To devastating effect, private developers have controlled our communities for too long. Come to PPSA’s community meeting on Aug 20 at 6 pm at Repair the World to discuss ways in which people can control what is built in their neighborhoods to create housing that is affordable for all. We’re less than two weeks away. See you there!
The City Planning Commission plans to vote on LG Realty’s final land development plan for Penn Plaza. If they approve the plan, then hundreds of affordable units will be forever replaced by luxury retail and more office buildings. Voice your resistance to this plan!
Sign our petition here and share with your social networks: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-luxury-retail-on-penn-plaza-site
Pittsburgh, PA, Aug. 30–Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition (PPSA) would like to communicate its position on the East Liberty housing development proposed by City Councilman Ricky Burgess. We are pleased that our city government has acknowledged the need to amend their inadequate housing policies. We believe that giving a preference in new East Liberty housing developments to displaced former East Liberty residents is justice, making the new apartments affordable is necessary, and the creation of a civilian board to review all new developments in this city is wise. Their acknowledgment shows that when residents organize to fight for justice, the government feels the need to respond.
Unfortunately, we believe this proposal is a continuation of the failing City of Pittsburgh housing policies and practices that have led to a shortage of 21,000 affordable units, and will inevitably lead to the same mistakes and a deepening of the city’s housing crisis. City residents need permanently affordable, not for-profit driven housing. They need housing that is not subject to arbitrary definitions of affordability. They need the security of true affordability and shielded from the threat of displacement. We are working to prevent a repeat of the Penn Plaza Apartments tragedy, and this new proposed development if it is not amended, may do just that.
We oppose this proposal on the following grounds:
- As usual, there has once again been no community engagement. No one directly affected by the dramatic changes in East Liberty was made aware of this proposal, let alone participated in any discussion. The lack of community engagement raises questions about the sincerity of the proposed civilian review board to look at proposed developments. The most impacted residents need to provide inputif development is to be fair and equitable.
- The proposal calls for only 30%-40% of the apartments to be affordable, and affordability is so loosely defined as to be meaningless. We believe all units should be affordable to low-to-moderate income residents, meaning that they should be paying no more than 30% of monthly income for rent.
- We are calling on the City to create a new concept of public and social housingin this city. The City must explore cooperative housing and continue its efforts around land trusts. We believe publically-funded housing developments should provide a pathway for renters to grow equity in tenant ownership.
- We cannot support any proposal that turns over public land to for-profit entities. PPSA is calling on the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, not for-profit developers, to join with the community in the development of this site. We are calling on the City to maintain ownershipand control of this site and the future homes to be built there.
March and Rally to stand up to city government and big developers!
SATURDAY JULY 28 MARCH & RALLY in East Liberty
11AM March begins at MELLON PARK (across from Bakery Square)
12PM RALLY at Penn and Highland Aves.
The march will end at Penn Plaza where we will commemorate 3 years since the tragic mass eviction.
In 2015, LG realty evicted over 200 families from the Penn Plaza Apartments in the heart of East Liberty. Penn Plaza refugees and their supporters have risen up against predatory developers in support of tenant protections. Rents in our city and across the nation are skyrocketing, developers and investors are draining renters’ pockets for sub-par housing, and the city and county governments continue to pave the way for more displacement. The city government approved LG’s plan to fill Penn Plaza with luxury retail and offices, and many Black low-to-moderate income residents are still being pushed out of the neighborhood. People with disabilities and seniors on a fixed income, and most workers don’t stand a chance against unregulated and uncontrolled rents.
LG, Peduto, and other developers have a plan for this city. We need to PUSH BACK, BAND TOGETHER and enact a plan of our own! Stand up and join the movement for housing justice!
1. BUILD BACK PENN PLAZA
Use the city’s right of eminent domain to buy the land and build back all units lost to demolition. Bring the tenants back to East Liberty!
2. NO MORE MASS EVICTIONS
Stop gentrification! No displacement without building replacement housing first! Stop the demolition of public and affordable housing!
3. DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OVER OUR HOUSING
We need a people-led, community-controlled Housing Authority! Open all Community Development Corporations to democratic membership!
4. REPAIR, MAINTAIN, BUILD PUBLIC HOUSING
Housing is a human right! Tax big corporations and developers to build quality social housing for all!
On May 15, the City Planning Commission unanimously passed a “resolution of concern” asking the City to change the way it presents information on the consequences development has on residents and neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear what concrete effect that resolution will have. Therefore, we’re recommending a number of steps be taken regarding this resolution of concern. See our thoughts in the below letter, which we sent this week to members of the Planning Department, members of the Planning Commission, City Council, Mayor, and Chief of Staff of the City of Pittsburgh. (See the original letter here.)
To the Members of the Planning Department, Members of the Planning Commission, City Council, Mayor, and Chief of Staff of the City of Pittsburgh:
We are writing to offer some suggestions for City Planning to learn everything it can from the case of LG Realty’s RAPLDP at the former Penn Plaza site. We have developed these recommendations over a year of studying the issues, listening to racially and economically diverse Pittsburghers discuss the plan since October 2017, and by participating in the public process over the last several months.
The public hearing on May 15 revealed a huge gap between how LG presented the social and economic impact of the “Pennley Park South” redevelopment in its RAPLDP on one hand, and on the other, how the public understands it. The way that the process was handled and vote was pushed through has done much damage to the reputation of the City government and sown distrust in the public towards City Planning, which appeared to minimize the need for a developer to articulate a development’s “social, economic, and environmental” benefit, and to minimize public input on the “Pennley Park South” redevelopment plan.
We believe that the public process was handled poorly, that the plan strategically obscured the displacement of hundreds of residents from the development site, obscured the developer’s contribution to the city’s segregation problem and other social harms, and failed to describe in any clear way the jobs to be created and the projected effects are on the tax base, including its own diversions to a weak “replacement” housing plan.
In fact, City Planning’s lack of a framework for evaluating these benefits was made clear when the Commission agreed to a “resolution of concern” stating that “a framework or index” is needed “to evaluate social, economic, and environmental benefit, comprehensive citywide data and trends, neighborhood profiles and ultimately neighborhood plans, a public process policy, and a housing strategy index, that will allow us to make decisions on projects such as this, in an informed way, to address those criteria that were forementioned” (Commission Chair Mondor during the public hearing, referring to criteria c, d, and i).1
We recommend the following steps regarding this resolution of concern:
1) The overall framework for evaluating “favorable social impact” of a development plan should include information about any social harm effected in teeing up for the development. If there is any displacement of residents or businesses, this information needs to be included in the plan in sufficient detail, including the number of residents, businesses, and/or employees displaced, whether they belong to protected classes, where they ended up, and whether they have articulated a right of return. Furthermore, any documented favorable social impact must at least be sufficient to outweigh any documented social harm that would result from the development plan that the developer caused prior to plan submission. Moreover, the Commission should give the public an opportunity in public to introduce evidence of social impact/social harm prior to the hearing.
2) Any finding of favorable social impact must be based on actual documented evidence and not mere speculative assertions by the developer.
3) With regard to a “housing strategy index,” any development should be evaluated with the context of the city’s housing data, e.g., the housing needs assessment on the housing deficit already performed and deployed by the City of Pittsburgh.
4) We support the development of registered community organizations, democratically accountable organizations, that are given tools by City Planning to contribute robustly to neighborhood plans and gather public input throughout the planning process of a development. CDCs that have no public accountability should not be registered community organizations.
