May 21, 2013 | Vol. 73 No. 43

South Side Planning Forum works on ongoing issues

With no presentations, the May 14 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum consisted of announcements and updates on ongoing issues.

While there was no meeting of the Development Review Committee (DRC) last month, chair Tracy Myers said there was nonetheless issues she wanted to discuss before the forum.

One such issue was asking attendees to email her or a committee member upon spotting buildings or construction in the neighborhood which seems to violate codes or agreements.

An example is a Jane St. house with first floor siding and no windows.

Ms. Myers said it does not appear to comply with zoning regulations. If it is a violation, the city may force the owners to tear down the siding.

Monitoring projects for adherence to approved specifications was easier to do with a paid South Side Local Development Company staff, she said. But the organization ceased operations last summer, leaving it to volunteers to do the monitoring.

When something in the neighborhood does not look right, photos should be taken and sent to DRC members she added. Ms. Myers’ email is tjmyers57@aol.com. The DRC meets the last Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Brashear Center.

In the South Side Neighborhood Plan update, Ms. Myers said the revision task force that did the 2012 revision proposed a standing neighborhood plan revision monitoring committee be formed.

Its purpose, as stated in the eighth update of the neighborhood plan, is to monitor progress in addressing issues as identified in the neighborhood plan, and to update the plan biennially.

To that end, Ms. Myers asked each member forum organization to designate a representative and an alternative by the June 11 forum meeting who will sit on the new, standing neighborhood plan revision committee.

Ms. Myers asked forum members to inform forum Chair Hugh Brannan or Christine Gaus who their two appointees are for the committee.

The choices do not have to be board members, but can simply be members.

“This is really an important job for the organizations,” she said.

Mr. Brannan said the forum will only be as strong as the commitment of member organizations. Therefore, it is important to meet Ms. Myers’ request.

He also said the overall goal is to position the forum to be able to communicate the neighborhood plan to the city administration.

As with the DRC and its monitoring of zoning and other specifications, the new committee is needed as there is no full-time, paid staff to take care of these issues in light of the dissolution of the South Side LDC.

Next, Jonathan Growall, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said a grand opening of the South Side Welcome Center at 1100 East Carson St. was held on May 9.

“There was a lot of effort to get it up and running,” he said.

The grand opening attracted more than 100 visitors. Its hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and it is manned by a largely volunteer staff.

It was sanctioned by VisitPittsburgh, becoming one of a handful of official VisitPittsburgh welcome centers in the Greater Pittsburgh region. The South Side Welcome Center has guides, maps, and other resources to welcome visitors, new residents and businesses to the neighborhood.

Betty Kripp, of the neighborhood plan revision task force, said it will take time for people to learn the center exists. It may motivate other business owners to join the chamber, she said.

Candice Gonzalez, Neighborhood Initiatives Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office, said being at the center was great fun.

“The energy there is really engaging,” she said.

In her update of city activities, she said 24 recipients will receive funding through the “Love Your Block” grant program. A few recipients are in the South Side and Hilltop areas, like the South Side Chamber of Commerce and the South Side Community Council.

The city’s third annual Youth Civic Leadership Academy, a free six-session program designed to educate and engage high school students on the inner-workings of city government, will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m., July 9-25.

The city will provide bus/shuttle service to sessions outside the downtown area, and Port Authority bus passes for all sessions.

Applicants must be a high school student residing within the city. Applications can be found at pittsburghpa.gov/ycla. The deadline is June 3.

Ms. Gonzalez also reported volunteer Promise Coaches are being sought to help navigate youths through high school and onto higher education via the Pittsburgh Promise.

The Pittsburgh Promise provides scholarship funds for city residents to pursue undergraduate higher education.

If interested in coaching, visit: www.promisecoaches.org, or call 412-255-2280.

To an attendee’s question about the plan for police patrols on weekends on South Side, Ms. Gonzalez said instead of having off-duty officers working security at individual bars, the officers will join on-duty officers in groups of six to patrol specific areas.

The pilot program will pair 20 off-duty security officers with 10 on-duty officers to cover the entertainment district and surrounding areas.

Groups will then be in touch with each other if there is a problem.

“It will be a more efficient, focused presence,” she said.

The plan will largely be funded by the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association.

The city hired the Responsible Hospital Institute (RHI) two years ago to come up with a plan for making the neighborhood safer while maintaining a vibrant entertainment district.

The RHI worked with bar owners, neighborhood groups, police and city officials, and other stakeholders to help devise a plan.

The next forum meeting will be on June 11.

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