Proposed signage was the major topic of discussion at Thursday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC), where neighborhood residents demonstrated support for some signs and opposition to others.
The signs which weren’t so well-received were the “No Parking” signs Zone 3 Police Commander Catherine McNeilly suggested for Kambach Street following a fire there last month. The fire damaged three houses and blazed the trail for matters of public concern.
At the time of the emergency, illegally parked vehicles made it difficult for the fire truck to access the street and blocked the fire hydrants closest to the homes that were damaged by the fire. Public concerns over parking problems on Kambach and Judicial streets, pertaining to this instance and to others, were raised at Zone 3’s Public Safety meeting a week later, calling for the enforcement of parking regulations on those streets.
To remedy the situation, which has presented logistical problems for the last decade due to the influx of renters in the area, Commander Catherine McNeilly suggested single-side parking for Kambach Street. This would mean parking would be allowed only on one side of the street, and “No Parking signs” would be planted along the other side to prohibit parking.
When Ms. McNeilly’s suggestion was brought up, in her absence, at Thursday’s MWCDC meeting, several residents expressed their outrage over the idea.
“There isn’t enough space there now,” one resident stated. “This would only make things worse.”
“We just want the police to enforce existing regulations, not add more,” another neighbor interjected.
On hand to address these issues were Zone 3 Police Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey; City of Pittsburgh Municipal Traffic Engineer Amanda Purcell; and Barbie Arroyo, constituent services coordinator to the Office of Councilman Bruce Kraus.
Officer Luffey reminded residents the commander’s suggestion was just a suggestion, with no plans to be implemented any time soon. To further appease resident rage, she assured the audience she would compile comments from the meeting and present them to Commander McNeilly post haste.
Though there are no immediate plans to follow through with Commander McNeilly’s suggestion, Ms. Purcell said there are plans to put up signs to enforce current regulations, particularly in those places where the curb is painted yellow but no sign is present.
“Public Works is going to post some signs on Kambach Street, and on the corner of Judicial,” Ms. Purcell said. “Then people will know, once and for all, not to park there.”
Some residents didn’t think new signs would solve the problem, citing the fact that drivers continually violate existing visual cues prohibiting parking and would likely continue to do so, even in the face of new signage. Nonetheless, opposing residents agreed when Officer Luffey asserted, “It’s a good start.”
Speaking to the plaguing parking problem, Officer Luffey went on to say: “Please keep in mind—the problems on Kambach Street are created by your own residents.
“What you need to do is do something to bring them on board, to let them know that if they’re parked illegally, the police will be called, and they will get ticketed… And it’s you who must make that call. I encourage you to call 911 when you see a car parked in front of a fire hydrant or too close to the corner.
“But, be aware, when you call for one car, the officer will tag every illegally parked car on the street—including yours, if you’re parked in violation.”
While the parking sign possibilities presented potential problems, another type of signage promised more pleasant prospects.
Darryl Phillips, of the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, discussed the MWCDC’s scenic byways and point of view landscaping projects, assisted in his oration by Ilyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC director of park development and conservation, because he had laryngitis.
In large part, Ms. Manspeizer was the one to deliver information on byway signage, which she said would “make the experience of being on Grandview Avenue more enjoyable and informative.”
The project proposes to install ten signs along the Grandview scenic byway, encompassing Grandview Avenue, Sycamore Street, McCardle Roadway and a small piece of Wyoming Street. These ten new signs will be in addition to the two restoration signs already on display, and will feature informational text, photographs, artwork and other relevant graphics.
Each sign will focus on a different regional amenity or event of historical significance. The focuses of the renderings are: the confluence of rivers; the Duquesne Incline; building a community; the underground railroad in Chatham Village; transport and the building of roads; Native American history; the greening of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh’s industrial legacy; the Monongahela Incline; and, “the Grand View.”
Eight of the signs will be affixed to the fencing on Grandview Avenue, at an angle that maximizes readability. Two of the signs will be on pedestal stands, as they will be located where there is no fencing.
Ms. Manspeizer said the signs will be graffiti-proof and weather-durable, with an anticipated replacement need every five to ten years.
After explaining the signs, Ms. Manspeizer asked the audience to explore them. She directed attention to sample images of the signs affixed to the room’s walls, and gave residents a few moments to take a gander.
She also gave them sticky notes on which to write their comments.
Some of the comments people stuck to the posters included notes of praise, such as “Love it!,” as well as tangential criticisms such as “Poor sign layout” and “Need to credit artist (of this painting).”
Noting the sample signs were works-in-progress, not the definitive final versions, Ms. Manspeizer said the feedback, including all compliments and complaints, will be collected and considered as the MWCDC and Parsons Brinckerhoff move forward with their plans.
Despite his scratchy throat and voice, Mr. Phillips took the floor next, to discuss the point of view landscaping project.
The objective of the project, according to Mr. Phillips, is to create a walkway for people to access the grassy areas and public trails on the hillside, while also preventing them from going into the rocky, non- landscaped mountainside.
The anticipated 4-foot-wide walkway would conform to the hill’s existing contouring, be set along existing fencing and feed into the existing trail, said Mr. Phillips.
“Existing” was a word Mr. Phillips used often, as he repeatedly assured residents the project would not eliminate or significantly alter any natural and/or manmade assets the area already possesses. He further stressed that the project is pushing for the use of natural, green hardscaping and landscaping, and materials like steel siding would only be used where absolutely necessary, such as where warranted by public safety interests or to prevent roll off.
Preserving assets and using natural elements has been both a goal and a challenge in the design process.
“Our landscape architect has wrestled with some significant restraints,” Mr. Phillips said.
The restraints he mentioned included selecting shrubbery and other greenery that met a long laundry list of requirements. He said the ideal plants had to be salt-resistant, non-invasive, native/regional, deer-resistant, able to handle cold and windy weather, and with growth that wouldn’t interfere with the scenic view.
Preventing access to the non-landscaped mountainside was another restraint brought up by Mr. Phillips. The project originally proposed a rock barrier, which was vetoed by public comment at a recent community meeting. Shrubbery, instead, was suggested, presenting the same greenery concerns listed above.
Also discussed were the landscaping possibilities for the upper end of Grandview Avenue, at the popular site of the George Washington statue, which receives a tremendous amount of foot traffic from visitors taking advantage of the magnificent photo opportunity.
Mr. Phillips said the ground by the statue needs something more durable, such as granite sets or bound gravel, because the ground is getting trampled upon. Another thing needed in the area, he proffered, is seating, which he submitted in the form of stone-block/Belgian block sitting stones, to coincide with the goal of maintaining a natural appearance.
From the statue and through the grassy knoll, Mr. Phillips recommended a gravel path to link the area adjoining the statue to the existing trail below.
Sketches for these plans were also presented on the walls, to elicit resident feedback, which Mr. Phillips said will be taken into consideration as the project progresses.
As this particular project progresses, so too does another.
Work on the Emerald View Park Trail is still underway. Efforts are being orchestrated to “help clean up litter and dumpsites in Emerald View Park to make room for new trails and beautify the neighborhood.”
Spring clean-up days have been added to the community calendar, as follows: the Annual Hillside Cleanup, with the Explorers’ Club of Pittsburgh, will take place on April 7; April 13 marks the Grandview Park Spring Cleanup with the Friends of Grandview Park organization; and, the Spring Redd Up is slated for April 20.
To register for these clean-ups, or for more information, contact Kathryn Hunninen, MWCDC park and community sustainability manager, by calling 412-481-3220 x200, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.