The Panther Hollow Trail In Danger
I live in Panther Hollow along Boundary St, and my landlord (as well as a city posting) alerted me to the fact that, on two abandoned properties, the owner is trying to build a 35-car parking lot.
Now, unlike the parking lot that is already on Boundary St., these lots would feed into and drain out onto what is already a one-lane, omni-directional road. The concern is pretty heavy, as cars hardly look for cyclists coming out from the Junction Hollow Trail as it is – imagine if it were nearly a hundred cars a day doing the same thing.
Boundary St. is a super important trail junction for bike commuters, as it leads all the way to Fifth Avenue and S. Neville Ave.
I encourage all of you to help us in the fight to preserve the relatively bike-safe corridor of Panther Hollow. It’s a very old neighborhood and is, in my opinion, one of those well-hidden Pittsburgh treasures that has already survived multiple assassination attempts by the University of Pittsburgh.
If anyone needs any more information, let me know.
My landlord (Gary Giampolo) has started a petition that is sitting on the side of Boundary St. If you ride by, please stop and take the time to sign it. It’s neon purple. You can’t miss it.
Where, exactly? I’ll sign.
I’m one of those people who try to avoid Boundary due to cars and its general lack of improvements (like shoulders), and uses Joncaire/Yarrow instead. But Boundary is still an important bikeway, as you point out.
On the lighter side, as long as we’re talking about improvements:
Do you think we could get the city to install a gondola that runs from the corner of Boundary and Joncaire to Phipps Conservatory? I believe that this would add immensely to the quality of biker life in Pittsburgh. It might even move us up from Bronze to Silver!
I rode by and signed today. The sign is two big posterboards towards the end of what you might call “uncivilized” Boundary Street, when it stop being a trail/park and turns into a residential neighborhood. I happened to be there when Gary was there, and he said the parking lot would be on a vacant lot right to the left (as viewed from the street) from a set of houses. I’m pretty sure it’s this location: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=40.438925,-79.950528&sll=40.438945,-79.950562&sspn=0.001019,0.002411&ie=UTF8&ll=40.438866,-79.950452&spn=0.001019,0.002411&t=h&z=19
As you can see, anyone taking the trail would have to go by this stretch of Boundary Street, even if he or she took Yarrow and Joncaire.
Gary said he didn’t know who the market was going to be for this 35-38 car lot–people going up the hill to the Pitt/UPMC area, or elsewhere. He said he was concerned with increased exhaust/emissions, and noted that any kind of shuttle bus to take people to Forbes and Fifth Avenues would probably be idling a good amount.
Finally, he said that as far as he knows, the other TWO parking lots right across the street are rarely, if ever, at 100 percent capacity. Donald Shoup says that surface parking lots are among the least productive uses of urban space. I tend to agree with him.
There is a zoning board public hearing scheduled for July 15, 2010, at 9:20 a.m. at 200 Ross Street, downtown. More details (a file number which I neglected to note) are on a notice at the property site. I read somewhere that the zoning board does not generally accept written testimony, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.
I also talked to a nice gentleman earlier tonight (not sure what his name was) but I agreed with him that a parking lot would suck. There is a playground right next to the property. The road already seems kind of narrow for a lot of traffic and I can only imagine the fun trying to get through under that one way overpass thing with a bunch of commuters trying to decide who should be yielding first. Not to mention them trying to pass you on the way down the hill towards the parking lot.
Thanks for your feedback so far, guys. I just ran over and checked the notice posted at the property, and the zone case is 133/10. It’s filed for 626 Boundary St., Ward 14.
One thing worth mentioning is that the lot is being pursued by Pete Teris of Teris Parking. By zoning law, he’s not allowed to put a surface parking lot at that property – but the city ordinance hearing is being held because Mr. Teris is trying to score a variance.
This is an attack on a vein of cycle commuters, but it’s also an attack on the traditional, fourth-generation community that is still struggling to keep a foothold in the increasingly rowdy Oakland.
