Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2008

Too little, too late

Whatever discussion needed to take place about a dilapidated Oread Neighborhood house should have occurred decades ago.

June 12, 2008


The dilapidated house at 1232 La. once again has fueled debate over what's come to be known as "demolition by neglect" in some of Lawrence's older neighborhoods.

The practice is especially apparent in Oread Neighborhood, located east of the Kansas University campus. Because property in that area is in high demand either for campus expansion or to provide denser housing for KU students, faculty and staff, it often is to an owner's financial advantage to simply allow existing houses to deteriorate to the point that there is no reasonable way to save them. Then the houses can be demolished, making room for more lucrative development.

The current debate focuses on 1232 La., a house that has been standing since at least 1918 but which has no other historical significance. According to various sources, any number of owners of the property are responsible for its current deplorable condition. There also is a wide variance of opinion on whether the house could be rehabilitated, and even if it could, whether it would make any sense to put that much money into the property.

There are arguments on all sides of this issue, which pits private property rights against neighborhood interests and the public good. However, one thing is clear: Whatever discussion is taking place about this property now should have taken place decades ago before the property was in such poor shape that many options already had been eliminated.

If the city wants to have a meaningful role in stabilizing existing housing and reducing instances of demolition by neglect, it needs to be far more active in inspecting property before it falls into hopeless disrepair. After a property reaches the condition of 1232 La., about all the city can do is try to control how the property is used after the demolition occurs. In this neighborhood, it's highly unlikely that a single-family house will occupy the lot. The property might be used for a multifamily structure or it might be combined with other lots for a larger apartment development.

It could be argued that about any new development would be preferable to the current uninhabitable and potentially dangerous structure. But that wasn't always the case. The attorney representing the current owner says his client isn't to blame because he just bought the property from the KU Endowment Association in 2007. Endowment says the house already was uninhabitable when it bought it in 2000 along with land KU needed for a new scholarship hall. Maybe it was the owner who sold it to KU or the one before that, but somewhere back there, this was a desirable home that, with the proper care, still would be a good place for a family or a group of tenants to live.

Then, not now, is when the city needed to get involved. The city can use zoning and building regulations to preserve neighborhoods and control development in the central part of the city, but that becomes meaningless if property owners are allowed to use intentional negligence as a way to sidestep those regulations.

The city's historic resources administrator said this week that 1232 La. "is probably a good case study for demolition by neglect." The city should, by all means, study this case and many others that have occurred in recent years to see what they can learn about situations that reach the point where anything the city can do is too little and too late.


fletch 10 years ago

I used to live next door to that house. Architecturally, it's great building, with a great entral stairway, giant wood beams, lots of windows with detailed edges, and a great roof deck. But the house is also total hole. Vagrants were always squatting in it. High schoolers would drink in it at night. The fire escape on the back collapsed. Some birds died on the top and smelled horrible for weeks because nobody could get to them. At this point, I'd rather see it torn down because so little could be done to save it. If it does get torn down, put up a nice faux-period house, split it into 2 or 3 apartments, put some students in (the entire block is already students, so families would be really out of place), and call it a day.

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

Why don't people want to invest in Lawrence? The good thing about the west side is that the Gladys Kravitz's of the east side abhor it.My survey says that most people want the city to stay out of their lives, and out of their pockets.

flyin_squirrel 10 years ago

I noticed some other houses on that block are "for sale" as well. To bad whoever has them for sale didn't sell them before this happened. Now nobody will touch them due to the city ineptness on this house. Why would anyone buy in the Oread if the city will not let you do what you want with your property. I imagine the owner of 1232 Louisianna will now sell it and leave town. And the value of those other houses for sale just dropped 30% as well.

dwendel 10 years ago

Lawrence has always been governed by Oread slum lords and their buddies. It's not in their personal financial and political interests to enforce city codes and make sure properties are even minimally maintained, so they don't. In Oread, you don't need to mow your weeds, clear your sidewalks, clean up your trash, provide parking for your tenants, remove graffitti, or maintain your property in any way. Demolition by neglect is the norm, not the exception.I've called the the city's code non-enforcement office dozens of times over the years. If they answer the phone, they are very reluctant to take the information I give them, and actively discourage me from reporting further violations. Anyone could drive down any block in Oread and easily observe ten code violations out the window of their car at 30 mph. If they walked, they would see forty violations per block without stepping off the sidewalk. Apparently none on the city commission or in the code non-enforcement office has ever driven down Kentucky or Tennessee Streets. The city commissioners like to talk about how they want a walkable city and how they want to maintain older neighborhoods. They have lots of tools (codes) at their disposal. Unfortunately, they are not willing to use those tools, because they and their buddies then might have to spend $50/year to clear their sidewalks and $50/year to mow the weeds a couple of times.Imagine the burden on (most) Oread slum lords if they had to use that $2K-$3K/month in rental income per property to mow the weeds, clear the ice and vegetation off the side walk, or, God forbid, provide parking for their tenants, fix a roof or maintain their properties in some or any way. Then they'd just be normal, responsible people, instead of the leaches they are.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

