Pittsburgh Planning Commission embarrasses itself

Pittsburgh Planning Commission embarrasses itself

More evidence that the prosecution of sound public policy in the City of Pittsburgh has gone off the rails comes from the Pittsburgh Planning Commission.

It has tabled consideration of a plan by Point Park University to install an aesthetically pleasing gating system to, during overnight hours, secure an outdoor courtyard and terrace at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in the Golden Triangle.

The beautiful, and architecturally attractive, playhouse feature has become no less than a public toilet and, as a Point Park attorney phrases it, “a haven for criminal activity” outside of regular event hours.

Do note that public urination and defecation has become a regular feature of downtown Pittsburgh. So much so that the city has posted a “No Human Pooping” sign in at least one trouble spot.

Improved lighting and police patrols have done little to nothing to quell this and other problems at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, with incidents said to number in the hundreds over the last four years.

The black gating would be closed and secured from 9 p.m. until 8 a.m. and would match existing railings.

But the Planning Commission labeled Point Park’s proposed fix to “cage-like” and unwelcoming. When the commission approved the playhouse plan seven years ago, it required the courtyard and terrace to remain open to the public.

One commission member even went as far as complaining that the gating looks like “you’re trying to contain something in or contain something out,” the Post-Gazette reported.

To the latter point, well, DUH!

“Perception matters so much,” she continued. “If you want Point Park to be a welcoming place where students want to come, you’re actually putting up a billboard by putting up this fence … that says we are contained, this is a dangerous place.”

NO! Point Park is attempting to keep the site a “welcoming place where students want to come.” And by taking such a commonsense step that addresses unsanitary and/or other nefarious activities, the university is saying that the playhouse courtyard and terrace are secure and are not “dangerous places.”

On what planet could anyone twist this?

In tabling any action, the planning commission has given Point Park two weeks to come up with a better plan. Perhaps a different color for the gating/fencing, pondered one member; perhaps green plantings, offered another.

Maybe the fence should be lower. And, thus, more easily breached, right?

We’re surprised the commission has not demanded that portable toilets be added to the space. Or how about a needle-exchange program at the site for intravenous drug users?

Namby-pamby-ism masquerading as sound public policy never has been worse in the City of Pittsburgh. And the hand wringing over Point Park’s efforts to more than appropriately address this chronic problem is an embarrassment.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).