Again, thanks guys. Everybody down here in Panther Hollow appreciates the love.
I missed the sign last night, but I know of the vacant lots you’re referring to. There’s a big surface lot with an attendant across the street, and two more up boundary towards the bridge. Are any of them ever full?
I think I was looking for a purple house, and not a purple sign.
Yeah wtf, that other huge lot is never full.
P.S. It’s also an attack on the four mile run watershed. The poor thing has enough trouble as it is.
If the zoning doesn’t permit a parking lot at this location and he’s trying to obtain a variance, the owner has to demonstrate that the zoning is causing them a “hardship” by limiting what they can do with the property. If the city zoning hearing board is doing their job, with an empty lot it should be very difficult to demonstrate a hardship, there are plenty of “permitted” uses that the owner can do within the zoning. Unless there is some “fix” in for Mr. Teris, who knows. If there is a community group against this, it wouldn’t hurt to pay a good land use attorney a few hundred bucks to sit in on the public hearing for this, at least make sure the zoning heard board are working to the letter of the law.
More parking lot spaces could mean more people cars parking and it could result in a shuttle which would really ruin everything. I will swing by and sign the petition when I get a chance.
On another note, a rant really, a lot of the time anti-bike people claim that bike lanes aren’t being used, therefore they shouldn’t be built. But look at that parking lot, it’s half full and people audacity to park on the street!
A good source of information and strategy might be the Greater Park Place Neighborhood Association.
Park Place is a small neighborhood close to Frick Park.
The association was formed when Walgreen’s proposed its current location on the corner of East End & Penn. The original plan was MUCH bigger. If I recall correctly, it involved knocking down houses on East End and Braddock, turning that space into the drive-thru area and somehow claiming it all still fit the definition of residential zoning.
I don’t know the details, but I’m pretty sure a land use attorney helped out. I bet people there would have some good advice.
My neighbors and I recently fought and won against a very similar variance also in Oakland. The best thing you can do is be present at the variance hearing – even if you say nothing to say besides that you oppose. It is a powerful message when people take time to show their support. It is important to remember, the original zoning has already been established through similar hearings. By showing up and opposing the variance, you are supporting the previous ruling already in the books. A variance means that someone feels their idea for the use of the property is in the best interest of the community. They have the burden of proving their case, not the residents.
Thanks for posting this. Me and my neighbors also won against a change in land use in uptown a few years back. The zoning board said that with the public, community turnout against it, they couldn’t grant it.
The public hearing is coming up, on July 15
You can download the agenda here:
What a terrible idea. This land and the houses near it are a nice park-like setting and putting a parking lot there would just turn it into urban hell like the rest of Oakland.
Maybe I can go to the hearing. Will the zoning board care about my opinion if I don’t live in Pittsburgh?
Here is a link to the property owned by Teris according to the Allegheny County assessment website.
It is not even zoned for a house, the website says it could be used for auxiliary residential buildings or some such thing (I’m guessing that’s garages and such).
If anyone goes to the hearing, just in case it doesn’t come up, ask how the owner plans to deal with the stormwater management from the parking lot. I seriously doubt that the city wants to deal with more stormwater from a surface parking lot dumping into a combined storm/sanitary system at this point, and stormwater facilities might make parking economically infeasible for the owner.
if this does go through there should be some sort of stipulation that the jail trail be able to get to panther hollow car free, avoinding the new traffic, and maybe we could get some money towards building a decent connection between the two.
The problem is the proposed parking would be on the Oakland side of the hollow, not the Greenfield side. A car-free-connection would be awesome, but you’d still have to deal with the TIE-fighters at the other end.
Sort of relatedly, does anyone know what’s happening with the construction vehicles behind the houses at the Greenfield end of the Junction Hollow trail? It looks like there’s some path or road being graded on the hillside next to the railroad trestle just as you go up to the little parking lot by the soccer fields. I can’t figure out if this is private land or what’s happening. The grade seems to go up into the park but I’m not sure.
