January 15, 2013 | Vol. 73 No. 25

Signage proposed to draw visitors to S.S. from the GAP trail

Initiatives for encouraging Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) travelers to visit the South Side was the sole presentation at the Jan. 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Other topics touched upon during the evening included the invitation to the mayor to speak on public safety in the South Side; the new residential parking permit district; and the new city-wide parking meters.

In his presentation, Jonathan Growall, a member of the board of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said he completed the application for a grant, on behalf of the chamber, to fund pedestrian and biking initiatives.

The grant involves signage, information, crosswalks and more to encourage trail-goers on the GAP to stop in the South Side and spend money while, at the same time, feeling safe in the neighborhood.

When completed this year, the GAP will be part of a non-motorized hiking and biking link between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh.

Mr. Growall said he hopes the notion of drawing travelers to the neighborhood to enhance its daytime economy will generate the same kind of excitement as the proposed South Side hostel.

He said the thousands of expected tourists are usually over 35 years of age; have disposable income and will find the city affordable; and in smaller existing trail towns, have spent an average of $100 daily.

In existing trail towns, 64 percent of businesses surveyed reported significant increased business due to the trail.

Even if he does not get funding, Mr. Growall hopes to achieve his ends through: increased signage on both the trail and roadways; visitor kiosks along the trail; increased bike racks, corrals, and bike lanes; investment and ownership from the business and resident communities; and more.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan updated last month’s agreement by the forum to request the participation of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at a public meeting on public safety in the South Side and to be held as soon as possible.

He said he received a reply that the formal request was received by the Mayor’s Office. He also received email from Candice Gonzalez of the Mayor’s Office saying she will represent the mayor at future forum meetings.

Councilman Bruce Kraus, an audience member, said he knew nothing of what the next step is regarding the meeting. On a related note, he said the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) was scheduled to present its recommendations next week.

Early last year, the city entered into a contract with RHI for a study on the Downtown, Lawrenceville, and South Side entertainment districts, and recommendations on managing such hospitality zones throughout the city.

Mr. Kraus said while RHI will take care of the long term, there is an immediate need to address the critical nature of the current safety crisis in the South Side. The past weekend, a DUI accident at 22nd and Carson streets injured three people. There was also a stabbing at 17th and Carson streets.

Mr. Brannan said he would be in touch that week with Ms. Gonzalez about the meeting.

On the topic of the new South Side residential permit parking district passed by council, Mr. Kraus said that is government’s only role in the process. Permit parking is community-driven program needing approval of 70 percent of area residents.

The vote by council was unanimous with all criteria met by code for the district.

The new permit district is in the general area of 10th St. to 17th St. along East Carson St. but excluding East Carson.

The enforcement hours are noon to midnight, Monday through Saturday, with a two-hour grace period.  The grace period is the amount of time a non-permit holder is permitted to park in the district during enforcement hours.

Letters will be soon going out to district residents about how to apply for a permit.

Questioned about the new city-wide parking meter system, Mr. Kraus said he was told the number one complaint from users is it is hard to read the screens.

As to why dollar bills are not accepted, the official who spoke at a prior forum meeting on the meters said the bills jam the machines. Payment is by coins, credit cards, or debit cards.

Mr. Kraus said if a motorist pays for a planned time length at a certain spot, but then decides to drive elsewhere to complete another errand, he does not have to pay again if the second parking spot is in the same area.

“You are buying the time, not the space,” Christine Gaus, of the Brasher Association, said.

In other business, there was no report of the new Development Review Committee (DRC) because the committee didn’t meet in December. The DRC typically meets on the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Brashear Center.

The DRC was formed by a merger of the LTV Steering Committee and the South Side LDC’s Design Review Committee.

Mr. Brannan said Tracy Myers is putting the finishing touches on the eighth revision of the neighborhood plan, which the forum recently adopted.

The forum received $500 as distribution of the former South Side Local Development Company’s assets for funding the printing of the plan. He said, hopefully, Ms. Myers will be at the next forum meeting with the copies for distribution.

It was also reported the new GetGo, 2757 East Carson St., is scheduled to open on Feb. 14.

In Brashear Association news, the organization’s Christmas toy drive served more than 500 families.  About 850 children received toys.

As the meeting was concluding, Martin Boonstra, the principal at Pittsburgh Phillips K-5, said he hoped more neighborhood awareness could be generated of what the school has to offer.

It is one of the South Side’s walkable amenities, he said, referring to the presentation by Mr. Growall.

Mr. Kraus commented on the irony of East Carson St. ranking sixth in the state for pedestrian and car accidents, according to a PennDOT study, and yet South Side is a walking community.

Ms. Gaus also noted motorists do not pay attention to school zones.

The next forum meeting will be on Feb. 12.  It may feature a presentation on the proposed hostel.

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