South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Neighborhood Plan update presented to S.S. Planning Forum


The inclusion of the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association (SSB&RA) as an organizational member of the South Side Planning Forum is “strongly” recommended in the draft “South Side Neighborhood Plan, Ninth Update.”

The document was presented by Neighborhood Plan Revision Committee chair Tracy Myers at the July 26 meeting of the Planning Forum.

The plan provides the policy framework for the community’s desires and concerns, and is designed to guide the neighborhood and city in making decisions.

“This is not a strategic plan,” Ms. Myers said.

Attendee John DeMauro, of the SSB&RA, said the organization plans to begin the application process to becoming a member.

Among the other recommendations in the draft plan are: that the universities whose students reside in the South Side become sector (non-voting) members of the forum; the establishment of a standing committee to review applications for new or renewing liquor licenses; and the exploration of organizational interest in, and feasibility of, establishing a Parks and Green Space Committee.

The latter was recommended in a 2012 neighborhood plan update, but never formally established.

Other recommendations include removing the Friends of the South Side Library from the forum as it no longer exists. The committees to remain dormant are the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center Committee, and the Neighborhood Improvement District Steering Committee.

The next step in the process is for forum member organizations to report back at the forum’s Sept. 13 meeting on whether they are ready to adopt the document.

The neighborhood plan was originally adopted in 1990. However, the process of developing the plan began in 1985 with the recognition the South Side had a parking problem. The plan is updated every two years.

In 2012, the South Side Local Development Co., a founding forum member, ceased operations. Its full-time paid staff had frequently provided technical assistance to other forum organizations in furtherance of the neighborhood’s interests. Its closing meant that those groups had to reassess their objectives and priorities.

Ms. Myers said the neighborhood plan’s line-by-line analysis of policies is key to understanding how each organization has been working on a particular policy and in what capacity. Member organizations assessed every item within every policy category in relation to their respective strategic plans.

She said as the city plans to adopt a plan format for all neighborhoods, the South Side Neighborhood Plan helps the South Side get a jump on that.

The plan revision committee will continue to meet periodically to provide changes and updates, as needed.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan said this will be the first time the neighborhood plan committee continues to meet.

Ms. Myers said the decision must eventually be made on whether to seek public comment on the revisions. Mr. Brannan said, in the past, public hearings on revisions were held.

The meeting began with a presentation on the non-profit, Allentown-based Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, which is seeking to expand its PittMesh wireless mesh network to the South Side.

This would result in a network of free public WiFi throughout the business district and beyond.

The presentation was by Meta Mesh’s founder Adam Longwill, and the director of outreach, Becky Zajdel.

A mesh is an open network that anyone can log into without charge. Mesh users have access to the Internet through excess bandwidth provided by the owners of nodes, which are wireless modems connected to other such modems in the mesh.

Ms. Zajdel said 23 percent of Pittsburghers do not have access to WiFi.

Mr. Longwill said Meta Mesh brings PittMesh to the South Side through the purchase and installation, by home and business owners, of routers, which forward data from one network to another. Routers range from $80 to $150, and are no bigger than a deck of cards.

Everyone who sets up a mesh router gains access that expands the reach of the network.

The routers are compliant with South Side historic district buildings, and are very discrete looking inside the buildings, Mr. Longwill said.

Meta Mesh also provides educational classes on topics like WiFi, networking, and router installation.

For more information, email, or call 412-223-6988.

In the monthly report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), chair Ms. Myers said owners of the former Rita’s Italian Ice building at 25th and Carson streets want to redo the storefront. It is the last historic building on the lot.

She said the owners will either come back to the Historic Review Commission (HRC) with a new design, or leave as is.

To a comment about the mural at 11th and Carson streets being well received by the community, Ms. Myers said it damaged an historic structure.

It might be popular, she said, but appropriate approvals were not obtained. As the building lies in the historic district, there are limitations on the owner.

To a question if a different mural can go up if the process is followed, she said that is up to the HRC.

In other news, Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne University’s director of government affairs for the past four years, said she was recently promoted to assistant vice-president for executive affairs.

As such, she will no longer be attending the monthly forum meetings, but will remain involved in community issues regarding students. She will also assign someone to come to meetings.

In her brief update, Ms. Solomon said students will be returning to Duquesne in mid-August. The university should be contacted about any issues with students on the South Side, such as tenant/neighbor problems.

The next forum meeting will be on Sept. 13.


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