South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Parking concerns are front and center at South Side forum


Parking issues dominated discussion at the December meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

First on the agenda Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon talked about the reasoning behind eliminating parking on East Carson Street from 12th to 17th streets on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. She explained that a couple of days before Thanksgiving, Chief Cameron McLay wanted those five blocks signed “No Parking” for certain hours on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

“One of the reasons is because there’s a problem moving emergency equipment through,” she said. “It’s not parking for us. I can park a police car on a side street. It’s because we can’t get emergency equipment through.”

She added Emergency One had to make a run down Carson Street and “for the first time in ages,” they were actually able to get down easily without fighting and having cars get up on the sidewalk.

The commander said the 12th to 17th area on Carson is a “choke point” making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get around. “It’s a concern for us,” she said.

Commander Dixon said that evening, without cars in the parking lane, things seemed calmer on Carson Street and the police were able to see if problems were developing anywhere.

“We were very pleased with it. Where it goes from here, I don’t know,” she said.

The commander added she has requested motorcycle officers to patrol the residential streets of South Side on Friday and Saturday nights. Those officers have been concentrating on ticketing and towing illegally parked vehicles in the neighborhood.

On a recent weekend the motorcycle officers wrote “about a hundred tickets” and towed around nine cars for blocking roads and driveways, parking too close to intersections and blocking crosswalks, according to the commander.

“We’re going to go after the illegal parkers in the neighborhood,” Commander Dixon said.

“We want to make sure that people coming into the neighborhood know to respect it and if you’re going to have to drive around to find a place to park and walk, then that’s the way it’s going to be,” she said. “Hopefully you’ve seen some improvement if you live in this area and if you haven’t, let me know, but we’re really putting a lot of pressure on it to make it a little calmer down here.”

In the spring, she also expects the city to be painting “bump outs” around intersections to reinforce that parking isn’t permitted close to the intersection.

Gavin Robb, representing the South Side Chamber of Commerce on the Planning Forum that evening, said the chamber had received “a lot of complaints” about parking being taken away from 12th to 17th. A lack of communication about the parking restrictions, late notice and the towing of patrons cars topped the list.

Commander Dixon said she made sure the “No Parking” signs we placed at least 24 hours in advance and any signs that were torn down got replaced. Police had the lights and used the sirens on their cars to draw more attention in an effort to get vehicle owners’ attention before the cars were towed.

She estimated there were still nine cars towed that evening.

Mr. Robb said the chamber is concerned because responsible business owners are being chased out of the neighborhood and could be replaced by less responsible owners because of parking issues. He cited the losing of “roughly 45 parking spaces” from 12th to 17th and increased parking enforcement in the surrounding area during hours it wasn’t enforced in the past.

“There’s been this grand idea of holistic parking plans to address these things, but that hasn’t happened. I know there have been studies upon studies that have thrown out these suggestions,” Mr. Robb said.

Commander Dixon replied she hasn’t heard whether the no parking zone from 12th to 17th will be instituted on a permanent basis. As far as doing it on New Year’s Eve, she said it was her understanding South Side isn’t quite as busy on that night as on some other special occasions.

However, she cautioned, if the chief wants the signs to go up and enforcement on New Year’s Eve, she will try to give more notice.

Adam DeSimone, owner of several bars and restaurants in South Side, said the loss of parking and towing on Thanksgiving eve contributed to a slow night for many of the bars and restaurants in the neighborhood.

He said traditionally South Side was very busy on Thanksgiving eve, but now with DUIs people are staying closer to home at their local bars. The eliminating of parking spaces added to increased parking enforcement and towing added to the slow night.

He said in discussions with other bar owners, they felt the beginning of enforcement was too early and impacted restaurant and theater goers. A better option would be to eliminate the parking for the safety lane after 11 p.m.

“I can see after 11, I fully support that. I get that, public safety. Before 11 it really hurts the business community because people want to find accessible spaces in the South Side,” Mr. DeSimone said.

He also noted without meters to place the no parking sign on, patrons parking mid-block may not see the signs and park not realizing they could be ticketed and towed.

After further discussion, representatives of the Planning Forum’s member groups were asked to take back a motion to their organizations noting their opposition to the temporary fix (elimination of parking on Friday and Saturday nights from 12th to 17th streets) until further study and an alternative is in place. Since the Planning Forum operates on consensus, all member groups have to agree before a motion is passed or adopted.

Member groups will have until December 22 to respond to the motion. If all groups are in favor of the motion, it will then be forwarded to the Mayor’s Office.

In other Planning Forum business, Dr. Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) provided an update on the status of work undertaken with a grant from the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC).

When the SSLDC ceased business operations, they provided grants to several area community groups including the SSCC. Dr. Rudiak explained the SSCC’s $50,000 grant was to be used to fund work in Cindy Esser Plaza at 12th and Carson along with public art in Esser Plaza, and parklets at 11th and Carson and 12th and Sarah.

She said since receiving the grant, the property at 12th and Sarah has changed ownership and the SSCC has not been able to work on the property.

Work on the 11th and Carson parklet has been completed at a cost of $11,684. Green ‘n at, Lamar, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will work on maintaining the property.

Very little work has been started on Esser Plaza other than replacing the mural lights. The SSCC is in discussion with the City of Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy about the plaza.

Dr. Rudiak said the parklet hasn’t been a priority for city or the conservancy. Of the original $25,000 grant for Esser Plaza, $23,000 remains. Funds for the parklets are kept in a separate account.

The next meeting of the South Side Planning Forum will be on January 12, 2016.


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