Article and photo by Charlie London
This was the thirteenth 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.
Oliver Wise began the meeting at 8 a.m. About 35 people were in the audience many who are employees of the City. Mr. Jeff Hebert praised the efforts of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association getting the blight at 1551 Mystery removed.
1,605 code enforcement inspections this bi-weekly period which far exceeds the goal of 1,200. Inspections may slow a bit during the summer months due to the emphasis on getting properties with high grass into compliance. Mr. Winston Reid (Code Enforcement) spoke of feeding the adjudication pipeline.
Mr. Oliver Wise spoke about the reconciled chart of inspections backlog. About 600 now. Needed to be reconciled due to technical issues. Mr. Reid noted that now we have a “good baseline to start from”.
Code Enforcement has cut into the backlog and are focusing on inspections with renewed vigor. There was a scattershot approach previously but now with new information available the department can focus on categories.
Mr. Andy Kopplin praised the efforts of code enforcement. Mr. Reid said the team made it happen.
Ms. Kristin Illarmo noted that the number of hearings is significantly below the target of 450 each bi-weekly period but added that there is slow but steady progress. 213 hearings this period with fewer resets. 52 work-in-progress resets. There were a larger number of “legal” resets. Ms. Illarmo said they are working with folks in good standing in state programs. The department now knows if the owner is actually waiting on Road Home money and if they are in good standing with the program.
Mr. Wise stated the numbers are encouraging.
Mr. Hebert noted that there is an uptick in work-in-progress resets and suspects people are starting to get the picture. Ms. Illarmo stated the city is expecting high standards of compliance adding that case managers know to be vigilant.
Ms. Brenda Breaux stated the new hearing officers will start May 16 through19 and will be involved in their first hearings then.
Ms. Illarmo expects a continued slow steady climb as case managers work to find a balance. The big hurdle is creating cases while holding as many hearings as possible. Streamlining forms and processes will help so everyone is literally on the same page.
Mr. Hebert noted that the City is calling on old case staff for advise on maximizing efforts to catch up on old cases.
Mr. Allen Square asked if the reports working in Accela.
Ms. Illarmo replied that the reports are working now as they should have from the beginning as of yesterday.
Mr. Square asked that his department be notified about any issues.
Ms. Illarmo said there is still a problem with photos not attaching in Accela. No solution yet.
Mr. Wise inquired about the hearings backlog and asked how close.
Ms. Illarmo replied that the data looks good but if the photos aren’t attached it slows the process. She will follow up with Eric on that.
Mr. Wise replied, “So, we are getting close.”
Mr. Square asked if inspections have a time limit. The Accela representative said they are working on 2010 inspections.
Accela appears to have been the stumbling block for quite some time.
Mr. Reid noted that a lot of stuff remains on paper due to technology issues. Have to check for duplicates due to multiple inspections.
Mr. Wise summed up and noted there are still a few issues – new case mgrs and hearing officers should reduce point of pressure.
Ms. Illarmo said, “We can hold 108 hearings a day but can’t produce 108 cases.”
Mr. Wise noted that Accela needs to work to make the process smoother.
In his usual succint style, Mr. Carrere noted that demos have hit their stride. He spoke of FEMA demolitions and that the city is trying to get as many demos as possible through FEMA.
He announced that another 154 unit complex off Chef Hwy near Michoud will be the next big demo project.
Ms. Alice Martin spoke about the demoliton of Louisiana Land Trust properties. Mr. Wise inquired, “Are these neighbor requests?
Ms. Martin replied that the majority are LLT identified demolitions.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson spoke about the phase 2 Sheriff sale which will feature properties in New Orleans East. The plan is to open bids in mid-June. Properties not posted yet.
Mr. Wise talked about the strategic demo pipeline. 21 demos in terms of properties. 29 units.
Do-not –demolish orders by the NCDC and the resulting appeals to the City Council slow the process.
Mr. Reid noted that re-development funds can be saved by getting as many properties as possible done via FEMA.
Mr. Paul May said that only 109 FEMA trailers are left in the city as of May 4th.
Mr. Andy Kopplin asked if the fines and and rent are enough to get properties in to compliance concerning FEMA trailers.
Mr. Paul May said the combination of hearings and the work of FEMA case managers will help rid the city of trailers.
Mr. Kopplin asked if the contractor doing lot clearings should be brought to the meetings?
Mr. Reid stated he is stressing quantity with quality of work to the contractor. Contractor has been managed and has let go of some sub-contractors.
Mr. Hebert noted that Keith is working hard to get lots cleared.
