South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

ForgingPGH aims to create a shared vision throughout Pittsburgh

Parking Enhancement District collections still down

 

September 29, 2020



The launch of a citywide comprehensive planning process, and an update on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), were the main focus of the Sept. 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

The meeting was held as a Zoom video conference.

Anthony Kobak, a senior planner with the Strategic Planning Division, Dept. of City Planning, said the project to create a planning process has been “many years in the making.”

The comprehensive plan being built, called ForgingPGH, will guide the city over the next 20 years in land use, housing, mobility, development, recreation, and open space.

It will be the first comprehensive look at land use in the city, and will help develop a plan toward future growth.

“We could just let development happen, or we could plan for it,” Mr. Kobak said.

Utilizing input from residents, the city will use ForgingPGH to lay out a shared vision.

Building the plan will be a year-long process. Part of the plan’s development process is focused on gathering input through online scenario-planning workshops on Engage PGH, the City’s online community engagement portal.

In these workshops, participants will share ideas and discuss different scenarios for the future of Pittsburgh. The workshop can also be completed by calling 3-1-1 or by visiting open Carnegie Library locations. 

Scenario planning allows one to show the city planners where and how the city should grow. It allows participants to explore and consider various ways Pittsburgh could change over time.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, engagement activities for ForgingPGH will start online.

From now through Oct. 1, residents may participate in the online public workshop on EngagePGH to share their ideas on how their neighborhood and the city should develop.

Participants will engage in an interactive exercise to shape Pittsburgh and vote on guiding principles for the comprehensive plan. Visit www.engage.pittsburghpa.gov/forgingpgh to learn more.

Other ways people who live and work in the city can get involved are attending open houses; and attending draft plan public presentations and open house for the final plan. The open houses may be in-person or virtual as COVID-19 allows.

The timeline is:

Sept. 2020: ForgingPGH kick-off

Feb. 2021: Open houses for scenario selection 

Spring 2021: Refinement of preferred growth scenario

July 2021: Public presentation and open house of ForgingPGH Comprehensive Plan

Summer 2021: ForgingPGH presentation to, and adoption by, Planning Commission and City Council resolution

Fall 2021: ForgingPGH implementation begins

For the survey and more, visit: www.forgingpgh.org. Residents may sign up on Engage PGH to receive email updates and news about the comprehensive plan.

To a question if public comment is only permitted in the online public workshop until Oct. 1, Mr. Kobak said it must close at some point as the comments are being utilized as project input.

If participation is low, the deadline may be reevaluated, he said. But comments will be accepted through September and a few weeks into October.

Next, city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden introduced Alexandra Abboud, the city’s new victims’ assistance coordinator. She works mostly out of Zone 5.

Ms. Abboud said the goal is to grow the role over time as she is the only one in the position at this time.

She asked that forum participants contact her about anyone in need of help.

In her update on the PED, which has taken a large financial hit with COVID-19 closures, Ms. Harnden said August revenue was better than it has been in months.

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Before the pandemic, PED income averaged $4,000 per weekend, or about $15,000 per month. For the month of August, PED income averaged $1,800 per weekend, for a monthly total of $7,648.

The funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. The trust fund balance of the PED is currently $248,351.

For Block by Block, or the Clean Team, which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor, the two workers, or ambassadors, removed 12,591 pounds of trash in August.

The cleaning services also included removing 22 graffiti/stickers, and lending hospitality assistance 21 times.

Next, Barbara Rudiak updated participants on the Aug. 20 development activities meeting (DAM) of the South Side Community Council (SSCC).

The Zoom video conference featured presentations on three proposed development projects on the South Side.

The three projects are: Verizon Wireless’ proposal to attach antennas to the rooftop of a building at 1700 Carey Way; a zoning Special Exception for off-street parking at 905 Bingham Street; and renovation of the SouthSide Works theater at 425 Cinema Drive into offices.

The next DAM meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24.

In reports, Blake McLaren of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) said the organization has attained Registered Community Organization (RCO) status.

Community organizations can become RCOs through the Department of City Planning to provide community input on development activities and planning processes.

He also reported that StepTrek will be week-long for the first time, Oct. 1-7, due to social distancing.

This will be the 20th year for StepTrek, the annual non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.

The 2020 Garbage Olympics will be held locally in South Side Park from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 26.

Neighborhoods, organized into teams across Pittsburgh, will compete to see who can clean up the most litter, debris, and garbage.

The SSSNA’s next general meeting will be a Zoom video conference at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 13.

Next, Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is assisting stores, shops, and other businesses struggling to stay in business during COVID.

She said while there are less student volunteers due to university rules and remote learning, some clean-ups are taking place.

Ms. Rudiak next reported the next general meeting of the SSCC will be on Sept. 28. The new SouthSide Works owners will be present on the Zoom conference to share plans for the site.

She also reported that South Side Voices, in which South Siders talk about the neighborhood and its past, present, and future, would have had another event if not for COVID.

The oral history project is being conducted by the SSCC in partnership with the South Side branch of Carnegie Library.

Currently, the call is for South Siders to share their COVID stories of how the pandemic has changed their life for the better. Stories can be read today at: http://www.southsidecommunitycouncil.org/south-side-pandemic-stories/

Email your story to: southsidevoices@gmail.com .

Next, Brosha Tkacheva, of the Office of city Councilman Bruce Kraus, said there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony of Esser Plaza in late September.

The final report was from Gwen Bolden of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority who said this is the first week during COVID in which tickets are being issued.

“No parking” violations are also being enforced, but not for lack of permit.

She said her goal is to have evening enforcement and get the PED up.

The authority is now operating with about two-thirds of its staff.

“We’re trying to cover as many areas as we can,” she said.

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on Oct. 13.

 

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