Some difficult weeks since our last meeting in December 2016. I wanted to get in touch on FB and later by email to give you an update since the Feb 2, 2017 Governmental Affairs Committee meeting that included an HDLC informational meeting, where we learned that Mr. Perkins’ HDLC presentation raises more questions and underscored exactly what the Parkview neighborhood has been questioning and trying to avoid: undefined, unlimited discretion of the HDLC to prevent alterations it deems not in “character” with buildings. (Links to the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting video are posted below, along with links to articles, the petition, etc).
My apologies about the length of this post, but I wanted to try and cover in detail so it was clear, and I let everyone know what we know so far, based on my experiences and opinion. I make no claim to be an expert. All of us on the volunteer Board and in our neighborhoods are working hard to stay on top of this.
As many of you are aware—and for those of you who are not aware or may have been told otherwise—Parkview residents, property owners and the volunteer Board members have worked hard to get clarity around the December 2016 events that led to our decision to opt out of the HDLC for now, until such time as the City does not change, define, re-define, alter, adjust, amend or put into place a definition of demolition that was not what the neighborhood voted for (this is what occurred at the December City Council meeting where a new proposed Ordinance to Change the Definition of Demolition was introduced at the end of the day, AFTER the historic district creation was voted on earlier). We also Opt Out of HDLC control for now, until such time we can be assured that these definitions cannot be altered or amended without the input and approval of the affected districts,
There are emails circulating that state that those of us on the Board and other neighbors are leaving our neighborhoods in danger of no protection. We are not and there is no one in any of our beloved neighborhoods wants rampant demolition. We are very aware that there are areas of the City (such as Uptown and Mid-City) that are struggling in this regard. We are working very hard to get accurate information and to share that information (which in this City can be very difficult), without using fear to drive a result.
The year 2016 was filled with surveys, emails, conversations, meetings and educational presentations regarding the creation of the proposed new historic districts. We know that each and every person who lives here in Parkview, City Park Triangle and the areas bordering the Greenway (that have been drawn into the proposed new historic district of Parkview) care deeply about their homes, our neighborhood and our neighbors, our property rights and our budgets.
We realized in December 2016 that there has been misinformation about the entire HDLC process beginning at our Parkview HDLC meeting in March 2016, leading up to the December 2016 City Council meeting where we learned that a change to the definition of demolition was introduced into the last City Council meeting of the year. We worked hard to get answers about this change and met with Cm. Guidry, who in turn brought in Elliott Perkins from the HDLC to our Parkview December 2016 meeting. She also arranged for Paul Harang, Mayor’s liaison to the City Council to meet with our Board—after our meeting with Mr. Perkins at the December meeting brought up even more concerns.
At our December Parkview meeting, Mr. Perkins let us know that the City had been working on a change to the demolition definition. The withdrawn definition included
• Removal or restructuring of more than 50% of exterior walls as measured contiguously around the building; • Removal of more than 50% of roof as measured in plain view; • Removal, restructuring, or relocation of more than 25% of interior non load-bearing walls or any interior load-bearing walls; or • Modification of more than 50% of front facing openings unless such work is determined to be a restoration by the staff of the Historic District Landmarks Commission.
*** Restructuring: Replacement of structural members with those of a different size or structural capacity.”
This new definition of demolition included interior load bearing and non-load bearing walls and exterior façade items that he had told us would not be controlled under HDLC back at our March 2016 meeting. After further debate at our December meeting, we realized from Mr. Perkins that the City intended to move forward with the change to definition, even though we told him this was not what Parkview had agreed to.
Since we were essentially being told that the City would not stop the change to the definition and would not be including Parkview and other districts in the drafting of a new definition (and no other recourse was offered to us by Mr. Perkins at that time), all residents in attendance at our December 2016 meeting voted unanimously to opt out of HDLC control until this could be resolved and the vote was made with Mr. Perkins and Cm. Guidry in attendance.
It was after this that Cm. Guidry also contacted Paul Harang, the Mayor’s liaison to the City Council, to address our concerns about the proposed Ordinance to change the definition of demolition introduced at the December City Council meeting. Mr. Harang let us know that this Ordinance should never have been introduced and he had the proposed Ordinance withdrawn. He took full responsibility for this mistake and said that he would not allow it to happen again under his watch. It was confirmed that the draft definition was being worked on by the HDLC without any public input. We also learned that it is our understanding a proposed Ordinance can be introduced and move forward at any time, with or without our input as property owners in the proposed historic district, or if it is introduced it can move forward and be voted on and a change could be implemented, whether we agreed or not. We were also left with the understanding that we cannot guarantee our neighbors that this would not happen again.
