South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Forum wants greater public process in parking solutions

Safety zone, enhanced district, St. Patrick’s Day plans cited

 


Parking, the neighborhood plan, and St. Patrick’s Day were among the topics at the Feb. 9 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

New forum members are Dawn Lorincy, representing the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), and Suzy Waldo, representing the South Side Community Council (SSCC).

In the Development Review Committee (DRC) report, Tracy Myers said the developer of a proposed hotel at East Carson and Sarah streets is requesting four site variances: three involve street setbacks, while the other is about height.

While the maximum allowable height is 60-feet, the hotel is requesting a majority structure of 67- to 70-feet, with a section of 80-feet for an elevator tower along E. Carson St.

As it could impact views, the developer was advised to talk to the SSSNA, which was done, although Mrs. Lorincy said some of the organization’s questions were not answered.

Ms. Myers said the DRC will not oppose the variance as the 80-feet portion is small.

She said she is confident this will “not be setting a precedent,” and that it will be nice to have a commercial building in that part of the neighborhood.

In the neighborhood plan update, Ms. Myers said a request was made in December for organizations to confirm their interest in the plan moving forward.

Christine Gaus, of the Brashear Association, said the neighborhood plan committee met an hour before. She said members agreed they are committed to following the planning process, and of organizations embracing what they can.

Ms. Myers said each organization will look at, and determine, if broad policy areas are important for their respective groups to take on.

This is how individual organizations can fit themselves in with their own resources, she said.

Next, Thom Barry, the South Side Chamber of Commerce representative, said the chamber asks that all stakeholders -- city agencies, council, Port Authority Transit, and others -- sit down and work out a comprehensive parking solution.

Ms. Myers said about 11 city agencies deal with parking. “It’s a really big challenge,” she said of getting everyone in one room.

She also said the proposed “parking enhancement district” came “out of nowhere,” and more needs to be learned about the plan.

“I can’t spend all day figuring out what is going in and out of committee in the city,” Mr. Barry said.

The parking enhancement district legislation, introduced this week in city council, extends metered street parking in some areas until midnight.

The South Side Flats would serve as a pilot area for the program, with the extra funds going toward expanded police and public safety services on East Carson St.

Free nighttime parking would be available in the Second Ave. parking plaza across the 10th Street Bridge. A shuttle bus service there would transport patrons to Carson St.

There will be no implementation of the enhanced district legislation until after a community process.

Mr. Barry said some businesses on East Carson St., like Subway in the 2000 block, have been shutting down, with parking cited as the reason.

He then made a motion to send correspondence to all city agencies involved with parking to get in a room and talk about a comprehensive parking solution.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan distributed copies of a Dec. 30 letter he sent to Mayor William Peduto, on behalf of the forum, about “no parking” signs that were suddenly erected on five blocks of East Carson St.

No parking is permitted from South 12th to South 17th streets during weekend evening hours. The action was taken to preserve access for emergency vehicles.

The letter states concerns as to “the lack of opportunity for input prior to the imposition of the zone.”

“Our member organizations are open to working with your administration to begin the hard work of crafting more permanent solutions to this long-standing problem.

“Individual decisions may be temporarily sound but without a complete framework, the problem may only worsen,” the letter concludes.

Next, Mr. Brannan asked each of the forum members for brief updates on what their respective organizations are working on.

Ms. Waldo said the SSCC is working on public safety; code violations; collaboration with other groups on common concerns, like parking; and more.

Mrs. Lorincy said the SSSNA is working on beautification, gardens, litter, a neighborhood survey, and the new Friends of South Side Park.

Mr. Barry said the chamber has logged 150 volunteer hours since January cleaning streets. The chamber is also staging, with the Brashear Association, the annual South Side Soup Contest on Feb. 20, for which general admission tickets are already sold out.

The chamber also fields numerous calls about the deterioration of the Flats, and about the economy and parking.

He said there is a public misconception that it is not safe on the South Side.

“It is a wonderful place to go,” Mr. Barry said.

Mr. Brannan said the Brashear Association will mark its 100th anniversary in 2017.

“It should be a celebratory time here at Brashear,” he said.

On another topic, the city informed the chamber that the city will take full responsibility for St. Patrick’s Day, the subsequent clean-up, and more.

Mr. Barry said, in the past, the chamber’s involvement included: coffee for police officers at the event headquarters; three valet parking locations; pedicabs and taxi locations; trash cans; and street clean-up in the hours following the festivities.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the chamber, said she met with city Councilman Bruce Kraus, who said the city has a plan for St. Patrick’s Day. She said she doesn’t know what the city’s plan is.

Representatives from the chamber were to meet with Councilman Kraus and other city officials on Monday, Feb. 15.

At meeting’s end, Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne University’s director of government relations, said students have been reminded about shoveling the sidewalks by their residences in the neighborhood.

They will also be sent reminders about responsible celebrations during the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day.

The next forum meeting will be on March 8, and feature guest speaker Allison Harnden, the city’s new nighttime economy coordinator.

 

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