What’s the deal?

Trash thrown out by landlords

Trash thrown out by landlords

 

Unfortunately, the picture above is a common sight throughout the Garden District neighborhoods.  When a landlord evicts a tenant or cleans out the house after they leave, they deposit all the junk on the street and stick a For Rent sign back up in the yard.  In this particular instance, the trash has sat in front of the house for a week and a half (I took this picture a few days ago) and nothing has been done.  I passed by there today to see if it is still there and not only is it still there, it has been rifled through and is out all over the street now.  I have reported such incidents to the First Call program/Code Enforcement, only to be told that they are contacting the landlord to clean it up.  Contacting the landlord to clean it up??  If the landlord had an inkling to clean it up, they would have done so in the first place…dontcha think?  Are we giving these guys too many chances?

According to the Alexandria City Ordinances,
Sec. 26-95.  Certain apartments and single-family residential rental units, etc.
Multifamily, duplex, and single-family residential unit owners shall be responsible for hauling away all trash, clothes, debris, etc., when a unit is vacated and cleaned out due to a move, eviction, or abandonment by the owner and/or tenant. If trash and debris is placed in front of the multifamily, duplex or single-family unit, a fee of three hundred dollars ($300.00) per trailer load or partial load thereof picked up shall be charged. No utilities shall be turned on at the multifamily, duplex, or single-family residential unit until the charges are paid in full. If the charges are not paid in full, a lien will be placed on the property.
The city shall service only small business customers such as offices. This service will continue on the basis that the business does not generate too much garbage where a dumpster is required. The city will determine if the business generates too much garbage and shall have the option to discontinue curbside service and require that the business obtain a dumpster or an alternate type of service.
(Code 1956, § 13-6; Ord. No. 48-1979, § 1, 4-17-1979; Ord. No. 29-1997, § 1, 2-11-1997; Ord. No. 235-2005, § II, 8-2-2005; Ord. No. 201-2006, § II, 6-20-2006)

I wonder if this ordinance is enforced?  I would assume that the above situation is why the city has a department called Code Enforcement.  I wonder if the city really does cite the landlords with ordinance violations?  I thought that it wasn’t getting enforced because no one was reporting it.  However, I have reported several incidents and all that ever seems to come of it is that eventually the city comes and picks the stuff up.  Although I am glad to see it gone, I still feel that the landlord should be held responsible and/or the cost passed on to him/her.  It seems to me that if this particular ordinance was enforced and the landlord made to pay, a landlord would think twice or even thrice about doing it again.  Especially if it costs $300.00 a trailer load!  Also, does the city really place a lien on the property and not turn on utilities?  I would speculate and say probably not.  So does the city pick it up at their own expense and thereby send a signal to the landlord that this behavior is ok?  I don’t mean to be arbitrary here…but if a landlord is in the rental business, hauling off the junk or renting a dumpster temporarily should be factored into the cost of operating that rental business!

I am presently investigating how to fill out a public records request.  I have called and asked the code enforcement people and they claim to not know.  If anyone knows what the process is to get copies of public records, I would appreciate any info.  Later on, I want to check and see if this landlord (and others I have been tracking) are receiving violations or not.  That would indicate whether or not this ordinance is being enforced.  Do I think it will fix the problem?  Not entirely, but let’s say one landlord owns 10 properties in the area and he starts receiving citations with fines and cannot rent his/her properties until the fines are paid, I think he would think again about putting stuff out on the curb and therefore 10 properties just got cleaned up.

The city really should be able to recoup their funds expended on picking this stuff up.  Think of all the money that would be saved if the landlords in the area would get charged to pick up all this junk instead of the city doing it for free.  Also, if a lien was put on the property and a new tenant was not allowed to turn on utilities until the fine is paid, that would force the landlord to pay them.  Otherwise he/she will not receive any income on the property until the lien is satisfied.  I think that by enforcing this ordinance, it will better curb some of the rampant bad behavior landlords in the area have.

Just a suggestion on saving the city money and also for cleaning up our neighborhood.

Historic Designations Explained

In answer to my question:

Thank you for your comments. They are always welcome. I am not trying to put all of the blame on the commission for failure to act, I am just asking why some properties are advocated for and some are not. Shouldn’t it be fair?

Lamar White, Jr. answers and explains as follows:

Andrea, in both instances– the Armour building and the Cotton Brothers Bakery Building– the advocacy began when individuals connected with those projects alerted the commission to act. This did not occur with 2401 Monroe Street.

