South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Dedicated police unit, PED update at Forum

 

January 21, 2020



The Jan. 14 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum began with a brief report from Kitty Vagley, from the Friends of South Side Park, on a new South Side Park accessible trail.

City approvals, and then state approvals, need to be secured. The hope is the approval process will be completed in five months.

The financing is in place. Some of the trail is already in place.

The ADA-accessible trail would start at the parking lot at the top of Brandi Schaum Road with a 55-feet crushed gravel trail, and continue between the cliff and fence.

Due to the dampness of the area, a portion of the trail will be a 100-feet boardwalk that is four-feet wide.

The trail would then circle around the nut trees in the meadow for 275 feet before reconnecting with the boardwalk.

Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus and city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden delivered updates 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.

For the four weekends in December, the gross meter revenue was $15,504.37.

An expenditure for Block by Block, or the two-person Clean Team retained with PED funds, was $69,977.28. The expenditure catches up on the last five months of the Clean Team as the contract with the city was just signed.

In February, the funds collected in 2019 by the Parking Authority will be turned over to the PED account, as this is done annually in February. A total balance of about $300,000 is expected in the account.

About $100,000 a year will be spent on the Clean Team, which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor.

Last year, funds were saved by reducing weekly service hours for the Clean Team in January and February. This year, service will again be reduced to half-shifts for winter trash maintenance, for a savings of about $10,000.

“We want to watch every penny,” Mr. Kraus said.

The PED also covered the roughly $3,000 cost for holiday banners and $1,567 for installation.

He also reported there will be portable toilets again for St. Patrick’s Day. Last year, about 45 portable toilets, paid by PED funds, were available in five surface lots for a cost of $3500.

About 7500 gallons of waste were collected that day.

Mr. Kraus also said there will be discussion on whether PED funds should be used for lighting for Esser Plaza. He said there is a theory of public safety through environmental design which supports adding lights to the plaza.

Another upcoming activity is security training for bouncers and door security personnel.

In other news, Mr. Kraus reported an after-hours club will not be coming to 1500 Bingham as a license transfer will not occur.

He also reported that 15,500 pounds of trash was removed by the Clean Team in December. He would like to see trash reduced along the business corridor. To that end, he would like to have communication with business owners about cleanliness balanced with less waste.

Ms. Harnden said one suggestion is to have an audit of what is collected on St. Patrick’s Day and reviewed by the Pennsylvanian Resource Council (PRC). There would be a fee.

The information could then be shown to the city if say, for example, more recycling containers would reduce trash.

Matt Brungo, from the South Side Community Council, said an accurate snapshot would not be obtained on St. Patrick’s Day as it is such an outlier compared to typical weekends.

On another topic, Mr. Kraus said Mayor Peduto wants to open a police substation in South Side. It would be located in the former Zone 3 police station in the Flats, which will need renovation, but which has holding cells.

Mr. Kraus said he met with police Sgt. Turko about policing, and what work needs to be done to open the substation.

Currently, there is a dedicated shift in South Side from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. It allows some officers to establish relationships with bar owners. The cost is paid by city funds.

There are eight total police officers based in the South Side but whose home is Zone 3. Mr. Kraus said he would like to see a van with Internet and Wi-Fi so paperwork could be done here.

“That would be ideal,” he said.

Regarding the South Side UPMC hospital property, services like the outpatient radiology (x-ray), urgent care, outpatient rehabilitation, and more will be moving to the UPMC outpatient services building at 23rd and Jane streets soon.

About 850 UPMC information technology (IT) personnel and others will be moving into the former hospital building.

In the report of the neighborhood plan committee, Mr. Brungo said the South Side Community Council (SSCC) had a board meeting the prior evening, with a proposal emerging of moving the Development Review Committee (DRC) in-house so it would advise, and report to, the SSCC.

“It will function as it had but live somewhere else,” Planning Forum Interim Chair Tom Smith said of the DRC.

The DRC, comprised of design professionals, is currently a committee of the South Side Planning Forum. Under the proposal, the DRC would become a committee under the SSCC, while also advising the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) and the South Side Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Smith has said in the past few months that the Planning Forum is losing its effectiveness as a community-wide organization as member groups, like the SSCC and the SSSNA, become Registered Community Organization (RCO)s.

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.

Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, said she has been a Planning Forum member since it was founded. She said it is important that all groups, such as the religious sector, not be left behind if the DRC leaves the Planning Forum.

Mr. Smith said as members become RCOs it will be to those groups’ meetings that developers will make presentations seeking support.

While the Planning Forum has always worked on a consensus basis, a member group may vote “no” and the forum will not take a position.

Today, community groups are becoming empowered and don’t want other organizations making decisions for them, Mr. Brungo said.

There is also a desire for the Planning Forum to include more sector representatives, such as arts and entertainment, Bar and Restaurant Association, library, and more.

Mr. Smith said developers will continue to appear before the Planning Forum for informational purposes, but not necessarily support.

To a question from Rev. Hamilton-Vargo of how would churches have a voice, the response was it would be in their respective neighborhoods.

To her question if the Planning Forum should become an RCO, Mr. Brungo said it would have to: become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation; be incorporated; and acquire a consensus vote by all member groups to approve the application, which is not likely.

In new business, the annual South Side Soup Contest, co-sponsored by the Brashear Association and the South Side Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for Feb. 22 from noon to 3 p.m.

Tickets go on sale on Feb. 7 at noon.

Proceeds benefit the Brashear Association initiatives and the Chamber’s Welcome Center, located at 11th and East Carson streets.

For more information, visit: http://www.southsidesoup.com

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on Feb. 11.

 

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