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine. Volunteers should meet at the 18th and East Carson streets parking lot at 9:15 a.m.

The next forum meeting will be on May 13.


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