South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Carson bars quiet after extending hours, requirements

Graffiti is a bigger problem in the business corridor

 

April 20, 2021



Graffiti, the South Side Neighborhood Plan, and proposed state legislation to allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. were among the discussion points at the April 13 Zoom meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

The meeting began with Zone 3 Commander John Fisher reporting there were no crime incidents of substance from South Side bars reopening the previous weekend. There was only one arrest and some fights.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he is seeing an increase in graffiti.

Mr. Kraus said Alphonso Sloan of the Graffiti Task Force could need help in light of the recent uptick in graffiti. The commander agreed.

“It has been increasing for a while,” said South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak about neighborhood graffiti.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said business owners and visitors have been complaining about graffiti at “the wall” in the 1700 block of E. Carson Street.

Michael Smith, operations manager for Block by Block Pittsburgh, said that on East Carson St. between 12th and 25th streets and the intersections, there are 33 tags.

He said his best idea for the 17th St. wall is to have a mural in the space as taggers tend to leave murals alone.

Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC has a public art fund that could be looked into.

She also said there are no guidelines in the Historic Review Commission (HRC) regarding murals in historic districts. A Certificate of Appropriateness would be needed.

Mr. Kraus said the process would go through the Arts Commission and take about a year.

Ms. Rudiak said it might not take a year, and the SSCC wanted to develop a mural process anyhow.

Ms. Gonzalez next thanked Mike and Artie of the two-member Clean Team, which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor, for clearing a huge pile of boxes at her request.

“They go the extra mile. We have a great team,” Mr. Kraus said.

Next, in the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) update, city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden reported March revenue totaled $9,252.82.

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

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

The total revenue since the PED began in April, 2017, is $701,735.24. The PED trust fund balance is $321,259.08 and has $64,903.68 in out standing invoices.

Ms. Harnden also reported Block by Block, the Clean Team which is paid by PED funds, returned to a two-person crew on April 2.

During March, 5,975 pounds of trash was removed. Thirty-three graffiti/stickers were also removed, and hospitality assistance was lent 11 times.

Ms. Harnden said graffiti on private buildings requires waivers from the owners for the city to remove the graffiti.

Regarding alcohol license changes, two are pending: Ocean Treasures, 1924 East Carson St .; and PRVCI, 1021 East Carson St.

Mr. Kraus said the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) is monitoring the trees, all of which seem to be blooming. The Dept. of Public Works’ trucks are watering.

He also said the flower baskets for 10th to 17th streets are planned for next season as the PennDOT safety improvement project construction is currently occurring. Funding for the baskets will be from the PED.

The PennDOT project upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; sidewalk improvements; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.

The 18-month project will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.

The 18th St. signals upgrade project will not occur before the fall.

“I am incredibly pleased with the quality of construction,” Mr. Kraus said.

Next, in the Development Activities Meeting (DAM) update, Ms. Rudiak reported on two proposals presented at the March 25 DAM of the SSCC.

A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

Both proposals were previously presented to the Planning Forum.

The first presentation was for a proposed high-end, seven-story, 251-unit residential apartment building at 2613 S. Water St. in the South Side Flats, adjacent to the South Side Marina.

Its next step is to appear before the Planning Commission. 

The other presentation was the renovation project for Esser’s Plaza, 1200 East Carson St.

The proposal includes site and infrastructure improvements, like green areas, paving, new lighting, ADA ramp, precast lawn bench, concrete sidewalk, electric receptacles, park benches, plantings, and more.

The plan must go before the HRC and the Art Commission, and possibly the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

There will be no DAM at the SSCC in April.

Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC sent letters to property owners in the historic district the prior weekend about the guidelines. Business owners, who are sometimes also the property owners, will also be informed of the guidelines.

Mr. Kraus said the trees at Esser Plaza on East Carson St. will be coming down. As part of the project, they will be replaced.

Next, in the South Side Neighborhood Plan update, Tom Smith reported that the neighborhood plan committee met the prior week, with guest Andrea Boykowycz, community services director for Oakland Planning & Development Corporation (OPDC), Oakland’s local development company.