But I must remind you that the Armour building is, in no way, a done deal. Although it has certainly gained a lot of attention (in large part because the non-profit that owns the building was seeking to use federal money, which required public attention), the situation has not materially changed. The City is doing what it can do– coordinating with the EPA, etc.– but ultimately, we’re all in need of preservation partners– other governmental agencies, non-profits, and private developers who are better suited to tackle this type of renovation and preservation project.

Regarding the ordinances: I understand the commission is in the process of drafting a new set of ordinances, and we are also looking into best practices from other municipalities.

But I think you may have some confusion about what, exactly, an historic declaration means. Believe it or not, the designation does not protect a property from demolition, even if it is on the National Register. The designation does, however, allow the property owner to enjoy the benefits of certain targeted tax credit programs.

For the most part, only a property owner can submit a property for consideration on the register.

Now, that said, there is a difference between a property being singled out as significant and an entire neighborhood being called a “historic district.” The HDPC can advise on the boundaries of any historic districts, but ultimately, the City Council must approve their recommendations. Again, currently, the HDPC does not have the authority to issue certificates of appropriateness. In fact, currently, the City does not issue certificates of appropriateness at all; there simply isn’t a mechanism in place yet.

I agree that the current ordinances are a little confusing.

Advocacy begins on an individual level– with people like you and your neighbors.

I hope that clears up some confusion. Let me know if there are any other questions I can answer.

Thank you Lamar for clearing that up.  I appreciate your time.  As always, I welcome accurate information and stand to be corrected. 

Andrea Warren

Town Talk Editorial 7-23-08

This is beautifully said.  This editorial was written with both sides of the facts appreciated.

“Our View: History and Hope ride with house (Town Talk 7-23-08)

The 19th century house that was cut apart, loaded onto a trailer and carried out of the city of Alexandria to farmland south of town is a slow-moving metaphor. It says a lot about where the city once was and where it is.

A little over two weeks ago tree crews removed a stand of tall trees and thick shrubs that blocked the view of the house from commuters on Monroe Street.

House movers then lifted the gables from the roof and, seemingly overnight, cut the Queen Anne-style house into pieces — porch and all — and loaded them onto flatbed trailers for the ride to their new home not far from Louisiana State University at Alexandria.

By Tuesday, the lot at 2401 Monroe St. still had a garage-apartment on it and part of the main house, but the site looked more vacant than it has since the house was built in 1898.

It’s a big change in a neighborhood that has seen a sea change.

Once, Monroe Street was far friendlier than it is today. Though still primarily a residential area from Texas Avenue to Bolton Avenue, Monroe Street is home to more than modest people in modest homes. Crime lives here, too, mostly in the form of drugs, prostitution and domestic violence.

It wasn’t always that way.

If you’re memory is long, you recall a very different Monroe Street. Some of it is still there. You can see it, if you look closely.

Big wooden houses with wraparound porches, high arched windows and ornamental wrought iron dot the street and the neighborhood. Some are well-maintained, defying the decay that is right next door. Others have fallen into disarray, but their “bones” are still good.

The good news for the house that has been moved is that it will be reborn on a lush piece of farmland, and it will look as if it has been there since day one. It will fit nicely with the surrounding properties, including Inglewood Plantation, the Hard Times house, Schoolhouse Cottage, Matt’s Cabin and the recently moved and remodeled Bennett House, now a residence, and Bennettville Store, now an artist’s studio. Hope thrives here and in the fields along the Old Baton Rouge Highway.

That’s in stark contrast to the urban neighborhood known as Monroe Street. It, too, has a rich and storied history, but it is a little short of hope these days.”

SPARC

I think that this can be a good thing for our town.  We need to invest in our city’s future.  This can only be good for revitalization to our older neighborhoods.  If you would like to read the full SPARC plan, click here:  http://www.thetowntalk.com/assets/pdf/DK111786629.PDF

My favorite thing about this is that it suggests mixed income housing, beautifying gateways into the city (landscaping, signage, etc.), beefing up public transportation, and, lastly: “We need to preserve our parks, our recreational activities, and our neighborhoods.”

Double thumbs up!

What needs to be done?

