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Land Bank Proposal Generates Controversy - Part 2

Posted by Elwin Green on February 17, 2014 at 3:55 PM

PART 2

Okay folks, apology time. Last time out, I said that Part 2 would cover PCRG executive director Ernie Hogan's take on the land bank, Malik Bankston's critique of Councilman Burgess' presentation at Council, and Councilwoman Deb Gross' reponses to critiques of the bill.

 

In short, I overpromised. Mr. Hogan and Ms. Gross will show up here later. Today's offering features some observations by Malik Bankston, executive director of Kingsley Association.

 

Bankston says that when he began reviewing the Power Point presentation that Councilman Ricky V. Burgess used to open a Feb. 6 post-agenda hearing on Councilwoman Deb Gross' proposed land bank legislation, he quickly got the sense that something was wrong.

 

Pages six and seven of the presentation, titled "Community Benefits For The Pittsburgh Land Bank," contain charts that list the number of "landbank-eligible properties," by Council district, then in the top 15 most-blighted neighborhoods.

 

To Bankston, the numbers seemed high. That impression was confirmed when he examined the maps that followed, and found what he calls "gross distortions and misrepresentations."

 

First, there's a map of Homewood, according to which 50% of parcels - indicated by being highlighted in red - are abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent:



 

Then there's a map of the Hill District, which says that 45% of the parcels there are abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent:

 


 

The problem, Bankston says, is that those maps are wrong.

 

In the top half of the Homewood map, about one-third of the way from the right edge, is a large block of red with a semi-circular road going through it.


 

That's not abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent land - those are the housing projects of Homewood North.

 

The Hill District map shows a large five-sided red spot in its upper right section...



That's not abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent land - that's Herron Hill Park.

 

Bankston named other examples of parcels that he said should not be portrayed as abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent: parcels in Homewood that are owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, parcels in the Hill District that currently under development.

 

He said that as far as he can tell, the maps portray parcels that are publicly owned. But being publicly owned is quite different from being vacant, abandoned or tax delinquent.

 

This of course raises the question, "What would accurate maps of "abandoned, vacant and tax-delinquent" properties look like?"

 

I'll try to find out.


(UPDATE, 2-18-14: Reader Carl Redwood, of the Hill District Consensus Group, alerted us to a Hill District Vacant Property study done last year, that contains relevant maps.)

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5 Comments

Reply Shawn Carter
5:19 PM on February 17, 2014 
Elwin,

Since I created the maps, I'll defend them.

The maps display, in red, every tax-delinquent and City or URA-owned property in these neighborhoods.

Since NOTHING in the legislation, as introduced prevents the LandBank from acquiring any City-owned properties, even a park, the display IS accurate.

And TWO public housing projects in District 9 (one being the Kelly St. low-rise in Homewood and the Auburn Towers) have been decommissioned and permission has been sought and received to re-purpose the land.

St. Clair Village is now a vacant lot, and thanks to folks in the South Side Flats, it will not be rebuilt, and eventually the City will dispose of that as well.

So saying that something is public housing has no bearing on the Landbank's future potential. Especially considering the rat at which we're decommissioning and repurposing them.

More importantly, PCRG estimates that 35,000 parcels could wind up in a Land Bank. We used the more conservative estimate of 27,000. So take PCRG's estimate and add even more red dots to the map if you choose to and see if the picture gets any better.

The legislation's biggest problem, as Reverend Burgess keeps pointing out, is a specific lack of boundaries for the actions of the Land Bank.

It is no distortion to show exactly what properties could be acquired by the Land Bank.

I also don't remember reading any other criticisms about the substance of the issue, or the specifics of the legislation, but I am more than to willing to entertain a more thorough exchange on the subject.
Reply Elwin Green
5:34 PM on February 17, 2014 
Thanks for that response, Mr. Carter - I need to re-read the legislation to see exactly what it says or doesn't say about the Land Bank acquiring City-owned properties, but in the meantime, I'll just note that the maps don't *say* that they include City and URA-owned property, so I hope you'll understand how one could get confused.
Reply Carl Redwood
5:35 PM on February 17, 2014 
Hill Disrict Vacant Property Study has maps
http://www.hdcg.org/Resources/Documents/HDVPS%20FINAL%20Report%20
for%20Consensus%20Group%20090613_Screen.pdf
Reply Anon
12:44 AM on February 18, 2014 
Shawn Carter says...
Elwin,

Since I created the maps, I'll defend them.

The maps display, in red, every tax-delinquent and City or URA-owned property in these neighborhoods.

Since NOTHING in the legislation, as introduced prevents the LandBank from acquiring any City-owned properties, even a park, the display IS accurate.

And TWO public housing projects in District 9 (one being the Kelly St. low-rise in Homewood and the Auburn Towers) have been decommissioned and permission has been sought and received to re-purpose the land.

St. Clair Village is now a vacant lot, and thanks to folks in the South Side Flats, it will not be rebuilt, and eventually the City will dispose of that as well.

So saying that something is public housing has no bearing on the Landbank's future potential. Especially considering the rat at which we're decommissioning and repurposing them.

More importantly, PCRG estimates that 35,000 parcels could wind up in a Land Bank. We used the more conservative estimate of 27,000. So take PCRG's estimate and add even more red dots to the map if you choose to and see if the picture gets any better.

The legislation's biggest problem, as Reverend Burgess keeps pointing out, is a specific lack of boundaries for the actions of the Land Bank.

It is no distortion to show exactly what properties could be acquired by the Land Bank.

I also don't remember reading any other criticisms about the substance of the issue, or the specifics of the legislation, but I am more than to willing to entertain a more thorough exchange on the subject.
Reply Elwin Green
5:28 AM on February 18, 2014 
Thanks, Mr. Redwood. Our commenting software doesn't like links, so I'll append it to the story.

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