Thursday, October 29, 2015

We Didn't Win...

...But we are hopeful that we didn't completely lose yet.

Planning Commission approved the rezoning of the Penn Plaza site and the Park to an AP commercial-residential mixed-use district on the hearing on October 27. It was a loooooooooong hearing (over 2 hours of passionate testimony). I won't recap it here. There are some excellent articles about it already out, most notably Tim Schooley's Pittsburgh Business Times piece here. Also see Ryan Deto's post on the City Paper Blogh here*, Diana Nelson Jones' Post-Gazette piece here, and Tom Fontaine's Tribune Review piece here.

My favorite parts were testimony by Kai Bamberg-Roth (age 7: “I spend almost as much time there (at the park) as I do at home. It's kind of my childhood,”), Marnie Quick's eloquent speaking on what it is like to grow up in the park and this neighborhood, and Mel Packer's rousing testimony on why the loss of a park and affordable housing in this community should be of such concern to people in every community. I love these people.

Here's the text of the final motion and conditions that were placed upon the approval:

RECOMMENDED MOTION
That the Planning Commission of the City of Pittsburgh Recommends Approval to City Council of
Zone Change Petition No. 783 to rezone 9.37 acres of property known as 5600-5704 Penn Avenue and Enright Parklet, from Residential Planned Unit Development District, and R3-M, Residential Three-Unit, Moderate Density District, to AP, Mixed-use Planned Unit Development; and that the Commission Approves the associated PLDP as filed by property owners Pennley Park South, Inc., and the City of Pittsburgh subject to the following condition:


1. The Planning Commission shall not approve an application for a Final Land Development
Plan or any other development prior to or simultaneous to the review and approval of a
revised and complete Preliminary Land Development Plan, which shall include the
following:


a. Summary of all public process with the surrounding impacted communities, and
explanation of how community input has influenced the development proposal;


b. A public open space improvements plan that incorporates community input;


c. A final circulation and site plan that considers north-south and east-west street
and pedestrian connection options across the site; and


d. Design guidelines and standards for the entire site.


2. All submissions designating street and site configuration shall at this time be considered
for illustrative purposes only;


3. Public open space within this AP Zoning District shall be designed to serve the
community as well as the residents and clientele of the future development; and


4. The total area of public open space and public amenities shall be no less than the area of
Enright Park. If the City retains ownership of the park property, the open space shall be
presented to the Planning Commission with a maintenance and site improvement plan
for integration of the park into the development.


It's time for East Liberty to take control of this ship and steer it in the right direction. PLEASE get involved and help us map a path forward.  DON'T let a public park be sold to a private developer. This is a dangerous precedent for every park in this city.

Thanks for listening.

* My clarification to the City Paper post is that I would say I am pleased that the Planning Commission put some conditions on the approval, (better than nothing) but I am reserving judgement as to how effective they really can be. It's time for East Liberty to drive its future. And its present.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Planning Commission Hearing - Tuesday, Oct 27 at 2 PM

The City's Planning Commission is voting on the rezoning of the public park from a residential district to a commercial district on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 2 PM. This is the first step in the process to make the park part of the private development and to turn it into a retail street. The public hearing will be held at 200 Ross Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, First Floor Hearing Room.  

Granting such a change would allow the owner of Pennley Park South (known as Penn Plaza Apartments) to use Enright Park as part of his redevelopment. Instead of being filled with basketball games, playing children and picnicking families, under the submitted plan, the park would be paved over and used as a traffic entry to the new residential, retail and commercial development. 

This is your time to tell the City Planning Commission that the timetable for the rezoning of the entire area including both the city park and the Pennley Park development is unreasonably short and provides inadequate opportunity for meaningful resident participation in a planning process. The developer has been planning this project for over a year; the community only came to know of it less than three weeks ago. 

No decision regarding rezoning of public land in the Pennley Park South and Enright Park area should take place until the completion of a comprehensive planning process in which all affected stakeholders have the opportunity to participate. 

