Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Newspaper updates 38-year-old Levy Avenue urban renewal

The Housing Authority bulldozed these Levy Ave houses 1972 and has been trying to sell the stolen land ever since.

Charlottesville, Va.—The latest episode in a 4-decade drama unfolded Monday, according to Daily Progress reporter Rachana Dixit. Here are the updates:

(1) The Levy site now faces Garrett Street.

(2) The city now wants 36 units on the Levy site.

(3) The only concern voiced was 36 units seems like “over-concentration.” Belmont resident Cass Kawecki expressed the concern. All the other quotes and data came from the city’s urban renewal agency.

(4) Current participants named in this abuse of eminent domain:
(A) Consultants Wallace, Roberts, & Todd.
(B) Amy Kilroy, Housing Authority Redevelopment Director.
(C) Alex Morris, Project Manager.
(D) Jason Halbert, member of the oversight commission for the Redevelopment and Housing Authority (urban renewal agency).

(5) The authority only claims 376 units public housing across 11 sites.

(6) The agency wants to expand to between 558 and 720 units, at a cost between $115.8 and $150.8 million, “transforming into a mix of public housing, affordable [public] housing, and market-rate [public] housing.”

(7) The master plan for redevelopment is a “living document.”

(8) The expansion could result in 376 official public housing units, “192 affordable [public housing] rentals, 139 market-rate [public housing] rentals, and 12 affordable [public housing]homes for ownership.”

(9) The only historical perspective is Wallace, Roberts, & Todd saying they’ve been working more than a year to come up with the “living” master plan of re-redevelopment.

(“Belmont residents voice concerns: Public housing overhaul provokes questions” by Rachana Dixit, July 27, 2010, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia.)

If you Google Levy Avenue Charlottesville, Blair’s Blog appears on the second page. But it’s an old story from 2006. So let me tell you what’s too true for the Progress to report.


Rents for $1 a year (Photo Aug. 16, 2002).

(“Levy Avenue update: All 5 owners identified” by Blair Hawkins, Nov. 17, 2007)

“Eight of the 10 parcels that make up the Housing Authority’s Levy Avenue site were acquired in three condemnation lawsuits in 1972. Lots 7 and 11 were purchased by the Authority under threat of condemnation in 1971. The 1891 plat of Belmont shows the original development as Lots 2-11 Block 4, south side of Levy. The site now rents to the city as an employee parking lot for $1 a year.

On this block, the last of the three holdouts were Dennis F. and Mildred B. Hensley. They had bought lots 2,3,4, now vacant and overlooking Friendship Court, in 1964 from Mary E. and Haynes C. Settle. The Housing Authority paid the most for this property, $50,000, and took title June 26, 1972, Deed Book 337 Page 528. Real estate tax of 1971 and half of 1972 were deducted. Nine thousand went to the bank. The balance was deposited with the Clerk of the Court.

The second most expensive property was $28,500 for lots 5,6,8,9. Better Living Inc. purchased the lots 1963-65 to secure bonds for the company. Charlottesville Lumber Company Inc. was renamed Better Living Inc. in 1968 (Charter Book 15 Page 86, July 20, 1968).

Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, petitioner, v. Better Living Inc, defendant

“This cause came on this day to be heard upon the papers formerly read and more particularly upon the report of the commissioners dated and filed April 18, 1972, and was argued by counsel…CRHA has paid to Carl E. Hennrich, Clerk of the Corporation Court of Charlottesville, Virginia, the sum of $28,500 as ascertained by the commissioners in said report to be the value of the land taken in this cause…The property hereinafter described is necessary for the development of an urban renewal project.” (Deed Book 335 Page 251, April 18, 1972)

Lot 10 was owned by Irene Payne Draper and six siblings. $8,500 were deposited in the Clerk of the Court’s Office to be split among 7 children of Emma E. Payne, who died intestate 1956 (Deed Book 337 Page 446, June 1, 1972). Emma Payne had acquired the property June 15, 1945 (Deed Book 120 Page 350).

[…]

When I requested from the Housing Authority the deed numbers for Levy Avenue, Randy Bickers gave me the deeds for the 1971 acquisitions. These appear as normal sales where the property is for sale and a buyer pays the selling price. When I requested the remaining deeds, Bickers referred the request to the city’s legal department.

Thursday afternoon, after I published my previous update, Barbara Ronan of the legal department called me and gave me the other three deed numbers from a Nov. 5, 2005 title search. Friday afternoon I spent an hour researching the deeds. These deeds were written by the court as a result of condemnation.

Also Thursday afternoon, the Carter G. Woodson Institute returned my morning call. They referred me to Scot French, now the director of Digital Knowledge at Alderman Library. French said he has only digital files and assumes the original archives are back at the Historical Society, or wherever they came from.

French said the files should be online and searchable within two months. He took my number. I said I would follow up in January 2008. [French did not keep his word.]



1891 Plat of Belmont showing Lots 2-11 (red) Block 4. Lots 7 and 11 (green).

(“Levy Avenue update: Proof of ownership incomplete”, Nov. 15, 2007.)

It now appears the Housing Authority has been unable to sell the Levy Avenue parking lot because of deed problems.

In response to a Nov. 12 request for the deed numbers for this property, Randy Bickers of the Housing Authority found three deed references for Levy. One deed is the original 1891 plat of the Belmont neighborhood. The other two deeds identify 612 Levy acquired Aug. 23, 1971 from Carrie L. Tooley, and 620 Levy acquired May 26, 1971, from the estate of E.M.Charlie.

