South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Public safety director wants a culture of responsibility in S.S.


Last updated 9/16/2014 at 5:33am

Public safety in South Side was the focus of the September 9 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

The guest speakers were city Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar and Nighttime Economy Manager Maya Henry. They were introduced by city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

Mr. Bucar, who lives in South Side, said Carson St. looks like a normal street -- until one sees it at 2 a.m. with hundreds of people. The more people there are in a given area, the more crime there will be, especially nuisance crimes like car break-ins.

The city’s financial reality makes it impossible to have a police officer on every corner watching every parked car, he said.

There are 900 officers in six zones, with 30 officers per shift. So, during a shift, there will be 30 officers for South Side and the rest of the zone.

A lot of activity and resources can be reduced if businesses act in a responsible manner, he said.

While alcohol is served in the SouthSide Works area, it has a different feel than 10th through 25th streets as no one is vomiting or being drunk on street corners.

He said revelers may be drawn to 10th-25th streets as there are so many bars, and they might be getting served in an irresponsible manner there. Customers should be shut off if they are drunk. If a patron is vomiting on the sidewalk, the bar should take responsibility.

Mr. Bucar said he will use building and fire codes to reinforce the responsibility he is looking for in bar owners. He will also get the Liquor Control Board involved if underage drinkers are served.

He said he does not want to take resources away from areas with murders and to the South Side because irresponsible owners are serving drunken college kids.

Instead, he said a long-term solution is needed “to instill a culture of responsibility across businesses so they police themselves.”

Mr. Kraus said many businesses cooperate, and those owners are aware seven to eight irresponsible establishments ruin it for everyone. He also wants the LCB to do its job.

Next, Ms. Henry said she learned a lot from South Side as a model while working at the Lawrenceville CDC. As with South Side, the challenge is to manage the liquor licenses while encouraging development.

Among her main values in her new post are to enhance vibrancy and ensure safety.

Among initiatives she champions is the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan which unites residents, universities, and others with the city to plan together to ensure the safety and vibrancy of the commercial zones. She also plans to hold a hospitality business orientation, and to focus on transportation.

Regarding the latter, she said we have a customer and employment base that needs safe and affordable transportation.

She said she would like to make the St. Patrick’s Day 2014 transportation service in the South Side permanent. That plan included taxi, valet parking, pedicab, and shuttle bus services.

One of the reasons it was successful was the investment by the business owners, she said.

Mr. Kraus said the need to address transportation is critical, and trouble ensues when a large mass of people cannot exit an area in a timely and orderly manner.

If they are parked on dark side streets and drunk, they also open themselves to becoming victims. So, if instead, 800 cars can be moved to a well-lit area, it takes away potential crimes and frees up the police.

To a question about setting up a night court in South Side, Mr. Kraus said the county court system must sign off on such a plan, but has not done so. But he will pursue it again with the president judge.

Mr. Kraus said it is important to have a sense of law and order in the neighborhood.

Questioned about house parties, which pose a big problem, Mr. Kraus said he and Mr. Bucar talked about the matter with the city solicitor.

Mr. Bucar said if there are repeated violations at the same address, the city can go after the owner or landlord.

But the officers must start citing to create a paper trail. Currently, they tend to simply break up the party.

Mr. Kraus said he wants to cite using the disruptive property ordinance under which three citations in 185 days makes a property a nuisance. Then, the city can go after the owner.

Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne University’s director of government relations, said the university has been vigilant in listening to neighbor complaints.

There have been complaints about students’ house parties, after which the university has called those students in to talk about the problem. She said it is probably more effective than being cited by the police.

But the university must first get the complaints to do something through its Commuter Affairs Department.

To a question about bike beat patrols, Mr. Bucar said he would like to have more beat officers in the business districts that need that visibility.

In conclusion, Mr. Kraus said it is not fair so many resources in the zone are going to South Side. Instead, the goal is to plan their way into success so there is less need for police officers.

The meeting began with Peter Kreuthmeier’s report of the Development Review Committee (DRC) from meetings on July 31 and Aug. 28.

The marina will begin selling spaces in October for spring, 2015. There is very good early demand.

The URA is going to work with Riverlife to develop city-wide standards for boat docking. There currently are no laws governing use of the docks. No timetable was given.

The Village Green apartments will be closing in October.

The URA has put out requests for proposals for: signage to mark the entrance of SouthSide Works; and bike/pedestrian/roadway design enhancements at Hot Metal and Sidney streets.

A proposed development of Hackstown Street Extension is for 27 townhouses, 1,800- to 2,400-square-feet, all with one- or two-car garages. Alternating units will have 18-foot setback so cars can be pulled completely off the street.

The community is strongly opposed to the development.

The DRC provided information on real-world constraints related to infrastructure, water drainage, and more. It recommended the architectural design not be seriously considered until those problems can be resolved.

The DRC also recommended the architect and developer try to find creative solutions to the issues/concerns/problems raised by the community.

In the neighborhood plan update, Tracy Myers said since the plan was last revised in 2012, there have been a lot of area changes.

Among them: a new mayor; the first South Side Welcome Center; the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association (SSB&RA) became move active; and revision work by volunteers in light of the closing of the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC).

Ms. Myers said it is therefore a great time to bring together the SSB&RA; Ms. Henry; City Planning’s neighborhood planner Ashley Holloway; South Side organizations like the chamber of commerce, the Slopes neighborhood association, community council, and others for a conversation on how they can work together effectively.

She proposed having a meeting before the next forum meeting, and to then report back.

In announcements, Ms. Solomon said from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 the university will host, with South Side’s chamber of commerce and the community council, a social for residents and students at the South Side Welcome Center, 1100 East Carson St.

At noon on Oct. 23, the Brashear Association will hold its 97th annual awards luncheon at the LeMont Restaurant. Councilman Kraus will serve as master of ceremonies.

The next forum meeting will be on Oct. 14.


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