We have also confirmed from emails circulating in the neighborhoods that the HDLC was working on the new definition of demolition while the historic district study and creation process was in progress. This new demolition definition introduced at the December 2016 City Council meeting by Cm. Head, would have involved review of many exterior and interior changes that Elliott Perkins, Director of the HDLC, told us at our March meeting would not be reviewed under partial control-demolition only.
In our continuing round of phone calls and meetings in December and January, we have voiced to Mr. Harang and the City our concerns regarding the definition change. We need to ensure a way that the City administration and the HDLC Department in particular will not “change the game” without us, the citizens affected by the regulations, codes and definitions. I was told by the liaison that the NCDAC was expected to go away in 2018, as this first creation of historic districts had taken longer than expected, and as the City still needed to approach the other historic districts such as Gentilly, South Lakeview, etc. We understood this would allow Parkview time to work with the Administration regarding the demolition definition and we would have to remain under NCDAC review, and we have been told we would remain under the NCDAC if we were not under the HDLC. This was confirmed by both Elliott Perkins and Paul Harang.
I want to also let you know that all of us on the Board have asked for the City administration and other parties to remain in touch and let us know next steps. Getting anyone to call back or follow up with us in any kind of meaningful way has been difficult. In the meantime, I have shown up to meetings to voice our concerns about the process and to note that Parkview has requested to Opt Out of the HDLC at this time, but hope to be able to continue to work with the City and be involved in any revisions to the definition(s) or discussions about “discretionary” review of “constructive demolition”, a term only recently under discussion (at the GAC meeting).
Our Board has struggled to ensure that the original decision to become an HDLC with only whole house demolition control be implemented. Based on the fact that the City worked at drafting a change to the definition of demolition DURING the creation of the new historic districts, without seeking public review and input AND that Mr. Perkins let us know that the new definition would proceed without our involvement, we believed that the best way to ensure property owner voices were heard was by stopping the process to become a local historic district with HDLC oversight at this time.
GAC MEETING FEB 2ND
video link: http://www.nolacitycouncil.com/video/video_legislative.asp
I attended the February 2 Governmental Affairs Meeting, where an HDLC educational meeting was held (with less than 24 hours notice) and this is when I first learned that Parkview would still be moved forward to become a local historic district under HDLC oversight, without any outreach from the City or other staff to advise us they had changed their decision. This is where I learned that the Administration and HDLC were still working on changing/creating a definition for the existing demolition and constructive demolition on the books, without involving neighborhood input and approval in the draft process.
In this meeting, Mr. Elliot Perkins of the HDLC gave a presentation designed to assuage the concerns of various neighborhoods concerning the proposed expansion of HDLC jurisdiction over areas currently under the NCDAC. Unfortunately, Mr. Perkins’ presentation raised more questions than it answered and underscored exactly what the Parkview neighborhood has been trying to avoid: undefined, unlimited discretion of HDLC to prevent alterations it deems not in “character” with buildings.
PERKINS: “The current definition of demolition is the complete or constructive removal of a building. The piece that I think is important there is the constructive removal of the building…. It’s a more discretionary….It leaves in more open to the staff… to determine if this meets the standard for constructive removal.”
GUIDRY: “And what are the factors that you look at for constructive removal.”
PERKINS: “The percentage of building fabric being removed, and if the character and essence of the building is going to be retained.”
CITY COUNCIL MEETING THURSDAY, FEB 9TH
At the City Council meeting, I plan to ask the City Council to not include/remove Parkview from the HDLC again, delaying any vote to make Parkview an HDLC control district. We need to see that the City administration can first agree on the definition of demolition without changing it in closed-door meetings, without involving public input. My understanding is this is particularly problematic in the way this is being handled because the Administration has been engaged in this behind-the-scenes effort while in the process of creating historic districts under open meeting laws, because at this time, no one (including the council) knows what definition of demolition they are supporting. Even Elliot Perkins does not know what he is supporting as per his testimony/answers regarding the definition of demolition last week at the GAC meeting Feb 2. We need to be allowed to Opt Out until the definition of demolition is clear for all and not changeable by City administration and officials, as it important to protect property owners rights and the potential financial and time burdens this will cause.