BTW, the cyber**ing website cool is plugging is part of a certain odious local 'forum' where you can see stellar examples of juvenile personal attacks. If that's what you're all about, I'd recommend going through proxify dot com if you want to check it out.

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

Hawk, for some reason, I think you used to be my lanldord.

pinecreek 10 years ago

Perhaps a way to encourage current owners to keep such a property habitable would be to have a zoning provision that, if a location ends up being demolished due to neglect, that property site is downzoned one level. For example, a high-density multi-person site goes to low-density multi-person, and so forth if it's determined to have been 'demolished due to neglect'. Keep your property within norms, keep your current zoning; neglect your property, lose some of its potential value. Simple, basic accountability.

fletch 10 years ago

Oh somebody will touch them. That block is prime real estate. One block off campus. Private parking in the back for each house. Nodody across the street, so you don't fight for the street parking. It's prime location. I just hope the houses stay up and they don't tear down the block for some god awful apartment complex.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

cool, once again, stop emailing me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

The Endowment Association should buy this property back from the current owners, for the price they were paid, plus whatever expenses have been incurred since the sale.If the house can be rehabilitated, Endowment should do so. If it needs to be razed, then they should build a single-family dwelling that fits the period of the existing house.They can then sell it, or sign it over to the University.They likely had the opportunity to do something with this house 8 years ago, and they should pay the penalty for their neglect.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

global warming by manmade cause is a myth supported by religious furver. lawrence solomon's book "the deniers" documents how global warming hysterians are using heavy-handed strongarm techniques to silence those who doubt or outright oppose anthropogenic global warming in the scientific community; there's your "concensus!***I say:completely restore the house, put a he|| of a lot of money into it, make it look just like a classy house from the '20s, and make it pay for the massive upgrades by serviing as a high-dollar cathouse. great location, no competition in the market, etc. oughta pay off!

pomegranate 10 years ago

cool-I can't believe I even bothered to read even one of your useless dronings. But if I were you, I wouldn't go around admitting that I had a letter from Al Gore. That useless bag of doo. He is making millions of dollars making you chumps believe we can do something about global warming. It is a cyclical happening that occurs throughout history.

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

"...making you chumps believe we can do something about global warming..."Well, I believe we could, were it not for folks who want to politicize it.

Bladerunner 10 years ago

more than 50% of the posts on here are from (not) cool. The run down old buildings are gone now in case you havnt noticed. A plan is in place to build on the property. Get used to it. Get over it (not) cool. If there were a run down building next to my property I would welcome it's demolition. Don't like what's happening to a particular parcel of land? You buy it and put a swingset or whatever you want on it. I promise not to gripe about it.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

Keep plugging that odious 'forum', cool. You're known by the company you keep.

BigPrune 10 years ago

Why not make it easy for someone to demolish this old crap and build new in its place? The town sure would look a lot nicer.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

once again, maxy1 posts an: irrelevant; out-of-context; or out-of-date quote. at first, I thought he was perfidious, but after exchanging some posts it became bonecrushingly obvious that he is just a very dim bulb, 20watt bulb in a box of 100watt bulgbs! ***yes, unCool has an unfortunate tendancy to post, post, post, post, post, and POST! somebody needs to take away his caffeine. really, for his own good.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

I respect the ability of Pope Prius I to remove dollars from the gullible.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

monument? maxy, you're really out to lunch. completely irrelevant.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

I will further add, that on the threads regarding the shootout on Delaware, deaths of two young men, it was Maxy and unCool who were posting trying to gain political advantage! betrays very deeply uncivil, mean little cold hearts that care for nothing in this life except their political pwer! uncool especially was incredible in his posts.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

BTW, the cyber**ing website cool is plugging is part of a certain odious local 'forum' where you can see stellar examples of juvenile personal attacks. If that's what you're all about, I'd recommend going through proxify dot com if you want to check it out.

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