Slopes updated on development, construction and safety projects
October 26, 2021
The second to the last 2021 general meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) on Oct. 12 featured updates on Development Activities Meetings (DAM), slumlords, and the homeless.
President Blake McLaren began the meeting detailing the ways to contact the organization: http://www.southsideslopes.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 412-376-7373.
In his DAM report, Mr. McLaren said a DAM was held on Sept. 23 to review the proposed construction addition and conversion to multi-unit residential at 32 and 44 Pius St at the St. Michael's School building.
A variance is sought as use as a multi-unit residential in the Hillside District is not permitted.
The project will go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on Nov. 4. Mr. McLaren will submit comments to the ZBA on the project.
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A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals affecting them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.
The next DAM will be held via Zoom on Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. on a new, three-story, 2400-square-foot dwelling on St. Patrick St. A variance is sought as it exceeds 50 percent threshold in the Hillside District.
The hope is to put the property up for sale.
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Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus, in his updates, said the PennDOT East Carson St. safety improvement project will be completed in about nine months.
The project will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.
Upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; sidewalk improvements; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.
He also reported the 18th St. signals upgrade project for pedestrian safety should begin in early-to-mid Spring 2022.
The intersections will be redesigned at Sarah St., Jane St., Mary St., Josephine St., Mission St., Arlington Ave., and Amanda St.
The traffic signal upgrades include: gloss black signal poles; audible countdown pedestrian signals; and more.
Mr. Kraus also reported it is capital budget time, and for the SSSNA to let him know what they would like included.
He also said with a new administration coming in, changes are on-going in the executive branch as some department heads have already left for other jobs.
To a question about Pius St. traffic calming, he said he thinks speed bumps on Pius St. would be a good thing.
A resident commented while the speed limit on Pius St. is 25 mph, some motorists seem to travel up to 50 mph.
"It would be a tremendous benefit," he said about speed bumps. The resident said ticketing speeders would also help. Mr. Kraus said he would talk to the commander about the matter.
To a complaint about Airbnb, Mr. Kraus said to send him the addresses and he will assist. One strategy is for him to contact the owners of the property about being a good neighbor.
Airbnb is an online company which provides a platform for members to rent out their properties or rooms to guests.
To a complaint about rental slumlords, Mr. Kraus said the problem is very frustrating.
He said he has worked toward a license rental registry, and taken it through court numerous times. It calls for inspections and more of the properties.
However, the Realtors Association fights them, he said. They contend that a $12 fee to finance inspections and more is too high. Judge James nixed it.
Mr. Kraus said the pushback is the organization does not want inspections in houses, and it has the political clout to resist.
Mr. Kraus said a rental registry without a fee is an option, and he will ask the new administration to pursue it.
Citations are a first step "in a very arduous process," he said of holding landlords accountable for their properties. A problem is that the citations are dismissed regularly by the courts.
Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said its South Watch works on trash violations.
When trash violations are observed, South Watch volunteers place an orange placard on the front door detailing the violation. If not corrected, the property owner is contacted to correct the problem.
If the property owner does not take action, South Watch contacts Environmental Services. The violation may then go directly to the courtroom of Judge Gene Ricciardi, who takes these violations seriously, Ms. Rudiak said.
Mr. McLaren said Judge Ricciardi should be invited to the next SSSNA board meeting to discuss all of this.
Ms. Rudiak said she has found the majority of property owners to be responsive.
Regarding absentee landlords, an attendee said if the city has to step in and clean up then it becomes a "billable" offense attached to a lien.
Mr. Kraus said the city would clean up if it is a very bad, public health issue.
A Pius St. resident reported that people living under the railroad tracks have connected lighting from the bridge.
Mr. Kraus said Laura Drogowski, of the new Office of Community Health and Safety, is becoming a presence in such encampments.
Two residents commented some homeless people on the Slopes are stealing and breaking into properties, and taking over abandoned houses. The one resident said he called 911 the previous day about someone who threw a brick through an abandoned house.
Mr. Kraus suggested having Ms. Drogowski speak at the next SSSNA meeting. Also, maybe someone from the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI), Mr. McLaren said.
In committee reports, Goatfest was held on Sept. 18 at the Arlington ball field. The purpose of the goats was to eat invasive species and vines.
In the StepTrek report, Mr. McLaren said that more than 380 tickets were sold for the 21st Annual StepTrek on Oct. 2. There was over $13,500 in sponsorships. Revenue totaled $22,000 for a net income of $10,697.
The annual non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes is the organization's biggest fundraiser.
In the beautification report, clean-ups are held the last Wednesdays of each month. The next clean-up will be at 6 p.m. on Oct. 27.
The meeting concluded with Mr. McLaren stating the SSSNA is looking for new board members for 2022. Contact him at 412-721-1745 if interested.
The next general meeting is the holiday party on Dec. 14.