BlightStat 12

Article and photo by Charlie London

Click here to view a PDF of the
April 21, 2011 BlightStat presentation slides

This was the twelfth BlightStat meeting where the public was invited to attend.

The City continues to march toward its goal of eradicating 10,000 blighted properties within three years. City departments that can help with this process meet every two weeks for a “BlightStat” meeting.

Goals have been set for each department and a presentation is made at each meeting to show how each department is doing toward meeting those goals.

Ms. Brenda Breaux began the meeting and spoke about NOLA Redevelopment, a company who is attempting to improperly use the acquisitive prescription process on Bellaire Drive in Lakeview.

Ms. Breaux outlined the acquisitive prescription process. Some of the details include fencing of the property, public notification of intent to acquire, and a sign on the property noting the intent to acquire. Ms. Breaux noted NOLA Redevelopment is in violation and the city is considering legal action.

Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear urged those residents who have yet to sign up for curbside recycling to do so immediately. 5,000 recycling cars have been delivered and recycling pickup is schedule to begin May 2nd.

No storage? You can use the old blue bins but you still have to register so they know where to pick up. Ms. Lear indicated the recycling program will yield cost savings for the city. For more information or to register for recycling pickup, please visit the City’s website at this link —> For those who prefer to do business by phone please call (504) 658-3800 to register for recycling pickup.

Inspections. Mr. Winston Reid announced that most of the problems preventing forward movement have been solved. He further stated that Code Enforcement personnel are “ in rhythm” with old cases and new cases . Covering sweeps. Concentrating sweeps around blight and marketable areas. Safe zones.. schools and a 5 block radius around schools. Demolition inspections. Feels comfortable that they have hit rhythm.

Mr. Oliver Wise indicated that the backlog report is currently unavailable due to IT problems. He further stated that the Geopin system in effect but not working presently. IT problems continue to thwart progress. Geopin is better than address but a technological failure is preventing progress.

Mr. Allen Square – Accela is randomly assigning geopin. Part of the problem is data entry.

Mr. Winston Reid indicated backlog is being aggressively worked and that his team has worked around technical difficulties.

Mr. Andy Kopplin – The new system is an easier system but didn’t work. Will be returning to old system until problem is fixed which will slow the process.

Mr. Oliver Wise stated that duplicate addresses are hurting efficiency. Different case numbers assigned to same address. Intake Mgr to address – could be data entry problem or technical problem.
CEHB – new case type was duplicating another case code. Ms. Kristin Illarmo said this feature is useful as the CEHB outcome leads to hearing. Road Home cases don’t go to adjudication so it won’t have CEHB.

Sweeps and complaints are overlapping so duplicate case numbers get assigned. – Kristin Illarmo

Inspection scheduling to help reduce duplicate assignments. Mr. Allen Square stated a formal address layer with drop down tabs should help prevent duplicates. Mr. Square mentioned this at the last meeting as well noting that the feature will be available some time in the future.
Ms. Illarmo added that wireless entries can help with duplicates if feature is used.

Mr. Reid suggested that the address should pull up as you type. Computer system is slowing report process. System is not efficient. When the system says the report is successful, the inspector moves on to the next property but sometimes the report is not successful. This results in inspectors having to inspect properties multiple times.

Mr. Jeff Hebert asked that inspectors log problems and send them in.
Hearings. Ms. Illarmo noted her team is still encountering challenges. Staff adjustments have been made to streamline the“factory”. Personnel changes as well.

Ms. Illarmo further noted that the coming weeks should show improvement in the number of hearings. Notice of hearing and notice of judgment IS working in the system as of yesterday. She mentioned that there is an extra level of review when reports don’t work. Reports, letters, and notices have to be done by hand when the system doesn’t work. Reports had to be changed due to merger of the Code Enforcement Department and the Environmental Health Department. Names and types of reports had to be changed. Accela generates a report when it works.

Silver lining to challenges– staff changes will allow major streamlining . Additional clerical help will help move process along. Mr. Hebert and Mr. Square worked together to help solve problems in the system.

Ms. Illarmo further stated that her team is creating a new work flow in Accela due to the department consolidation and this put the process behind. The goal was March 31st but has not happened yet.

