Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive - Photos of 2222 4th St N

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Warning:  I get a little worked up in this post, and (gasp!) resort to a few Bad Words.

In the last post about Judge Hallbrooks' ruling on this property, an anonymous commenter asked for photos to show whether this property was adequately rehabbed.  In my opinion, the answer is no it has not.  I also hope that its current condition will still eventually allow the structure to be demolished.  Based on what the city staff report said about the poor quality of the interior, and the photos below, I would hope that we have higher standards for what is acceptable housing stock in the city of Minneapolis.  The prospect of widespread condemned housing being brought back to use is far from appealing if they look like 2222 4th St N by the time the owner is done.

Let's take a look, first at the windows...
These are the windows at the front of the house.  This won't be the last time we see plywood used to close off a space either.
Note the former window at the upper left on the side of the house.  Is closing off a window entirely with plywood better or worse?  I can't decide.
We have another plywood window opening, and the total of different types of windows is up to four.
What the hell, Mahmood?  I mean really.  WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?
Mr. Khan, before you install even one more window, you need to watch this video.  Now, can you apply Cookie Monster's song to your windows?  Or how about the siding?  And really, what in the name of all that is holy is going on where the stucco and siding meet on the second floor?  That back door, by the way, is clearly (mis)used.  The different ways Khan fills window space is up to seven--eight if you count the front porch, and nine with the first floor window that THE CITY HAD TO COVER UP FOR HIM.  The siding is falling off already as well, it's mismatched, and also buckling under the boarded window.  In the middle first-floor window, he installed plywood, a mismatched window, and then decided to paint it in hopes that somehow doing so would disguise the horror of the rest of the house.  The overused phrase "lipstick on a pig" would be a compliment here.  This is the housing equivalent of spritzing Chanel on shit.

Here's something else that seems amiss.  Think back to the first criteria that the city of Minneapolis uses to define a nuisance house, the same criteria quoted by the judge.  I'll help out here:  "(1) the doors, windows, and other openings are boarded up."  Take another look at the photo above.  Yep, three openings covered by boards.

But at least the garage should be looking pretty good.  It's smaller, has only four intersecting surfaces, and probably no windows.  So it's spiffed up nice and fancy, like you'd expect.

(*Sigh*) Exactly what we expected from Khan, I suppose.
Based on the overall appearance of the exterior alone, it's clear Khan has not fully complied with the terms of the restoration agreement.  And with three openings boarded, you'd think the house meets Minneapolis' standard for a nuisance.  Either way you cut it, demolition is appropriate here.  As much as I've advocated preservation in other cases, I can't come to such a conclusion in this one.  Tear it down.


  1. Keep in mind, this is private property and you have no right to take another persons private property. Can you imagine if we demolished any home that didn't look perfect. In NOMI the homes don't cost much so it doesn't make alot of economic sense to put a ton of money into a $15,000 home. Therefore you just do the best you can with what is available at a low price. If the homes were worth $150k it might make more sense to do more.

  2. Community Design Standards!

    Here is the problem - CPED and housing inspectors have code requirements meant to protect the safety of the housings occupants. As much as we hate it----there is nothing unsafe about ugly carpentry.

    If a community wants to mandate design and aesthetics; they create community design standards and set up a review board to approve remodeling plans before CPED will approve a building permit.

    You can't tear a house down because it is Ugly.

  3. You are misrepresenting the facts. I want to correct you because these posts create the illusion that the Nuisance Property Laws are unenforceable.

    This lawsuit was not about whether Khan's property was a Public Nuisance. It was about whether the City had the right to condemn the house based on the evidence presented.

    First -

    Frustrating as it may be to see great old architecture butchered, there is no Building Code that requires windows in a home so long as each bedroom has adequate egress. You can turn your home into a literal man-cave as long as you satisfy the fire safety requirements.

    Second -

    In reference to the Review Boards statement about the windows - The instance you are quoting from were taken before the landlord was granted the opportunity to address code violations. Evidence shows that he addressed those concerns to the satisfaction of Housing Inspectors.

    Third -

    The Review Boards opinion about the nearby homes losing value due to Khans property would be extremely hard to substantiate. It does suggest "an activity that, in one way or another, affects the right of an individual to enjoy the use of a specified property." but is far too speculative for a court of law.

    Forth -

    Condemning the property biased on the cost estimates to bring this home up to code is really none of the Boards F%#@ing concern so long as it is still private property.