I am quite curious.  I received a lot of comments from people saying that Monroe Street is a blighted area, blah blah, they would not live here blah blah and it will never see an urban renewal and something needs to happen.  So then, what is your plan?  Tell me about it.  I would love to hear it.  It seems like over the last 20 years or so the general consensus has been to stand around and say something needs to be done but no one has stood up to do anything yet.  I am not from here.  I am from New Orleans.  I have lived in Alexandria less than two years.  We advocate for our neighborhoods and try to protect and preserve what we have left.  So, all of the ones out there who think I am crazy, what is your plan of action?  To let the neighborhood rot?  Ignoring it and moving on is better?  Is that a better plan than what I am trying to do?  Just curious.  I just wonder why I have received negative attention for trying to do something positive in a blighted area.

What is the purpose of having a commission?

I am left scratching my head and wondering what the function of the HPC is if “There [is] nothing we could have done, should have done or plan to do.” (Town Talk Article 7-19-08, remarks by Ed Crump, President of the HPC) regarding the home that was moved from 2401 Monroe Street. According to the Historic Preservation’s Website, a description of what the HPC is supposed to be doing for our city is:

What We Do

The purpose of the commission is to preserve the unique architectural character of our [Alexandria’s] older buildings and neighborhoods.

Why Its Important

Older buildings and neighborhoods are our physical link to this community’s cultural heritage. Preservation of our historic structures insures Alexandria will retain its unique architectural and cultural identity for the future. By celebrating that identity we engender pride in our community and become a place where more people will want to live and work.     

 Do you think what was done at 2401 Monroe Street helped Alexandria retain its unique architectural and cultural identity for the future? No. The house was moved outside of the city limits. Therefore Alexandria LOST a piece of its identity and unique architectural and cultural identity. Do you think what was done at 2401 Monroe Street helped engender pride in the community and helped Monroe Street become a place where more people will want to live and work? No.

 If there is nothing they could or should have done, then why do we even have a commission? We are wasting taxpayer money.  Supposedly, there was nothing they “could or should have done” about the Bus Station on Bolton Avenue or the Armour Building.  However, they did it anyway.  My last question: What then, pray tell, is the function of the HPC? To allow their commissioners to move historic homes out of the Alexandria city limits further blighting an area of Alexandria? Isn’t that counterproductive?  To pick and choose which projects they want to work on?  I believe that the HPC has been commissioned to protect the assets of the city.  ALL of the city, not just the parts which they deem need preservation.  In this instance they have failed at their duties. 

People say they would never live on Monroe Street.  That’s fine.  Don’t.  I have three things to say then: 1) Don’t come around and make it worse; 2) Don’t allow people to come in and remove what we have left; 3) Don’t criticize people for standing up for their neighborhood and trying to make it a better place.  The issue here is not whether or not you want to live here.  The issue is that the Historic Preservation Commission is acting insincere in advocating for some projects in parts of the city, but not for all.  Also, for turning a blind eye when one of their commissioners moved this house because this commissioner did not want to live there or thought that someone else would not want to live there.  I DON’T CARE whether you want to live here or not.  So, just because you don’t want to live here, it is ok to further destruct and devastate the area?  The rules only apply when you think they should apply?  That is absurd and defies logic.  It is the same as saying I only kinda broke the law.  Or, I kinda passed the test.  Or, the rules don’t apply to me because the area is blighted.  Always justifying actions.  My parents used to tell me that if you have to sit down and try to justify your actions, you are basically trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, you need to go back and see what your intentions were…chances are, they were not honorable and you need to reevaluate your actions.  I think the same theory applies here.  The HPC needs to reevaluate who they are, what they are supposed to be doing and advocate fairly for all areas of Alexandria.

Town Talk Article 7-19-08

Wow….I am completely blown away by the article in the Town Talk http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080719/NEWS01/807190348/1002 this morning.  It appears that the TT was just trying to fill space and either cut this article down quite a bit, or just threw out a couple random tidbits in this house moving saga.  I am completely disappointed that there were not any preservation facts contained in it and, further, they have the President of the HPC as commenting that this whole thing is a “non-issue”.  And that is who is leading the way for preservation in our city.  Thanks a lot.  (For the whole story, read from the bottom of the blog up.  I also posted links to the other side of the story)

Part of the HPC’s function within the City of Alexandria is advocating for and helping blighted neighborhoods.  Not, helping or allowing people to buy our historic buildings and move them outside of the city limits.  By recent survey, over 80% of our historic buildings in Alexandria are now gone.  When are we going to wake up?

I am totally disgusted.  I am going to go have some coffee and write some more letters.  😀

Andrea Warren