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Oakwatch: The Oakland Code Enforcement Project Meeting Minutes April 16th, 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. In attendance: Geof Becker, Rebekkah Belferman, Alicia Carberry, Steve Cetra, Alex Coyne, Ethel De Iuliis, Nathan Hart, Brian Hill, Guy Johnson, Hanson Kappelman, Kevin Kerr, Jeff Koch, Marjory Lake, Shannon Leshen, Janice Lorenz, David Manthei, Michael Medwed, Mark Oleniacz, Kannu Sahni, Autumn Secrest, Josephine Spinelli, Carla Spinelli, Lara Sullivan, Nick Valdeze, John Wilds, Wanda Wilson. I.

Oakland Property Progress Report: (Bureau of Building Inspection’s Brian Hill, District 3’s Kevin Kerr) 3707 Orpwood, 3616 Parkview, 343 Lawn, 3374 Dawson, 305 Coltart: Letters sent to owner warning that over-occupancy has been observed. Owners have 30 days to appeal. Mr. Hill observed that the issues Oakland faces with over-occupancy are beginning to spread to other neighborhoods as students discover cheaper rents elsewhere. It will be nice to have test cases. Mr. Hill noted that the Bureau needs to work out a way to talk to police officers to compare evidence of over-occupancy before issuing subpoenas. 3109 Forbes: Geof Becker asked who gets notified when work has begun on 3109 Forbes. Brian Hill: They have submitted a site plan, so Kate Rakus would know. Nathan Hart: Regarding 15 Oakland Square, the property where the zoning variance was approved without going before the Zoning Board-- another client mentioned he was given approval for a variance without going to the Board, either. Would like to see why the public process has been left out. Brian Hill: After May 2nd, contact the new planning director and set up a meeting. Ethel De Iuliis: I have lived across from 15 Oakland Square for 50 years and it has always been a multiplefamily home. The new owner is not here to do anything wrong. Nathan Hart: This is not anything personal. This was a one-unit and we want the public to be involved in the decision to make this a two-unit. Ms. De Iuliis: They rented in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s-- they’ve been there a long time. Mr. Hart: This will be a debate for the ZBA. Geof Becker: We want to ensure the same proper legal process happens to everyone equally. A good graffiti contact would be Patty Chavez at the Department of Public Works. Two-part system—Graffiti Taskforce to track and Graffiti Busters to cover. Color might not be exact, though. Mark Oleniacz: I have gotten pretty good color matches for 311 submissions.


David Manthei: In San Francisco, they mix random paint together to create a beige and use that for everything. Kevin Kerr: The owners of 3374 Dawson have begun the eviction process for their tenants, based on the fact that they were warned against wild partying in September. Josephine Spinelli: There are garbage cans all over the front yards of the 300 and 400 blocks of Semple Street. I have been told as long as the garbage has lids it is legal. There are no lids, though. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Geof Becker: Garbage issues belong to Environmental Services. Carla Spinelli: 417 Semple is polluted with trash in the front and back yards. Geof Becker: Whose jurisdiction covers back yards? Brian Hill: BBI’s. Wanda Wilson: OPDC sends volunteers regularly to clean up trash on Semple Street, but yes, this is an ongoing problem. Josephine Spinelli: I understand a lot of the landlords are not around, but you think they would send a maintenance man around to keep up their properties. Kevin Kerr gave Ms. Spinelli his card for more direct communication. Ethel De Iuliis wanted to make sure the group was not painting students with this general brush. Students enrich this neighborhood. The absentee landlords are to blame. Mr. Hill brought a handout of properties that BBI has condemned. They are as follows: 2312 Beelen Street 128 De Ruad Street 3621 and 3611 Frazier Street 138 and 128 Moultrie Street 4 Mackey Street 3105 Kennett Square 3102 Terrace Street 3321 Ward Street 3608 Whitney Street II.

