Sunday, April 08, 2007

Urban renewal planner Huja runs for Council

Eminent domain remains top issue

Charlottesville, Virginia-- An expert on the settlement of seized lands and resettlement of displaced populations, Satyendra Singh Huja will formally announce his candidacy for the June 2 Democratic nomination for three seats on City Council for the November 6 election.

The formal announcement will be Thursday, April 12: 10:00 a.m. in front of City Hall.

Huja received a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from Michigan State University in 1968 and was first in his class, according to his resume.

His masters thesis was titled: A Comprehensive Theory of Human Settlement: A Framework for Planning. The resume describes the thesis as “a comprehensive theory for understanding and planning of human settlement in its material as well as non-material aspects.”

Huja was director of planning for the city of Charlottesville from June 1973 to June 2004. As such, Huja oversaw much of the non-Vinegar Hill urban renewal rival candidate Jennifer McKeever referred to April 3 in a speech at 10th and Page (“City Council hopeful proposes incentives: McKeever seeking to rehabilitate housing” by Bob Gibson. Apr. 4, 2007. The Daily Progress.) As a candidate, McKeever has spoken to longtime city residents “whose homes and neighborhoods are no longer on the map because of the policies of urban renewal.”

During the upcoming campaign, Huja will be expected to fill in more details of his role in Charlottesville’s history, or lack thereof.

On his Record of Service webpage, five of the six main headings are related to urban renewal: Revitalization. Environment and Open Space. Art, Cultural, and Historic Preservation. Housing. The heading not obviously related is transportation…unless you include putting roads selectively through minority neighborhoods.

Huja now says he advocated for the 1976 initial phase of the downtown pedestrian mall. But on June 30, he recalled how he had found it "worrisome" that so few businesses supported the mall. He pointed out that the mall had already been proposed when he was hired ("The men behind the mall: we did it to save downtown.” Jul. 1, 2006. Blair’s Blog).

Historic preservation? Give me a break. Under the Housing heading, Huja lists Midway Manor as an accomplishment. Photo of one of the historical landmarks lost during Huja’s tenure.

Midway School across the street from Vinegar Hill. Midway Manor now occupies the parking lot of the 1828 building razed while Huja claims to have preserved history. Where’s that history now, Mr. Huja?

The idea that high profile officials of urban renewal have been lining up to fill positions of leadership should set off alarms. Huja’s candidacy alone presents the community an opportunity for a perfect political storm. How much longer can urban renewal be tolerated regardless of how many people vote for it?

Huja for Council campaign website

Huja joins three others seeking the Democratic nomination: Linda Seaman, Jennifer McKeever, and Holly Edwards. Edwards is member of the Public Housing Association of Residents and therefore related to urban renewal as a beneficiary. ( For times and dates of this week’s announcements over at Democratic Central

Updates on other stories

Blighted House at 610 Ridge Street

The condemnation notice is no longer posted. The boards no longer cover the windows. Council backed down from the threatened seizure.

“Council refuses to release urban renewal archives: Jefferson School conflict of interest: Blighted House has until Feb 15.” Nov. 21, 2006.

“Council to rule on ordinance violation: 'Blighted' house to be seized.” Nov. 2, 2006.

Election Precinct Modifications

The conservative 5-member Council has unanimously agreed to continue the antiquated electoral system for fear any change may lead to improved representation on Council.

“Council may create new commission to update precinct boundaries after ignoring 2 commissions in 2 years.” Jan. 17, 2007.

Republican Opposition

While the Democrats charge ahead with their thinly veiled urban renewal agenda, the Republicans have no candidates and no positions. The Pubs don’t even want voters to know they’re Republican for fear voters will equate the Cville party with the state and national parties. Yet in the last several years, the Cville Pubs made no effort to distinguish themselves and chose instead not to have a position, such as on the gay marriage amendment and eminent domain abuse.

Originally I joined the Cville Republicans in 2002 in an effort to save Jefferson School. The Democratic Party has abandoned the school and tried to sell the landmark for redevelopment. I knew I’d be the only Jefferson School supporter in the Republican Party. But my plan was eventually to recruit enough new members to elect a pro-preservation chairman but that never happened. In 2000 Michael Crafaik took over the Republican committee with just two dozen supporters but lost control just two years later to Bob Hodous, a real estate attorney and member of the Housing Authority's board of directors in the '70s.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment on your blog about me. I would like to correct some incorrect facts you have in this blog.

You credit me with the Vinegar Hill urban renewal project and dislocation of families. This is to inform you that these actions happened in the 1960's long before I arrived in Charlottesville in 1973. I would appreciate you correcting these factual errors.

For further information please see my campaign website.

I would be happy to discuss this with you if you wish.

Satyendra Singh Huja

4/11/2007 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Blair said...

Thanks for your feedback.

I did not credit you with Vinegar Hill urban renewal. Specifically, I said "non-Vinegar Hill urban renewal" and Midway Manor. Most notably, I refer to what you call:

"Rickety shacks rattled in the wind that blew through the weedy fields on the other side of the tracks - a black and white photograph of one of them hangs across the room from his desk, where he can see it every day. "I keep it here to remind me," he said. "What we do here has meaning in people's lives."

("A Matter of Balance" by Theresa Reynolds Curry. Courtesy Real Estate Weekly.)

Here are a few photos of what you call "rickety shacks". This street and its side streets were razed in 1977. Numerous public housing projects were built while you were planner. I'm not saying these events were your fault literally. But how can you have so much experience and not remember anything?

Original Time Machine to Heal the Wounds of Urban Renewal

I agree, what you do has meaning in people's lives. This demographic was invisible then, and we still are.

4/11/2007 10:32 PM  

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