Zoning amendment proposal on affordable housing gets Planning Commission nod

Date Published: 
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Pittsburgh Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend an amendment to the city zoning code sponsored by councilman Daniel Lavelle, of District 6, to study the residential impact of new development within specially planned districts in the city.

The unanimous recommendation by the Planning Commission will give the city council the opportunity to vote to approve code changes by a majority, rather than the super-majority vote previously required required.

An extensive debate over the changes focused on the redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District and the ongoing community concern that new residential development there will be too expensive for existing Hill District residents, despite the compromise agreement to provide some affordable housing on the site's specially planned district.

Lavelle outlined the low incomes of residents of the Hill's different neighborhoods to point out the dire need for affordable housing in the Hill, his district, as well as the rest of the city.

"What we're really having a discussion about is a policy position on who is going to be able to live in the city of Pittsburgh," said Lavelle.

His legislation calls for a housing impact analysis to be conducted on the site and surrounding areas to detail the availability of housing that may be removed, whether there's replacement housing available, the racial and ethnic composition of the residents as well as their incomes.

Supporters of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the master developer of the arena site, opposed the new amendment, with an attorney representing the team -- Michael A. Kostiew of Reed Smith -- characterizing it as legislation specifically targeted at one project, which he said was unlawful.

Others pointed out there are other specially planned districts in the city, including the Strip District property the Buncher Co. plans to develop and a 14-acre parcel at Station Square that Forest City Enterprises briefed the Planning Commission on earlier in the meeting.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend the amendment with some conditions, including providing a definition of affordability.

Also at the Planning Commission, Forest City presented an initial plan for its 14-acre parcel on the east side of Station Square, a first phase of which would be two apartment buildings totaling 300 units. Trammell Crow is the master developer for the project on behalf of Forest City.

Tim Schooley covers retail, real estate, construction, hospitality, arts and entertainment, and government. Contact him at tschooley [at] bizjournals.com or 412-208-3826.

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