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Oakwatch: The Oakland Code Enforcement Project Meeting Minutes July 17th, 2013

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: John Wilds, Kannu Sahni, Ben Carlise, Michael Medwed, Josh Litvik, Hanson Kappelman, Janice Lorenz, Wanda Wilson, Brian Hill, Officer Steve Cetra, Sergeant Andy Redman, Larry Robinson, Maria Bethel, Barbie Arroyo, Adam Saunders, David Manthei, Blair Kossis, Rebekkah Ranallo, Tara Sherry-Torres, Bryant Andrews-Nino, Marjory Lake, Raymond Lake, Peg Sedlack, John Berkman, Robert Beecher, Bernelle Wood, Geof Becker, Mark Oleniacz, Liz Gray


Introductions; Brief new members (Geof Becker, 5 minutes)


City of Pittsburgh Police 2012 Annual Report (Review Oakland crime and enforcement data, discuss public safety efforts going forward, 20 minutes) Hanson reported on the Oakland data in the police annual report. Community gave feedback that all numbers seemed way too low in terms of how many arrests/citations were made in Oakland for disorderly conduct and alcohol-related violations. Pitt police recommended that community members look at FBI UCR website for explanations on definitions. ( 2012 Disruptive Properties Annual Report also available online.( Maria Bethel reported: We are training new police officers to make sure they know how to enforce the Disruptive Properties Ordinance and what charges should be written up by officers as a disruptive property. Even summons should go across my desk. I am committed to continuing targeted efforts in Oakland to see why officers are not sending in Oakland properties. I’m working with the Nuisance Property Task Force to focus on the City of Pittsburgh as whole so that no one selectively chooses enforcement in some neighborhoods over others.


Oakland Property Progress Report (Inspector Bob McPherson, 15 minutes) a. 41 Boundary Street: New to Top 10 because of disruptive behavior. BBI reported that it’s not in the system for any building violations, though. Oakwatch will continue to monitor. b. 162 Robinson Street: This has always in the past been a family property, but the original owners passed away. The granddaughter lived there for a while but then left it and moved to California. OPDC is now trying to obtain the property through treasurer sale and rehabilitate it.

c. Centre/Craig: 4506,8,10,12 David Manthei reported: Basement door that was always open is now boarded up. Community members agreed that it can be removed from the Top 10 list. d. BBI reported: North Oakland bars, including Chiefs, were raided the week of July 7th, and cited by BBI for having multiple building violations and drug arrests. e. 210/212 Ophelia Street: This property has been cited, and its grace period of one month is over. The initial case was sent to Judge Ricciardi on June 27th. 212 Ophelia Street was also cited last month. Liz Gray asked about Side Lot program issue. Out of BBI jurisdiction, the property must go back to Treasurer. ACHD can go out and cite for mosquito hazards because of standing water issues. f. 53 Lawn Street: BBI sent new citation to executor of the will. g. 3738 Dawson Street: This property will be back in court on July 25th. h. 3109 Forbes Avenue: Zoning department is reviewing proposed drawings. Once proposed drawings have been approved, they will be taken to the Planning Commission. i. 253 Dithridge Street: BBI suggested that residents call the magistrate’s office to ask the constable to serve a warrant. ACHD also recommends that residents call in complaints to them as well. The secretaries will log the complaint. After many complaints have been gathered, ACHD will give the property owners a warning. If the property owners fail to comply after that point, their permit can be taken away. j. 202 Ophelia: This property is zoned as a single family. It is being advertised as having threebedroom availability in headlines on craigslist, but when the advertisement is clicked on, it actually appears to be advertising as many as seven bedrooms. Liz Gray has an undercover student going in to ask about the seven bedrooms. BBI told everyone that as soon as all of the bedrooms in this parcel are occupied it can be cited. McPherson himself when through this property and he noted that there are five to six bedrooms. k. 3101 Niagara Street: The owner did not submit brief, so his appeal was denied. Gallo must enforce fines against the owner. The owner has filed bankruptcy to put a stay on the fines, and will appear at bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court could throw the fines out. l. 3421 Parkview Avenue: The owner submitted his brief. CJ’s brief is due at the end of July. After an appeal, the owner can be cited again. He cannot be cited again during the appeal because federal law gives him protection from double jeopardy (receiving punishment multiple times for the same offense). m. 3124 Boulevard of the Allies: CJ agreed to give this property owner a continuance so case could go before Zoning Board on Sept 19th. Liz Gray and Wanda Wilson to meet with owner and attorneys to review drawings prior to September 19th ZBA hearing. Owners will also file for certificate of occupancy since there is not one on file. The owner got rid of the dirt at the property. n. Other property announcements from BBI: i. 244 Dunseith Street has only gotten worse since the June 2009 $100,000 fine was imposed by Judge Ricciardi. OPDC will look into asking the Assistant City Solicitor, CJ, about whether or not violations can be raised to a misdemeanor after 4 citations have been given on same property for the same code. This property has many violations, including poor siding, an unsafe front porch and steps, and more.

