Public Opinion: GTECH’s response to a Pittsburgh Land Bank
By: Sara Innamorato
In January of this past year, Councilwoman Deb Gross from District 7 introduced City Council Bill #2014-0025, a Pittsburgh Land Bank ordinance, to the Pittsburgh City Council. According to the Smart Growth America, land banks “are public authorities created to acquire, hold, manage and develop vacant properties. Land banks aim to convert vacant properties that have been neglected by the open market into productive use, thereby transforming neighborhood liabilities into assets.” Currently the bill is in its public comment phase, which allows for citizens to suggest amendment to the bill in its present form.
As we always have, GTECH views vacant land as a platform for action to support education, training and employment opportunities for communities affected disproportionately by vacancy and blight. This perspective is the result of our experience working with dozens of communities to implement tangible improvements with resident and community organization support. In our opinion, a Pittsburgh Land Bank, crafted thoughtfully, can make it easier for neighborhoods to gain access to their vacant land and implement their communities’ visions.
Ultimately, GTECH does not have a direct stake in some of the decisions made regarding the establishment of the Land Bank because we do not ever take ownership of land or property. Our goal with being involved is to stay aware of the progress, as it affects our organization’s work in the communities that we serve.
Amendments to the legislation
We believe addressing the following points strengthens the ordinance as proposed:
The legislation should provide a clear pathway for the development of a transparent land-banking plan for communities without a current approach in place.
Policies and procedures will play a major role in the daily activities of a land bank. The legislation should more clearly articulate the process through which this will happen, including: timeframe, who can provide input, when and how input can be provided, and how often they will be amended or reviewed for amendments, and board oversight of all property transactions above $10,000.
The legislation’s suggestion for formation of advisory committee(s) should be stiffened into a mandate, encouraging transparency and ensuring local expertise is incorporated in land bank processes.
Policies and procedures GTECH hopes to see in the future of this legislation include:
Data collection standards and methodology to develop and maintain land bank inventory.
Safeguards for community projects implemented prior to the land bank.
Site access for community-driven projects.
Neighborhood-scale workforce development program as part of the maintenance plan.
Maintenance standards and assistance for community-implemented projects.
Parallel efforts to the legislation
Community Plans: GTECH believes in the power of community plans that are completed with the intent to follow planning with tangible action. A formal process should be developed to adopt and enforce community plans within the City of Pittsburgh.
Education and Transparency: It has been evident within our network the need for better and more in-depth education and explanation around this legislation, its intent, the steps that will follow and how and when it is appropriate to participate in the discussion.
All inbound inquiries on land banking from organizations, media and individuals should be directed to Evaine K. Sing, Director of Operations, Policy & Research, at [email protected].
So what can you do?
There are a lot of local articles popping up around the city about the Pittsburgh Land Bank legislations from publications such as, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Pittsburgh City Paper, and New Pittsburgh Corridor, so read up to stay up to date.
The best way to get your questions answered and concerns heard is through your district city council member. Visit the City’s website to find out who your council representative is.
Get involved in your community’s planning process. Most neighborhoods host monthly meetings, attend one and see what your neighbors are talking about.