There are at least 2 sides to every story.
From our perspective: 10 of the residents of Monastery street received letters on June 27, 2013 that the city had funding to replace the Monastery Street Sidewalk & Steps this year. They were directed to a contact number at the Department of Public Works if they wanted more information.
Throughout the summer, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) met with city officials (including the city’s public works director Rob Kaczorowski) to discuss our plans for the 13th annual StepTrek and make requests for step repairs. Many minor repairs were made. The Monastery Street project was never mentioned.
On October 5, StepTrek brought ~800 people onto the Monastery Street Steps – unknown to us that they were considered dangerous and structurally deficient by the city. We just thought they were another set of steps.
A board member who lives on Monastery Street (but did not receive notice) woke up Monday morning to the sound of steps being demolished, and since then the SSSNA has been on full alert to this project.
The original plans call for reducing the number of stairs from 118 to 30. To remove these stairs, requires a very steep grade of 17.5% along the sidewalk. A benefit with this plan is that all of the houses on Monastery Street would have direct access to the roadway. It is also cheaper.
As an association, we want to reach a compromise that will bring the grade into standard architectural guidelines (maximum of 10%) while improving the safety and livability of our neighbors. Furthermore, we demand an opportunity to learn about capital projects in our neighborhood before the backhoe shows up. The city publishes paving schedules for the season ahead of time. The city requires all zoning hearings to be published in the newspaper and open to public discussion. Why isn’t a $177K re-design of our steps and sidewalks given the same requirements for public disclosure? With time, we could potentially have raised private funds to offset the city’s cost and create a win-win situation for everybody as opposed to a last-minute frantic compromise.
Additionally, we want to work with the city to come up with a reasonable set of guidelines that the city will follow for determining which steps need to be replaced. Currently, Mr Kaczorowski says that the city guideline for a maximum sidewalk grade is 20%. For reference, here is a 20% grade hill:
Both KDKA and the Post-Gazette have given some coverage to the sensitive issue of tearing down city steps without adequate public input.
Board members are meeting with the Department of Public Works this morning to try to reach a compromise. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for timely updates as we make any progress in this important safety issue.