Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg today joined City building inspectors, public works and police brass, for the third-annual Central Oakland 'sweep', citing properties for building code and safety violations ranging from overflowing trash cans to graffiti.
"Together with the University and court system, we are working hard to ensure that Oakland is a safe and clean community in which to live, work, play and study," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "It is essential we remain consistent in citing eye-sore and hazardous properties so that landlords throughout the City get the message that we mean business."
The code sweeps began in the Spring of 2006 in an effort to encourage Oakland landlords to keep their properties safe and clean for the approximately 20,000 college students residing in the neighborhood. The City's Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI), Department of Public Works, and Bureau of Police sweep the area after students leave for summer break and before they begin fall classes.
"The University continues to be supportive of City efforts to bring rental and blighted housing into compliance with City Code requirements, and has taken many steps to supplement the City's efforts," said Nordenberg. "The safety and security of students and all residents is of the utmost concern and must be a priority."
As the sweeps increase landlords' accountability, the judicial structure in which fines are administered has also changed to reflect a City that is serious about safety. Last November, the Mayor built consensus to move all code violations from one centralized location downtown to the neighborhood magistrates where the property lies.
"I applaud the Mayor on his efforts to improve the safety and quality-of-life of our neighborhoods," said Judge Richard G. King, district magistrate for the City's Hilltop neighborhoods. "Non-appearance by the defendants has dropped significantly and the fact that the hearings are local has allowed greater access and input from witnesses, concerned citizens and community groups."
Despite inspectors' occasional wrangles with repeat problem properties, the Oakland neighborhood has experienced noticeable improvements since the sweep's launch.
Inspectors' "pick-ups", or citing of eye-sore properties before complaints reach the Mayor's 311 Response Line, have more than tripled since 2006. Additionally, the Oakland Community Council has piggy-backed on the sweeps, initiating once-monthly community code-walks. Volunteers parade the streets, eye-balling properties for violations. The volunteers submit the possible violations to 311 where they are tracked using a customer service number and submitted to BBI for inspection.
"Our success in Oakland, which can be measured by the hard work from our inspectors, our partners at the University and our community groups, must be tried elsewhere," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "In the coming months, we will be sweeping more neighborhoods throughout the City, encouraging residents to get involved by calling 311 to report problem properties. Data obtained thorough 311 will guide us towards which neighborhoods to sweep."
Other information, such as proximity to business districts, schools or parks, will determine which neighborhoods are to be scheduled for sweeps.
Last week, the City's Housing Authority joined public safety officials and building inspectors, sweeping the neighborhoods of Highland Park and Garfield. The entities followed up on and identified nuisance properties. Police took pictures of graffiti and gathered intelligence from concerned neighbors on issues of public safety.
Judge King serves as the district magistrate for the City's Allentown, Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Overbrook, Carrick, and Brookline neighborhoods. He may be contacted for additional information at: 412-965-9778.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
512 City County Building | 414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
telephone: 412-255-2626 | facsimile: 412-255-2687