Demolition Man: Bringing The Data

Jan 12, 2008 by

Dear New Orleanians,

The city’s notification process for demolitions has been notoriously ineffective. Lists of Imminent Health Threat and Imminent Danger of Collapse properties are posted to the city’s website, and then disappear within days. The city has been hauled into federal court in two separate cases since Katrina because of its poor notification procedures for demolitions.

However, one should realize that the city’s failure to notify homeowners about pending demolitions is not due to a lack of information. In fact, the city has a bunch of information about demolitions, but they are – for whatever reason – wildly reluctant to release it.

I have obtained two lists of properties cleared by FEMA in December 2007 for demolition. I believe they have been compiled by a company called Beck Disaster Recovery (BDR), which has a contract with the city for property management of demolition properties. BDR has offices in 1515 Poydras, across from City Hall.

These lists are different than any other lists previously published, because it is a near certainty that these houses are targeted for demolition. They have already been cleared by FEMA as “eligible” for federal funding. Also, the raw numbers of properties (about 1400) matches closely with what has previously been announced as a total still to be taken down (about 1800, according to a FEMA press release from November).

We have seen these lists validated over the past few weeks, as Safety & Permits has assembled HCDRC agendas from them, and permits have been granted based on them.

Here’s what I have done – I have taken the simple raw lists of addresses and have bulked them up with all the information I could glean about a given property. I have added whether the property is HCDRC- or HDLC-eligible, and if it is HCDRC-eligible, whether or not it has yet come before the Committee. I’ve added previous demolition permit dates, a comparison of IHT status between the information on the original list (shown in column B) and what has been released publicly by the city over the last year. I’ve added damage estimates. Basically, if there’s any public information I could get about a property, I’ve added it to these lists (which I combined into one spreadsheet) [I have converted the spreadsheet into a Google document you may view here. -Loki].

So here’s a key of the information on the spreadsheet:
Date of release: date of the list on which the property appears. The lists were released on 12-13-07 and 12-19-07

File/WO#: I’m not sure what this is – I assume there are work orders for each property. This was on the original lists as received.

Type of demo: this is information that came with the lists. The types are IHT (Imminent Health Threat), IMA (Imminent Danger of Collapse), VOL (voluntary, i.e. homeowner-initiated), and there are a few noted as COMM (commercial, though this is not really a type of demo so much as a type of building). Imminent Health Threat demos are quite controversial, since there is no objective standard for what constitutes an Imminent Health Threat, and the notification process is poor.

Street number, street direction, street name, street suffix, ZIP code: these make up the address for the property

Demo permit? Demo permit date?: Whether or not there is a demo permit on the property, and the date it appeared in Safety & Permits’ system

12-31-06 damage assessment, 11-1-07 damage assessment, Dam assess incr above 70%?: City damage assessments, obtained from the city’s website. Also, whether the damage assessments were increased above 70% (presumably to avoid review by the Housing Conservation District Review Committee).

Review type: The demolition can be reviewed for its impact on the historic fabric of the city. The review can be either HCDRC (just the Housing Conservation District Review Committee), HCDRC & NatReg (property is within a National Register District, which could entitle it to review by the Historic District Landmarks Commission if its damage assessment is greater than 70%, under Section 26-10 of the City Code), HDLC (review by Historic District Landmarks Commission), or “No review” (outside all historic areas). I’ve done my best to determine this based on city-produced maps.

HCDRC review date: if the property has come before the HCDRC, this is the date it happened.

Extra review under City Code Section 26-10: if the property has a damage estimate over 70% and is within a National Register Historic District, it is entitled to extra review by the HDLC before demolition.

Imminent Health Threat (according to publicly released lists): The city has released various IHT lists since the beginning of the year. There was a partial list in March, a list with IHT and voluntary demos mixed together in July, and at least four different IHT lists since late September (only two of which are available on the city’s website). I checked the addresses on this latest list against those IHT lists.

Match col B & col Q: I then checked the IHT status from those publicly released lists against the status that was on this list when it arrived. They don’t always match, as indicated by “NO MATCH.”

GPS coordinates: these came with the original list

Owner: these were on the original lists.

Due to some of the methods I’ve used to compile information, occasionally I’ve had to split addresses into two rows. So sometimes a property which is a fourplex with an address like “932-34-36-38 Smith Street” will appear across two rows. I didn’t have to do that very much, but it did happen a few times. I apologize for any confusion.

I am not going to claim that this list is 100% correct. I’ve had to correct typos and clean up information as best as I can, but there are almost undoubtedly errors. Plus, I can’t necessarily vouch for some of the raw information, like ZIP codes and GPS coordinates. However, I feel it’s best to get the information out so that people can have something in hand, as well as understand the scope and breadth of the entire demolition effort.

I hope you find this useful.

Best regards,

Matt McBride

[Syndicated from the email -Loki] 

Related Posts


Share This