New South Watch group will work with city on code, safety violations
Over the last year, residents from the South Side Flats and Slopes have been working on a public safety/code compliance initiative that is patterned after Oakwatch.
Oakwatch’s mission is to improve the quality of life by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation and monitor the outcomes.
The South Watch initiative is scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month and will take place at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah Street. Meetings will alternate monthly between noon and 6 p.m. The first meeting will occur on Wednesday, March 8 from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Last March, members of Oakwatch spoke to the South Side community about their work over the last five years. Oakwatch members indicated their problems have been resolved more easily as a result of the monthly meetings where city officials, university representatives and residents work together in an organized way. As a result, a small group of residents from the Flats and Slopes have been working together for a year to educate themselves on city codes and processes.
The agenda will begin with introductions by the meeting chairs and a presentation on the purpose and structure of the South Watch meetings. At future meetings, there will be 15-minute presentations on topics relative to the South Watch process. It will be followed by a property progress report.
Properties on the report will be those that have been referred to 311 because of persistent code violations. On hand will be city representatives from Environmental Services and Permits, Licenses and Inspections (PLI) to provide updates on those properties listed on the reports.
Zone 3 police officers will share data trends each month. Since parking is a persistent issue on South Side, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA) will share data relative to residential permit parking and the parking enhancement district.
Representatives from Duquesne University, the Mayor’s office, city council and state offices will also be in attendance and share pertinent information.
An important component of the meetings will be the property progress report. As these meetings unfold, the focus will be on properties in the residential areas that are persistently in violation of the refuse regulations outlined by the city’s Environmental Services Division.
Prior to the March meeting, South Side Block Watch leads will be identifying properties that are in violation of one or more of the refuse guidelines – placing refuse at the curb no earlier than the 6 p.m. on Wednesday evenings; storing refuse until collection in durable, watertight containers having a close, fitting lid, up to 35 gallons; owner/landlord having a sufficient number/capacity of containers on the premises to prevent overflow of materials; waste not being accumulated on any abutting sidewalk, street or vacant ground.
The leads will make residents aware of the violations by talking with them and/or leaving a compliance notice. If after two weeks, the violations are not corrected, contact will be made with 311 where the service request will be directed to Environmental Services who again will try to work with the resident and landlord.
At the South Watch meetings, these properties will be discussed to determine the best way to reach compliance before issuing a citation. Repeated refuse violations contribute to a negative perception of South Side and lead to other quality of life violations. In time, the property progress report will include properties with permits, licenses and inspections violations.
Residents are invited to attend to develop an understanding of the process, but it should not be considered an open meeting at which they can introduce a problem they are having in the community. Time constraints prevent these from becoming open forums.
Resident concerns not related to the agenda will be vetted through an incident report the resident will be asked to complete. The South Watch committee will review the information and talk with the resident in order to determine how the issue might be resolved.
If resolution is difficult, it may become part of the property progress report in the future. This information is important to the South Watch process as it evolves.
After a year of planning, the first South Watch meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 8 at noon at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah Street.