Councilman Wilson explains in this month’s column how there are over 25,000 vacant lots in the city of Pittsburgh, and what residents can do to address them as well as other forms of neighborhood blight.
Photo: Office of Councilman Wilson
The sun is shining, the rain is falling, and that means the grass is growing! There are over 25,000 vacant lots in the city of Pittsburgh, and over 10,000 are owned by the City of Pittsburgh. While we do not have the resources to maintain all of them, here are a few ways you can address weeds, debris, and other blight in your community.
All types of overgrown property can be reported to the City through 311. A 311 ticket creates a record that helps us track the progress of an ask and hold departments accountable. If the property is privately owned, submit a 311 ticket online using the “Weeds/Debris” ticket type. If the grass is over 10 inches high, the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI) will send out an inspector to inspect the property and issue a citation. The property owner then has 30 days to fix the problem before PLI schedules a hearing with the local magisterial district court. You can also track the progress of PLI citations and look up court docket numbers at Pittsburghpa.CivicCentral.gov (previously called BuildingEye). If you are unsure who owns the lot, you can look up its owner on the Allegheny County’s online GIS Viewer map. Knowing who owns the lot will ensure that your 311 ticket gets processed faster and will also help you research other tools available to address the lot.
If the property is owned by the City or the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), we recommend calling or tweeting 311 directly because the ticket types that route directly to these responsible departments are not publicly available. The finance department manages the landscape contractor that maintains City-owned lots. For some parcels, the URA has a Landcare Program that prioritizes maintenance of its vacant lots. You can see the monthly lot maintenance schedule as well as the contractors responsible for maintaining those lots displayed on an easy-to-use map on the Landcare Program’s website.
The most effective way to address a vacant property is for someone to buy it and maintain it. You can request to purchase tax-delinquent lots through the City Treasurer’s Sale and the County Sheriff’s Sale. You can also file for conservatorship on qualifying vacant and abandoned properties within 2,000 feet of your house. It’s always possible to negotiate a private sale with the owners or their next of kin. If the property is already publicly owned, you can start the sales process on the City’s Real Estate Division Properties website.
You can also visit LotstoLove.org to identify the owner of a property. Lots to Love is a digital tool created to help residents identify lots for beautification projects. The site also lists existing greenspace projects and other tools and resources to fight blight, like the PGH Mobile Toolbox, the Refresh Fund, Love Your Block, and Grow Pittsburgh Grants. Lots to Love was created through a City of Pittsburgh partnership with Grounded Strategies and the Greenspace Alliance. LotstoLove.org is also a great starting point for the Adopt-a-Lot program. Adopt-a-Lot gives residents and community organizations legal access to city-owned vacant lots to create beautification projects, like flower or vegetable gardens. Visit pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/adopt-a-lot to check out the guiding document – the Vacant Lot Toolkit – and submit your Adopt-a-Lot Intake Form.
If you’d like to organize a litter pick up and would like the Department of Public Works (DPW) to pick up trash bags, please fill out the Volunteer Application. A Volunteer Application is needed for litter pick up and weeding in a City park or City-owned property.
If you need any help with vacant or abandoned property and blight, please reach out to my office and my staff will be more than happy to help. You can reach us at 412-255-2135; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We look forward to hearing from you.
COUNCILMAN, DISTRICT 1