She is working on the Oakland Neighborhood Plan for OPDC. She explained the procedure followed in that neighborhood in pursuing a neighborhood plan.

“There are a lot of similarities between the two,” Mr. Smith said of the neighborhoods.

The Oakland plan has a 35-member steering committee. Their neighborhood survey has 110 questions.

“Andrea was very informative,” he said.

Mr. Smith said the South Side plan committee is continuing to gather information, and will soon talk to city planners about the process.

City Planning crafted a standardized neighborhood plan process that takes 18 to 24 months, and includes an involved public process.

The committee consensus was that the new plan should be a plan for all of the South Side, meaning, the Flats and Slopes.

“It’s going to be a long process,” Mr. Smith said.

In organization reports, Ms. Gonzalez read a statement from forum member Blake McLaren, president of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), on racist graffiti at Quarry Field. He was unable to attend the forum meeting.

It read, in part, “The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) stands in solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Black and brown communities in saying unequivocally that Black Lives Matter and that we will not tolerate the vile hate speech and acts of racism on display in the vandalism of Quarry Field.

“Quarry Field, in the heart of South Side Park, is the home of the South Side Bears, a youth football and cheerleading community organization that supports the development of young majority Black and brown children in the South Side Slopes and surrounding neighborhoods through sports.

“The Bears are the last remaining youth sports team in the Hilltop Neighborhoods. We are exploring ways for us to meaningfully engage and support the Bears as a SSSNA community – and we also urge you to consider donating to the South Side Bears by reaching out directly to its president, Kevin Alton @ www.facebook.com/Southsidebears.

The entire statement is posted on the organization’s website.

Mr. Gonzalez also reported she is working in temporary office space across the street from the former Chamber offices following the Feb. 8 fire that destroyed the Chamber offices and more.

The historic four-story building in the 1100 block of East Carson St. destroyed by a massive fire housed the Chamber offices (including Welcome Center), barber shop, and six apartments. Everyone escaped safely.

Next, Ms. Rudiak reported order forms for the SSCC plant sale can be found on the organization’s website and Facebook. The deadline to order is April 29.

She also said a survey is available on what changes you would like to see in the city’s Residential Permit Parking Program. Visit: htttps://engage.pittsburghpa.gov/rpp-program-updates . The deadline is April 25.

She also thanked Mr. Kraus for holding Zoom meetings on Ormsby Park.

A group of parents have stated concerns about: trash, cigarette butts, bodily fluids, homeless people sleeping under the slides, and a lack of programs.

The fear is the issues will be become even more prominent once the weather improves.

Ms. Rudiak said the parents were very pleased with the proposed solutions.

In the UPMC report, Lynn Kurhan reported that UPMC continues to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

“I have never seen people so happy to get a shot,” she said.

Next, state Rep. Jessica Benham said she is working on legislation to regulate dirt bikes.

She also announced there will be a blood drive on April 30 for the local blood bank. It will be held from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Concord Presbyterian Church, 1907 Brownsville Rd.

A “Battle of the Block Watches,” to clean up neighborhoods, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on April 24. Registration is required. Contact Ms. Benham at RepBenham@pahouse.net .

Ms. Benham asked for comments on proposed state legislation that would allow bars to stay open at 4 a.m. The purpose is to let bars recover losses suffered during the pandemic.

Municipalities would have the option on whether or not to allow it.

Ms. Harnden said the legislation originated in Philadelphia, which was under strict conditions during COVID. The thought was that if closing time is extended there would be no crush at 1:30 or 2 a.m. onto the streets. It could result in better control and increased revenue.

But she does see concerns.

Ms. Benham said she sees both sides of the issue. But, she added, “I do not live adjacent to Carson Street.”

Ms. Harnden said it would also be preferable to the underground activities, like speakeasies.

Ms. Benham said a public forum to discuss the issue would be good. State Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., who represents some of the area, would be part of the discussions.

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on May 11.

 

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