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:

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

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.