South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Rental registration requirement begins at the end of May

 

April 19, 2022



The city’s new rental registration program headlined the April 12 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Sarah Kinter, Director of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI), said the city’s new rental registration program begins on May 29, 2022. Current rental units will have until Dec. 31, 2022, to register.

The program will allow city officials to inspect and ensure rental properties meet the minimum standards for safe living conditions.

Rental registration fees are paid by property owners. Inspections on rental units will occur at least once every five years.

The fees are $16 per registration, $5.50 per parcel, and $14 per unit. The revenue will cover the costs of inspection and travel. Rental registrations are valid for one year and must be renewed annually.

Owner-occupied units are exempt from the program.

Affordable Housing properties are exempt from the rental registration permit fee, but are subject to registration and inspection.

Structures or portions of structures built prior to 1978 may be exempt from lead inspections and fees where the rental registration applicant provides a report prepared by a professional, who is certified by the state Dept. of Labor and Industry as a lead risk assessor, that the building, or relevant portion thereof, contains no lead-based paint hazards.

PLI inspectors are certified for lead inspection.

City councilman Bruce Kraus said the process to establish a rental registry began 14 years ago. While the legislation he crafted passed in 2015, the enforcement became tied up in the courts.

A judge ruled in July, 2021, that the fee adopted for registration and inspection to code was disproportionate. In Nov., 2021, a new fee was deemed fair.

Applications for rental registration will be accepted through the OneStopPGH portal beginning May 2. 

Applications will require submission of a valid Certificate of Occupancy for the rental location. This is not required for single-family homes.

Inspectors will visit a property on a scheduled date. If the property passes, another inspection must occur in three years.

If the property fails to pass inspection, it will be re-inspected the following year.

Ms. Kinter said if PLI has to condemn a building as unfit for human occupancy, it will do so.

It can be due to a fire, or water problems, so there are degrees of condemnation. If, for instance, the water problem is resolved, the property will be removed from the condemnation list.

To a question if Airbnb, an online company which provides a platform for members to rent out their properties or rooms to guests, is covered by the rental registry, she said “short-term rentals” are not covered.

Bob Charland, of Mr. Kraus’ office, said he spends a lot of time trying to find who owns properties. A renter could rent from an LLC, and therefore an owner cannot readily, if ever, be identified.

To a question if the community will have access to the information regarding LLCs, Ms. Kinter said an application is not subject to right-to-know laws. 

However, a violation notice would be a public document, and names and location would be viewable.

An application will be rejected if no name is listed, she said.

To a question if a resident suspects that a property is not registered, Ms. Kinter said to call 311.

After Dec. 31, a letter will be sent to those who fail to register. If no action is taken, a notice of violation will be issued.

For more information, visit: https://pittsburghpa.gov/pli/rental-registration

Next, Lynn Kurhan, of UPMC, reported the old South Side outpatient center, 2310 Jane St., will end COVID-19 testing and vaccinations at the end of the month.

The building will be maintained and remain in the UPMC system, for now.

She also said Julie Hecker, VP of Operations, UPMC Mercy, will speak at the Planning Forum’s May 10 meeting.

Next, nighttime economy manager Allison Harnden delivered the March report of the Parking Enhancement District (PED).

The PED, or the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight, is in effect on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. PED funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. 

March PED revenue totaled $16,597.68. The enforcement costs were $3,744.17. The 2022 revenue to date is $39,739.56.

The total revenue since the PED began in April, 2017, is $872,361.32.

The two-person Clean Team, through Block by Block, which is funded by PED funds, maintains the E. Carson St. corridor. The Clean Team removes trash and graffiti/stickers, lends hospitality assistance, and more.

Recent PED expenditures include: $13,144.72 for the January Clean Team and manager; $12,129.12 for the February Clean Team and manager; and $2,670 portable toilets for St. Patrick’s Parade Day.

The trust fund balance is $103,787.32, which does not include 2021 revenue. The request to transfer the 2021 revenue was initiated on April 8. About $128,000 is expected to be transferred, for a total fund balance of about $232,000.

In the liquor license changes update, the license was transferred from current licensee UUBU 6, 178 Pius St., to Pins Mechanical Co., 407 Cinema Dr.

Walker’s Pub transferred its license to an LLC.

Lofty Lounge South, Inc. (Enclave), 1602 East Carson St., had its license released from safekeeping.

A new off-premises catering permit was issued to Scarlett Rose Enterprises, Inc. (Twelve), 1222-4 East Carson St.

Ms. Harnden also reported Clean Team initiatives for the spring and summer seasons include weed abatement to ensure the sidewalk and curbline presentations are in great shape.

Clean Team trash removal for March totaled 11,606 pounds. Twenty graffiti/stickers were removed. 

In response to a question last month about adding cigarette urns, Ms. Harnden said the plan for cigarette urns will be implemented, and placement locations are being discussed.

