Slopes hears from Mayor's Office, RHI and county executive
The first South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) meeting of 2014 was packed with news of proposed developments; city and county updates; and the staple issues of parking, trash and irresponsible landlords.
Among the speakers were county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and city council President Bruce Kraus.
It began with Grant Gittlen, community affairs manager in the Mayor’s Office, introducing himself. He said he would be attending SSSNA meetings on behalf of Mayor Peduto.
To a question of whether calling 311 is the most efficient means of lodging complaints, he said yes.
However, he added the administration is working on improving it so follow-ups are conducted.
Mr. Gittlen was followed by Mr. Kraus, who introduced Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) president Jim Peters and project manager Alicia Lakomski.
The non-profit RHI promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety and community development groups. The RHI has been working for the past two years in Lawrenceville, Oakland, Mount Washington, South Side and elsewhere to understand the city’s nighttime economy.
The next day, council was expected to give preliminary approval to extending the contract for a third year.
Mr. Peters and Ms. Lakomski will man the new “nighttime manager” office in the Mayor’s Office.
Mr. Peters said people want to live in cities for places to socialize.
“It helps to have places to socialize that are safe,” he said.
There is also a great economic benefit to cities in having successful bars, restaurants, clubs, pubs and more to regenerate money locally.
“We want to preserve and nurture that,” he said.
RHI is also looking to improve policing services that work at night, and is working with colleges and universities for a better code of conduct for off-campus dwellers.
Next, neighborhood planner Ashley Holloway, the liaison between the Slopes and the community development office, answered questions.
He also administers the residential parking permit program, the main purpose of which is to help alleviate non-residents from parking on residential streets.
To a question about the problem of landlords renting one-unit houses to three or four unrelated people, Mr. Holloway said it is hard for the city to enforce unless the multiple names appear on the lease. But the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) is working on the matter.
Violators can also be discovered through the parking permit system. Mr. Holloway said when he was alerted to seven people in one house applying for parking permits, he passed the information on to the appropriate city department for investigation.
In news of the SSSNA Outreach Committee, Betty Kripp said a survey confirmed trash and parking are big issues for residents.
Once the committee decided to address the trash problem, zones were mapped, and educational walkabouts were conducted.
The committee learned much of the trash comes from improper trash storage, like bags not tied properly, and bags placed outside for pickup days early allowing animals to rip them apart.
Mrs. Kripp said an unkempt appearance relays the message to criminals it is a blighted neighborhood conducive to robberies and other crimes.
Two strategies for tackling the trash problem are: Education; and bag clips and garbage can stickers with the message to keep trash out of sight and in cans with lids; Making landlords aware of their responsibility in informing tenants of the trash rules.
Residents should always call 311 to report trash problems, such as it being set outside for pickup days early.
The city ordinance states garbage stored outside should be in cans with tightly fitting lids. All trash (in cans and bags) should be placed on the street after 6 p.m. the day before pickup, and the cans put away by 9 p.m. the day of pickup.
Possible future plans of action include forming a “good landlord association,” and putting together a team of Duquesne University students to help the elderly and handicapped with their trash.
Next, architect Peter Margittai presented a schematic design for the conversion of the 45,000-square-feet St. Josaphat building on Mission St. into a luxury apartment complex.
The plan is for 19 apartment rentals: six one-bedroom and 13 two-bedroom units, with 28 total internal parking spaces.
The basement, which has a boiler room and bowling alleys, would become indoor parking. There will be a rooftop terrace, and the building’s exterior will be restored.
The project is currently in the zoning approval phase. If given the go-ahead, construction will likely begin in the fall.
In SSSNA updates, President Brian Oswald said the organization received $45,000 in grant money for the 65-acre South Side Park from the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.
To a question about trail design, Brad Palmisiano said efforts have largely been about reclaiming old trails. But they are close to needing a plan now.
Regarding the steps, the SSSNA will apply to the county for a community infrastructure grant for the steps’ repair.
Next, Sola Talabi presented Oxbridge Development’s plan to build five new townhouses alongside the six townhouses currently at the triangle of land between Josephine and S.18th streets.
The residential site will look like individual houses while being connected at the base. The parking will be well above the code minimum.
The project is still in the schematic design phase.
Mr. Talabi asked for his third continuance for a variance hearing scheduled for Feb. 20.
Peter Kreuthmeier, of Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, and an SSSNA board member, will design the project. He said Mr. Talabi’s intention is to continue engaging the community on the project.
The final speaker, Rich Fitzgerald, said last year the county passed a transportation bill guaranteeing public transit here for the next 10 years.
As to how to make Port Authority Transit (PAT) better, he said a future project is bus rapid transit linking downtown to Oakland for an 11-minute commute.
The transportation bill will also be valuable in devising a plan for parking in the downtown area, which has a low vacancy rate, he said.
For those who live downtown, and therefore do not wish to own cars, there is a need for transit and bike lanes.
To an attendee’s remarks about having a great time on the snow at Boyce Park recently, Mr. Fitzgerald said after years of losing money on ski operations there, the county hired a private company to make snow. The site opened on Dec. 5, and has been setting attendance records.
“It has been an absolutely terrific experience,” he said.
He said the county continues to look to partner with private organizations which do things better than the county can.
To a question about talk of a city/county consolidation, he said four parks are being looked at: Riverview, Schenley, Frick and Highland.