Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cincinnati Preservation Survey : Part 2 More results

In February of this year we began our Cincinnati Preservation Survey for 2011. This survey was designed to obtain a pulse of the Preservation community as well as opinion on a variety of Preservation related issues.. The questions for this survey were developed by contacting local community leaders and preservationists and asking what questions they would like answers to if they were able to have a 1 on 1 with city officials or what issues they felt were 'defining' to the preservation community. The survey sampling was for 6 week period ending March 31, 2011. The online survey allowed for comments and some of those comments we will print here. Due to the lock out of an IP address once a survey was taken individuals could not easily make multiple responses to a survey.We will provide all comments given in a report that we intent to send to Council members, the Mayor, city manager and managers of the city inspection department. After that we will publish the entire document to Google docs and make it available to all those who would like to review it with all the comments. The total survey sampling size was 651 respondents. Not all respondents answered all questions. Percentages are based on actual responses. There were 8 questions in the survey Today we cover the final four questions and look at the final question of what are the important Preservation issues going forward.

Question 5: The Gamble House issue has raised the question if city inspectors and city officials are enforcing city ordinance in a fair and equal manner.

0.00%      The city does and excellent job of fair enforcement
0.00%      The city does a good job of fair enforcement.
17.0%      The city does an average job of enforcement
83.0%       The city does a poor job of fair enforcement  
4 skipped this question

It would appear that in spite of city officials assertions that they are doing a good job the preservation community feels the opposite is true  NO ONE felt the city was going an excellent or good job and 83 percent felt the city performance in this area was poor. Clearly on this issue city inspections has a very long way to go. This question has a comment question and here is a sampling of comments.

"Minority" neighborhoods are more aggressively targeted than non minority. If the current pace continues, Walnut Hills, Avondale, Evanston ,Bond Hill and the West End,(outside of Dayton street), could disappear in a few more years"

"There is one standard for politically connected/wealthy and or connected developers like 3CDC where laws are not enforced and another standard for everyone else. It is a denial of equal protection. It is redlining and the city is exposing themselves to massive legal liability from lawsuits. Money that would be better spent saving buildings." 

"You cant have double standard"  

Question 6. The city receives Federal CDBG (Community Development Block Grant ) funds and these funds are often used for demolition. Should this practice be continues or should greater restrictions be placed on demolition using Federal Dollars, or should these funds be used for stabilization?

2.2%      Yes CDBG funds should be used for demolition.
4.2%      Yes CDBG funds should be used, but only on Apt. Buildings
37.0%     Yes CDBG funds should be used, but only with redevelopment
56.5%      No CDBG funds should be used for stabilization only
5 skipped this question

It appears that over half feel these federal dollars should on be used for stabilization but over a third felt use of these funds was OK as long as the city had a redevelopment plan.. There was a comment section and below are some sample comments.

"Stabilization helps mitigate the fears of people who aren't sure if they can tackle the huge undertaking of building restoration and preservation. If these funds can be directed at getting them a project where many or most of the 'unknowns'  have been identified and addressed, it will make it much easier for people to redevelop historic property with confidence."

"People are inherently frugal, govt is not. get govt out of it entirely and people will restore buildings rather than build new. Govt is why we have this problem in the first place."

"I prefer these funds be used for very selective large complex demos only. Majority should go to no interest loans to rehab historic properties with some forgiveness of loans and some payback in order to replenish the loan pool"

Question 7: Currently when the city demos property with federal funds its does not acquire the lot. Often the vacant lots becomes a dumping ground leaving communities with new problems. What should the city do?

27.1%       Be mandated to acquire and maintain the lots.
10.4%      Acquire the lots but let neighborhood groups maintain them
45.8%      Acquire lots and give or sell (1.00) to adjacent owners
16.7%      Don't acquire, but bill owner for cleanup issues
0.0%         Leave things the way they are
3 people skipped this question

A majority feel the city needs to acquire the lots and sell or give then to adjacent owners and the second highest response was that they should be mandated to acquire the lots. So it appears that this is a serious issue for community leaders and something the city should address. There was a comments section and here are some sample comments.

"Unless other express interest in purchasing or maintaining the lots, the city should be required to keep them WELL maintained. As someone who lives near 3 vacant lots (compliments of the city), their maintenance  on those lots terrible I'd rather have crumbling, but salvageable buildings (maybe even stabilized ones!) than expanses of trash ridden, overgrown, ungraded lots."

"The best alternative would be to offer the building to an interested owner before the demolition is performed. For non-contributing structures that have been demoed, neighborhood groups should be given the resources to maintain the lots"

'We need land-banking whereby neighbors can acquire or appropriate historic infill can be built after careful screening of applicants. Leaving the lots set vacant after demo creates huge problems for the neighborhood dumping and places for loitering. A plan before demolition should be established for the lots." 

Question 8: What do you thing are the most important Preservation Issues to address in Cincinnati this year ?

"Essay type' question typically do not generate huge response because people don't have the time, however 35  of you actually took the time to write a response. Now space doesn't allow us to put them all here but here are three. The entire comments will be available in the report available next week

"Establishing a review process which favors preservation over demolition or redevelopment. Finding and efficient means for holding negligent property owner accountable without hindering chances a structure will be preserved (this includes scrapping VBML)" 

"1.Changing the way the city deals with problem historic property.2. Putting together a comprehensive preservation ordinance that promotes rather than discourages saving and rehabilitating historic homes and buildings. the VBML policy is a huge disincentive.3.Local preservationists can present a much stronger and cohesive front for effective preservation reform it needs to happen this year as so much is at stake.4.The Gamble House needs to be saved and restored period. 5. More historic districts are needed in Cincinnati and financial (tax) incentives need to be made available to encourage investment and restoartion, not more demolition. Cincinnati is not Detroit!"

"Cincinnati must do everything in its power to streamline the development process (both restoration and infill).Like it or not Cincinnati is competing with suburbs that offer comparable or better services with lower crime and less cost. Cincinnati needs to stress it's advantages (historic fabric, convenience, walk-ability etc) to set itself apart. What we need to ask is "why Cincinnati"? Let those answers guide what we focus on."

The Cincinnati Preservation Survey 2011 has been a interesting and remarkable process. The well composed answers and ideas are things I hope city leaders will look at and ask "Why didn't we think of that". It is clear that there is a serious 'disconnect' between the job city officials think they are doing and the 'real world' that the rest of us see. That means we have a lot of work ahead of us.

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