Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Project to Stabilize Part of South Side Slopes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Project to Stabilize Part of South Side Slopes

Article excerpt

Five months after landslides pushed tons of dirt, rock and other debris against his home, Richard Seewald still isn't sure whether he should fear another cascade.

But he said he'll feel much better once retaining structures take shape on the steep hill soaring behind his house in the South Side Slopes.

"I wouldn't say I'm overly comfortable,"said Mr. Seewald, 70, who has lost sleep over the crumbling bank.

That city-paid retention work above the 800 block of Windom Street could begin as soon as this month, said Mike Gable, the Pittsburgh public works director. While designs and cost estimates weren't immediately available last week, Mr. Gable said the plan should help support Newton Street, an estimated 40 feet to 50 feet uphill from Windom.

"We can't have a road come down and be at the level of Windom Street," Mr. Gable said. He said the effort "ultimately will benefit the property owners down on Windom."

Three property owners on Windom have blamed deterioration on and along Newton - a city-owned street - for the landslide debris that spilled across their land, arguing that independent studies back up their case. Yet fault hasn't been definitively established in the matter, said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto.

The city has not rescinded code violations brought against the property owners after the landslides, but it has effectively suspended the enforcement action "while we address the site conditions," Mr. Acklin said. He left open the possibility that the city could eventually "seek recovery for the cost that we're spending at taxpayer expense."

"There is evidence here that perhaps the slides could have been either caused or exacerbated by on-site conditions," Mr. Acklin said.

He suggested that construction practices on some of the private property may have contributed, and code violations allege grading or drainage shortfalls at all three Windom addresses.

Property owners have challenged the city's claims, two of them filing official appeals of the violations. Albert and Vera Donnenberg, who own the third house, received a notice for a court date after they did not bring a formal appeal. …

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