She also reported the city received a Keep America Beautiful grant to target nightlife areas, such as for cigarette litter.

Mr. Kraus said cigarette urns will be installed in a pilot program to determine the best locations for them.

He also reported the PED will be reimbursed for enforcement costs for the residential permit parking (RPP) program in the South Side.

The PED was charged for RPP enforcement, and that should not be part of PED, he said.

Waste management continues to be an issue as people do not dispose of trash. Dumpsters also need maintained and locked with lids on at all times.

The city wants to pursue the issue, he said.

Mr. Kraus called the Clean Team “utterly amazing” in how well they maintain the corridor.

A business regards cocktail napkins as confetti for outdoors. He plans to meet with the owner. If it rains, the napkins stick to the ground.

He will also look into assigning better dumpster locations.

Regarding the brick wall in the 1700 block of East Carson St. which is frequently graffitied, he said it has been in good condition for a while now.

A Healthy Ride bike station may be installed there, which will serve as a deterrent to bad wall behavior, he said.

Updating the PennDOT Carson St. safety improvement project, Mr. Kraus said it is still under construction through early fall. Bump outs are currently being worked on.

The project will coincide with the18th St. signals upgrade project for pedestrian safety.

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.

He also reported the plan is for a third member of the Clean Team to begin around May. The addition will raise the Clean Team costs to about $20,000 per month.

The PED will be spending about a quarter of a million dollars a year because people cannot responsibly put their garbage where it belongs, he said.

Mr. Kraus also reported city council unanimously approved a plastic bag ban that goes into effect next year. Its goal is to curtail litter, reduce the microplastics in the soil and water, and more.

He next reported that he, Mr. Charland, and others recently attended a conference of the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), which works to come up with recommendations on improving a city’s nightlife.

Gun violence/mass shootings in nightlife was a major topic.

He and Mayor Gainey discussed those issues. Mr. Kraus said his office is putting together a checklist for the East Carson St. corridor to present to the mayor.

He said he, the mayor, and Ms. Harnden will meet to see what can be done to address gun violence in the city.

The question was asked about adding a third person to the Clean Team for an annual cost of about $240,000. But the PED fund will only have about $231,000.

Mr. Kraus said they are watching every dime and nickel. Also, reimbursement is coming for funding enforcement that they are not getting.

Sunday enforcement also needs to begin, but hiring is causing delays.

“Sunday is the new Saturday on Carson,” he said. But if a third person cannot be covered, he will pull back on it, he said.

Next, in the Development Activities Meeting (DAM) report, Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said the next SSCC DAM would be held on April 21.

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.

The two items at this month’s meeting will be a follow-up for façade work on 2303-2313 East Carson St. The overall proposal is to change the building from offices to apartments.

The other item is the installation by UPMC of a fueling station behind them at 3175 East Carson St. on Sydney St.

Ms. Rudiak said UPMC did not have to appear before the SSCC as the proposal does not have to go before the Planning Commission. She said they just wanted to share with the community what they will be doing.

She also reported that last week four projects were approved by the Historic Review Commission (HRC).

They are: 601--605 East Carson St., 1209 East Carson St./Bedford Square; 1210 East Carson St .; and 2204 East Carson St.

For 1500 Bingham St., much of the issues have to do with façade and stabilizing the building. The owner is working with the local review committee (LRC) and HRC staff on improvements.

Ms. Rudiak commended the LRC staff as “so knowledgeable of historic district guidelines.”

“I don’t know what the historic district would look like if we did not have these guys,” she said.

In reports, the second annual Battle of the Block Watches will be held at 9 a.m. on April 23. Teams compete in neighborhood cleanup efforts.

Thick Bikes will sponsor. Friends of the Riverfront will help collect trash.

Next, Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported the Chamber is reviewing which initiatives and events it can bring back post-Covid.

At this time, the Chamber has plans for some events.

The Chamber and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association will co-sponsor the South Side Summer Golf Classic at South Hills Country Club on Monday, Aug. 1. 

The Chamber also plans to hold its Holiday Mingle at J. Verno Studios on Wednesday, Dec. 7. 

The Chamber hopes to present the February 2023 Soup Contest in partnership with The Brashear Association.

Next, state Rep. Jessica Benham reported the April 6 senior fair in the Brentwood Civic Center parking lot was a success with good attendance. Senior fair packets are available in her office upon request.

She also said she and Aerion Abney, who was recently elected to finish the term of former state Rep. Jake Wheatley, have had many conversations about South Side.

Under new redistricting, his district will include more of South Side.

Mr. Kraus said he feels this is a huge benefit to have two state representatives in the neighborhood. Ms. Benham said it will be nice to have a partner to represent part of South Side.

The meeting ended with Phillips K-5 Elementary School teacher Melissa Ott reporting the school will mark Earth Day on April 22 by turning old tee-shirts into bags.

 If anyone would like a bag, stop by the school.

The next Planning Forum Zoom meeting will be on May 10.

 

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