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Oakwatch: The Oakland Code Enforcement Project Meeting Minutes January 15th, 2014

Mission: Oakwatch: The Oakland Code Enforcement Project seeks to improve the quality of life for residents, employees and visitors by enforcing codes on negligent property owners, housing violations, parking violations, disruptive behavior, excessive noise and underage drinking in the Oakland neighborhood. I.

Introductions: (Geof Becker) In attendance: Mary Ballerini, Geof Becker, Robert Beecher, Rebekkah Belferman, Maria Bethel, Kathy Boykowycz, Alicia Carberry, Steve Cetra, Henry Cianciosi, Megan Fabbri, Dan Gilman, Grant Gittlen, Nathan Hart, Brian Hill, Jodi Hirsh, Jim Hobai, Alec Jachwak, Guy Johnson, Hanson Kappelman, Kevin Kerr, Blair Kossis, Shannon Leshen, Janice Lorenz, Robert McPherson, David Manthei, Michael Medwed, Carol Mitchell, Mark Oleniacz, Morgan Overton, Lawrence Robinson, Gregg Roman, Blithe Runsdorf, Kannu Sahni, Tara Sherry-Torres, Erika Strassburger, Lara Sullivan, Paul Supowitz, John Wilds, James Williams, Wanda Wilson.


District 8 Update: (Dan Gilman) District 8 City Councilman Dan Gilman introduced himself with history: Chief of Staff for 8 years with Councilman William Peduto. Gilman will be sending regular representation to Oakwatch, primarily Chief of Staff Erika Strassberger and Legal Assistant and Community Relations Liaison Lara Sullivan. Successfully cracked down on Beeler Street (near Carnegie Mellon) absentee landlords with the help of the USPS' No Names, No Mail and Craig's List ads. Question: Does No Names, No Mail hold up in court? Dan Gilman: It does when the defendant does not bother to show up. On following other routes to handle negligent absentee landlords: pursue filing criminal negligence charges. Last fall’s N. Dithridge sweep: Recurring complaints of noise, garbage, code violations. BBI, Environmental Services, Zone 4, and Pitt Police representation walked the street and knocked on every door making citations. This sweep will not be a 'one and done deal'-- it will be done every year. Team up with everyone to get it done. Idea: Include the State, too. Rep. Frankel. Craig, Winthrop, and Filmore Streets sidewalk repair citations going before Judge Ricciardi soon.

New York City developer has purchased four houses at Craig Street and Centre Avenue for a new project/ development. Three most common quality of life submissions to 311: potholes, snow, BBI concerns. Working on centralizing the system so that court processes do not hold up progress and so that all courts and judges are on the same page. Progress by way of man-power + technology: starting with five new building inspectors. Inspectors work hard in the field but some lack email. Need to invest in ourselves, but also need community engagement. Document issues. Let us know. Stay Involved. No issue is too small. Broken sidewalks speak of larger problems. They're not just broken sidewalks- they represent people who do not care to get them fixed. Want to start teaming up with everybody to fix everything. Hanson Kappelman: The idea has surfaced to put expiration dates on occupancy permits. Can we investigate the feasibility of that? Dan Gilman: Fair application and enforcement manpower would be absolutely necessary. We could look carefully at how other cities handle this. First we need to make sure occupancy permits exist at all. Nathan Hart: Can we revisit the rental registry? Dan Gilman: The rental registry created such a backlog for BBI and was eventually struck down by the courts. Perhaps a voluntary registry, a sort of gold star system that is promoted by Pitt for students can be implemented. Nathan Hart: There is often difficulty in finding the landlord. Pennsylvania's disclosure laws are tough.


Mayor’s Office Update: (Grant Gittlen) The Office of Neighborhood Initiatives is now the Office of Community Affairs. New structure meant to apply new focus on holding up on previous promises to constituents. 1) District 4 Councilwoman Natalia Rudak is sponsoring an open data law to create a public portal for information to be freely available. Mayor Peduto fully supports this. Once passed, this will take three months to implement. 2) As Dan Gilman mentioned, five building inspectors have been hired. 3) A Nightlife Economy Manager will be hired soon.

Blair Kossis: Will the Nightlife Economy Manager be residential or commercial? Grant Gittlen: Both.

