My neighborhood organization alerted me to the fact that a bunch of properties in Mid-City were coming up for code enforcement hearings. I noticed that 3016 Bienville was on the list. (I wrote a letter to Code Enforcement about this property back in April.) My neighborhood organization further advised me that “the city is more likely to take action against negligent owners if neighbors appear to testify.”
So I decided that I would testify. But first I had to appear, and that was trickier than I expected.
For one thing, properties are not scheduled for a specific time. Rather there is a designated period for a bunch of properties, running three hours or so, with no clue as to when a specific property will be heard.
Also, one little piece of information was missing in the message from my neighborhood organization, namely the location of the hearing. I didn’t realize this until I was almost headed out the door.
Hmm, well, surely it’s at City Hall, I thought to myself. So I jumped on my bike and rode down there. Locked up the bike. Removed my belt. (I always have to remove my belt when I go to City Hall in order to get through the metal detector.) Once inside the security checkpoint I looked at the directory and realized that Code Enforcement was actually at 1340 Poydras.
So I rode my bike over to 1340 Poydras, only a block away, and took the elevator up to the eleventh floor, where I wandered aimlessly like a lab rat for a while until someone asked me if I needed help. Oh, the code enforcement hearings? They’ve been moved to the Sheriff’s office. First time they’ve ever had them there.
And so it was that I found myself riding up Poydras to Broad Street. After a bit of tomfooolery involving the Broad Street overpass I finally found the correct building. I had to knock on a locked door to be admitted from the sidewalk, and I brought my bike right in with me. By this time I was about to melt from the heat and nearly delirious and just grateful to be out of the sun. I was in a large room with all kinds of people sitting around waiting.
I was late, and the hearing period was well underway. I checked in with a couple women sitting at a table in some sort of official capacity; they assured me that 3016 Bienville hadn’t come up yet. Luckily a guy I know from the Lakeview neighborhood organization was sharp enough to notice that they were wrong, that the hearing for this property had just started. I was ushered to an alcove around the corner where a couple of judges were sitting and talking to a contractor. Also at the table: my hero Karen Gadbois.
The judges asked for my testimony. I said something along these lines:
I live just around the corner from this house. I have here a couple of photos which I took myself. This first one is from 2007.
And this one was taken just a short time ago.
As you can see, nothing has changed except the weeds are taller. The front door is still standing wide open, and all the flooded furniture is just sitting there rotting.
So when I heard this property was on the docket, I decided I wanted to come down here and say that something needs to be done. It at least needs to be boarded up, and whoever is responsible needs to be held to account.
The contractor said he was working on the house now, that he’d put a dumpster in front and they were cleaning it out and that it would be gutted and boarded up in a couple days.
I added: “I think this house does contribute to the architectural fabric of the block, so I hope it isn’t torn down. I would like to see it renovated.”
One of the judges said she’d take a very dim view of any demolition request from the owner. They found him guilty. That’s a $500 fine, plus $500 per day if the property remains out of compliance starting 30 days from now. At least I think that’s right; I was still somewhat delirious.
Boom, that was it, I had made my testimony, and I was free to go my way. Shortly thereafter I passed by 3016 Bienville and saw that indeed there was a dumpster there and indeed it was being filled with the flooded contents of the house.
I saw the contractor on the front porch and I gave him the thumbs-up and congratulated him on being a man of his word. He said something, but I couldn’t hear him. I was listening to music on my headphones.