Chinston, I believe that is going to be a R.R. access road? Not positive about that
This is a load of malarky. A parking lot there is a terrible idea for everybody involved. Maybe this jagbag thinks that he can undercut the lot that’s already there?
Is that hearing at 8:45 am?!?!? No way I can make that. This is why old people run this city, because the youngsters have to work too late to make meetings and help shape policy.
Holy crap. So much awesome support. Thanks guys! You’re restoring my faith in humanity so much!
The board said it was set for 9:20 a.m.–that may refer to the start of the day’s hearings, to be held end-to-end.
Once I called down about going to one and the woman I spoke to said not to get there early. They tend to run behind, it seems.
The city website says the hearings start at 8:30, this case is on the agenda for 9:20.
I signed the very bright neon poster board this evening.
About that poster……..there needs to be an arrow pointing to it from the profile or something. I was looking for it and almost couldn’t find it only because it was paralell to the street and not in my field of vision as I rode past.
Awesome though, and I got a few other people to stop and sign as they rode by as well.
Oakland Community Council will be at the hearing on Thursday to oppose this, and from what we can tell there is pretty much no party in Oakland — not even Pitt or CMU — who wants this to happen for Teris. The city planning people are also being very helpful — so I’m doubting the fix is in for him. There’s NO support for more surface parking in this area.
It’s important to show up for the hearing, though. The petition is one thing, but bodies are much much more important. If you’re able, please consider coming to point out in whatever way you like that this is bullshit. And: you don’t need to be a Pittsburgh resident. It’s enough to say you’re affected as a biker or pedestrian.
On a related note — there’s also some Boundary Street disgruntlement about the street parking that people are claiming along the very edge of Boundary (where it turns into Juno, right at the trail entrance): cars apparently race down there early in the mornings to secure those 8-10 (free) spots and it drives the residents crazy. One longtime vocal resident down there has been pushing to make that stretch into a greenway, to prohibit street parking beyond the residential section of Boundary altogether. Would yinz be up for supporting that effort?
if you fail to find support for that effort, it sounds like exactly the sort of situation the residential permit parking program was set up to resolve, and i don’t think the burden is too great to set that up. it sounds like there is probably already enough community support.
@hiddenvariable – Boundary St already has an RPP; but the program area is coextensive with the residential area. The stretch we’re talking about is no-man’s land, as far as the RPP is concerned. The issue for residents isn’t that they don’t have enough parking for themselves (which could provide grounds for a bid to extend the RPP area), but that the race to secure free parking on that section creates a hazardous traffic condition for Boundary Street.
There is an interesting opportunity about to open up along Boundary Street generally, when the railroad trestle that used to supply the power plant up the road is removed. The plant has been gasified and there’s no longer any need to deliver coal via the trestle, so the CMP/CMU consortium will remove it. When they do, the city will finally need to follow through on developing an alignment plan for Boundary Street, including sidewalk and – if we’re lucky – a bike path. The greenway proposal would be part of that effort.
I’d heard that RR spur was no longer used and I was wondering if they’d tear it down. i have mixed feelings – the way it is kind of sucks but it’s also at least a “traffic calming” measure. I’m worried if they get rid of it there will be more cars travelling at higher speeds through there. Is there really enough room for a sidewalk and/or a bike lane?
they can keep the traffic calming measure of a one lane intersection – they put traffic slowing curbs into the middle of the street out in suburban developments all the time. Usually they’re planted with something attractive, but it doesn’t hide their “slow down jagoffs” message.
