South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

S.S. groups stress their cooperation at Forum

 


Coordination and cooperation among South Side organizations was the theme of the March 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

For the St. Patrick’s Parade Day, celebrated on March 12, the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association (SSB&RA) sponsored these services: public safety headquarters at Delanie’s Coffee; centralized valet parking; 50 port-a-john restrooms; and clean-up crews. The clean-ups were coordinated by the South Side Chamber of Commerce (Chamber).

The March 5 Pub Crawl and Pierogi Contest, sponsored by the SSB&RA, paid for many of the day’s public services.

Cooperation among all groups for St. Patrick’s Day is a big advancement, forum member Tracy Myers said.

Teamwork arose again as members were asked to check with their respective organizations on whether a proposed letter to council President Bruce Kraus should be on forum letterhead and, therefore, from the forum, or from these organizations which prepared the letter: the South Side Community Council (SSCC), Chamber, and the SSB&RA.

The draft letter requests additional action and clarification from city officials on issues related to the proposed parking enhancement district (PED).

The PED legislation would extend paid street parking in some areas until midnight. As proposed, 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. There would be no implementation until after a community process.

The draft letter calls for: an open community meeting to provide input on hours of meter enforcement for the PED, costs for dynamic pricing, and how this change should be communicated to the public; data from the past year on the number of officers and supplemental officers assigned to the South Side broken out by day and time, the costs associated with additional policing, and the impact (or lack of) on crime statistics; and the city’s projections for revenue created by the PED, and the projected number of officers who would be assigned/funded under this new plan along with projected costs.

Thom Barry, of the Chamber, commented on how great it was that the Chamber, SSCC, and SSB&RA were working together on this.

In subsequent discussion, Adam DeSimone, of the SSB&RA, said the daytime lunch crowd traffic is down due to the residential permit parking areas as visitors do not know they can park in those zones for two hours. Signs should state that, he said.

What is really needed is a “collaborative view of the South Side,” he said.

He also said the South Side has a high vacancy now for businesses which requires attention from the city.

Mr. Barry noted there was no reply to a Dec. 30, 2015 letter sent by the forum to Mayor Peduto about the “no parking” signs that were erected on five blocks of East Carson St. during weekend evening hours to preserve access for emergency vehicles. The letter stated concerns as to “the lack of opportunity for input prior to the imposition of the zone.”

For months, Mr. Barry has called for meetings between the forum and city officials on a comprehensive parking solution for the South Side, but to no avail.

The meeting began with a presentation by Allison Harnden, the city’s new nighttime economy manager. She has 20 years of experience working in nighttime economies across the U.S.

She said a primary role is to review the city codes and see what needs to be adapted to a city that operates at night, like sidewalk cafes, street vendors, handbills, promoters, pedicabs, live entertainment, taxi stands, and more.

She must also act as a liaison among all departments.

Ms. Harnden said Pittsburgh is “ahead of the curve” in creating her position and going through the process of looking at what needed.

As to why the focus on socializing, she said social venues generate a lot of money and impact a lot of industries, thereby also producing tax revenue, creating jobs, and attracting relocating companies.

Nightlife establishments also support the city’s economy by purchasing from local businesses.

Socializing is also good, she said, and is needed to avoid isolation. A lack of social capital is correlated with distrust, intolerance, less civic engagement, unsafe neighborhoods, and reduced economic prosperity.

The goal is to market to consumers’ groups who socialize: singles; mingles (young professionals, couples, groups of friends, and more); families; and jingles, or retirees with disposable income and business travelers with expense accounts.

When she asked for questions from forum members, Jonathan Growall, of the Chamber, said he supports the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) and its recommendations, called the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan.

However, he does not see continued progress on RHI initiatives in the South Side without a paid staff in the neighborhood.

Ms. Harnden said she agreed the South Side needs a staff person. She said the neighborhood also needs a certain type of policing as public safety is the number one issue.

Mr. Barry said there is a “booming” South Side nighttime economy. In comparison, the Penguins attract 17,000 fans a game, which draws a lot of police coverage. He said the South Side has 17,000 patrons a few nights a week, and needs more police—city, county, state, Port Authority, and mounted police.

Ms. Harnden said the view on the issue at a national conference on police chiefs she recently attended was that the key is not more police, but what you do with the police you have.

To a question of whether there is a budget for signage, along the general lines of “Be Kind to Neighbors,” she said she does not know, but believes signage is important. There is also great interest for that from universities and other partners.

To a question about the parking prohibition from S. 12th to S. 17th streets during weekend evening hours, she said police and emergency vehicles could not get through the gridlock.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll tweak it,” she said.

In her report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), Ms. Myers said the South Shore Riverfront Park gateway project went that day before the city Planning Commission. It consists of blue trellises designed to draw people visually down 27th St. from the retail district to the park, and vice versa.

The architectural firm that designed the gateway is iGA PARTNERS, which hopes to construct the project this summer.

PetValu is moving into the former Nine West store in the SouthSide Works. The DRC told pet store officials its signs are not acceptable as they cover up the store’s windows.

The ASCEND: Pittsburgh climbing facility is coming to the building between Jane, Mary, 21st, and 22nd streets. It is designed as a fun place with numerous indoor activities.

In the neighborhood plan update, Ms. Myers said forum organizations were asked to name plan policies that are a priority for them.

“We will delete, add, adjust as necessary,” she said.

The responses are due on March 18, and will be presented at the next forum meeting.

She said it will serve as the “interim neighborhood plan” until the city decides on the format it wants for neighborhood plans.

The next forum meeting will be on April 12.

 

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