Monthly Archives: September 2016

Flood Rescue on the Scene: Preliminary “Green First” Plan Unveiled

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-2-51-00-pm“Anywhere we have the word ‘Run’, we have floods.”

That’s how Mayor Bill Peduto described the problem to City Council today, at a special meeting on flooding called by Councilor Darlene Harris. Peduto came prepared with a preliminary “green first” stormwater plan and the backing of about eight Departmental officials.

By the end of this year, they intend to finalize a plan that will both “keep water from ever being able to get into the system, and make our rivers cleaner.”

The plan consists of engineering in seven primary “action areas” including Negley Run, Four Mile Run, Sawmill Run and Streets Run for increased green infrastructure: restoring streams and lakes, wetlands, rain gardens and bioswales, Continue reading

City Council Weird, Tense and Tentative over Affordable Housing as Activists Rage

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-13-58-pmThe public got to speak at city hall on Wednesday evening, before the cameras, to tell City Council what they thought of the proposed “Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund”.

It would be a $10 million annual kitty, managed by the City, and structured to make investments furthering the cause of affordable housing for low-income people.

The overwhelming majority of the 100 or so speakers were wholly for it, and passionately — aside from a few real estate agents.

“Why is the city subsidizing market-rate housing?”

“I’m witnessing the 4th re-gentrification of the Lower Hill.”

“They’re being pushed to neighborhoods with less food, less transit…”

“Pittsburgh’s population is now less than it was in 2010.”

“Pittsburgh was cute before all the plastic surgery — now, it’s getting ugly.”

Continue reading

BEHIND THE DOOKIE WATER: Local Public Health Travesty Deeper Than You Think

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 4.47.38 PMA good test of whether your Facebook friends are up to delivering your news is whether you’ve already read this must-read Guardian expose on Pittsburgh’s problems with “dookie water”, and Brian O’Neil’s piece in the P-G on how local authorities are in way over their head.

Here is some background to open up just how much deeper these water problems go, and how greed and corruption are a factor. First:

In 2008, PWSA borrowed more than $400m in variable rate bonds just as the market collapsed. This year, debt payments alone accounted for 44% of the authority’s operating budget. (Guardian)

Imagine falling so far behind on your student loans to a predatory lender that almost half your income goes to penalties and fees. Now try to pay rent, utilities, eat, and whoops fix your truck or buy medicine. That’s more or less going on with the fancy “Swaptions” deal that our Water Authority signed, and it’s hard to imagine our water pipes getting fixed under that sort of handicap.  Continue reading

Million Dollar Condos and Big White Elephants: The View from Squirrel Hill

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 10.50.43 PMWith its 6 bedrooms and bathrooms; its “huge formal rooms,” domed breakfast room and art deco bar; its in-ground swimming pool and several garages; and its lions and goddess statues, the old Stern family property has sat empty for a long time.

The estate at 1830 Beechwood Blvd. rests near the corner of Forbes and Dallas, just south of Homewood Cemetery and west of Frick Park. Built of white painted bricks sprawling smoothly into a vast north-facing hillside, the emptiness of the bomb mansion now joins its gothic fixtures in lending it a haunted aspect.

No one with the money to purchase such a single-family dwelling, upgrade it and maintain its “manicured grounds” really wants to reside in the heart of the city, I guess.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 10.52.52 PMNow a deal worth $1.8 million is pending on the property, which last sold for $525,000 in 2002, and is assessed at $628,400 by the county.

A construction company plans to demolish it all and develop eleven (11) new free-standing 3-4 bedroom condominiums to market at $900,000 apiece — for a grand total of just under $10 million.

Meanwhile, Continue reading