City inspectors have cited the house for 12 code violations. Picky, picky, picky!! Credit: Karen Gadbois

Housing code violations rarely advertize themselves with a giant billboard — not that high-profile messaging is any guarantee of swift enforcement.

A billboard owner applied a year ago for permission to demolish the house — at 2724 N. Claiborne Ave. — that cowers at its feet. Permission was granted but, as the anniversary of that decision draws near, nary a bulldozer has been seen. In fact, the house appears to have metastasized: a new structure now stands in the back yard, sheltering vagrants, neighbors say.   

The house was still more or less intact when photographed in July 2011.
The house was still more or less intact when photographed in July 2011. Credit: Preservation Resource Center

Late last week, inspectors revisited the property — which has collapsed,more or less completely — and duly noted 12 code violations, ranging from missing exterior paint to a “leaking roof.”

The demolition approved back in April 2012 was to have been federally funded. The only glitch was the billboard perched overhead and seemingly fused to the dilapidated structure.

The owner of the house is listed on city records as  “Industrial Outdoor Display,” and according to the assessor’s website the property has a hefty $17,000 in fines and fees attached to it.  

At the year-ago hearing, the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, which considers demolition requests, was approached, not by Industrial Outdoor Display, but by a representative of CBS Outdoor, the Metairie company that leases the advertising space. He expressed concern for the well-being of the billboard and requested that the city sign a letter promising not to damage it during demolition of the house.  

The relationship between Industrial Outdoor Display and CBS Outdoor was not clear.  

Vagrants dwell in a shack they have built on the property, neighbors say.
Vagrants dwell in a shack they have built on the property, neighbors say. Credit: Karen Gadbois

But take heart! A year later the city is close to reaching an agreement with CBS Outdoor.  

According to Kamblum Buckner, communications manager with the city, “the [demolition] contractor and billboard owner are hashing out a hold-harmless letter.” The discussions, which are being facilitated by the code-enforcement department, should be finished this week, he said.  

In the meantime, squatters have stripped construction materials from the collapsing house and used them to build a shed-like home out back, neighbors say.   

The city did not respond to questions about the occupied rear building. Nor did CBS Outdoor return calls seeking to determine who their landlord, Industrial Outdoor Display — the party that owes the city $17,000 in liens — might be.

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...