Mr. Square – reports for work we were doing. Accela Vice President was present at the request of the city and is committed to getting the system working properly.

Mr. Russell Ardon – IT dept – The Accela system was generating the wrong info. The Accela team was collecting the wrong specs for reports. They have since been fired and a new team is generating specs – Accela team was generating specs for reports.

Mr. Square – Was this a data mapping issue?

A representative from Accela noted that the previous Accela team skipped steps and did not thoroughly test. He further noted that of the 12 reports in question, 9 have been fixed and they are vigorously working on the last 3 which should be in production by the end of today. “Process discipline to fix process” – Dave Margalett VP for Accela

Accela has been around since 2003. Mr. Wise inquired about the missing backlog from hearings. Asked why?

Ms. Illarmo said report doesn’t exist yet – is in test form but not yet in production.

Mr. Wise asked, “Accela is capable of generating backlog report?”

Ms. Illarmo – yes – mentioned that multiple entries by people are adding to problem – internal training issue . Inspectors are opening a sweep case when the case should not be opened at all because it has already been inspected. Accela should not accept a duplicate entry.

Mr. Wise noted that user and training are issues. A crummy list is better than no list. Ms. Illarmo – we are using the system.

Mr. Andy Kopplin – is that one of the 3 problem reports? Kristin – NO – staffer is helping with Accela reporting problems. We can all meet to devise what is the best way to attack the problem.

Mr. Andy Kopplin – “The IT problems are uninspiring and deeply frustrating” Everything depends on the effectiveness of our tool. We are stressing Accela’s resources. Accela fired previous people and now have a new team. The City is pressuring the contractor to get it right. Headache for everyone. Accela is committed to making it work.

A gentleman in the audience made a testimonial for Accela and indicated he was in Code Enforcement for 14 years.

Mr. Andy Kopplin – both City and Accela want the process to improve. There was a 3 week crash of the system.

The Mayor is putting pressure on departments to get organized and moving.

Ms. Kristin Illarmo– lot of conditional guiltys and ” work in progress” resets – partner to produce less guilty judgments.

Mr. Hebert – stats may indicate people are trying to bring properties into compliance.

Demolitions. Mr. Carrere gave the shortest report of the day which lead to applause from the audience. He simply stated, “There is an uptick in demolitions and we are going in the right direction.”

Mr. Reid noted that properties are moving through pipeline quicker. Members of Code Enforcement are working with the contractor and meetings taking place often. Mr. Hebert is asking for the process to move along.

Ms. Alice Martin – NORA demo – LLT doing demolitions.

Mr. Wise – pipeline – increase of 43 for new guilty judgments. Historical review denied 200 of 600 demolitions this bi-weekly period. 70 or so cases removed from the demo program for various reasons.

Mr. Wise read the stats on strategic demo status.

Mr. Reid noted that the City is demolishing a lot of commercial properties due to people complaining that they don’t want to bring their businesses into blighted commercial areas.

Mr. Hebert introduced Dean Wolcott and Dean McAller of FEMA. FEMA has approved properties for demolition. 910 properties available with FEMA funding to demolish. 90 are exempt from historic review because they are not in historic districts – doing those first. There will be a notice in the Times Picayune newspaper next week notifying property owners. Demos to start June 1st.

Others to go thru NCDC and HDLC – as final judgments get passed more will get demolished.

Mr. Hebert – working on commercial properties in New Orleans East. Would like FEMA to take care of these as they should have previously.
Mr. Wise– FEMA trailers remaining – Paul May noted as of April 13, 2011, 145 FEMA trailers remain to be picked up. Goal is 50 every two weeks. Trailer hearing docket not on website. Is supposed to go up today.

Ms. Breaux noted that new Hearing Officers will be approved by the City Council May 2nd – should be working by May 25th.

Lot clearings – Mr. Keith Ferralou – moving along.

Mr. Read – public relations – Need signs in areas being worked by Code Enforcement noting code enforcement is here. Encourages people to get their properties fixed up.

Sheriff’s sales – Mr. Myles Granderson stated that 60 is the number of petitions to be filed each bi-weekly period. Starting this week Tyler and
Mr. Myles Granderson are responsible for getting files ready. The work for Ms. Brenda Breaux and Mr. Channing Warner. Focusing sheriff sale properties around 5 block radius of schools and parks. Hoffman Triangle folks fixing up after code enforcement sweep and sheriff sale.

