South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

S.S. Planning Forum learns of holiday lighting challenges


The Oct. 11 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum began with Mary Ellen Solomon, Duquesne University’s new assistant vice-president for executive affairs, introducing Rev. Jim McCloskey, the senior advisor to the university president for strategic initiatives.

She said Father McCloskey works a lot with neighborhoods and groups, and the planning forum may see him again at future meetings.

“You’re always welcome,” forum Chair Hugh Brannan said.

In the report of the Development Review Committee (DRC), chair Tracy Myers said the DRC was told by Soffer of two possible developments: Village Green may build a second building, and Highwoods might build residential units on vacant parcels.

She also said the Silver Eye Photography Gallery is moving from the historic district on East Carson St. to Bloomfield.

The city has a new website for obtaining current information on all approved and pending building permits, code violations, and building licenses, and on all pending and approved zoning applications. The website is:

Regarding the South Side Neighborhood Plan, Ms. Myers said the committee took a month off. But the committee would like to have discussions with Duquesne University and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association about becoming forum members.

Those recommendations appeared in the recent ninth update of the plan.

To a question about holiday lights for this upcoming holiday season, Ms. Myers said she and Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, discussed that the Chamber is looking into getting the snowflake pole lights repaired for installation along East Carson St.

Ms. Gonzalez said while the snowflakes were bright and attractive when first installed in 2014, they were very dim last year due to the damage from being out in the elements of rain, ice, and snow the prior year.

She said possible repairs are being explored, and she would report back about this at the next forum meeting.

This would be the third consecutive year for the white LED holiday lights, which are typically displayed on the 11th to 24th blocks of East Carson St., beginning about Nov. 12-15.

Besides the lights, there are electrical, and installation/removal costs.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said as the holiday lights are a business promotion, he cannot find any way to use public money to help with the expense. The South Side also does not qualify for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

Next, the issue was raised about violations in the historic district.

Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council, said if 20 businesses in the historic district receive notices they are in violation, they should be spoken to in order to find common themes. That way the problem will be discovered, and an attempt can be made to remedy it.

Ms. Myers said all of the businesses in the historic district do not even realize they are in the historic district, which has its own regulations.

She suggested a letter be written to them telling them what they can and cannot do.

Ms. Rudiak said that as residents, “we are the eyes” of the neighborhood, like with 311. She said residents should be aware of violations, which involves education.

Ms. Myers said she would initiate an education meeting by putting it on the next agenda.

Next, Mr. Brannan said Christine Gaus will be retiring, so someone must be identified to assume the secretarial role at forum meetings. The matter will be on the November agenda.

“It’s a hard act to follow,” he said of Ms. Gaus’ contribution to the meetings.

Mr. Kraus then gave an update on Mother Fletcher’s, an underage dance club on East Carson St. that attempted to open earlier this year, but was shut down by the city.

He said the Bureau of Building Inspection and the police closed it as its occupancy permit was for restaurant use.

The owners of Mother Fletcher’s took the matter to federal court on the grounds that their right to due process was violated. The city had to prove that it was not operating as a restaurant, which it did.

The city also said the establishment advertised for anyone under age 21, which meant children would be released onto East Carson St. at 1 a.m.

The judge ruled for the city, after which Mother Fletcher’s filed an appeal on Sept. 30. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 10:40 am. In the meantime, Mother Fletcher’s remains closed.

On another subject, he said it is budget planning season for the city, and to let him know what needs done in the neighborhood.

On the topic of under age 21 residents, Ms. Rudiak said there is nothing for that population to do in South Side. Lawrenceville, for instance, has a bowling alley. She said activities need to be encouraged that do not include alcohol.

As many college students fall in that population, Mr. Kraus said he is “greatly encouraged” about the prospect of having Duquesne University on the planning forum.

In her update, Ms. Gonzalez reported that chamber volunteers totaled 13 in September, for 120 volunteer hours. There were 214 visitors to the Welcome Center, 1100 East Carson St.

Year-to-date, there have been 186 Chamber volunteers for 1,560 volunteer hours. There were 3,176 visitors to the Welcome Center.

The Welcome Center also serves as a drop-off site for Penn’s Corner, which delivers fresh fruit and vegetables which customers pay for in advance. In September, 34 boxes of fresh food were delivered. So far this year, there have been 279 deliveries.

In announcements, Mr. Brannan said the Brashear Association will hold its 99th Annual Meeting and awards luncheon, Bravo, Brashear!, on Oct. 27 at the LeMont Restaurant. Tickets are available at the center or on Eventbrite.

The next forum meeting will be on Nov. 8.


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