The Mayor spent his first week handling the snow and is now focusing on meeting all departments. He is committed to his constituents by taking input and doing something with it. Geof Becker: What if after everyone works together (residents document, BBI cites, judges fine), the perpetrator does not pay? How can we think about collecting these code violation fines? Is one City Solicitor enough? Dan Gilman: Get us a list. Blair Kossis: Policy problems have made it difficult to come up with one. Alicia Carberry: The only way to search for court cases right now is by last name and date. Not by most outstanding balances or by number of cases. Wanda Wilson: He has filed for bankruptcy and Bankruptcy Court complicates the matter further. OPDC is in touch with attorneys for the public sector as to be listed as a party of interest in the ruling. Dan Gilman: Does it do any good to lock someone up over a $5,000 fine? Wanda Wilson: He shouldn't be allowed to continue gaming the system. He should not get to continue owning property. In the case of Joseph Slomnicki of 3101 Niagara, he has a fine of $10,000 and he is still a property owner. Lawrence Robinson: I was just at a blighted property conference and Act 90 has been very useful in other cities. Dan Gilman: City Council introduced Land Bank Legislation just yesterday (see Post-Gazette article here). Gregg Roman suggests hiring constables to enforce fee collections. IV.

Oakland Property Progress Report: (BBI) Top Ten List. (SEE LIST)


University of Pittsburgh Police: (Officer Cetra) Oakland crime update / Incident breakdown, Q&A. December statistics: -1 underage drinking -1 defiant trespassing -10 marijuana -5 disorderly conducts -3 warrants -1 retail theft

-2 simple assaults -1 theft from auto -3 DUI -1 drug arrest Officer Cetra: We finished visiting (previously targeted-as-party- properties) on Bouquet, Meyran, Cato, and Juliet Streets to talk to students about their place in the neighborhood. Geof Becker: Was there a sense of cooperation? Cetra: Yes. They were receptive. We also delivered letters signed by Zone 4 Commander and the Pitt Police Chief. Wanda Wilson: Can OPDC have a copy of those? VI.

Zone 4 Police: (Officer Leshen) Oakland crime update / Incident breakdown, Q&A.

November and December: -27 drug arrests -9 DUI arrests -4 gun violations arrests -4 warrants arrests -3 thefts from business arrests -2 thefts from person arrests -2 false ID arrests -7 disorderly conduct citations -4 public intoxication citations -2 distributing alcohol to minors citations -1 excessive noise citations -1 open container citations -3 underage drinking citations -3 public urination citations Oakland Impact Squad is back 11PM-3AM Thursday- Saturday nights. Beware the knock-out robbers. Occurrences at the 300 block of Atwood, the 300 block of S. Bouquet, and at Louisa and Semple. Two took place after midnight but the one was right before 5PM. Citiizens' Police Academy is re-launching on February 4th, 2014. The 15-week course meets Tuesday evenings from 6:30 – 9:30 PM at the Pittsburgh Police Training Academy at 1395 Washington Boulevard. Applications are due by January 28th, 2014. More information can be found online.

There is no longer a graffiti taskforce, but there is an intelligence officer who works specifically on graffiti cases. Per the resident whose neighbor's property was tagged and tried to make a police report to no avail as he was not the property owner: 3 ways to encourage the owner to make a report: 1) Telephone Reporting Unit (accessed via 911) 2) Go to any station to make the report 3) Call 911 to have an officer come out How can OPDC provide support with this? Increase in theft from vehicles on Robinson Street in December. The armed robbery at the Craft/ Boulevard of Allies intersection Sunoco is under investigation. There have been two incidents. Geof Becker: How can we track the addresses of non-traffic citations? Officer Leshen: Addresses need not be furnished. Geof Becker: It would be helpful to tie in the Social Host Ordinance to disruptive parties, but would have to pinpoint the party.


OPDC Announcements: (Alicia Carberry) KICO report: -57 CMVs since the semester began in August -Adopt-A-Block spring Dates: January 25th, February 8th and 25th, March 1st and 22nd, April 5th and 26th -Contact Josh Litvik if you are interested in participating or notice a street that is in need of cleaning: 412.621.7863 ext. 24 -Cool Roofs: 233 Atwood Street roof was painted on 11/9, second coat to follow -Love Your Block (251 Atwood Street): Artwork is in place in façade; will be changing periodically App Update: App idea not selected for Steel City CodeFest. We will continue our database updates and look forward to possibly getting real-time updates next year. PLCB Grant Update: Will be airing social norm public service announcements on Pitt's WPTS radio (92.1FM). Citizen Observer Patrol Update: Alicia Carberry + a volunteer did an hour walking patrol on New Years’ Eve and noted two parties with loud enough music to note but not loud enough music to call 911. David Manthei expressed concern over no one reading phone books and yet they pile up on properties anyhow.

Michael Medwed asked for an update on the Health Department Building and Lawrence Robinson informed that everything has been moved out. Blithe Runsdorf noted that permit parking is coming to the streets of Schenley Farms beginning February 1st.



Next meeting: February 19th, 2014 at 6 PM the Oakland Career Center located at 294 Semple Street in Oakland. Meeting Adjournment. Contact Oakwatch: 412.621.7863 ext. 27. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!