OPDC will consult with West Oakland community members to see if this property is on their radar. ii. Foundation is being poured today for new homes on Childs Street. iii. Dave Manthei is currently finishing a nice project at “Bouquet Court.”


Good Neighbor Campaign (Bryant Andrews-Nino, reviewing door-knocking campaign to welcome and educate new students living off-campus, 20 minutes) Bryant Andrews-Nino introduced which items will be in the Good Neighbor Bags and invited residents to suggest other items to add if desired. Pitt offered to give their new On-Campus Guide to Student Living to OPDC to include in the Good Neighbor Bags. Rebekkah and Bryant then guided everyone in an overview of the geocoding mapping system that identified which rental properties in Oakland have less than six units, are in OPDC’s Target Property Database, and are in OPDC’s landlord database. Bryant invited an open floor conversation about what properties residents would like volunteers to specifically target during the Good Neighbor Campaign.


Pittsburgh Police Oakland crime update / Incident breakdown / Parking update, Q&A (Zone 4 Representative, 10 minutes) a. Commander Degler reported: there have been burglaries during the daytime because car windows are being left unlocked. Cars are being broken into because purses and wallets are visibly left in cars. b. The City police will be partnering with the University of Pittsburgh Police to do extra patrols in August on weekend evenings. c. College students are being taken advantage of through fraudulent Craigslist ads. d. In addition, three males broke into the homes of elderly residents on Cato Street. The police have not caught them yet. They tricked the residents into letting them in and then stole valuables. e. There has been a man arrested for vandalizing Enterprise Car lot. Amongst other evidence, he was caught with paint on him. f. Liz Gray requested extending the fire lane on Lawn Street all the way down to the section by CHS. g. The new Community Relations officer is Shannon Leshen. h. Liz Gray asked about the legality of cycling in bus lanes and on sidewalks. Commander Degler responded that residents and students are not allowed to bike in bus lanes or the wrong way down a one-way street. Degler said that she often will ask cyclists to go onto the sidewalk at night if they don’t have lights.


University of Pittsburgh Police Oakland crime update / Incident breakdown, Q&A. (Officer Cetra, 10 minutes) a. There have been many break-ins recently in parking garages, and these usually occur in the daytime or the early morning. b. There has been some increase in issues dealing with the homeless in the community.


A homeless woman named Andrea pulls up to people in her vehicle, and with child in back, says that her mother is in hospital and asks people for money. She has been cited by the police, fined by Ricciardi, and turned into CYF. d. University of Pittsburgh Police officers reported that there have been 15 D.U.I arrests in June, 4 drug arrests, 4 underage citations, and 11 cases of public drunkenness. VIII.

Community Announcements & Events ( 5 minutes)  Josh Litvik: gave Keep It Clean Oakland Dumpster Project details.  Hanson announced that there will be no Green Team meeting July 16th.


Next meeting- August 21st, 6:00pm, Oakland Career Center


Meeting Adjournment

Remember to keep flooding 311 with calls about the nuisance properties in your neighborhood, and let Oakwatch know when you do! You can submit reports to our email account at or call us at 412.621.7863 ext. 27. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!