State of the Land Report: October

Welcome to the October State of the Land Report!

The State of the Land Report is our new 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!

In this report we will share with you everything you need to know about policy updates, new legislation in the works, land access strategies, facts about vacant land, need to knows about maintenance of City-owned vacant lots in your neighborhood, and what our advocacy goals are for building a better vacant land recycling strategy within our city. What’s the best part about this report? It’s not just for you to read, it’s a place for you to engage with vacant land issues and help create change in your community! This report relies on community members like you to help share out, bring forth important stories related to vacant land, spotlight your neighbors you see putting in the work on vacant land, or help provide comments on legislation.

Advocacy Network

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.

Map of Allegheny County properties by classification, vacant land is green dots, buildings are red dots, not classified are yellow dots and gray dots are other

Are you interested in being engaged with vacant land policy and community efforts? Join our advocacy network [here] where you will be able to:

  • Help lobby for changes in local, state, and federal land-use policies

  • Voice your concerns about vacant land in your community and how you want to see it developed

  • Support your neighbors in obtaining land access and ownership


Upcoming Election!


Tuesday, November 2, 2021, is Election Day! On the ballot this year: City Mayor, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Allegheny County Commons Pleas Court, City Council District 4, Allegheny County Council District 1, 3 and 8, Constables, Sheriffs, and Pittsburgh Public School Board*

*Races may depend on your district and ward, look up your ballot – here

Some helpful resources:


Takeaways from Mayoral Debate on Land Use Policy

On October 11, 2021, Democratic mayoral nominee Ed Gainey and Republican Tony Moreno had a three-hour debate on topics such as policing, housing, race, and climate change (Pittsburgh Post Gazette).

They both shared stances on the Pittsburgh Land Bank (PLB) and what they would do as mayor with all the vacant land across the city:

“Mr. Gainey said he wants to work with existing community development organizations to determine the best use for each parcel. Housing is important but can’t be the only result, he said — the city also needs more urban gardens and green space.” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette).

“Mr. Moreno said millions come through the URA, yet the community has to “beg” for money to fix its problems. If housing is the biggest need, all the money should go toward building it”.
(Pittsburgh Post Gazette).

City Lot Maintenance Bids

On October 15, 2021, the City of Pittsburgh began accepting city lot maintenance bids as part of their Land Maintenance Program. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

The City of Pittsburgh is seeking qualified land care and maintenance businesses to submit applications to assist in the year-round land maintenance of city-owned properties and lots. The city developed this program to invest money into community-based businesses to provide solutions for blighted city-owned properties. The program will assign over 4,400 properties that have been divided geographically into “bundles” of around 200 properties each to multiple businesses. The selected vendors will be responsible for all properties in their assigned bundle(s) and are expected to visit each property at least monthly throughout the year to cut grass, remove litter, weed perimeters, trim tree branches and remove debris

Interested businesses are invited to attend informational meetings to learn more about the program before applying. They are hosted by the Office of Community Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget Procurement Division.

Land Maintenance RFQ Pre-Bid Meeting (In-Person) 
Thursday, October 28th at 6:00 PM
Location: City-County Building
Register here:

Read the full press release and find the application: Here


311 Vacant Lot Data

311 is Pittsburgh’s non-emergency response center. All calls are logged through the Western PA Regional Data Center by id, date, request type, request origin (the method used to submit the request), the status of the call (new, closed or open), department (department the request was assigned), neighborhood, council district, ward, and more.

Using their Request Type Codebook from their 311 Data User Guide, Grounded is tracking 311 calls made about “Vacant Lots” and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Properties” in order to understand more about 311 calls made about vacant properties in the city.

266 calls have been made to 311 throughout 2021 so far. Below is the breakdown of the number of calls made per month.

 bar graph showing 311 calls per month (January-September)

Of the 266 calls, 52 neighborhoods have received 311 calls about a vacant lot issue. Below are the calls are broken down by City Council District. Check which City Council District you live in here.