Everyone has been fully engaged in the HDLC creation process to the best of their abilities. Existing districts would also be affected and I’m not sure they are aware this is happening. We, as residents, property owners and tax payers, would have preferred the City administration work with us regarding the proposed revisions to the City’s “demolition and constructive demolition” definitions, and how to ensure our rights are protected in future to restrict future changes to the definitions under the HDLC unless the property owners in the affected districts are involved.
This is why we continue to push to opt out of HDLC oversight until we can ensure the HDLC & city administration will not make far-reaching legislative changes that will affect property owners rights without their input.
SIGN THE PETITION
If you are in favor of our decision as a neighborhood and as property owners to OPT OUT of HDLC oversight, please sign the petition posted on Facebook and on the PNA website – if you have trouble accessing it through the FB or website, here is the link at Change.orghttps://www.change.org/p/parkview-neighborhood-association-…. Please leave a comment if you have any remarks you want delivered to the Council members or to the City administration.
OR WRITE AN EMAIL
No matter what side of the issue you are on, we support everyone’s right to ask further questions, to learn more about how these changes will affect your property rights and your neighborhood. If you cannot attend this Thursday’s City Council meeting, please email our City Councilmembers (cc the Mayor, the HDLC staff, the Mayor’s liaison, the Neighborhood engagement office), and let them know your questions and concerns.
If you support the decision to Opt Out of the HDLC, either entirely or until we can ensure we have a say in any changes to the regulations, codes or definitions with regard to oversight by the HDLC, please make that known to them. We believe that together we can make a difference and ensure the City works with residents and property owners.https://www.change.org/p/parkview-neighborhood-association-…
HERE’S THEIR EMAILS
It’s a drag to look up everyone’s emails – I know! Below are all the emails so you don’t have to dig for them (just copy and paste). All Council members will be voting on this, so they ALL need to be contacted.
ALL COUNCIL MEMBERS WILL BE VOTING ON THIS, SO ALL COUNCIL MEMBERS SHOULD BE INCLUDED.
CITY COUNCILMEMBER EMAILS:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Stacy Head; Jason Williams, Latoya Cantrell, Susan Guidry, Nadine Ramsey, James Gray, Jared Brosset)
TO INCLUDE ON THE CC LINE:
(Mayor Mitch Landrieu)
Director/Deputy of City Council Relations
(Paul Harang, Erin Spears)
(Elliott Perkins, Director HDLC)
Neighborhood Engagement office:
City Planning Commission:
(Robert Rivers, Exec. Director)
Last, I am sorry it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this draft together. We have all been working and trying to fit in meetings and calls. I have been reading back through old study committee minutes and HDLC reports, I have called the State, reached out to other neighborhood groups by phone, contacted someone at a preservation resource organization and generally been busy researching and getting advice and guidance on our situation. Our Board has been responding to any changes in the Administration’s stance as we can, around those pesky day jobs we all have. Because so much has changed based on who we have spoken to, which meeting we were at, or what we’ve learned in other communications, we’ve spent a lot of time running about trying to figure out what is going on. We’ll keep trying to do our best and if we discover that anything we have supplied in the way of information is incorrect, we will correct it as soon as possible.
On another note, we also know that Parkview homeowners are not the only property owners affected – we have next door neighborhoods that are included in the proposed new Parkview Historic District that are also trying to figure out what is going on, and we have trying to get word to them which is difficult as they are in different neighborhood associations and we have a limited number of volunteers. Historic districts and City regulations are not our day jobs, so we have been trying to tread carefully, look out for everyone and not be forced to comply with City code/regulations not originally agreed to in our neighborhood meetings. Everyone on our board is concerned, just as you are, that we do not make the wrong decision that will create major difficulties for anyone in future. We thank everyone for their support and encouragement as we sort this out.
This post is based on my experience and my understanding as a volunteer Board member and as a property owner in Parkview. This process and the ramifications are complex enough to warrant careful and full understanding. If I find out that I have posted something that is incorrect or needs further clarification, I’ll endeavor to do that as soon as possible. Thanks for listening. – Jamie Hill, Parkview