This Faubourg St. John property at 1549 Verna is just one of the over 50,000 properties in New Orleans needing attention.
Reducing the number of blighted properties is the goal of the bi-weekly BlightStat meeting. The BlightStat meeting involves any city department that can help reduce blight. The meeting was extremely well attended with standing room only and some people viewed the meeting from the hallway outside the meeting room.
The November 18, 2010 meeting is the second in a series of on-going meetings to reduce blight in New Orleans. You can read FSJNAdotORG’s report on the first blight reduction meeting in the link below:
The November 18, 2010 meeting began with announcements of upcoming blight eradication events. On December 11th, a Fight Blight Day will take place. More on that in the link below:
The BlightStat meeting continued with a discussion of Customer Service. Of the 655 calls received from Nov 1 -12, 143 were new reports of blighted property. Mr. Winston Reid noted that he has 4 people on the “intake staff”.
While this bi-weekly period noted an increase to 55% of properties not inspected within 15 days, this is due, in large part, to the increase in the number of calls reporting blighted property. While more properties were inspected during this period, more were called in which resulted in a percentage increase in the number still left to inspect. The new training to make all 20 inspectors certified to inspect lots and lots w/buildings is also a factor. These new inspectors are referred to as “Super Inspectors”.
One of the largest goals of the Code Enforcement Department is to reduce the number of “resets”. Resets are when an owner goes to an Adjudication Hearing and is given more time to remediate the property. Thus the hearing is “reset”. Sometimes numerous times.
Jennifer Weishaupt of MCNO suggested that the owners be given a judgment of “conditional guilty” rather than a reset to provide more incentive for the blighted property owner to take action. The audience expressed their desire to limit resets and to get blight adjudication on a more dedicated path. All the departments completely agree with this demand and are working diligently toward that goal. Mr. Winston Reid noted that policy and procedural changes are being investigated concerning resets and the emphasis will be putting the burden of proof on the blighted property owner.
The overall goal is to speed up the process. There is better cooperation among departments and every aspect of the operation is being analyzed for improvement. That information will then be entered into Accela (the city’s computer program).
Road Home, Hazard Mitigation, N.O.R.A, L.L.T., Quality of Life officers, and Sanitation are all part of blight mitigation. Mr. Reid also noted that during training, the goal of 800 property inspections every two weeks is emphasized. They are developing a more efficient strategy and are performing cluster inspections and blight sweeps.
It should be noted that the City of New Orleans only has 20 inspectors to cover all of Orleans Parish.
You may remember FSJNAdotORG’s coverage of the Bunny Friend area sweep done on November 2nd. Click on the link below for more about that…
Wes Taylor, Director of the current Environmental Health Department (soon to be merged with Code Enforcement), noted that Entergy can be a significant barrier to progress when attempting to clear blighted properties. Entergy’s priority is to connect new customers and disconnects are secondary. Coupled with the fact that the gas and electric disconnects are two different departments with Entergy which means the gas and electric service is not disconnected at the same time which delays the blight removal process.
The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was also noted as a barrier to progress. Mr. Reid indicated that Code Enforcement sent 35 properties in for review and received 1 back. The reviews from (SHPO) are not timely and impede blight eradication efforts.
Cynthia Sylvain Lear, Director of the Sanitation Department, discussed the parameters upon which the City becomes involved in debris removal. The City depends on its trash removal contractors for the majority of trash removal.
There are certain instances where the City gets involved in debris removal. If the dumping is a major health or safety issue then immediate action is taken. Items that are a health hazard, involve food debris, or are a safety hazard take precedence. Things like a refrigerator left out for a child to climb into is one such example. Large piles of tires is another.
Ms. Sylvain Lear went on to say that citizens can put out up to 4 tires for pickup on the second collection day. The City has disposed of 16,930 tires through its contractor “Colt”. The City also checks tire stores for manifests showing proper disposal of used tires. Tire stores without proper manifests are shut down.