5) On public process, where we have observed a number of failures since the LG/City of Pittsburgh consent decree was announced, we suggest the following:
a) The “public input” or any public interest referred to in a consent decree or development plan must include input from those residents who are the most impacted by the development—not simply groups of people who live in the neighborhood, or people who may be of like race or ethnicity. Any residents displaced by the development must be reached out to and given the opportunity to provide input as significant stakeholders.
b) Notification of public meetings and hearings must be at least 14 days prior, and include the name of the applicant, a brief description of the plan and its neighborhood impacts, information about any displacement that will or has occurred, and information about how objections or support can be sent (including but not limited to online communication).
c) These notifications should be robust, and not limited to primarily online announcements. Newspaper ads, any available billboards, and television local news should all announce these important events for public input. Impacted residences and businesses in the neighborhood should be notified via flyer or U.S. mail. Street frontages onsite and surrounding the site should have signs about the plan.
d) Public comments at public meetings should be fully transcribed. Facilitate written feedback and questions from the public, and ensure that the applicant provide concrete, direct written responses to questions, both oral and written. Provide to both the Planning Commission and the public.
e) If there is a petition with a significant number of signatures, hold a public hearing specifically about the petition.
f) The number of public meetings should fit the magnitude of the development plan.
g) At least one public hearing by the Planning Commission should be held after regular work hours to enable robust public participation.
6) As a group, we also support the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing task force’s draft recommendation for “Fair Housing Criteria for the Assessment of Proposed Development Projects: When assessing proposed development projects, all jurisdictions, commissions, and authorities should perform an analysis and require a showing that the project will not perpetuate patterns of segregation or effectively exclude members of protected classes. This should include, at a minimum, an analysis of the correlation between the market characteristics of the proposed development (bedroom count, rent structure and marketing plan) and the demand characteristics of people in protected classes (the housing needs of people in protected classes in the relevant market area), as well as an analysis of the accessibility of the project and location. Jurisdictions, commissions and authorities should work with fair housing lawyers, advocates/members of protected classes, the Commission on Human Relations and the City-County AFFH Task Force to develop specific criteria for this assessment.”
Penn Plaza Support & Action Coalition
1 Here is the full transcription of the comment: “Commissioner Dick made a motion to pass a resolution of concern which allows Director Gastil to take this to whoever he needs to in the city, that the planning commission needs—shall I list these again?—a framework or index to evaluate social, economic, and environmental benefit, comprehensive citywide data and trends, neighborhood profiles and ultimately neighborhood plans, a public process policy, and a housing strategy index, that will allow us to make decisions on projects such as this, in an informed way, to address those criteria that were forementioned.”
On May 15, the City Planning Commission voted 4-2 in favor of LG Realty’s luxury office & retail plan for the Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, where hundreds of residents were displaced in 2016 and 2017. The vote came after four and a half hours of public testimony and deliberation on the plan.
Penn Plaza Support and Action is disappointed in the Planning Commission’s decision. However, we applaud our community for coming together to speak out against this plan. Over 1,200 residents wrote letters urging the Commission to vote “no” on the plan, and dozens showed up to protest it at the hearing. Both the Pittsburgh Planning Department and Planning Commission mentioned it was the biggest response to a plan in Pittsburgh’s recent history. Not only that, but public testimony remained focused on the ethical implications of displacing hundreds of residents. We never lost sight of what we’re truly for: holding Pittsburgh to its promises of affordable housing.
Additionally, we’ve exposed ways in which the public process favors developers — and our collective outcry is changing the system. Commissioners unanimously passed a “resolution of concern” asking the City to change the way it presents information on the consequences development has on residents and neighborhoods. This could potentially help the Commission make more informed decisions in the future.
Even though this vote was decided, the struggle isn’t over. We will never stop supporting displaced residents, and we will continue fighting for affordable housing on the site and in the City.
Will LG Realty’s development plan for Penn Plaza have a positive social and economic impact on the City of Pittsburgh? The below data from CMU Tech4Society and photos from East Liberty Photo Project argue that it won’t.
A few months ago, CMU Tech4Society created a series of maps and infographics to show the larger context of displacement that Penn Plaza is a part of. The group’s research found that displacement disproportionately affects Black and low-income people.
Now, these infographics have been adjusted for inflation. The new graphics make it clear that rents are rising in East Liberty at a higher rate than inflation can account for.