Part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery focused on demolition of damaged houses. The owner of this travel trailer suggested that demolition was not a the solution. Credit: Karen Gadbois / The Lens

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on the business side of The Lens. We have been fortunate to report on the community we all live in, and with your support we will continue to do so.

I continue to monitor land use issues, but for now I am taking a break from writing about them.

A break like this is a good time to look back at the roots of this part of The Lens.

Many of you know that The Lens was born from a blog called Squandered Heritage that I started in 2007. Some of you who don’t know that may find that confusing or inflammatory. It’s not meant to be confusing, but it certainly was meant to be inflammatory.

Post-Katrina, houses were being torn down around the city nonstop. Properties that could have been renovated were greenlit for demolition, and the city looked the other way — squandering its architectural heritage.

For seven years, in one way or another I have documented and reported on issues related to demolition, rebuilding and other land use issues.

“Land use” issues take shape in many ways. In one residential neighborhood, a property owner sought to build a helicopter landing pad. Later, the same owner later tried to rent property nearby for a cement batching plant.

In the midst of a frenzy of demolitions initiated by the city of New Orleans in August 2007, the city posted signs warning the demolition companies they had hired not to tear the buildings down. Credit: Karen Gadbois / The Lens

I also have written about houses being demolished when the owners were fixing them, as well as houses demolished after they had been sold by the city and the owners were fixing to fix them. Some have been torn down by the owners over the weekend, although they had only gotten a permit to paint and put up Sheetrock.

And then there are the houses with rickety, propped-up facades that remain standing, skirting the demolition review process. I haven’t written about those as much, not for lack of interest but because it happens all too frequently.

I’ve also written about the slow-moving creep of paved front yards. As people with more money move into the city, there are more cars and there’s more demand for parking. Our love of the car is outstripping our need to get serious about stormwater drainage.

I hope to continue to cover these issues when the time is right, but in the meantime I look forward to your emails about land use and demolitions. I hope you all subscribe to The Lens’ emails (story alerts and weekly digests) and if you can, please contribute.

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...