Squandered Heritage Vintage

Non-Noticed demolition of Residential Structures

Over the last year that has felt like a million lifetimes we have come across a number of people who have had their homes demolished by the City.

It reminded me of a book I read a number of years ago, The House of Sand and Fog The premise of the book is that a woman loses her home because she ignored notices from the City that resulted in the seizure and sale of her home. At the time many people thought the initial premise was flawed. In our work Post Disaster I would suggest that the premise is not only believable but worse. The City does not even have the obligation to send notification via registered mail. They can just send a letter and as many of us know Post Disaster mail is not working as well as it should.

No Demolition

A number of property owners who have lost their homes have contacted us.

If your home was demolished without proper notification or against your wishes please e mail me.


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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • Laureen

    Address? I left a note on the Flickr of this photo but I realized should also bring it up here. According to 26-6(b) the language of the ordinance says ‘regular or certified mail’ suffices as proper notice pre-demo.

    Perhaps that should only say ‘certified’ in order to verify it has been recieved. The ordinanance can be updated based on cases like this.

    People who live here are well aware that the regular mail can go to a non-occupied residence which defeats the goal of notification for the homeowner. Proper notification is the biggest challenge we face.

    It’s important that owners have the right address on their tax records at the City level. It may be a hassle but the stakes are great.

  • BillygoatPark

    Has anyone tried to use the city’s online property database lately?

    Does it seem to anyone else that the website is becoming progressively more complex? Property information seems to be more and more geared towards enticing developers rather than serving citizens.

    Information about property conveyance history is now gone; now only the current tax bill and latest purchase is provided. All data bears a disclaimer that the information may be old or inaccurate. If the online database is not real-time, when was it compiled?

  • Julia

    If the lists of addresses already demolished includes last known address of the owner, AND if that address is the same as the property to be demolished, you can be pretty sure this will be a case of an owner who had a demo without notice.

    Just one way to run it down and find all of the people victimized by this assinine ordinance.

    In our case, our home was demolished, and yes I had sent our new address to the TAX OFFICE WHEN I PAID MY TAXES, NOT THE ASSESSOR (you would think the tax office would lift a finger to share that with whomever it needed to), but our demolished house is still not on any demolition list I’ve seen posted on the web. Makes you wonder just how many were really demolished out there and are unaccounted for.

    I would not be surprised if more than 80% of the demo without notices are displaced persons, many of them ignorant of these draconian and unconstitutional ordinances.

    And all the while the city cries “we want you back!”. It’s just talk, that’s all it is.

  • Julia

    A few more points:

    I don’t have to tell you this, but because New Orleans city government is such a perfect example of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing; it becomes even more dicey for the displaced trying to protect their rights.

    For example: our demolished duplex was purchased by me in my maiden name. However, my husband and I refinanced it TWICE jointly after that using my new legal name, my husband’s surname.

    Did the assessor’s office correct the name in the database, despite the refinance documents? No. Don’t we pay for all of those legal changes when we pay all of those fees at a property closing?

    So the home is (was) still listed in my maiden name, which I stopped using 10 years ago. We paid taxes on it for 10 years using our married surname as well.

    Now, if they were trying to notify us before the demolition (which they weren’t and they outright said they didn’t have to) this very fact might have prevented them from finding us.

    If the citizens are required to write letters to the assessors informing them of their new addresses, my question is this: why does the city not have this front and center on its website, considering that as much as 1/4 of the population is still missing?

    The city council answers to persons still in the city and them only. It is clear that there was no displaced person’s perspective being considered when these ordinances were written and discussed. Considering that half the city was displaced at one time, why is there no phone number for the displaced to call to find out what they need to be aware of to be in compliance and to nagivate the b.s. bureaucracy?

    It’s hard enough there in town. Imagine how it must be from afar when you receive little or no news of what is going on — what the laws are (and they change constantly).

    Like I said “come back, we want you” is nothng more than talk.

  • BillygoatPark

    Another distressing aspect of LSU/VA footprint is that the public is generally unaware that a neighborhood is being obliterated to make way for a PROPOSED development.

    In 2005, someone convinced the Regional Planning Commission to adopt the currently-considered footprint (S. Claiborne to S. Rocheblanve and from Tulane to Canal). None of the pre-Katrina hospital expansion or replacement plans called for the wholesale destruction of a residential area.

    There are acres of blighted commercial property, medical property and parking lots on the South side of Tulane, close to the existing University Hospital and VA. Why disenfranchise an entire neighborhood to provide more space to healthcare providers who have chosen not to utilize the lands and facilities already at their disposal.

    The community deserves to know who was the constultant who selected the currently-proposed hospital footprint. It deserves to know if the project consultations involved even the slightest hint of corruption or conflict of interest. If all project planning is found to have been open and honest, that would be wonderful. But is anyone even looking?

  • Laureen

    Julia, I am so sorry about your property. I try to do my best to push things toward improved processes because of cases like yours. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands in the air because we live in stupid-town. The right hand/left hand gap is real and it seems so simple! It’s really frustrating. There is no logic. But if I can get any information about your property’s mistake, then maybe we can prevent it from happening in the future.

    Again, there is no address on this post. What is the address of your property? I’d like to attempt find out more if we can look at the file about where the failure in communication and logic occurred. In my mind, one is too many of these errors. Managing this is a monumental hell, but we can’t give up. But I would need an address on your property to dig further. Who knows where it will lead? Draconian ordinances can be updated but we need to learn how to make them not so draconian. We are learning and crying as we go. Again, I share your lamentations!

  • Laureen,

    The photo had no relationship to Julia’s story.

    Julias’s house was up by the lake.