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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"


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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