State of the Land Report: March

Welcome to the State of the Land Report!
March 2022

The State of the Land Report is our monthly update where we will be educating and sharing out about everything you need to know about vacant land policy in the City of Pittsburgh! 

Lots of Wildflowers – Meadow St, Larimer

Advocacy Network

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Grounded is working to improve the condition of vacant lots by developing sustainable solutions that can address the environmental and racial injustices currently entrenched in our property management system. The lack of a comprehensive and unified strategy to care for vacant lots disproportionately affects low-income communities of color.

We must ensure that the process of land recycling and maintenance is conducted equitably, transparently, and through an anti-racist framework. Help make change happen in local, state, and federal land-use policies, voice your concerns about vacant land in your community, share how you want to see vacant land transformed, and support your neighbors in obtaining land access and ownership.

State of the Land Updates

Gainey’s Transition Team Listening Sessions and Idea Wall Storyboard

From reparations to cooperative housing, Pittsburghers share ideas with Gainey’s transition team

During the Equitable Development Transition Team Committee Meeting the subject of vacant and abandoned land was a large topic of discussion: how could improved access to the city’s more than 30,000 parcels be an opportunity for communities? One group suggested that giving land for farming to Black and brown Pittsburghers could be a form of reparations. On the flip side, other groups discussed how to ensure that large land-owning nonprofits help ease the city’s housing crisis. Land- and housing-related suggestions included an overhaul of Pittsburgh’s zoning code, an assessment of the city’s tax abatements, and programs to help people with low or fixed incomes pay property taxes.

There are tons of comments about vacant land on the Gainey Idea Wall. Thanks to everyone who posted! Interested in future advocacy opportunities? Sign up for Grounded’s advocacy network: here.

News Updates

Eyesores, Nuisances and Hazards. What Can Residents do About “Blight”?

Remediating “blighted” or hazardous properties is complicated (and expensive). But residents may have some power, from knowing how to get the city’s attention to collaborating with community groups, or, in some cases, taking control directly.

This PublicSource article answers all your vacant lot related questions:

  • What can you, as an individual resident, do to help address “blight” in your neighborhood?
  • What does “blight” look like?
  • I live near a “blighted” property. What’s my first step?
  • What happens during a Permits and Licensing Inspection inspection? What are the outcomes?
  • I’ve requested the city remediate “blight” near me. How do I speed up the process?
  • What if I want to purchase the property, not just report it?

Note: Grounded Strategies does not support the use of the word “blight” as used in the above article. “Blight” has too long been the default word for describing disinvestment and distressed land despite its racist roots and history. For more information, we suggest you read The Meaning of Blight: A word that was originally about plant diseases became “infused with racial and ethnic prejudice” when it moved to the city – here.

Massive House Fire Sparks Conversation About “Blight” In North Braddock

“North Braddock Council President Lisa Franklin-Robinson said there are 400 vacant structures and properties in the borough, which she said could add fuel to fires and make flames spread to other structures”

Under a new threshold, the number of PA. children with high lead levels is expected to almost double

This year, more Pittsburgh families will begin to be eligible for home lead testing because of the Pennsylvania Health Department’s adoption of the CDC’s lowered threshold for considering children to have “high lead levels” in their blood. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, can cause intellectual, behavioral, and academic deficits.

With the new level of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter applied for this year, almost double the number of children across the Commonwealth are expected to test positive, said Colleen McCauley, co-chair of the Lead-Free Promise Project and health policy director for Children First.

Resources: The Lead-Free Promise Project’s Lead Poisoning Resource Toolkit and  Get the Lead Out Pittsburgh 

Call To Action

Tell us your land acquisition story! Have you tried to acquire vacant land? Do you want to try to acquire land?  What is your feedback? Tell us your story! Email us

Policy Updates

City Council Meeting Highlights

Pittsburgh City Council established affordable housing committee

Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced the legislation spurred by his belief that everyone in the city deserves access to “clean, decent, affordable housing (that is) affordable to their income level.”.

The committee will include the mayor, the city’s chief economic development officer, up to four members of the City Council, the director of the Department of City Planning, the executive director of the city’s Housing Authority, the executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the executive director of the Pittsburgh Land Bank

Have a look at this draft of the new City Council districts

As with other government bodies where members are elected by district, Pittsburgh City Council’s nine-district map be redrawn after each Census. The proposed map ultimately must be approved by the council itself.

The new map reflects the difficulties of meeting that last challenge in a city where the Black population has shrunk, both as Black residents leave the city and become more scattered within it.


City of Pittsburgh Updates

How Pittsburgh uses its $335 million American Rescue Plan money will be detailed in a public web portal

The ‘Fiscal Focus’ hub — will serve as a central location to track expenditures and allocations from the $335 million in American Rescue Plan funds that were signed into law a year ago.

Pittsburgh URA powerhouse Diamonte Walker to leave the agency

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, will leave her position for a job in the private sector on April 14.

URA picks new chair, dives into venture role 

 The URA board voted to name as its chair Kyle Chintalapalli, the Gainey administration’s chief economic development officer. He replaces Sam Williamson, the district leader of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, who chaired the board for three years.

On Thursday, the URA board approved a $15.1 million operating budget and pledged roughly $5 million toward four investment programs, specifically minority and women-owned businesses. These four programs include Main Street Ventures in the Avenues of Hope business districts, the Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Fund, the Venture Capital Program, and the MWBE Developer Equity Fund Pilot Program.


Steward Spotlight –
Talking Lots with Grandma Beverly

Talking Lots is a podcast series that explores the issue of vacant lots in the Pittsburgh region. We present stories of vacant land restoration and activation as told through the voices of residents, community leaders, partners, and officials. Vacant lots are often overlooked but these stories prove that beautiful things can happen when we take care of the land that surrounds us.

In the sixth episode, we speak with Beverly Howell, also known as Grandma Bev. She is a CommunityCare Homewood steward who has invested her time and efforts to ensure an accessible vacant lot to offer a calm and clean space for her neighborhood’s youth. Grandma Bev shares the potential vacant lots have to offer for communities like the neighborhood of Homewood.

Listen to the full podcast here

Additional Resources

1) ALCOSAN ACT 537 Special Study Public Meeting
The meeting will be held virtually on March 30 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Act 537 Plan is one of the authority’s first steps in constructing new infrastructure as part of its Regional Tunnel System which will consist of a 120 million gallon per day wet weather pump station and the tunnel system, including near-surface facilities.

If you wish to make a public comment during the meeting, please register no later than March 29 at Noon. Registration can be done by emailing or calling 412-734-6249.

2) Property Tax Disparities in Pittsburgh, PA website:
The artworks of Sed Valorem will be on display at the Mattress Factory through April 10, 2022


Schedule a 1 on 1 with our Project Manager of Policy and Land Stewardship, Becca, to talk more about your experience with vacant land and learn about the advocacy opportunities Grounded is working on.

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