Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Urban Renewal Director, Same Old Lies

Randy Bickers (courtesy WVIR-TV NBC-29)

Charlottesville, Va.—On January 7, 2009, Redevelopment and Housing Authority employee and civil rights opponent Randy Bickers will be promoted to Executive Director, according to WVIR-TV NBC-29’s Henry Graff ( “New Housing Director in Charlottesville”, Dec. 22, 2008).

When did Bickers say he opposes civil rights? Never. His actions speak louder than his words. The Authority seizes and sells real estate in the name of eminent domain, which prohibits seizing property for private use and private ownership. In the WVIR story, Bickers credits the 1960 Vinegar Hill clearance as the main reason public housing residents distrust government.

Vinegar Hill must have been an incredibly traumatic event to be the sole cause of distrust almost 50 years later. Is it possible that larger, more recent projects might contribute to that distrust? Is it possible that Bickers’ dishonesty (lying by omission) might contribute to the public’s skepticism?

Not only is Bickers dishonest, he also opposes the preservation of black history. The history of the Housing Authority is intertwined with local black history (and white history). In 2007, in response to a request for proof the Authority owns the parking lot on Levy Avenue, Bickers gave the deed references for only 2 of the 10 parcels that comprise the lot.

In a follow-up request for proof of ownership for the remaining 80% of the property, Bickers referred Blair Hawkins to the city’s legal department. Barbara Ronan released the deed references for the other 8 parcels, which were seized in 1972. The Authority is still trying to sell the stolen property.

Below is a spreadsheet inventory of what the Housing Authority claims to be its 11 public housing sites and the vacant Levy Avenue property. The spreadsheet includes “Tax Map & Parcel ID” but omits any reference that could show actual ownership (Deed Book and Page numbers). The deed numbers are excluded because of the opposition to historic preservation. The deed numbers allow you to go straight to the city courthouse and trace the history of a property.

The agency claims it now owns 45 acres. Undisclosed is how much property the Authority has owned since its creation in 1954. The website omits the simple date of origin, further illustrating its antipathy to history.

Also below are aerial photos of 7 of the Authority’s 11 public housing sites. I’ve included them here in the likely event the Authority edits its website in the future to revise or erase more of our history.

Background Links

“Mayor repeats Vinegar Hill myth, Water Board chairman re-appointed”, Dec. 16, 2008.

Noah Schwartz

“Another Urban Renewal Director Resigns”, Oct. 5, 2008.

“2007:Levy Ave one of Many Stories”, Jan. 28, 2008.

“Levy Avenue update: All 5 owners identified”, Nov. 17, 2007. Includes deed references to the actual owners.

“Land for Vinegar Hill condo tower once owned by John West and Madam Marguiretta”, Sep. 13, 2007. Example of how informative tracing a deed can be.

“Asst city manager Small-Toney resigns, blocked access to public records”, May 23, 2007. I still don’t have access to the archives. UVa historian Scot French, now Historical Society board member, was the last person who claimed to have put the archives online. But I haven’t been able to find them anywhere.

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

On Feb. 24, 2007, at the First Baptist Church on West Main, also site of the first Jefferson School in 1865, Luanne Williams said the archives in their study comprised

1,189 visual media files
6,845 physical documents
189 maps and blueprints
6,199 files related to GIS mapping

for a total of 14,422.

The blog you are now reading contains more about Charlottesville’s urban renewal than any other online source. A Google search does not find these archives. How long does it take to falsify documents and delete any reference to urban renewal which is not Vinegar Hill?

Dr. Scot French and his book The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory.

Scot French’s personal homepage at the University of Virginia.

Virginia Center for Digital History at UVA was said to possess the archives in Feb. 2007. A search for “urban renewal” returns no entries.

In January 2009 I will contact these people again and ask them to explain what happened to this project and these archives. The last time I contacted Scot French was Nov. 2007. He’s had over a year to publish this project. Did he really think I would give up and go away, and not record his role in this history?

