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Animal Rescue League Plan Sparks Controversy (1 of 2)

Posted by Elwin Green on April 27, 2014 at 3:10 AM

A few days ago, the Post-Gazette published what was surely last week's best headline:

 

"Pittsburgh's East End residents growl at plan for new animal shelter."

 

The story was the last of three within six weeks about the Animal Rescue League's plan to move a couple of blocks east from its location in Larimer, to the corner of Dallas and Hamilton Avenues - and residents' responses to the plan.


The Tribune-Review beat the Post-Gazette on the overall story, with a piece on March 2 by Bob Bauder: "Animal Rescue expansion to anchor section of Homewood."  Please take a look, then check out the P-G's stories:

 

"Neighbors split on Animal Rescue League's $15 million move in Homewood" - Richard Webner, March 11

"Homewood residents still wary of Rescue League plan" - Richard Webner, March 13

"Pittsburgh's East end residents growl at plan for new animal shelter." - Robert Zullo, April 23


Finally, Nancy Hart of Urban Media Today filed this report from the last meeting: "Homewood Residents Voice Concerns about ARL Headquarters Move"


WHAT THEY MISSED:

I spoke with Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block Inc., and learned that the first meeting was held on February 26, and was attended by 20 people. The second meeting, on March 13, drew 50 people. And at the last meeting, Wednesday, there were 10.

 

Mr. Jackson made this observation about meetings like the ones chronicled in these stories: "The people who are for a project, they generally only come to a meeting once, to say 'I'm for it'," Mr. Jackson said. "And then they go away.

 

"The people who are against it come back."

 

He also corrected a detail from the P-G's last story, saying that the URA did not specifically ask OBB to convene meetings; they just asked for community feedback on the Animal Rescue League's proposal to relocate, because it involves buying parcels of URA-owned land. The decision to convene the meetings was OBB's. This is worth noting, as OBB could have just made phone calls or sent out survey postcards in the mail.

 

But they didn't: they held meetings, which they publicized by knocking on doors and handing out flyers, canvassing from Dallas to Lang, and from Hamilton to Bennett.

 

That limited publicity is in keeping with an approach to community development that Mr. Jackson and OBB have worked out over the past couple of years that they call "cluster planning." The basic idea is to designate an area of several blocks as a "cluster" and to work with the residents within each cluster to create a plan for that cluster.

 

"Only the people who live in the area should have the say," he said, contrary to the idea that people throughout the entire neighborhood should have an equal voice in making decisions about a specific part of the neighborhood.

 

I agree, having picked up on the idea a couple of years ago from architect Ken Doyno.

 

What do you think - should residents from the entire neighborhood have an equal voice in making decisions about a specific area of the neighborhood, or should the residents in a specific area have more of a say for that area?


And what about Mr. Jackson's observation on who shows up, and how often? Do you think it's accurate? If so, what difference could it make if people who favor a project (or who at least don't oppose it) showed up as persistently as those who oppose it? What would it take to get them to do so?


NEXT: Animal Rescue League Plan Sparks Controversy - Notes and Questions (2 of 2)

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Categories: Real Estate, Citizenship and Governance, Business

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2 Comments

Reply Ebony Robinson
11:20 AM on April 30, 2014 
I appreciate the diligent outreach by OBB to "cluster" residents regarding notification of the plan by the URA and Animal Rescue League and convening multiple meetings to elicit their opinion. I also agree that residents within close proximity to new development projects benefit/suffer from those projects at a disproportionate rate than residents of the neighborhood at large.

Apparently, I live too far down Hamilton Avenue and did not receive meeting notifications. I have concerns regarding increased traffic and the impact of this commercial project on the larger plan/vision for community revitalization in Homewood. What I have not head from any of the media coverage is whether the URA or Animal Rescue League made any accomadations to their plan based on the residents' feedback. Or were these meetings just for show and this plan is one that is being forced upon the Homewood community?
Reply Elwin Green
12:56 PM on April 30, 2014 
Thanks for your comment! The first Post-Gazette story (March 11) does mention that the ARL had already made at least one accomodation based on resident feedback:

"At a community meeting about two weeks ago, some said they were worried that the building would bring noise and smells, Mr. Rossi said.

In response, the Rescue League plans to put its offices and meeting rooms along the street to block noise from the animal shelters, which would face the East Busway."

I'll say a little more about that in Part 2.

Coming Soon...

The Homewood Chronicles

Oct. 2005 - March 2010

Reports from a community in transition

In October 2005, after a bullet came through his living room window, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Elwin Green began writing "My Homewood," the first blog on the P-G's website. For 4 1/2 years, "My Homewood" shared stories of tragedy and beauty, of perplexity and hope - stories that live again in "The Homewood Chronicles."

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