Slopes, councilman discuss their concerns
February 19, 2008
New District 3 city Councilman Bruce A. Kraus shared his vision of the area with attendees at the February 12 meeting of the South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association.
“I have the best job in the world,” he began. “I can't get there early enough or out of there late enough.” He was sworn in on January 7.
He began by reporting news from the South Side Planning Forum meeting earlier that evening: the developers of a proposed 15-condominium project on the former police station/jailhouse property would postpone their hearing before the Zoning Board. The new hearing is scheduled before the Zoning Hearing Board on March 27.
Instead, the owners of Landmark Property Development plan to modify their plans incorporating residents' comments from a town hall meeting on February 7.
The revised plans will be presented at the March 11 forum meeting which begins at 5:30 p.m.
“It was a big victory on many levels,” he said, adding he wants a plan in everyone's best interests — residents and developer.
He also said we had his commitment that the city administration would know the South Side has a neighborhood plan. He was meeting with Mayor Ravenstahl later in the week, at which time he would present him with a copy of the neighborhood plan.
So that residents do not learn of proposed development projects too late to take action, he asked to be contacted about every application before the Zoning Board.
To a question about hilltop neighborhoods like Allentown and Knoxville, which he also represents, Mr. Kraus said they are faced with “huge challenges.” Issues of public safety must be addressed to turn around the neighborhoods. Drugs, drug houses, and abandoned properties are big public safety issues. For that reason he wanted to be appointed chair of the Public Safety committee on council, which he was.
Revenue streams must be created that will bring money into neighborhoods, he said. If we can't consistently send the message that we are safe, nothing will change.
The second phase of a demolition project to remove abandoned houses will take place in the Hilltop area. The public safety concern is that these houses are interspersed among well-kept houses — if one catches fire, it could take occupied, well-maintained houses with it.
He also said a public discourse about utilizing the services of the Guardian Angels, with whom he walked the neighborhoods, should take place.
Regarding graffiti vandalism, Mr. Kraus said it one of his passions. A new committee which will, hopefully, form on council will deal with graffiti removal and more, he said.
“We manufacture garbage in the U.S.,” he said referring to our packaging.
Rev. Donald Ware, a Slopes' board member, commented that besides changing packaging personal responsibility is needed where litter is concerned.
For trash on a property, or any other violation, residents should call 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Callers receive a reference number so they can call back to learn the resolution.
Mr. Kraus said that after calling 311 and receiving a reference number the caller should contact his office with the complaint and reference number. His office will follow up on the call.
Callers should also take photographs of the problem sites and email them to him.
To a question about the Angel's nightclub, Mr. Kraus said he expected a ruling later that week.
Angel's, 2604 Josephine St., had its zoning and occupancy permits revoked after neighbors testified the business was closed for over a year. When a business closes for a year, new permits must be obtained. Angel's denied it was closed.
While Angel's can operate while waiting for the ruling, it cannot valet park customers' cars illegally, which some meeting attendees said was occurring.
Mr. Kraus said to call 911 for illegal parking, let him know, and send him photographs of it.
He has to show “habitual disrespect” to get the city's attention, he said, and get “No Parking” signs erected. But beware if the police start ticketing, they will ticket everyone in the area parked illegally, which could anger neighbors.
He said he is working on a draft of a revised valet parking ordinance which he plans to submit to council.
The meeting began with a presentation by Tiffani Emig of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Homestead. Its mission is to preserve the steel-related heritage of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
She is curator of collections at their museum.
As part of Pittsburgh 250, the city's celebration of its 250th birthday, the Rivers of Steel is seeking volunteers to take photographs of their neighborhoods in the spirit of “What makes your neighborhood unique?”
The organization will provide the residents with disposable cameras. They can also use their own cameras to take up to 30 photographs of what defines their neighborhoods — the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, humorous, etc.
“It's been really interesting to see what people pick out,” said Ms. Emig.
The deadline is mid-March. Besides contemporary photographs, historic ones may also be submitted. Before-after shots are good.
The photographs chosen by a committee will be part of an exhibit from July 1, 2008 to Jan. 31, 2009. A catalog will also be produced as a companion to the exhibit. Some photographers may be asked to be interviewed.
If interested, contact Ms. Emig at 412-464-4020, extension 22.
In other news, Janice Serra announced that residents have a final opportunity to review the neighborhood plan revision on the South Side Local Development Company's website, http://www.southsidepgh .com. The forum hopes to adopt a final document by March.
She or other Slopes' board members should be contacted with comments.
It was also announced that board member Claudia Hart will be stepping down in May.
The next SSSNA meeting will on March 11 at 7 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.