“Access” is permission from the property owner to be on the lot and to create a project on it. The process of getting access is different depending on who the property owner is. (If you’re not sure who the owner is, go back to the home page and select the lot you’re working on. Info about the owner will pop up there.) Knowing the property owner will help you to determine how to get access.

Early in the process as you are considering doing a project on a vacant lot, you will need short-term access so that you can go on the site to take a closer look, collect a soil sample, and generally just poke around. Short term access is also necessary for things like volunteer clean ups or one-day events. When you’re ready to build out a design on a lot, you’ll need to get long-term access from the property owner.

It’s best to have a few things figured out before you contact the property owner. At a minimum, you should have an idea of what you want to do, how long you plan to work on the project, how much it will cost and how it is being funded, who your partners are, how it will be maintained, and some proof of support from neighbors of the site. Go back to the start of the pathway if you think there’s more work to do there.

Now, if you know who the property owner is and have your plan together, scroll through the list below to find which site access process applies to your situation.

Owner: City of Pittsburgh


If you are interested in working on a lot owned by the City of Pittsburgh, your first step is fill out the City of Pittsburgh’s Intake Form:

Click here for form

Next, follow the process outlined on the City’s Adopt-A-Lot page: If you have any questions, you can contact the City’s Open Space Specialist, Shelly Danko+Day using the information below.

Shelly Danko+Day
Open Space Specialist
Department of City Planning
City of Pittsburgh
200 Ross Street, 4th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: (412)255-2287


If you or your community is planning a clean up on City property, you must fill out Volunteer Form and submit to the Department of Public Works 3-4 weeks prior to your planned event.

This form can be found here.

Owner: Urban Redevelopment Authority

If the lot you’re interested in is owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, contact Byron Crawford to inquire about site access.

Byron Crawford
Real Estate Coordinator
Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh
200 Ross Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: (412)255-6549

Owner: other municipalities in Allegheny County

Contact your City Planning or Community Development departments in your local municipality and explain what you are looking to do. Provide them with the information suggested above.

Owner: Other/Private

Many vacant lots in Allegheny County are owned by individuals, community groups, churches, and other private entities. It is likely that these owners do not have a standard process for giving out access to their lots. The two sections below break down the process into different steps depending on the situation.


If you are familiar with the property owner or can easily get in contact with them, you’re in luck! Call up the owner or send an email to introduce yourself and your interest in their lot. They may be eager to give you permission, and may not feel a need for any kind of formal agreement. If, however, they’d like a written agreement, you can use this sample agreement. Remember, if the lot has been neglected, your willingness to work on it can really be a gift to the property owner. It can help to subtly remind the owner of that if they are hesitant.


In some cases, it can be difficult to find and contact a private owner if you’re not familiar with them. Many have passed away or moved on, making it very difficult to get permission to access the lot. If you don’t know how to get in contact with the owner, start by asking around your neighborhood. It’s likely some of the long-time residents may know who once owned it and where they are now. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, start by searching for the lot on the Allegheny County Assessment website. Type in the Parcel ID found on the Lots to Love map into the fields on the assessment website and click SEARCH. Scroll down, and you will find the owner’s mailing address. Send a letter or visit the address to explain your request to the owner.

If the owner can not be contacted, you will not be able to get access to the lot without purchasing it. If you’re interested in going that route, check out the Acquisition page.