If you can PLEASE attend this hearing, Members of the public can give 3 minutes of testimony. Make the voices of East Liberty heard!

If you cannot attend this hearing, you can STILL provide comment that will be considered. HERE is a link to the "commitment form" that allows you to express your opinion. Download it, fill it out, and send it to: 

Department of City Planning, Land Use Control
Attn: File #795 ZCP#783
200 Ross Street, 3rd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

OR

email it to Corey Layman, the Zoning Administrator at Corey.Layman@city.pittsburgh.pa.us

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pop-Up Play Date : Cardboard City!

We are super excited to announce our first Pop-Up Play Date @ Enright Parklet

Please join us on Friday, October 16, 2015 from 9 AM - 12 noon to help us build Cardboard City! Pittsburgh Public Schools are closed on Friday, so bring a picnic and stay for lunch. 

For more information, please follow Save Enright Parklet on Facebook and follow @enrightpark on Twitter.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015 - What we did.


It was a gorgeous gorgeous day. Watching, I was amazed to see that, in fact, every inch of the park was used over the course of the afternoon. Kids ranged all over the place, from the playground to the unstructured open space of the field. Baseball and catch were played in the field at the end of Amber Street. Picnic blankets and chairs set up under the oak at the end of Eva. Of course there was basketball and so much sidewalk chalk. Late breaking football toss and tag on the basketball court.

It wasn't just about the kids (although my photos are mostly about the kids). Neighbors came out with their dogs to say hello and catch some sun. Others just stopped by to say hello and see what we were up to.

But if anyone ever wants to know why I love this neighborhood so much, and the park that is the center of it, please look at these photos.

And please come and join us next Sunday.

Took breaks and ate more snacks. 
Looked so grown up our neighbors can't believe it. <3

Pretended we were far far away in the woods.

Chalk paintings... and chalk eating.

Wiped our hands on friends (sorry about that!).

Followed our big brothers around.

Played baseball.

Made new friends.

Ate snacks.

Lounged.
 
And more chalk.
Looked radiant in the fall sunshine.


Played tag.

More Facts.

Neighbors within 150 feet of the park and the LG Realty property (aka Penn Plaza) received notice of the zoning map application and hearing, which included a Preliminary Land Development Plan (PLDP). A PLDP shows the new street layout as proposed and begins to give some idea of how a development will be organized. It does not show buildings at this time, but it gives some indication because it shows where driveways will cut across sidewalks (also known as curb cuts), etc.

So here is what we know. Here is the aerial view of the park and the privately owned property as they currently stand. 

Enright Parklet and the LG Realty property. The red line denotes both the existing property line and the razor-wire topped fence separating the park from the private property.
Due to the fence (installed by LG Realty in the early 2000s), the only current access to the park is either from Eva Street, Amber Street, or South Saint Clair Street. South Saint Clair has effectively been a cul-de-sac since the mid-1960s, stopping at the park but with turns into the alleys to return to Friendship Avenue and Baum Boulevard. It's a quiet street with little traffic. Amber Street is also quiet, although a bit more traffic due to the connection to Negley via Eva.

Here is the proposed new plan of streets, as indicated in the PLDP. (Pardon the rough scaling - the aerial view doesn't completely align with the drawing we received, but you get the idea).


The proposed new plan of streets and development parcels, from the Preliminary Land Development Plan. The RED text is added by us. 
Key points:
  • South Saint Clair Street is extended out to Penn Avenue. It looks like there are new driveways off of South Saint Clair to serve the new development site (phase 1). 
  • Eva Street is extended to the new South Saint Clair Street and into the new development site (phase 1). 
  • The addition of these street extensions effectively removes the park. 
  • There is also access from Euclid Street in this plan.
  • The Phase 2 development site has access from Eva Street, South Negley, and Penn Avenue. 
  • There is small parcel of land (designated by ???) that we aren't sure what it is for. Maybe a new set of swing sets?
We aren't sure where anyone is thinking of making new park or open space, but this plan drastically changes the character of a vibrant residential community that has been heavily invested as stewards of Enright Parklet. It's ironic to hear people talking of the park as a neglected place when the neglect has certainly not been from anyone who lives near it or uses it.








