September 11, 2012 |

Not everyone is on board with more S.S. permit parking

Residents in a proposed residential permit parking district in the South Side will have to wait until the Pittsburgh Planning Commission's Sept. 18 meeting to learn its recommendation.

That was the outcome of the Sept. 4 Planning Commission meeting on the proposed district: the South Side Flats from 10th St. to 17th St. along East Carson, and extending to Breed, Mary Ann, and Freyburg streets. Portions of 14th and 16th streets are excluded, as is East Carson St.

Permit parking is a way to give residents of a designated area a better chance to park near their homes as it helps alleviate non-residents from parking on residential streets. The city had no role in the proposed designation.

In the resident-driven action, at least 70 percent of the households in a proposed district must sign a petition to qualify, as well as 70 percent of the households on each block in the proposed district.

At a community meeting on July 18, neighborhood residents voted for enforcement to be from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, with a one-hour grace period. The grace period is the amount of time a non-permit holder would be permitted to park during enforcement hours.

Planning Commission members felt enforcement hours were somewhat extreme and, at its meeting in early August, asked that a public meeting be held to re-examine the hours and days of enforcement.

That meeting was held on Aug. 30 at the Market House, and conducted by city Councilman Bruce Kraus and Pittsburgh City Planning's neighborhood planner, Ashley Holloway.

Richard Meritzer, who started the city's residential permit parking program 28 years ago, was in attendance to provide input and answer any questions.

While at meeting's end the choice was made for noon to midnight enforcement hours, Monday through Saturday, with a two-hour grace period, the raucous discussion preceding it made it clear that not everyone was on board with the proposed parking district.

Instead, many of the roughly 75 attendees favored a long-term, comprehensive parking solution that utilized long-standing resources like parking lots and the South Side Planning Forum.

An owner of a restaurant-bar establishment suggested letting the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) deal with the parking problem.

The non-profit RHI, which the city recently contracted to deal with the effects of the South Side bar saturation, promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups. The attendee said RHI works with individuals and companies as a team.

Another businessman said the parking issue should follow the South Side Planning Forum process and "not be railroaded through."

An attendee commented that because the neighborhood has a "daytime and nighttime economy," a balance must be struck.

Mr. Mertizer said he has helped fashion similar parking districts in Bloomfield, Shadyside, and other neighborhoods that have been successful, and those businesses have flourished.

"The program works well for everybody," he said.

Under the program, individuals who own cars with permits are permitted to park anywhere in the program area all day and night except for local restrictions like street cleaning. A permit costs $20 per program year per vehicle.

When three or more people living in a residence have three different last names, only three can get permits.

A visitor's pass costs $1 per program year per household, and is for a visitor within the program area. It may not be used for more than three consecutive weekdays on the same vehicle. Each household receives a maximum of one visitor's pass.

Those without a permit may park for only a limited amount of time, which may be no longer than the timeframe determined by residents.

Enforcement is by the Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh using hand-held computers. There is no parking enforcement on holidays.

Recertification of the program is done every four years. If after a year the residents decide they don't like it, they can re-petition and have the area removed.

However, the street or block must stay out for two years before they can re-petition to return.

"This is not a life sentence," Mr. Mertizer said.

Mr. Kraus said the program helps with residents' street parking problems in two ways: first, all-day parkers who hop a bus to jobs downtown will get the message they can no longer take up parking spots for eight hours because they will be tagged; and, second, if there are five unrelated people living in a home, only three will get permits.

To eating/drinking establishment owners' concerns, he said with enforcement ending at midnight, and a two-hour grace period, that means someone can park at 10 p.m. in the district and remain for hours.

A resident said a lot of the parking problems are common sense issues. She asked why a shuttle cannot be operated for intoxicated bar customers, while another attendee commented that drunks cannot be forced to get on a shuttle.

"Making better use of the parking that is already here is a better solution," an attendee said.

A resident who lives outside the proposed zone said it will make parking more competitive.

"It will be a huge, huge inconvenience," she said.

Mr. Mertizer agreed the fringe gets hit by those willing to walk further.

"Parking suddenly gets a lot denser," he said.

Another attendee said the solution is a more comprehensive planning solution, and suggested going through the Planning Forum process.

He said pushing parking to the Market House side of the neighborhood will impact the City Theatre and other businesses.

"We're poorer as a neighborhood," he said if City Theatre and others are forced to relocate.

A resident said she lives in the South Side to shop in all the local businesses. If they shut down, she will move to the suburbs, she said.

Another resident said she does not shop in the city because she cannot move her car.

"At night, it is a nightmare," she said of evening parking.

An attendee said that the influx of Duquesne and Pitt students to the South Side started the problems.

"That's where all our problems lie -- students and absentee landlords," she said.

At the Sept. 18 Planning Commission meeting, no public testimony will be taken. The commission's recommendation will be sent to city council.

Prior to a vote to approve the district by city council, anyone may petition council for a public hearing. The only requirement is the signatures of 25 registered city voters validated through the city clerk's office.

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