Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pitt wants building code enforced for off-campus student housing

Pitt wants building code enforced for off-campus student housing The University of Pittsburgh will ask the city and the O'Connor administration to start placing greater emphasis on building code compliance as it pertains to off-campus student housing, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said yesterday.
Here we go again. This isn't such a clear-cut request that will be greeted with open arms in many communities.

Nordy should be putting something on the table too -- beyond just a request.

Pitt is a big part of the problem in Oakland and throughout Pittsburgh. If the leaders of the University had a sense of their failures and really wanted to make conditions better -- then we should talk. There is a lot to do. And, there is a lot of healing that needs to be confronted and examined in an open way.

How about this as a starting suggestion.

Any Pitt Student that is caught doing vandalism -- such as grafitti -- to either public or private property -- will be expelled from the University for at least one year.

Furthermore, Pitt should join in a pledge with RMU, DU, Art Insitutute, and the dozen of other instututions of learning (from CCAC to CMU to cooking schools) to make this a valid, county-wide pledge.

Then we'll talk about parking issues and a community behavior focus that makes on-going education of students, staff and faculty something to be proud.

In due time, we need to tap into the academic brain trust when it comes to dealing with some of our nagging problems. The merger of EMS services -- in the city and in the county -- needs to the input of those at UPMC and Pitt's School of Rehab Sciences. The talents and insights of the academics are hardly ever leveraged in our dealings with these solutions.

Sure, there is a LEAGUE OF YOUNG VOTERS, and sure, they hosted one debate on campus in the past six months. But where was the School of Public Health? Where is GPISA? Where is the board and its trustees? What about the commnunity access elements -- even from past deals such as the UPMC SPORTS MEDICINE Center on the South Side.

Pitt's spring football game should be played to a sold-out crowd at South Vo Tech's stadium (Cupples) with a weekend long celebration of all things academic, athletic and community. Parades of athletes with tailgates among departments and neighbor fans should be part of the mix here in Pittsburgh, at Pitt and with other universities.

There is a huge gap and dis-connect among community leaders, community participation and the institutions in this town.

And CMU -- thanks for the recent fumble of the golf course in the park. Thanks for the graceless, mindless exit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pitt wants building code enforced for off-campus student housing

Saturday, June 24, 2006
By Bill Schackner and Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The University of Pittsburgh will ask the city and the O'Connor administration to start placing greater emphasis on building code compliance as it pertains to off-campus student housing, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said yesterday.

Separately, Mayor Bob O'Connor called code enforcement in Oakland "a major issue of mine" and said his administration was taking steps to improve building inspection results citywide.

Mr. Nordenberg's remarks at a campus news conference came in response to questions about the persistence of rundown housing in parts of Central Oakland, near the university, and a Pitt-city partnership to address the problem that has become confused in its objective.

Under the arrangement reached in 1997 with the administration of Mayor Tom Murphy, Pitt said it began paying half the salary and benefits of a city inspector in hopes of providing safer student housing. But in a June 18 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that examined squalid conditions in the neighborhood, Ron Graziano, chief of the city Bureau of Building Inspection, said the inspector's focus, in fact, has been on new construction and issues of crowding and that code compliance was secondary.

During the previous year, code violation notices issued in Oakland went down, from 303 in 2004 to 236 last year, the newspaper reported.

"We really did think when we entered into the arrangement with the city that the understanding was that the inspector ... whose salary we were subsidizing was, in fact, going to be focusing on housing quality and violations," Mr. Nordenberg said. "That certainly was the understanding with which I entered into the arrangement."

"I think that this is something that will be revisited with the city," he said.

Mr. O'Connor said he "would really like [the extra Oakland inspector] to focus on violations, because we want to make sure everyone's safe. When you convert some of those homes into apartments, and you don't have some of the fire escapes safe and entrances [secure], you're running risks."

Pitt's share of the inspector's pay and benefits is $23,000 a year. The city says there is no contract outlining the arrangement or the inspector's duties.

Mr. Nordenberg declined to speculate on the likelihood that Pitt would continue subsidizing the inspector without a shift in focus. He did express confidence, though, that Pitt and the city could reach a "mutually attractive" understanding.

"We have a wonderful relationship with the mayor and this administration. They are, we know, committed to Oakland and its development in a broad range of ways."

Mr. O'Connor acknowledged that the city has had trouble disciplining problem landlords. Housing Court, once a city institution charged with ruling on violations, was transferred into the state court system last year.

The mayor said the city has started sending lawyers to Housing Court, along with its building inspectors, in an effort to expedite punishment of code violators.

Mr. Nordenberg said a push by the university to ultimately add 1,700 on-campus beds is helping, at least indirectly. "The more on-campus housing alternatives that we provide to students, the greater the pressure will be on off-campus landlords to maintain a degree of quality if they are going to attract tenants."

(Bill Schackner can be reached at or 412-263-1977. Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542. )