South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Disruptive property law discussed by city officials at ACC meeting

Neighborhood updated on The Academy Charter School

 

The Academy Charter School has opened in Arlington without fanfare and become a good neighbor.

Concerned with disruptive properties in the neighborhood, the Arlington Civic Council welcomed Barbara Morello, a supervisor in the Department of Public Safety for the City of Pittsburgh, to address the subject at the organization's July meeting.

The city's disruptive property legislation is currently undergoing revisions, she said.

"We want to see how it can better work for the community and better work for the police, as far as enforcement," she said.

Currently, if the police are called to an address for disruptive behavior and a citation is issued, the police can add the property into a "disruptive property data base." The Department of Public Safety will then send out a letter to the property owner informing them the address is now part of the disruptive property data base.

The owner has a set number of days to appeal being added to the list. If they don't appeal or if the appeal is turned down and the address is cited two more times within a year, the property owner may be charged for the cost of sending city resources out to respond to the complaint.

Councilman Bruce Kraus added having the police issue a citation is an important component.

"We want to protect you from being harassed by a neighbor. Someone has it out for you, so they just call 911 to report for whatever reason. The police respond three times, but they haven't cited, you're not going to be cited as a disruptive property," he explained.

Ms. Morello said they are also working with the police commanders in all the zones to identify the top ten disruptive properties.

"Our target is the properties in the neighborhood that have been a nuisance for a very long time," she said.

In addition to citations that stemmed from a police call, properties may also be placed in the data base for citations issued by the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections (PLI), the former Bureau of Building Inspection. Violations that can result in the designation include citations for overgrown weeds and abandoned houses.

A resident complained she was cited several years ago for an overgrown yard when the weeds in the city-owned lot next to her home were high enough to "hide and elephant."

The councilman replied it has been an ongoing issue for at least ten years, overgrown city properties. He explained when residents call 311 with a complaint, the complaint is marked "resolved" by 311 not when the issue is actually remedied, but when it is passed along to the appropriate city department charged with fixing the problem.

Ms. Morello noted PLI is no longer under the Department of Public Safety, but they are working on what can be done about overgrown lots in the update to the disruptive property legislation.

With all the rain this year, the councilman said it has been a particularly bad year for overgrown lots. "It's not an excuse," he added.

Mr. Kraus was asked why several properties in the neighborhood that have been tagged for demolition are still standing.

The answer goes back to all the rain and the resulting landslides the city experienced. Mr. Kraus said the city had to pull money out of the demolition budget to help remediate the landslides.

He said the Mayor's Office is putting together a "pot of money," about $500,000, to put into demolishing the condemned properties. Legislation is expected in City Council to authorize the expenditure.

"In order for a property to be condemned it has to be found to be structurally unsound," he explained. Once it is condemned the city will board it up to try to prevent people and animals from going into the house.

Questioned about having abandoned vehicles removed from the neighborhood, the councilman said the city hasn't been removing many the cars because of concern over the legality involved with the "taking of a major asset." He believes those concerns have now been satisfied and the there are "close to 50" vehicles on the Hilltop that could start to be removed.

However, he said there is a difference between removing a vehicle on public property and on private property. Taking a car from private property is a lot tougher.

Bill Styche, executive director of The Academy Charter School (ACS), updated council members on the status of the school.

Mr. Styche had visited the council several times in the past year to explain the school's desire to purchase the former Arlington Elementary School on Jonquil Street. ACS did purchase the building and moved in March 26.

Their regular school year ended the end of June and they are in the middle of summer school now.

There are about 70 students in the summer program and he anticipated about 110 students in grades 8-12 in the fall. Students are brought into the school by van from various parts of the county.

ACS has an emphasis in working with students with truancy issues but is open to any student in the county. Parents will have an opportunity to visit to visit the school during an open house from August 6-10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day to see if the school is a good fit for their children.

This past school year ACS graduated 22 students with more than 50 percent planning to attend college or trade school. Graduates attending higher education institutions receive $2,000 toward their tuition.

Mr. Styche asked if there were any issues members of the community wanted to bring to his attention. He noted there were fears from council members that locating the school in their neighborhood would result in an increase in vandalism, which didn't happen.

He was told of two issues, both related to having the students brought in by van. One resident reported speeding of one of the vans in the neighborhood. She also said on several occasions she has had harassing and vulgar comments directed at her from students in the vans.

"If you have an issue, you call and we'll deal with it," Mr. Styche replied. "We're going to address it...we want to be good neighbors."

Mr. Styche also offered the school for the location of a future Arlington Civic Council meeting.

 

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