Eight of the ten lots that make up the site are unaccounted for.

Last night (Nov. 14) at the Westhaven community center, executive director of the Redevelopment and Housing Authority since Jul. 25, 2005, Noah Schwartz mentioned “Levy Avenue” at least ten times as a high profile example of redevelopment to come. He also said the Housing Authority owns Levy free and clear. But he never said when the Authority acquired the Levy site.

The city’s Housing Authority is actually a real estate company. They buy and sell property. Some of the property they keep to rent out to low-income residents. They don’t call it the Housing Company because the company has the authority to buy property that’s not for sale. This unusual power is the main source of the agency’s controversy and motivation against preserving history.

Also last night, when Joy Johnson was saying Westhaven’s history should be preserved since it was “birthed” from Vinegar Hill, Schwartz said the history of all the properties should be preserved. How do you find out a property’s history? You trace the deed back. But you need to know the deed to start. As a real estate company, which has recently done a full inventory of assets, the Housing Authority should have a master list of all its properties and their deed numbers.

The main theme of the community meeting was trust. Again and again, people asked, how can we trust the Housing Authority given the agency’s past and current history?

Chairman of the Board of Directors who direct the Housing Authority, Kendra Hamilton said City Council appoints all seven members of the board, but the Authority and the City are “completely separate.” Hamilton undermined the trustworthiness she was projecting by falsely asserting that CRHA is somehow not a city agency.

Hamilton nodded in agreement when Johnson said we should preserve the history. Hamilton is unfriendly to preserving local black history and refused, along with the rest of Council on Nov. 20, 2006, to allow public access to Housing Authority Archives. She pretended not to know about the research effort despite a Jan. 2005 email and numerous newsblog postings that document the unwillingness to cooperate with historic preservation.


(“2007: Levy Ave one of Many Stories” by Blair Hawkins, Jan. 28, 2008.)

On November 11, the latest plans to redevelop the 600 block of Levy Avenue made the front page of the Sunday Daily Progress ("City reworking mixed-income project" by [disgraced] Seth Rosen).

Of the 10 parcels that make up the site, the Housing Authority purchased 2 in 1971 and seized the other 8 in 1972. The original purpose of the acquisition was redevelopment, "necessary for the development of an urban renewal project" as court documents record. Established by referendum 1954, the Authority rents the cleared and consolidated parcel to the city as an employee parking lot for $1 a year.

The Progress story traces the history of this particular project only 4 years, 3 requests for proposals and 4 public meetings. They have an update on the latest developer to think twice after due diligent research.


Small sampling of the coverage for Levy Avenue:

"City has plan for Levy site: Mixed-income idea novel for housing," Jun 19 2003, The Daily Progress. Elizabeth Nelson covers up for urban renewal and placed a blackout on urban renewal when it came up at forums she was covering.

"Levy Avenue Design Workshop," Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association Newsletter, Summer 2003.--"This spring, neighborhood residents and city leaders, including Mayor Maurice Cox, gathered for a design workshop sponsored by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to explore options for development of the Housing Authority property at 405 Levy Avenue, next to Walker's Auto Repair... On the ground level at the Avon Street and 6th Street corners of the property, participants recommended higher density buildings, housing apartments above, and uses like cafe, video store, laundromat for the spaces at sidewalk level. At the center of the block, participants recommended construction of rowhouses, like those in Richmond's Fan District, with a shared private park/garden behind, and garages with 'Granny-flat'studio apartments." [Mayor Cox loves urban renewal if you look at his record instead of quoting his oral history.]

“City Planning Commission weighs in on public housing redevelopment plans” by Sean Tubbs, May 27, 2010, Charlottesville Tomorrow.

That’s like saying “City Planning Commission weighs in on urban renewal urban renewal plans.” I’m sorry to add Mr. Tubbs to the public list of those who support urban renewal and who are knowingly reporting less than the whole truth. I’ve already documented Tubbs’ bias and discrimination against Republicans.

Sean, why are you doing this? You now join the list of other reporters who lack integrity. Please don't play dumb. Your decision to cover up for civil rights abuses could follow you for the rest of your career and always be a mere Google search away.

Of The Daily Progress:

Rachana Dixit’s legacy is unfolding. She can talk about 1974 in a Sunday story but no dates in any urban renewal story.

Seth Rosen covered up Jefferson School’s history and Dixit plagiarized from his 2007 article.

John Yellig reported that “Levy Ave” is the colloquial name for the site. No, that’s its legal name on the city land records and deeds in the courthouse at 315 East High Street.

Matt Deegan made up the history of Friendship Court so he wouldn’t have to report that this is the city’s largest and most controversial public housing project acquired by eminent domain, now on separate books.

"Truthiness: Sounds true but isn't."

Don’t leave out C-ville Weekly and The Hook. They don’t research their urban renewal stories either. They just print whatever government officials tell them. Yes, it’s a strange universe where you take pride in stealing houses from little old ladies and children. Does anyone really think you can commit Constitutional felonies and not have any bad karma because a judge somewhere ruled stealing to be legal depending on who you are and who you're stealing from? Remember it’s not slander if it’s true, no matter how shocking that truth might be. Besides there are zillions of legal documents in my corner.

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