Some notable neighborhoods include Homewood North (District 9) with 39 calls and Middle Hill (District 6) with 29 calls. Crawford Roberts (District 6) has 15 calls and Homewood South (District 9) and Garfield (District 9) have 14 respectively.


Bar Graph showing 311 Calls Per City Council District

311 is an important way to let the city know about your concerns. The City of Pittsburgh also tracks this data and responds to it accordingly.

Call 311 to show the city and your elected officials how important this issue is.

Report a vacant lot to 311 by:

  • Making a phone call to 311 or  412-255-2621

  • Using their online request form

  • Submitting a report via the myBurgh app for Android and iOS

  • Tweeting @pgh311

Policy Updates

Be on the lookout for Senate Bill 811

There is a push currently underway at the Pennsylvania State Senate to amend the Municipal Claims and Tax Liens Law (MCTLL) via Senate Bill 811. The MCTLL is used to regulate and govern delinquent real estate tax collection (applicable to vacant land). This law solely applies to the First Class Cities, in the case of PA, this only includes Philadelphia. The proposed amendment to the MCTLL would allow for Second Class Cities such as Pittsburgh and Scranton to have these same powers which would allow for these cities to have “the ability to acquire property at sheriff’s sale by bidding an amount equal to the total amount of all municipal claims and liens regardless of bids by other parties.” Stay tuned for more updates as we see the bill move forward.


City Council Meeting Highlights

Councilmember Bobby Wilson was appointed to the Pittsburgh Land Bank Board in place of Theresa Kail-Smith. The term will expire in November 2024.

The IPCC Report

Vacant Land and Climate Change 

Climate change and its impacts on Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County are becoming increasingly evident with projections of increased rain and higher temperatures. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and leading climate scientist experts indicate that the effects of climate change will have an undeniable impact on the world including the United States. We are in a “code red for humanity” and are in dire need of making changes to adapt to the inescapable effects of climate and create future actions to mitigate the worsening of climate change impacts of higher temperatures, sea-level rise, and more extreme weather.

Allegheny County and specifically the city of Pittsburgh are not able to escape the impact of climate change. Experts explain the increased rain leads to more severe flooding events impacting Pittsburgh’s aging stormwater management system. In 2018 Pittsburgh had its wettest year accumulating 57.83 inches of rain and as of October 2021, Pittsburgh has accumulated 32.38 inches of rain. This increased rain has caused Pittsburgh’s combined stormwater and sewer system to overflow in the rivers, streets, and basements ultimately putting residents at health risks and property damage.

Source: Our Changing Climate

How do Vacant Lots Play a Role In Combating Climate Change?

While vacant land can be transformed into parks, gardens, or other uses for Pittsburgh residents, vacant land is a prime area to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure. Green stormwater infrastructure plays a large role in collecting more rain by ensuring rain can seep into vegetation and soil slowing the amount of runoff into the combined rainwater sewer system, minimizing overflow. Transformations of vacant lots from abandoned and unmaintained land to land that includes plants, porous soil, and an increase of vegetation as shade actively fight the impacts of climate change’s increased rain and rising temperatures.

Steward Spotlight –
Talking Lots Episode 1 with Lisa Freeman

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.

image of Lisa Freeman standing in front of a mural


In the first episode, we speak with Manchester Resident Lisa Freeman about her experience with her farm and her years of expertise with community engagement and farming. She discusses her vision for vacant land in her neighborhood and how she transformed a neglected vacant lot into the Manchester Growing Together Farm and Freeman Family Farms, providing fresh produce, a safe haven, and training opportunities to her community.

Listen to Lisa’s interview on Talking Lots. You can also learn more about Lisa’s urban farm in her blog post feature!

Additional Resources

Want to know more about vacant land-use strategies and the impact vacant land has on communities? Check out some of our resources, particularly Grounded’s literature review “Understanding the Effects of Vacant Lots on Neighborhood Health

The National Land Bank Network Summit is November 3-4 2021. It is free to attend so register now.

Call to Action

Sign up for our advocacy network [here] to receive the next monthly State of the Land Report and get all the newest land use policy updates!

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