    The Judge states explicitly in her decision why the Cities authority to demo was overturned. "As a result, we conclude that the City's decision was arbitrary and unsubstantiated by the record before it. Reversed and Remanded."

    In other words, this Review Panel did not understand the law and was applying opinion and non-applicable evidence towards alleviating a Public Nuisance by focusing on the structure. Had they applied the myriad of assessments, police calls,and neighborhood complaints towards holding the landlord responsible for tenant behavior the verdict would have been much different.

    BTW...Who (names) is on the Nuisance Conditions Process Review Panel?

  4. Thanks for the pics. Yea, his work is certainly not the best! But, I have heard that his rents are much lower than market rents and my question is, where do the poor people go to rent who have such low income? We can't just put more people on the street, or have them over crowd good housing by living with relatives or friends. If his houses meet health and safety codes, are cheap to rent, isn't he really helping in some ways???

  5. Anonymous 12/31/2010 12:18pm, I totally agree the NIMBY attitude of the various blogs would have the poor shoved out of the homes and then demolished. What they always fail to point out is that many of these poor are the ones who've lost houses due to foreclosure and would otherwise be homeless.

  6. @Anon 10:31, your argument makes no sense. No one is claiming to take property from Khan, but instead to demolish a structure. Khan would still own the land at 2222 4th. And through foreclosures and tax forfeitures, "private property" is taken away quite frequently. Low property values do present additional difficulties with regards to the rehab vs. demolish question, but don't even need to come into play in this case.

    @Anon 10:58, I wouldn't mind one bit if we had such community design standards. Is there another neighborhood in Minneapolis that has that kind of clout? Do CPED or other city departments bow to other Minneapolis neighborhoods or organizations in that way? If so, please share. If not, do you know of such examples in other cities?

    @Anon 12:47, you put out quite a bit to respond to, and I'll do that later in the day.

    @Anon 12:18, I've heard that argument too, and after much deliberation, I consider it useless, counterproductive, and detrimental to the lower-income people that would supposedly be helped by slumlords like Mahmood Khan. Where that argument falls short is that somehow it should be acceptable to create shitty properties to rent to poor people, as if they don't deserve quality housing.

    Furthermore, I've been told at meetings with CPED reps that north Minneapolis neighborhoods have some of the highest rent payment rates across the city, in spite of the low quality of housing stock. This is because you and I foot the bill through housing subsidies like section 8. I don't begrudge landlords making money one bit, nor am I opposed to subsidized housing. But owners like Khan need to do a better job of upkeep on their properties, period.

    Can you document what you claim you've supposedly heard? Because if I need to, I can track down evidence to support my above statement.

    Also, given that this house still has boards on it, it clearly does not meet health and safety codes. Feel free to restate that question if or when this property is verified as meeting code compliance.

    @Anon 1:38, that's your perception of NoMi bloggers, but you're wrong.

  7. The playing field needs to be fair. You can't complain about one landlord while protecting another. If the property has code violations they should be reported no matter who owns the property.

  8. Agreed, Anon 7:53. Do you have a specific landlord in mind?

  9. @Anon 12:47 - point by point, more or less.

    First, you are correct that the building code specifies only that there must be adequate egress. However, most ways a building meets those adequate egress rules is through (wait for it) windows. Admittedly, if Khan, who IS after all a flight attendant, installed those nifty blow-up slides that help people out of airplanes, that would meet the egress code. Having something that cool on the second floor would definitely make ME want to live there.

    Second, please cite that evidence.

    Third, I actually do agree with you on this one, but there are ways to quantify the loss of value for surrounding houses in this case. Whether a judge or jury would accept such calculations is another matter.

    Fourth, I also completely agree with the first paragraph/sentence of that section. Especially considering diminished property values in NoMi, many homeowners are already underwater on their mortgages. Should a person have their house slated for demolition because they pulled a permit to install or upgrade plumbing, only to find out the after-rehab value isn't justified? If someone wants to waste money on a home they own, that is their business.

    In the case of 2222 4th St N, though, even if Khan did spend lavishly, he should not avoid the consequence of demolition if that spending failed to alleviate nuisance conditions.

  10. That's a loaded question, answer:
    Yes, yours. You have posted very clearly in this blog that you will not post comments related to your landlord, or report him for very obvious code violations.
    Double standard = favoritism.