City Council Update: (District 3’s Kevin Kerr) Kevin Kerr: The Social Host Ordinance is in the Law Department’s hands now—but I am constantly asking them about their progress. Geof Becker: Could we invite someone from the Law Department to Oakwatch to speak about hang-ups involving the Ordinance, and an expected outcome? The Law Department is currently restructuring; Kevin will follow up with a good contact. Student move-out is coming up. 30-yard roll-off dumpsters will be provided at the following locations: 1. McKee and Bates - Placed on the odd side on McKee. 2. Semple and Louisa - Placed on the odd side of Semple. 3. Meyran and Bates - Placed on the odd side of Meyran. 4. Atwood and Bates - Placed on the odd side of Atwood. 5. S. Bouquet and Dawson - Placed on Dawson in the area of 3746.


6. Lawn St. - Around 315 Lawn St. by the fence. John Wilds told the group the University of Pittsburgh used to do this twice a year, once when students move out, again when students move in. They have switched to once a year to focus on move in. Kevin Kerr: I have submitted many Oakland potholes to 311. 311 is restructuring and will be all the more effective soon. Any garbage issues, we will be happy to follow up with landlords. Sometimes they take a while to reach. III.

University of Pittsburgh Police: (Officer Guy Johnson/ Officer Steve Cetra) For March: -6 disorderly conduct citations, 4 of those cited were students -12 marijuana citations -2 drug violations, both students -3 DUIs -10 public drunkenness citations, 8 were students -26 underage consumers, 18 on campus and 8 off -1 warrant arrest -1 instance of highway obstruction Officer Johnson visited 3606 Dawson by request of a neighbor as a party follow-up. He delivered a warning letter to the four University of Pittsburgh students residing. They seemed receptive. In response to the neighbor’s concern over the 3606 Dawson’s back fence hanging into the alleyway, Officer Johnson asked the tenant to contact her landlord. Regarding the upcoming preliminary hearings for the five arrests made by the University of Pittsburgh Police at 3374 Dawson: Geof Becker: Is it helpful for the community to show at a preliminary hearing? Mark Oleniacz: It is helpful. It shows that Oakland matters. Shannon Leshen: Preliminary hearings are where pleas are often worked out in attempt to easily resolve an issue. It wouldn’t hurt to show up. Steve Cetra: I have conveyed to the arresting officer the seriousness of this situation. Geof Becker: Egregious parties like these certainly erode the quality of life in Oakland, but threatening harm to young neighbors more than crosses the line. The Oakland Impact Unit has been out Thursday- Saturdays, responding to parties and keeping eyes on the community. Brian Hill: The Bar Compliance Taskforce hit Oakland last week. Guy Johnson: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board coordinates with us when they do sweeps.


IV.

Zone 4 Police: (Officer Leshen) Shannon Leshen reported that warmer weather and the Oakland Impact Unit are responsible for the increase in citations and arrests. Regarding McKee Place graffiti, Officer Leshen passed her card out in the neighborhood to encourage reports to be made. She has coordinated with the Graffiti Taskforce so they know they have a Zone 4 contact in Oakland. The Taskforce is back, yes, but understaffed, so please be patient. Geof Becker: If your own property gets tagged it is your own responsibility to take care of it, but the Graffiti Taskforce is in place to help? Brian Hill: Yes. City conduct code Title VI covers graffiti. BBI handles that. Geof Becker: Anyone can report to 311. And the police and BBI get involved from there? Shannon Leshen: Yes, or you can call it into 911, too. We would ask that you hold off on painting it over until the police arrive. Brian Hill: To call 911, the property owner must be the one making the report. Alex Coyne: A tenant could, too. Hanson Kappelman: If the owner or tenants do not make the reports, there is still 311. Alex Coyne: If a criminal complaint is to be filed against the offender, it needs to come from an authorized agency owner. David Manthei: What is the demographic of these taggers? Shannon Leshen: Anyone.

V.