Friday, October 9, 2015

Sundays in the Park! A new community initiative.

In light of all of the bad news about displacement in East Liberty, our neighborhood is pulling together. Again.

This weekend we are kicking off a regular community meet-up, called Sundays in the Park.

Sundays in the Park are a time for neighbors and friends, old and new, to get together for conversation, relaxation, and play in the park. Bring your own snack, and maybe a chair or a picnic blanket. Talk to your old friends and meet some new friends. Bring your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews. Bring a game or an idea or nothing at all. But COME. Come and be part of the conversation about what is happening in our neighborhood, and what we can do as neighbors to make it a better place for EVERYONE.

Some Sundays there may be planned activities (still in the making), there will always be sidewalk chalk, balls, and games to play. If you have an idea or a specialty (Teach a dance class? Run a free-throw contest? Organize a chalk mural with kids?), please let us know! As plans are made, we will post a schedule here on the blog.

Join us every Sunday, starting at about 3 PM for Sundays in the Park.

Our neighborhood matters. Our residents matter. 
We need to work together to make our voices heard about the rapid changes that are impacting everyone.

Weather-related cancellations will be posted on this website and via Twitter. But splashing in puddles and making snow angels are highly encouraged!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Game on.

The hearing notice for the rezoning of the park was posted today. This is the first step in the process to rezone the park from a residential district (with very limited uses permitted) to a mixed-use residential and commercial district (more uses permitted than in the residential district, including parking lots, stores, restaurants, etc.).

The official notice for the public hearing to rezone the park, as required by law.
The first hearing at Planning Commission will be held on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 2 PM at the City's hearing room located at 200 Ross Street, Downtown.

We are working on setting up a community-wide meeting in advance of this hearing. We know that this issue will NOT be resolved in the first hearing, but hopefully a planning process will be established. We will try to post updates on the process and a schedule so people know what is happening.

Tonight we got a chance to talk to a group of high school boys who come to Enright Parklet to play basketball once or twice a week. These young men live with their mothers and siblings in transitional housing in the neighborhood. The organizer of the group told us that Enright is the only park in East Liberty that provides a safe environment for them.

Please don't let private development take this place away from them. 
Help us to build a better community for them and everyone in East Liberty. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Petition to the City of Pittsburgh is Now Live

We have just launched the petition to the City of Pittsburgh to Vote NO on the rezoning and sale of Enright Parklet to a private developer.

Letter to:
City of Pittsburgh, District 9 Councilman Ricky Burgess
City of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto
City of Pittsburgh City Council
City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission
 
Enright Parklet is one of the only public green spaces in East Liberty. It is heavily used and loved by all. It is our common ground, where children play together and adults connect. If Enright Parklet can be sold, then every park in the city is vulnerable.

Please vote NO on the rezoning and sale of this valuable public asset to a private developer, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some More Background

It was announced on September 28, 2015, that the Mayor’s Office, Penn Plaza Tenants' Council, and LG Realty had agreed to a deal that provides some relief to over 200 households threatened with immediate eviction. The tenants fought an excellent fight and we proudly stand with of our friends and neighbors in Penn Plaza.

However, as part of this deal, the City agreed to sell Enright Parklet to the developer, who intends to transform it into a “pedestrian friendly” retail street, with housing above. This deal harkens back to top-down approach of 1960s urban renewal that the community has been working to undo for many years, and removes precious public space from common ownership.

