Back when Pittsburgh’s zoning code was first rewritten, it was ahead of its time. The zoning code contained some forward-thinking development standards that advocated for environmental sustainability and the protection of our natural topography. It recognized the changing economic landscape of the city and moved us away from industrial development and instead towards education, medicine and neighborhood business districts. However, it has been nearly 20 years since our code was rewritten and much has changed in the field of city planning, the economy of our city, and development patterns and techniques nationwide. Therefore, we need to reassess our zoning code and find ways it can be streamlined, made easier to understand and comply with, and ensure it is compatible with our 21st century city. Rewriting a zoning code is no small task. It will require a great deal of community input, technical expertise, feedback from developers, and cooperation from all political stakeholders. But it is a task well worth taking on and one that I think can have a highly positive impact on the future development of our neighborhoods.
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority’s EPA-mandated wet weather plan calls for spending nearly $3 billion dollars over the next 10 to 20 years in order to reduce the pollutants that flow into our rivers after every rainstorm. This project represents the largest and most disruptive infrastructure undertaking in the City of Pittsburgh in our lifetimes. And ratepayers are going to bear the brunt of the costs, with rates going up as much as 200 to 300% for City of Pittsburgh residents. The current ALCOSAN proposal calls for the construction of massive concrete holding tanks under our rivers and an expansion of the ALCOSAN sewage treatment plant. Our polluted rivers are a serious problem that must be addressed but we have other problems, like flooding in our neighborhoods and erosion of our hillsides, that this plan does not address. If we are going to spend this much money and ask ratepayers to contribute more every month, this plan has to be reconsidered and we have to work to ensure that the community benefits flow from this massive investment of public resources. We can use this as an opportunity to green our neighborhoods, create good jobs, and alleviate flooding in our neighborhoods.
Earth Day is coming up on Monday, April 22nd, and I’d love for you to join me and a hundred of our closest friends to celebrate in style at the Mansions on Fifth from 6-8pm.
The City of Pittsburgh is the population and economic center of Allegheny County and tens of thousands of Allegheny County residents come to the city every day to work, visit restaurants, and attend events. The city and county are inherently linked in many ways, including in many of the challenges we face. Issues like the water quality of our rivers and streams, the flooding that plagues many of our neighborhoods, the funding of our public transportation system, the assessment of property taxes, and economic development planning require close cooperation and good working partnerships between officials at the city and county levels. As Mayor, I will build on existing relationships and create new ones to strengthen our partnership with the county to the benefit of all residents of Pittsburgh and the region.
The energy used by buildings to keep our offices, stores, homes, and stadiums heated in the winter, cooled in the summer, and lighted all year round represents a significant portion of the total energy used every year. It also represents a lot of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere and a lot of money wasted on inefficiencies. Cities around the country have started to look more closely at how large buildings use energy, and through this process of examining usage they have been able to take concrete steps to make buildings more efficient and save energy and money. Through partnerships with the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and organizations like Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and the Green Building Alliance, we can create a program to help building owners and managers track their energy use and make adjustments to save them energy and money.
Encouraging pedestrians to get out and walk their neighborhoods is one of the best ways to increase public health, keep eyes on our streets, and keep our neighborhood business districts vibrant. However, most of our way-finding and place-making infrastructure is geared toward drivers, is outdated, and was created in a top-down manner without much input from residents and community groups. We should gear our way-finding tools to appeal to and support pedestrians and cyclists as well as drivers. These tools should help find innovative ways to get residents and neighborhoods involved to promote local attractions and businesses and to create a stronger, more vibrant, human-scale city.
Pittsburgh’s construction industry is booming, thanks to a healthy regional economy and some of the best developers and contractors in the United States. We all want to see high-quality, community-supported development happening across the City of Pittsburgh and as Mayor I will make sure that this development boom continues and starts to spread to neighborhoods that have lacked investment for far too long. In supporting development, we also need to take some steps to make sure that we minimize waste and environmental impacts. One way to do this is to work with developers and construction companies to help them recycle or reuse as much building material as possible when they demolish or renovate existing buildings and to preserve historical materials and building components.
Despite our region’s reputation as a bit overcast, we have vast untapped solar energy potential and a dedicated group of solar manufacturers and installers both small and large. However, Allegheny County is one of the most fractionalized governments in the country and, with well over 100 local governments with their own rules and regulations, it can be very difficult for these companies to market their solar panels and have them installed. This presents us with a great opportunity to work collaboratively with environmental organizations, labor unions, solar manufacturers and installers, and leaders from all of the County’s municipalities to find ways to standardize regulations for solar panels, while protecting the interests of residents.
In 2009 a broad-based coalition of faith-based groups, labor unions, environmental organizations, and community leaders came together to help City Council pass three groundbreaking new laws that promised to dramatically change how public dollars are spent on private developments. This package of laws offered fair wages to employees at new developments, cleaner air through cleaner construction practices, and cleaner water through modern stormwater management techniques. City Council passed these laws unanimously and they went to the Mayor’s office to sit on a shelf and never be implemented.
A green roof, a low-maintenance layer of native vegetation covering most or all of the flat surface of a building, can substantially reduce energy costs, provide a stormwater management function, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cities across the world have seen a dramatic increase in the number of buildings with green roofs as energy costs rise and the threat of climate change becomes more apparent. Pittsburgh has millions of square feet of flat roof surface and an opportunity to promote the installation of green roofs throughout the city.