South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

PED revenue continues to be consistent, plans for Esser Plaza progress


Last updated 8/8/2019 at 8:40pm

The July 30 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum began with an update on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), or the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The revenue from the PED must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements.

City nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden reported that in the four weekends in June, the gross meter revenue was $16,501.40. For July, it was $15,721.23.

The average Friday-Saturday weekend take is $4,100 to $4,500.

The gross meter revenue year-to-date is $120,841.08. The gross meter revenue since April, 2017 is $499,066.71, or just shy of one-half million dollars.

Regarding the city’s streetscaping project, Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, told her sidewalks on Carson St. now have cracks and crevices as a result of the project.

She said they were intact, but due to the project there are cracks and crevices between the old sidewalks and the new ones.

Ms. Harnden said they were videotaped before construction, and she will follow up on the matter.

Residents should email project complaints to: Photos with addresses of the problem areas may also be emailed.

Next, Kitty Vagley delivered an update on the revitalization of Esser Plaza at the corner of 12th and Carson streets. Ms. Vagley is a member of the project’s stakeholder group.

The conceptual plan is to add a rain garden in a depressed area of the plaza; add another garden close to the edge of Carson St .; add a raised grassy area encircled by seating; and replace materials.

The project began with a $30,000 budget with funding from the South Side Local Development Co. (SSLDC). It is now up to $40,000, Ms. Vagley said.

Preliminary estimated construction costs are $236,000, which does not include electrical engineering or a mural. The stakeholder group has discussed paring the number down in numerous ways.

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy pledged their help with mulch, topsoil, and lawn. The hope is some organization will provide tree donations. The stakeholder group is researching a brick campaign and possible foundation gifts.

Ms. Vagley said visible work on the plaza will not occur until 2021.

Anyone interested in donating their services as a steward to clean and weed the current plaza should contact the South Side Community Council (SSCC). Also contact the SSCC to make monetary donations to the project.

Next, Tracy Myers reported there was a shooting at an Airbnb rented house on the Slopes over the weekend. The property was then removed from the Airbnb listing.

Airbnb is an online company which provides a platform for members to rent out their properties or rooms to guests.

Ms. Harnden said there is a lot to look into, policy-wise. Some cities make the Airbnb venues register as a business. Some venues charge admission and sell alcohol, she said.

A group can come in and ruin a house, and leave for a different city and do it again, she said.

Barbara Rudiak said there is no oversight of the venues. If there is one next door to you, call 911 to report any problems, she said. Maybe also alert the Airbnb headquarters.

Next, Ms. Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), reported a different group of developers in interested in opening a pet spa at the corner of 26th and Sidney streets in the retail site on the first floor of the garage attached to City Apartments.

Developers for a prior pet resort for the site backed out.

The new developers hope to open for the holidays.

In other news, Ms. Myers said the DRC saw a proposal for townhouses on a site bordered by Wharton, 22nd, and Merriman streets. But she just saw a “for sale” sign on the site, so she is skeptical the project will go forward.

In the neighborhood plan update, Ms. Myers said an important issue facing the plan is the role of the Planning Forum in light of all of the changes, such as the closing of the SSLDC in 2012, and the recent retirement of long-time Brashear Association executive director Hugh Brannan, who also served as chair of the Planning Forum.

Among his final remarks, Mr. Brannan said he did not foresee a situation in which Brashear did not serve the South Side in some way, but Brashear’s focus of service was shifting to the Hilltop communities.

Ms. Myers said it needs to be determined how Planning Forum leadership will be structured. Also, was it realistic for the Planning Forum to continue to operate on a consensus basis? Should the Planning Forum become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation? And other questions.

To help with that process, a request for proposal (RFP) was drafted for a consultant to help determine the future structure of the Planning Forum. Funds need to be raised to fund the consultant.

The goal is to have the process completed so a recommendation can be presented to the Planning Forum at its January, 2020, meeting.

In organization reports, Ms. Rudiak, of the SSCC, said the Sixth Annual South Side Garden Tour on July 14 was successful.

She said the focus of the SSCC now is to become a Registered Community Organization (RCO).

The designation gives formal status to community organizations that register with the City of Pittsburgh, and provides benefits to those organizations.

The benefits include notification of public hearings, guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, placement on official brochures, and more.

Once an application is submitted, it takes four to six weeks for a response from the city.

Next, Ms. Gonzalez reported the prior Sunday’s OpenStreetsPGH was successful, with many local businesses offering activities.

In the free event, miles of city streets are closed to traffic for four hours for joggers, bicyclists, walkers, and skaters to use the streets for fun in a car-free environment. She received no complaints about the South Side leg of the event.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said

The day after OpenStreetsPGH was the South Side Summer Golf Classic at the South Hills Country Club in Whitehall. Ms. Gonzalez said 74 golfers participated.

Proceeds benefitted the South Side Welcome Center and equipment and supplies for the Chamber Clean Team.

She also reported the July 27 free Goat Fest event in South Side Park – with musical performances, children’s activities, hikes, and more -- was successful.

The goats were brought in again this year to eat invasive species and vines in a 10-acre portion of the park.

She said everyone was excited when the goats arrived. “They were so behaved,” she said of the animals.

In Brashear Association news, the organization’s “Christmas in July” toy drive was held July 25. Attendees were urged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation.

The annual drive begins in the summer so as not to run short of toys in December.

Next, Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, reported the community block party and open house held at the church on June 15 went great.

The event also celebrated that the church, located at 1926 Sarah St., recently received classification as an historic structure from the city’s Historic Review Commission (HRC).

She thanked city Councilman Bruce Kraus for his support in the classification process.

She also reported the outdoor sign board at the church was hit by a driver in a stolen car who ran a red light, resulting in injuries to three young sisters in another vehicle. The suspect fled on foot before being apprehended.

The good news, Rev. Hamilton-Vargo said, is the sign board likely saved the lives of the young girls as it served as a cushion instead of their plowing into the building. The sign board has been fully removed.

Next, a representative from the office of state Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., reported the 7th Annual Health & Wellness Weekend will be held on Aug. 17-18.

Aug. 17 will be Community Appreciation Day from noon to 5 p.m. along Centre Ave. in the Hill District.

There will be free food, kids zone, financial advisers, mental health clinicians, health screenings, and more.

Aug. 18 will be the Health Expo for African American Living: H.E.A.L. from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Warrington Recreation Center, 329 E. Warrington Ave.

The event will feature free health screenings, cooking demos, community basketball game, and more.

For more information on the weekend, visit:, or call 412-471-7760.

Bob Charland, community relations manager in city Councilman Bruce Kraus’ office, asked residents contact the office with pothole locations to get them fixed before winter.

Ms. Gonzalez said utility companies dig up streets and patch, but holes develop a month later that ruin cars.

Mr. Charland said residents should send locations and photos to the office so the city can get on the utility companies right away to repair the problems. You may also email

Neighborhood planner Felipe Palomo, of the city’s Dept. of City Planning, announced he is leaving the position to become project manager of facilities for the Dept. of Public Works, effective Aug. 19. He worked in City Planning for two-and-a-half years.

The next forum meeting will be on Sept. 10.


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