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South Watch celebrates two years working on code enforcement issues

 

Before and after photos illustrate how South Watch has helped with quality of life issues in South Side Slopes and Flats over the last two years.

The March 13 meeting of South Watch marked the two-year anniversary of the program where residents meet monthly with city and state officials, Zone 3 police and representatives from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Parking Authority, Public Works, Public Safety and the Mayor's office to discuss community issues/problems and work towards solutions.

The mission, "The South Side Flats and Slopes Code Enforcement Project works to improve the quality of life on South Side by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation and monitor the outcomes," was borrowed from Oak Watch, its sister organization in Oakland.

Significant trash violations throughout the Flats and Slopes were chosen as the main focus of South Watch but does not exclude other pertinent South Side issues from being addressed.

Visual inspection of the community makes it evident illegal trash storage practices can cause the neighborhood to be perceived as an unsafe place to live in or visit. The impact of uncontrolled trash can be significant – a breeding ground for rats, lower property values, a higher crime rate and more.

To address this issue, the South Watch committee developed procedures the South Side Slopes and Flats volunteers employ to educate residents about violations before a 311 report is filed. The goal is to keep trash out of sight and stored in cans with lids.

Specific regulations are listed on an orange compliance notification card that is hung on the door of homes where there are violations. These regulations include:

• Refuse is to be placed at the curb no earlier than 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening and no later than 6 a.m. on Thursday morning. (Article II, 2.01b)

• Refuse shall be stored until collection in durable, water-tight containers up to 35 gallons having close fitting lids. (Article II, 2.01a1)

• Owner/landlord should have a sufficient number/capacity of containers on the premises to prevent overflow of materials. (Article II, 2.01a3)

• Waste shall not be accumulated on any abutting sidewalk, street or vacant ground. (Article II, 2.01a3)

The notices are hung on doors two times and if no improvement is found, a 311 report is turned in from South Watch. The committee also sends an email to Environmental Services letting them know South Watch has submitted a service request so it can be discussed them at the monthly meetings and to separate the report from the 311 service requests anyone can submit.

Those properties with violations can be monitored, whether improved with additional education from Environmental Services or with the issuance of a citation. Over the last two years, 73 properties have been remediated. Of those, 55 were remediated based on the orange compliance notification card, and the remaining 18 were remediated after the South Watch 311 service request was submitted to Environmental Services for follow-up.

Because representatives from several city and state departments, as well as Duquesne University and Zone 3 police attend the South Watch meetings, those in attendance become very aware of quality of life issues in South Side and what is being done to solve them.

In addition, opportunities arise for collaboration among those in attendance. For example, representatives from Duquesne University are working more closely with Environmental Services staff to educate their students about their community responsibilities. This past fall, when Zone 3 police were called to seven residences for noise and excessive partying, police not only wrote a report and issued citations, they provided the information to Duquesne University staff who met with the students a few days afterward to remind them of the importance of being a good neighbor.

The South Watch committee continues to examine its process and to make adjustments where needed. The committee recognizes and attempt to work collaboratively through the challenges that face both residents and city officials as all focus on the improvement of the quality of life in South Side.

South Watch meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at the Brashear Center, 2005 Sarah Street, alternating each month between noon and 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend, including block watch leads. The agenda is structured to keep the meeting length as close to ninety minutes as possible.

The date of April's meeting is Wednesday, April 10 at noon and in May, the group will meet on May 8 at 6 p.m.

 

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