Oops! Pittsburgh cites self over derelict properties
Pittsburgh has cited itself for failing to maintain dilapidated properties it owns in several neighborhoods, city officials confirmed Monday.
The Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections filed the citations in error, department Director Maura Kennedy said.
“As a practice and a policy, we don’t take other government agencies to court because it would be counterproductive to the larger goal,” Kennedy said. “We file probably 300 cases a month. While this was an error, we’re talking about 1 percent of cases we filed that month.”
She said PLI filed eight summary citations against city-owned properties. All but three were dropped by district judges at PLI’s request.
District Judge Richard King of Carrick said he refused to let PLI withdraw citations filed against three properties in Allentown because “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” He said Pittsburgh fines residents for failing to maintain properties and the city should be held to the same standard.
“I explained I was not treating this differently than any other case,” King said. “They should get no better treatment and no worse treatment. Neighbors will come in with pictures and say, ‘Hey, you’re worried about our house, but look at this. This is owned by the city.’”
Inspectors found multiple violations at 22 Millbridge St., 1520 Arlington Ave. and 634 Lillian St., all in Allentown, early this year.
Siding had fallen off and downspouts were deteriorated at a house on Millbridge, according to the PLI website. A porch and steps were falling off a house on Arlington Avenue. Someone had abandoned a car on a vacant lot on Lillian Street and weeds and garbage covered the property.
“The case with the car has gone on since September, and we still don’t have the car removed,” King said.
Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable said he was unaware of the problems until PLI notified him in November.
He said he notified City Source Associates, which has a contract to maintain vacant lots, about the car. On Friday, he sent a city construction crew to fix the siding and downspouts on Millbridge Street.
He said the city might have to demolish the house on Arlington Avenue.
“These were city properties, and we had to rectify the situation,” he said.
Pittsburghers have complained for years about abandoned, run-down buildings and overgrown lots that the city and its Urban Redevelopment Authority have acquired, mainly because of delinquent taxes. The city estimates 20,000 derelict properties dot neighborhoods and about one-third of them are owned by city agencies.
Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said the main problem is Pittsburgh doesn’t have enough money to maintain all of the buildings in its repository. He said administration officials do not want to demolish them because some have architectural significance.
Earlier this year, the URA began hiring small neighborhood companies and nonprofits to ramp up maintenance of vacant lots. Officials said companies with employees who live in neighborhoods that host the lots would do a better job of cutting down weeds and picking up garbage.
McNulty characterized the citations as a minor glitch.
“It happened, and it’s getting fixed,” he said.
NOTE: This story has been updated from the original to correct the location of the neighborhood in which the three houses are located.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.