Here’s the latest info I’ve been sent:
“The application is for a commercial parking lot with 38 stalls and the request is for a use variance; the zoning district is P (block & lot #’s 139 & 142). The application was filed by attorney Robert Donahoe on behalf of the owners, Peter and Paula Babac Teris. As a commercial lot
it could then be leased out, to whomever. There is an old certificate from 1987 for a community parking lot for 100 automobiles with the
address as “Joncaire and Boundary Street” but it’s not clear where that is; this site is presently vacant. There are other certificates as well under Boundary St. that appear to be for the other lots. The hearing is 9:20 this Thursday.”
re: stormwater in lot.
First, I dont want a new parking lot here.
But, I figured I should point out a piece of code on the books that should be enforced now that we have an Urban Forester in City Planning: All parking lots should have 1 tree for every 5 parking spaces and 25sq feet of landscaped area for every single space. All new developments should have these requirements unless the owner files for alternative compliance (like the childrens hospital lot [which i take issue with]) in which case funds for the trees and landscaping would be entered into a city account and trees planted in the neighborhood where the lot is located.
So, stormwater <i>should</i> be dealt with on all parking lots. But it hasn’t been in a while because no one in planning was ever there to check on it.
P.S. That info was from Councilman Peduto’s office. If you have any other questions related to this don’t hesitate to ask them.
There is an old certificate from 1987 for a community parking lot for 100 automobiles with the address as “Joncaire and Boundary Street” but it’s not clear where that is;
Joncaire and Boundary appears to be the location for the other TWO parking lots there, but I don’t know if either or both would hold 100 cars.
The county website has data on these two parcels (28-H-139 and 28-H-142); go to http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/realestate/Search.aspx and select “parcel search” (not address search).
The Joncaire/Boundary lot is the larger of the two existing lots down there, and it’s owned by the DePasquale brothers — and yes, they’re operating it as a commercial lot even though their permit is for a community lot, and they’re also using a big chunk of city property ROW, but no one has ever enforced that. So oh well. The other lot that’s already in use there is owned and operated by Pitt. Neither lot is ever full.
The proposed new lot meets all the requirements for landscaping and so forth, but that’s all moot — the issue is, they need a variance to operate it as a lot in the first place, and the deck is stacked against them for that. Teris has to demonstrate “hardship” with the current zoning code, and economic hardship doesn’t cut it. Meanwhile community opposition to the variance is important, no matter what the basis for opposition (aesthetic, safety, environmental, etc.).
@andrea – the June 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine (Greenland on cover) has a really interesting graphic on what a day with oneless driving would mean in terms of air emissions for Pittsburgh. It’s on what I count as page 36 (counting all pages from the front cover). It’s on the page between the male bonding in elephants and a big ad for Beijing. Thought you might find it to be of interest.
Just chiming in to say thanks again so much for your support so far, folks. You have no idea how much it means to the people who live in Panther Hollow.
I went to the zoning office today and had a look at the file. They had an architect’s/engineer’s drawing of the proposal, which looked something like this.
It’s three rows of parking with two “aisles,” with cars entering and exiting as shown. The green represents the planned landscaped areas. Two spaces in the bottom right are designated as handicapped parking. Caitlin, they cited the requirements for 25 square feet of landscaping and trees, and the schematic had trees in it. The “zig zags” on the bottom-most row should go the other way, to accommodate the flow of traffic.
They had copies of variances from the past–this would be the 100-space lot at Joncaire and Boundary, from 1987 (I believe 53-A-10) and another parking lot variance from 1960-1961. My guess would be to use these as precedent to issue the variance in this case–“You issued these variances in the past for very similar locations for similar uses, why would you not issue me my variance now?” They had the Allegheny County website printouts for properties at 28-H-128, 130, 136, 143, 144, 145 and 28-H-300, mostly neighboring properties.
“because if granting a variance establishes precedent that all later variances must be granted, then they won’t be variances any more. In other words, the first variance would effectively be a change to zoning law, and the zoning board isn’t supposed to have that kind of power. So the zoning board MUST refuse variances from time to time, or else it will not have the power to grant any.”
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