University of Pittsburgh Update: (Kannu Sahni) Kannu Sahni: Several things need to happen in order to improve Oakland. Enforcement should be in place, yes, but also education on how to live within a community with minimal impact. Engagement is another important element. Through civic and academic engagement, the PittServes program encourages students to take pride in their neighborhoods. John Wilds had a large part in starting up Pitt Serves, which was formed to allow non-profits and faith-based organizations to post projects in order to connect with student volunteers. With the Noble Hour site in place to track hours, this program will allow for many more opportunities to sustain consistent relationships and increase the presence of the students in the community. John Wilds: Officer Guy Johnson and I, along with Kannu, attended a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board conference recently. The PLCB has historically focused on bars, but we have urged them to pay attention to house parties, now, too. It was mentioned earlier in regard to trash that it seems the more you clean up the more gets thrown down. We must then change the culture. Kannu Sahni: At this conference, attention was paid to the fact that more bar management translates to more house parties. Many university conversations revealed variations of shared experiences, but feedback affirms that we are on the right track. Geof Becker: Yes! We have definitely noticed that when universities work hard to enforce underage drinking on-campus, underage drinking off-campus increases.

VI.

Mayor’s Office Update: (Geof Becker via Grant Gittlen) The Graffiti Taskforce is back up and running as of April 4th under Commander Linda Rosato-Barone. Regarding street sweeping, the best way to report a street not getting swept is to submit to 311. Will report on the possibility of new vehicles at next meeting.


VII.

Speed Limit Signs along Forbes: (Geof Becker) Key speed limit signs are missing along Forbes Avenue.

VIII.

Department of Public Works’ Update: (Jeff Koch) DPW has changed Oakland to be swept on the 3rd week of the month to provide more focus. The Parking Authority recently issued more than 400 tickets in Oakland to cars parked on streets designated to be swept. Geof Becker: Is this a one-and-done deal with the Parking Authority? Jeff Koch: No, ticketing will happen consistently providing the sweeping machines are working. Blithe Runsdorf: Does DPW clean storm sewers? Jeff Koch: No, but the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority does. Geof Becker: Tickets demand attention. Josephine Spinelli: It seems like it is new people getting ticketed every time. Geof Becker: When a sweeping is unsuccessful, what is the best way to communicate that? Jeff Koch: Email- Jeffrey.koch@pittsburghpa.gov The sweeper has to be in view of the Parking Authority in order to issue tickets. The sweepers didn’t make the entire route today because issuing tickets took so long. Hanson Kappelman: Is it only illegal to park if the machine is visible? Jeff Koch: Yes. Hanson Kappelman: Changing this would be a City Council issue? Jeff Koch: Yes. Geof Becker: Can we expect a similar report at next month’s meeting? We are only interested in numbers as a measure of effectiveness. Jeff Koch: Yes. Also, Semple and Meyran have been submitted to be paved this year. John Wilds: Please have that done by the third week in August for Student Move-In to go smoothly. Other streets noted as needing to be paved: Parkview Avenue, Pier Street.

IX.

OPDC Updates: (Alicia Carberry): PLCB grant/ KICO report. OPDC was awarded a two-year grant in October of 2013 to help curb underage and dangerous drinking in Oakland. OPDC is currently advertising on PittNews.com’s leaderboard to encourage responsible drinking and neighborliness. On April 5th, two off-duty policemen were hired for a walking patrol of Oakland. Keep It Clean, Oakland! has had 142 court-mandated volunteers since the semester began in August. 472 volunteers have helped with Adopt-a-Blocks so far this semester, collecting 178 bags of trash and 31 bags of recycling. 37 submissions have been made to 311 through volunteers. April 30th is Josh Litvik’s last day as KICO coordinator, but the new intern will begin soon and the email remains the same: kico@opdc.org Get in touch if you have been thinking of a cleanup project.

X.

Next meeting: 12PM on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh at 234 McKee Place in Oakland. Please RSVP for this meeting by calling Alicia Carberry at (412) 621-7863 x21.


XI.

Meeting Adjournment. Contact Oakwatch: oakwatch@opdc.org or 412.621.7863 ext. 27. Thanks for keeping


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