“Better quality information is getting to the legal department” – Mr. Andy Kopplin

Mr. Granderson stated that on starting June 2nd 20 properties will be available for sale. 28 set for 14th Significant amount going to Sheriff sales.

Mr. Breaux reiterated the policy concerning blighted properties purchased via Sheriff sale– 90 days after the sale the property is inspected. Sherriff sales are in the Times Picayune newspaper. Ms. Breaux noted that the Legal Department is working with the Office of Neighborhood Engagement so neighborhoods will know what properties are available.

2nd hour of sheriff sales to be dedicated to City of NO properties.

Some people are paying the liens to keep the property from going to Sheriff sale, but not necessarily fixing the property.

Mr. Hebert – Does the Sheriff post signs on the property? Can the city do that? Need notice on property.

Ms. Lear noted that neighbors are still talking about the signs put up for the last Sheriff sale indicating that advertising on the properties does work.

Mr.Reid asked if a deposit based on the value to fix blighted property could be assessed when the property purchased at a Sheriff sale? Those that don’t fix the property would then lose their deposit.

Mr. Granderson indicated that the City cannot legally do that presently.
Mr. Alice Martin- NORA reducing backlog on closings.

94 NORA properties put up at auction. Most sold above appraised value. A few did not sell and NORA is working with high bidders to get properties moving. Mostly individuals who purchased at the auction. Inspected 90 days then 270 to make sure work is in progress. 86 sold.

Mr. Kopplin noted that the handholding days are over. Purchased NORA properties will be inspected and put back into Code Enforcement if they do not comply.

Ms. Alice Martin noted that NORA has the Right of Reversion if the purchaser does not comply. Individuals at the auction were mostly interested in properties with structures .

Mr. Kopplin noted that NORA cleaned the properties for sale and picked the best properties to sell in the most active real estate markets.

Ms. Alice Martin noted that it was purposeful auction. NORA targeted the properties that had the most inquiries and that were located in the strongest real estate market.

Mr. Kopplin – how fast is market going to rebound . Work with Jeff. Jeff said Alice and he were working on strategy to get properties sold just last night.

Mr. Brad Vogel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation asked, “Will the city seek donations for historic properties?” Ms. Breaux said, “the City doesn’t want to be in the business of managing real estate”. The City’s Property Management Department does leases for the city and manages city occupied property but not residential properties.

Michelle Thompson, an Assistant Professor of Planning and Urban Studies at UNO asked if the city will provide a summary of properties sold at auction for the 86 properties sold at the recent aucton. Ms. Thompson has been working on a data mapping project at the University of New Orleans for over 5 years. The project can be seen at

A card submitted by a member of the audience inquired, “What is the breakdown of ownership of the 43,000 remaining properties… How many does the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) own? * 325 * The Louisiana Land Trust owns another 3,900.

If the property is blighted and we have a judgment of blight we move to Sherrif sale. – Ms. Breaux

Mr. Hebert noted that neighborhoods are asking for a maintenance program on blighted properties.

A card from the audience noted that NCDC denies a lot of demos. Mr. Carrere said NCDC does move stuff along. In a recent meeting several LLT demos ended in a “no action” vote. All will go to City Council on appeal.

200 of 600 properties in this biweekly period were denied under review (NCDC HDLC SHPO)

Another card from the audience asked, “SOAP1 properties given to 501c3’s but not fixed up. What to do?” Ms. Breaux will investigate.

BLIGHTSTAT MEETING (every 2 weeks)
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff

WHEN: Thursday, May 5, 2011
8:00-9:30 AM CST

WHERE: 1340 Poydras Street
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117

BlightStat Meetings
Nov 4, 2010 | Nov 18, 2010 | Dec 2, 2010 | Dec 16, 2010
| Jan 13, 2011 | Jan 27, 2011 | Feb 10, 2011 | Feb 24, 2011 |
Mar 10, 2011 |
March 29, 2011 | April 7, 2011 | April 21, 2011

About the author
Charlie London
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