Inventory of 11 Public Housing sites and vacant Levy Ave property according to CRHA (Page 1 of 2)

Inventory of 11 Public Housing sites and vacant Levy Ave property according to CRHA (Page 2 of 2)

Map showing the 11 sites as of October 2006

Does not include sold properties such as Vinegar Hill, Omni Hotel, Friendship Court (150 units), Garrett Street, ACAC, Norcross Condos, Gleason Luxury Condos, Ridge Lane and many others.

Aerial map of Westhaven constructed March 1965, 126 units at 801-836 Hardy Drive [Corrected for copying down wrong date] (Construction dates according to CRHA)

Crescent Halls constructed September 1976, 105 units at 500 South 1st Street

South 1st Street constructed September 1981, 58 units at 900-1000 S. 1st St.

Riverside constructed September 1980, 16 units at 309-323 Riverside Avenue

Michie Drive constructed September 1980, 23 units at 2021-2025 Michie Drive

Madison Ave constructed September 1980, 18 units at 1609-1625 Mdison Avenue

905 Monticello Ave constructed June 1992 (one unit)

Not pictured here:

Sixth St. constructed March 1981, 25 units at 707-713 Sixth St. SE (Old Scottsville Road)
Hinton Ave, one unit constructed June 1992
Elsom St., one unit constructed June 1992
Ridge St., 2 units constructed September 1995

Current 7-Member Board of Commissioners who oversee the Housing Authority The meetings are held the fourth Monday of the month in City Hall Council Chambers at 7 p.m. and are now televised and available as a podcast.

1. Mr. Jason Halbert - Chair/Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/11

2. Mr. Hosea Mitchell - Vice Chair/Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/11

3. Ms. Sherri Clarke - Resident Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/11

4. Mr. Richard H. Jones - Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/10

5. Ms. Joy Johnson– Resident Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/10

6. Mr. Dave Norris - City Council/Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/10

7. Mr. Bob Stevens- Treasurer/Commissioner
Term Expires: 6/30/10

Housing Authority Staff Members

City Hall
Phone#: (434) 970-3253 Fax #: (434) 971-4797

  1. Noah Schwartz- Executive Director
  2. Amy Kilroy - Redevelopment Director
  3. Donna Evans- Accounting Manager
  4. LeAnn Hinton -Accountant
  5. Jewel Mason - Prevention Specialist
  6. Deetra West- Administrative Assistant

1000 South First Street
Phone #: (434) 971-4656 Fax #: (434) 293-3460

  1. Heather Jeffries- Asset Manager
  2. Jacquline Sedwick- Property Manager
  3. Patricia Lockley- Property Manager
  4. Darkita Brown - Administrative Assistant
  5. Larry Andes - Maintenance Tech II
  6. Lonnie Dwyer - Maintenance Tech II
  7. Cobi Copper- Maintenance Tech I
  8. Curtis Glover - Maintenance Tech I
  9. Travis Houchens - Maintenance Tech I (Part-Time)
  10. Scott Shifflett - Maintenance Tech I
  11. Jennifer Warren - Maintenance Tech I
  12. Brandon Bartee - Resident Apprentice Program
  13. Jamar Luck - Resident Apprentice Program

500 South First Street
Phone #: (434) 296-1863 Fax #: (434) 971-4795

  1. Rebecca Weybright -Housing Manager
  2. Kelly Marquez - Public Housing Certification Specialist I- strotherm@charlottesville.org
  3. Maxicelia Strother- Public Housing Eligibility Specialist I - jacksonl@charlottesville.org
  4. Lynn Jackson- Housing Choice Voucher Certification Specialist I- marquez@charlottesville.org
  5. Cynthia Williams - Housing Choice Voucher Specialist
  6. Vanessa Johnson- Administrative Assistant
  7. Jesse Butler - Inspector/Special Programs Administrator

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home