What is Enright Park and Why Does it Matter?
Enright Parklet is one of only a handful of public parks in East Liberty and is by far the greenest and lushest park, lined with majestic oak trees that date back to the 1920s and 30s when it was originally a tree lined residential street. It holds two of East Liberty's three public basketball courts, as well as a playground and a modest spray park. A remnant of the 1960s urban redevelopment of East Liberty, it has come to be much beloved by residents of East Liberty and nearby Friendship and Garfield. In recent years, an adjacent community garden, sponsored by Whole Foods, has been developed to work with community youth and provide fresh produce to local food pantries. In a high-density community filled with apartments, Enright Parklet serves as everyone's backyard, a place for barbecues, birthday parties, pick-up basketball, and simply lounging under a tree with a good book.

If a public space can be sold without a community plan in our neighborhood, it can happen in your neighborhood.  

The park is denoted by the large oak trees and basketball court; 
the smaller trees and open space are the property of LG Realty.


East Liberty can have both affordable housing AND public parks.
The rights of the Penn Plaza tenants are established and will not be impacted if the sale of the public park is stopped. Commitments to REAL plans for affordable housing in East Liberty have been made and will be honored. It is time for the larger community to save one of the few remaining public parks in East Liberty and ensure that is remains a public space for every resident, a true commons in our thriving neighborhood.

The developer intends to fast-track this deal, and hopes to have ownership of the park in early 2016. There is a limited window of time to mobilize and save the park for everyone, and to demand community involvement in planning for its future.

What You Can Do
PROTEST the rezoning of the Park from a residential zoning district to a mixed-use commercial district. This requires action and approval at both Planning Commission and City Council. Make your voice heard by signing this petition, writing to both Commission and Council, and by showing up at public hearings.

STAND FIRM against the sale of a public community asset to a private developer. The sale will require action and approval by City Council and the Board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.  Call and write your councilperson to let them know that the sale of public parks for private development is unacceptable. An on-line petition will be going live soon.

GET INVOLVED in planning parks and public space in East Liberty and beyond.

How to Stay in Touch
FOLLOW us on Twitter: @enrightpark
LIKE us on Facebook: Save Enright Parklet
TALK to us on our community blog: enrightpark.org
VISIT Enright Parklet, located at the intersection of Eva Street and Amber Street in East Liberty. Bring your basketball, your bike, your picnic basket, or a good book!


Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Park is at Risk! Private Developer Intends to Convert it to Retail Street

It has been quiet here on the blog for too long, and we are moving into emergency mode. It was announced this past Monday, September 28, 2015, that the Mayor's Office has agreed to deal with a private developer to pursue selling Enright Park to them as part of a negotiation to provide much needed relief to tenants of the Penn Plaza apartments.

The tenants' rights are now established and will not be impacted by what happens to the park. It is time for the community to mobilize to save one of the few remaining fully public parks in East Liberty from being sold to a developer, who intends to build a commercial "pedestrian-friendly" retail street in place of this beloved park.

Yet again, the residents of East Liberty were not consulted in this vision, which drastically impacts all of our quality of life. Yet again, top-down planning have thrown us into reactive modes, rather than working with the residents to form a vision of how their public places should be used.

 Please watch this page for updates. The developer intends to fast-track this deal, and hopes to have ownership of the park in the first quarter of 2016. We have a limited window of time to mobilize and save the park.

We here at Enright Park are here to fight for affordable housing, to fight for public open space, and to fight for an inclusive approach to planning and development throughout the East End and beyond. We may not win every fight, but we intend to win a better East Liberty for EVERYONE, and to help set a new standard self-determination of our communities.

Please stay tuned for updates, and follow us on Facebook at Save Enright Park.

To join our mailing list for upcoming events, actions, and general information, please e-mail us at: enright.park@gmail.com. We will post of upcoming meetings, public hearings, and recommended actions that community members can take.

In the meantime, call or write your councilperson and the Mayor's Office to let them know that public parks are not for sale, and that healthy communities need both parks AND housing that is accessible to all.

Councilman Reverend Ricky Burgess: 412-255-2137
reverend.burgess@pittsburghpa.gov

Mayor William Peduto: 412-255-2626
Mayor's Feedback Form 


HOUSING FOR ALL! PARKS FOR ALL!