South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Concerns expressed about Airbnbs on the Slopes

 

March 17, 2020



The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) has a new board member following the organization's March 10 general meeting.

The new member is Lucia Sanchez, who has lived in the Slopes since 2014. She replaces Dawn Lorincy, who stepped down as treasurer and chair of the Beautification Committee.

"I will do my best to help the community," Ms. Sanchez said.

The meeting began with information on becoming a U.S. Census taker.

The wage is $23.50 per hour, with mileage reimbursement of 57 cents a mile. One can work weekly up to 40 hours, or as little as five hours. Payment is weekly.

Census takers may also work on Saturdays and Sundays, if they like, and until 8 p.m. when it is still light outside.

Census takers go no further than front doors, and ask simple questions like how many residents and their ages. There are no income or Social Security number questions.

There are two training sessions for which applicants are paid.

Apply online at: 2020census.gov/jobs . Applicants must be over 18, a citizen, and have an email address.

Next, Ron Brown, the new Director of Programs and Services for the Brashear Association, spoke about the organization's programming.

He said Brashear has additional sites besides the Brashear Center at 2005 Sarah St. Other sites include: The Henry Kaufmann Neighborhood House, 2201 Salisbury St .; The Neighborhood Employment Center, 730 E. Warrington Ave .; The Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, 827 E. Warrington Ave .; and the Brashear Association at The Pet Shop, 212 Brownsville Rd.

The organization operates a food pantry providing food and other items to low-income individuals/families on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3-4:30 p.m., at the Brashear Center and the Henry Kaufmann Neighborhood House.

The Brashear Association also operates utility, housing, holiday, and economic stability assistance programs. It provides job training and college readiness help.

A newly-formed, 25-member coalition of residents who want to help out with Brashear Association efforts meets every first Wednesday.

Mr. Brown also announced the organization applied to become a "hub" for the U.S. Census where residents may submit their information.

To a question of whether clothing donations are accepted, he said yes, they are part of the pantries. Cleaning products are also sought. Items may be dropped off at the Brashear Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

For more on the Brashear Association, visit: http://www.brashearassociation.org/

A city update was provided by city Councilman Bruce Kraus and Zone 3 police Commander Karen Dixon.

Mr. Kraus said his office receives numerous complaints about Airbnb in neighborhoods as "event spaces."

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

The problem is some venues charge admission and sell alcohol. A group can come in and ruin a house, and leave for a different city and do it again.

Mr. Kraus said the issue of a rental registry to provide oversight of the venues has been in court for years, but that a judge recently put a "stay" on the matter.

Commander Dixon said in late February officers were called to a block-length area where shots were fired by two shooters.

The trouble emanated from an Airbnb house rented by a woman for her birthday. Officers found a stolen firearm in the home, and another gun present.

It is the third such incident in the past year in the area with Airbnb venues.

To a question if there are any Airbnb regulations in Pittsburgh, the answer is no.

Commander Dixon said if there are three complaints in specific categories in a year, the property is put on the disruptive property list.

Mr. Kraus said countries worldwide are having problems with Airbnb.

"We are not alone. Many cities are struggling on how to regulate this industry," he said. Some cities make the Airbnb venues register as a business.

He said there is a social host ordinance on the books, and he is looking if it can be applied to Airbnb.

An attendee said in the Hillside zoned district a bed and breakfast (B&B) is not permitted. He feels an Airbnb is a B&B.

He also reported an Airbnb was opened on his Slopes street, which is a Hillside district.

"It's not a viable use on narrow streets with limited parking," he said.

Mr. Kraus said he would explore the zoning angle in regard to Airbnbs.

An attendee commented there are good Airbnbs for people coming to the city for sporting events, museum visits, and more.

But when an Airbnb party is listed on Facebook, hundreds of youngsters are drawn.

Mr. Kraus said a balance must be struck between lawful Airbnbs and those which promote rowdiness.

For problem properties, the commander said to call 911 if there is "an immediate issue impacting your quality of life."

On the topic of crime statistics in the Slopes this year, the commander said there has been an uptick in vehicle break-ins due to the nice winter weather.

Regarding the St. Patrick's Day celebration on Saturday, March 14, Mr. Kraus said there may be more house parties as people avoid public space due to the coronavirus. In that same vein, there will be hand-washing stations this year.

He also announced the city is prepared to have its work force work from home, if need be, due to the virus.

Next, Brad Palmisiano discussed new lighting for the 18th St. steps.

He said the steps were repaired in 2008 with a $100,000 grant from Duquesne Light. Half of the funding went toward the steps, with the other half for the lighting.

But the lights failed quickly, he said.

The issue today is whether to spend $100,000 for new LED lighting. The SSSNA has $20,000, with the rest needing to come from fundraising or the office of Mr. Kraus. The new lighting must also be maintainable.

The SSSNA is paying to replace the safety overhead lighting, so the steps will be well lit, he said.

Mr. Kraus said the city owns the steps. He suggested a public art project and city funds, and the possibility of working as a partnership.

"We should not be owning electrical infrastructure," Mr. Palmisiano agreed.

Attendees agreed a partnership with the city made a lot of sense.

Next, a Pius St. resident said his grandparents left money for public art in the area.

Some of the ideas he tossed to attendees was painting the 18 St. steps, or having murals to complement the steps.

He will take the matter to the Beautification Committee.

The meeting concluded with an attendee announcing plans to open a coffee shop at Eleanor St. and Arlington Ave. He plans to submit plans to the city in 7-10 days, and aims for a July opening.

The next SSSNA general meeting is scheduled for May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.

 

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