Article and photos by Charlie London
The ancients believed that there were Seven Heavens which related to the seven observable planets in our solar system. The City of New Orleans is working diligently to eliminate blight. Citizens hope their efforts are successful and that thoughts of blight will eventually be sent off to the heavens.
Today’s BlightStat meeting was the 7th meeting where the public was able to attend and comment. Attendance doubled from the last meeting with approximately 60 public visitors in the audience.
Ms. Plyer noted that blight is the direct result of population loss. The city currently has only 15,200 more jobs that it did during the oil bust of 1987. Ms. Plyer further stated that the city has received 9 million dollars in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money as one-time disaster funds to demolish buildings. She noted that is not a lot of money because at a cost of 5,000 to 10,000 dollars per structure to demolish, that equates to money to demolish 900 to 1,800 structures.
Hopefully, most of the over 40,000 blighted properties can be brought back into commerce. The reality is that in low income areas with low priced housing, the only people who will invest there are slum lords and speculators. The economics of rebuilding the property just don’t work in these areas. The low income, low priced housing areas are the most likely to have structures needing to be demolished… and, there are a lot more than 1,800 of them.
The key tipping point as to whether a property will be brought back into commerce is where the construction cost is equal to or less than what the ultimate appraised value will be.
Mr. Winston Reid continued the meeting. He stated that blight sweeps continue to be performed around schools. He noted that there is a huge backlog of inspections to be done but during the period of Jan 24 – Feb 4 that backlog was reduced from 803 to 779.
Ms. Kristin Philips noted that 328 hearings were held during this reporting period. She stated that hearing numbers continue to fall short of the goal of 450 per reporting period due to staffing constraints. She also warned that hearing numbers for February will likely be dismal as Code Enforcement moves into its new offices on the 11th floor of the Amoco Building.
Long before “the storm” New Orleans had a significant amount of blight.
Ms. Philips noted that the idea of the fines is to encourage people to bring blighted properties into compliance. However, once levied, the fines are rarely paid.
She further noted that the fines are generally waived if the property is brought into compliance. At this point Stanley Cahn of Lakeview loudly stated that this practice is illegal. Ms. Philps replied that this practice is their current policy. She went on to say that Code Enforcement is not a revenue generator but an enforcement arm.
A discussion ensued about blighted properties being used by homeless and those with nefarious intentions. It was announced that Stacy Koch is the Homeless Coordinator and will be addressing the problem of vagrants and squatters.
Sgt. Palumbo, one of N.O.P.D.’s Quality of Life officers, asked about coordinating crime hot spots with blight inspection sweeps. Andy Kopplin said this is in the works and will begin in two weeks.
Ms. Sylvain-Lear reported that the Sanitation Department is still working in the areas of Almonaster and the 9th Ward to clear debris and tires. She noted that the Sanitation Department is working with volunteer groups and made a major announcement… The City of New Orleans will be working with the Keep America Beautiful foundation and will be meeting with that group on February 17th at 1:30pm. She further announced that New Orleans will be the recipient of the Great American Cleanup campaign in 2012.
Click here to see info about the 9th Ward blight sweep on Nov 2nd, 2010.
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 1 held on November 4th, 2010
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 2 held on November 18th, 2010
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 3 held on December 2nd, 2010
Click here to see photos of the Fight the Blight Day held on December 11, 2010.
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 4 held on December 16th, 2010
To view the January, 2011 City Planning Commission newsletter, please CLICK HERE
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 5 held on January 13th, 2011
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 6 held on January 27th, 2011
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 7 held on February 10th, 2011
BLIGHTSTAT MEETING (every 2 weeks)
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
WHEN: Thursday, February 24, 2010
8:00-9:30 AM CST
WHERE: 1340 Poydras Street
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117