  11. Well, Anon 7:53, it was a loaded proposition from the get-go. I'm not doing anything to "protect" my landlord, and the baseless accusations that have been thrown around on JHG around that won't get play here.

    In fact, if anyone wants to track down minutes or video of a recent HPC hearing where my landlord had to appear because the front stoop was not repaired in accordance with the historic nature of the property, you'll see me speaking at that hearing and stating that they should make sure the front steps are repaired in the appropriate way.

    But since you started off with yet another false accusation that I'm "protecting" him in some way, you've just validated my policy to not get into such discussion here. That topic is closed.

  12. What moron from CPED would ever say that rents are higher in NoMi as compared to other areas of Mpls? I have mamnged properties both over South, Northeast, and North Mpls. Comparable houses (a 3 br) rent for around $1,100 over South, about $1,400 over Southwest, again around $1,100 in NE and between $900 and at most $1,000 in NoMi. That's the reality!

  13. 12:47 here...

    I am not trying to protect Khan with my statements because I know the harm he and others do to the community, but the blame for lack of enforcement is on how the laws are written and applied.

    The city inspectors verified that Khan had addressed the code issues specified by CPED when allowed a second chance to remediate those conditions. They allowed this to happen because they thought he was too cheap to follow through with the extensive repairs necessary. But, Khan knew that this would set a precedent for his future dealings with the city and found loopholes in the code requirements that allowed him to make a mockery of the intent of the law. Perhaps he should not have been given that opportunity - but that is the law.

    Houses don't create nuisance conditions. Owners create them by lack of oversight. These conditions have become so pervasive in our community that it would be impossible to isolate one slumlord as a cause of financial loss for the purpose of litigation.

    The problem is that City Hall assumes that investors will enhance properties to the benefit of the community as a natural expression of long term benefit. We know that is not true. The opportunities to skirt the intent of the law for personal profit are far too great. You are correct that we need to draw distinctions between homesteads and investment properties.

    I have great admiration for your efforts. But as a community leader and Hawthorne Housing Director, you need to distinguish what the root of the problems are and what actions can be taken to improve the playing field that impacts our community.

    Trying to isolate each slum lord by destroying a property at a time is meaningless and an exhausting use of your efforts. What is necessary is a broad approach to community standards of livability and aesthetics.

    Go after the landlords for allowing their tenants to impact the well being of the community and take away those rental licenses. Apply standards that make modifying non-homesteaded properties live up to the ideal the community wants to see in the future.

    Here is Forest Lakes Residential Design Standards. It is a very well written and documented guideline aimed at the character of the community.

    (Please feel free to shorten this link if possible)

  14. Here's a shorter (and hyperlinked) version of those design standards.

  15. What the flying figtree does this design standard in Lake Forest have to do with rental properties in NoMi? Please do not tell me that you think that can be accomplished in NoMi. If you do, the little bit of credability that you had is totally gone!

  16. Anon 9:54...You have to set the bar somewhere, might as well make it worth attaining.

    Reading your response, I feel you may misunderstand the way Design Standards are applied. The intent is not to make every home upgrade to these standards - but to prevent future degradation and hack remodeling. In time community property values will level out and homeowners will do improvements to existing structure to bring them inline with the norm as they strive for additional property values.

    After a quick online search I chose Lake Forest's Design Standards because they were strait forward and comprehensive without the clutter of National Historic Landmark Standards that might not apply to our community. Many of the home styles in that area are similar in size and scale to those around us.

    Communities all across the country have design standards. If you don't like my example chose one you think is more appropriate.

    Why should a rental structure be held to a lesser standard than an owner occupied home? Don't they both impact you property values similarly?

  17. Yea, we all need to dream, but as Dr. Phil says, "Get real" Why don't we inspect all homes, including owner occupied homes? Huh? Why do rental properties that have 3 steps to the front need a handrail and owner occupant homes do not? Are tenants less co ordinated than owner occupants? Why the double standard????

  18. What?

    Handrails are required of all homes. I purchased a home 3 years ago as a homesteader and I was required to add handrails. No double standard there.

    Stop taking code advise from Dr. Phil.


    Here is a great example of the Nuisance Property laws applied to community benefit. The same laws could have been used to take away Khans rental license and vacate the property. The Hennepin County Attorneys Office who prosecuted this case has jurisdiction in NoMi also. So why don't we use these laws to rid ourselves of problem properties?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.