Mr. Kopplin said the contractor continues to be a problem. Now that subs are fired let’s give him a chance but make him earn his money.
Mr. Hebert asked – what about District A
Keith – all lots in District A and C
have been cleared.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear said they are working on a grant for four people to go to Philadelphia to see how lots are cleared there.
The Sanitation Department continues to work with NOPD dumping issues. The city got a call about Grant Street dumping. NOPD issued summons. Citizens need to continue to notify the city whenever dumping occurs.
Tires and trash in canals is building up. Ms. Lear said that citizens need to be reminded that motor oil dumped in storm drains goes to lake. June 11th is the next hazardous waste drop off day for the city. You can learn more at http://recycle.nola.gov
Mr. Wise asked, “The Quality of Life officers are getting complaints?”
Ms. Lear said yes and the tire dumping is getting worse. She said that on Washington and North Johnson a truckload of 200 tires was dumped. She asked that citizens lease stay vigilant. A tire shop can only have 20 tires at one time. If they have more than that in the shop it’s a sure bet they are planning to dump them.
Sgt. Dupre, the Quality of Life officer in New Orleans East said he is getting calls about dumping from the Kenilworth area. Tires get pushed off in the middle of the night. Tires are getting dumped in more populated areas.
Mr. Wise asked Mr. Miles Granderson about sheriff sales. Mr. Granderson said the pipeline continues with a consistent review and acceptance of properties for sheriff’s sale. He met with Mr. Wes Bayas and the Sheriff’s office. Mr. Bayas and he will get together an ad for the next Sheriff sale and a pdf of properties available will be sent to neighborhoods.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson suggested pooling resources for marketing efforts.
Ms. Brenda Breaux said, “Miles and Wes will send info to the neighborhood and community groups.”
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson suggested an education program for buyers about elevation requirements and the historic review process.
Ms. Brenda Breaux said potential buyers should also have information on how to get a clear title, etc
Mr. Wise asked, “Who runs the marketing for the Sheriff Sales? Eric Granderson said he does and that Wes will help.
Ms. Brenda Breaux stated, “Jeff and myself will serve as co-captains.”
Mr. Hebert noted that Wes and Miles have been designing everything.
Mr. Granderson continued and noted “one thing you’ll see we’ll be feeling out how often and when we should put properties up for sale to maximize outcome.”
Mr. Hebert asked, “How many hits do we get based on day of sale?”
Mr. Wise asked, “Are the sale addresses on the website?” Yes
Ms. Alice Martin said NORA and LLT closings are below target. A lot of issues with closings delayed due to financing. Purchase agreements are being terminated due to financing issues.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson suggested a survey to find out what the issues are. People are dropping out. A sobering statistic due to lack of construction financing.
Mr. Wise – very sobering. What do you suggest?
Ms. Wilkerson – Announce the sale but announce the city’s rehab program at the same time.
Ms. Lear noted that construction loans are hard to get now.
Mr. Hebert stated that the City does not have enough money to help with the Sheriff sale process. He also stated that financing is an issue throughout the entire United States.
Ms. Alice Martin announced that her baby is due Sunday. Ms. Illarmo suggested that eating crawfish speeds up the process.
Questions from the audience:
Property viewer should allow the “look up” of properties. 311 to be launched in September. 311 will be the first interaction for contact to City.
Check 311 for status. Operators will check property viewer first.
Hearing dockets are not posted timely due to reporting problems with Accela. Ms. Illarmo said items since February still need to be posted.
Mr. Square said posting to the city’s website is a protracted and difficult process. I screamed silently… WHY? Posting to the city’s website should be as easy as making a WORDPRESS entry. Apparently it is not.
Ms. Brenda Breaux read an excerpt from a City Business article about 21 properties that are being homesteaded. The occupants have the intent to possess. In order to do it correctly, people need to pay outstanding taxes and liens to obtain properties – NOLA Redevelopment is one such homesteading organization attempting to acquire properties by simply squatting on them.
Mow to own? Report coming up.
Mr. Granderson noted that possession is NOT ownership.
Mr. Hebert inquired about the definition of possession.
Mr. Granderson said that during possession the person can use the property but the owner still owns the property.
Ms. Breaux noted that an acquisitive prescription has a 3 year requirement but only after the property has a blight judgment against it.
Go to http://nolaassessor.com to find out about fines on a property.
Ms. Illarmo noted that the City’s Treasury Department only posts online once each year so blight judgments may not show up.
Abandoned pools – drain it, fill it, cover it up.. Mr. Paul May
Please click here to view the BlightStat13 slideshow
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117