Mr. Jeff Hebert, Director of Blight Policy and Neighborhood Revitalization, noted that old case files on blighted property will be the primary focus. Blighted school locations will be the emphasis after the old case files have been adjudicated. Properties in emminent danger of collapse are a much more expensive process but are properties upon which the City takes immediate action.
The Strategic Demolition Program which involves buildings began November 5, 2010. The Interim Nuisance Abatement Program involves lots and its focus is on the use of Disaster CDGB (Community Development Block Grant) funds which provide for a one time clearing of lots. Mr. Wes Taylor noted that lots won’t be cut if they are part of the Strategic Demolition Program so there won’t be duplication of effort.
Mr. Reid noted that his department is working with the Louisiana Land Trust (LLT). Of the LLT properties, the ones that present the most danger to the public are considered first. The “lot next door” program is also involved. The lot next door program gives neighbors adjacent to a blighted property the chance to purchase the property. The adjacent neighbor can also specify whether they want the lot cleared or the building to remain on the property when they purchase it. Mr. Allen Square was charged with putting together a map of blighted properties.
Jennifer Weishaupt of MCNO inquired about the Historic Properties Boarding Program. Mr. Hebert replied that he was unfamiliar with that program.
During the meeting, it was noted that Kristin Phillips in the Code Enforcement Department works with the Strategic Demolition for Economic Recovery Program.
Joyce Wilkerson, Director of NORA (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority) was asked by an audience member about maintenance of LLT properties. She indicated that contracts are currently in place but that NORA previously had some “cash flow challenges”.
While speaking about public auctions, Ms. Wilkerson referenced NSP2 (Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2) properties and LLT parcels. She further stated that there are 400 LLT properties.
Tom Schnatz of Lakeview’s Blight Abatement Committee noted that the Mayor had indicated that all FEMA trailers would be gone January 1, 2011 and asked about progress on that issue. Jeff Hebert responded that the person managing FEMA trailer removal would be at the next BlightStat meeting.
Will Bowling of the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative asked about prioritizing Sheriff Sales. Jackie Whitlock asked about what follow up is done on properties after a Sheriff Sale? Mr. Hebert responded that there is a constitutional mandate for sheriff sales. The conversation then moved to tax sales where Ms. Brenda Breaux of the City’s legal department indicated that winners of tax sales get an “interest” in the property until the 18-36 month prescriptive period runs. It was further noted that the S.O.A.P. program (Sale of Adjudicated Properties) has not achieved its objective to reduce blight.
All of the City Departments are to be commended for their involvement of the public in the blight eradication process. The following representatives of City Departments were present at the meeting:
Oliver Wise who acted as moderator. Brenda Breaux and Tammie Jackson who represented the Legal Department. C. Elliot Perkins who represented the Historic District Landmarks Commission
Wes Taylor and Hillary Carrere represented the Environmental Health Department. Winston Reid and Kristin Philips were there for Code Enforcement. Cynthia Sylvain Lear represented the Sanitation Department. Other City executives present were Andy Kopplin, Jeff Hebert, Allen Square, Ann Duplessis, and Joyce Wilkerson.
A name tag and chair were set aside for Ed Mazoue of Property Management but that chair remained empty throughout the meeting which started at 8 a.m. and concluded at 10:30 a.m.
The certified judgment above is for the Faubourg St. John property at 1551 Mystery. Even though all of the steps were followed, fines assessed, and a judgment issued, the property remains a blighted nuisance that stands just outside the Mystery Street gate to the Fairgrounds. To add insult to injury, the owner of the property was enjoying homestead exemptions in both Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. 1551+Mystery+St._Dual+Homestead+Exemption (2)
The property at 1551 Mystery Street remains blighted despite significant efforts to get the owner to be a good neighbor.
The property was transferred to C. Philippi from A. Phillipi on July 27, 2010.
More information in the link below: