Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saving "Fat City" - Comparing Preservation in San Diego and Minneapolis

Post and above photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Other photos/images from, used with permission.

Part 4 of 4 housing policy/wonkish posts.  Click on the links for part 1, part 2, part 3.

I spent a week this summer helping Bryan Thao Worra become a former Hawthornite.  He moved out to the LA area, and we drove across country in a moving van, sampling ghost peppers along the way.  Once we hit the ocean, we bombed around Los Angeles, San Diego, and whatever other cities there are along the sprawling coastal metropolis area.  In San Diego, I came across this sign and snapped a photo to remind me to go back and research what they were doing to save a potential historic site from demolition.  What could Minneapolis learn from other areas?

It almost seemed I was destined to look into this more.  "Fat City" is a nightclub located along the historic Pacific Highway, with Hawthorn Street as the nearest intersection.  Like Fuji-Ya here in Minneapolis, Fat City was the beneficiary of a pioneering Asian-American businessperson, Tom Fat.
The nightclub was originally called Top's Nightclub, and was owned by a Russian immigrant, Yale Khan.  Top's became a central point for the San Diego nightlife, drawing star performers such as Nat King Cole, Shelley Winters, Nelson Eddy, Van Johnson, Don Ameche, Susan Hayward, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.  In 1977, Tom Fat took over the property, restoring and improving the site.  The crown jewel of his addition was...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fighting Back Against Discriminatory Maintenance

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Part 3 of 4 mortgage policy/wonkish posts.

The previous post alluded to possible ways to combat what I will now coin "discriminatory maintenance" of properties in NoMi.  More specifics will be laid out here, both from the National Fair Housing Alliance and their report, and my own ideas at a local level.

Johnny Northside jumped into the fray by recommending that we get these properties taken care of immediately, which is pretty much exactly what the NFHA group recommends when they say...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Predatory Maintenance; Post-Foreclosure Discrimination

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Part 2 of 4 mortgage/policy wonkish posts.

In April of this year, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released a study entitled "Here Comes the Bank, There Goes Our Neighborhood."

That report details significant differences between White, African-American, and Latino neighborhoods when it comes to how homes are maintained, marketed, and resold after a foreclosure.  Research focused on metropolitan areas of Conneticut, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia, but by all appearances could easily indicate similar patterns in Minneapolis.  Now this may come as a shock to you, but foreclosed properties in White neighborhoods were more likely to have well-maintained lawns, better curb appeal, secured entrances, and professional sales marketing.  Similar Real Estate Owned (REO) properties in Black or Latino neighborhoods were more likely to be poorly maintained, unsecured, and look vacant or abandoned.  Care to hazard a guess as to which houses sold faster and for more money?

Where this bumps up against legal statutes is with the federal Fair Housing Act, which states that...

Friday, September 23, 2011

United States v. Deutsche Bank and Its Impact in NoMi

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, chart below from the Housing Preservation Project.

Part 1 of 4 posts delving into mortgage and policy wonkish issues.

Earlier this year, the United States government took the bold step of filing a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank for its malfeasance and gross negligence in contributing to the foreclosure crisis.  Deutche Bank and one of its subsidiaries, MortgageIT, generated over $5 billion in FHA loans between 1999 and 2009.  This would have been a badge of honor if it weren't for the fact that MortgageIT was basically lying about virtually every significant aspect of its loan portfolio.  Allegedly.

FHA loans have rather stringent guidelines in terms of borrower income and asset verification and property conditions, but the tradeoff for originators is that they are backed by the federal government.  That insurance makes for a desirable product on the secondary market, and the feds are understandably reluctant to pay out on defaulted loans.  Originators in turn have to implement a rigid quality control process to ensure that the loans originated fall under FHA guidelines.

Their failure to adhere to those guidelines directly harmed north Minneapolis, as evidenced by...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goodbye Again, Diane Hofstede

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, John Denver video from Youtube.

The Star Tribune blog reports today that another aide to 3rd Ward Council Member Diane Hofstede is set to resign.  Within minutes of that article being posted, calls were coming in that the Hofstede Staff Timer needed to be reset.  With that task taken care of, the only question was what would be the lead photo or video for the corresponding blog post?  "Another One Bites the Dust" was the obvious choice, but that was already taken on the Issues Forum, and I needed something more original.  I went with "Goodbye Again" by John Denver primarily because this particular video inexplicably opens with Denver gazing at a hawk.  It seemed apropos.

The question on people's minds now is whether we'll see aide number 30 by Christmas.  For the sake of the third ward, let's hope not.

Property Tax Lawsuit Takes Expected Step Back, Legal Fight Continues

Post and stock photo (of a house that's probably over-assessed) by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

A lawsuit alleging that property tax assessments are unfairly calculated so that lower-income neighborhoods are paying more than their fair share has been dismissed on a technicality.  A brief NXNS recap of links:  the lawsuit documents can be found here, CURA mapped out where in Minneapolis people are paying assessments that are either more or less than market value, I posited that perhaps the key question is whether a post-foreclosure sale from a bank to an individual counts as a forced sale, and a Minneapolis assessor didn't answer that direct question. 

So where does the lawsuit stand now?  Well...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meet Jon Nygren of J.B. Hood Bikes!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Have you ever been in the parking lot between Emerson and Fremont and behind the Avenue Eatery, and noticed an open garage door with bicycles practically spilling out of the building?  If you've wondered what was going on there, well wonder no more.  That would be J.B. Hood Bikes, NoMi's first (at least in a long time) privately owned and operated bike shop.  One of its proprietors, Jon Nygren, introduced himself to me at the Mayor's bike tour of NoMi.

We met again at a bike planning meeting this week, where I was the first recipient of one of his new business ideas...

5 Scene Challenge: Star Wars IV-VI

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from Bryan Thao Worra, videos from varying sites.

I try to keep topics on this blog specific to north Minneapolis, but this is one exception.  My good friend and former Hawthornite Bryan Thao Worra was back in town recently, and we as die-hard Star Wars fans lamented the nonstop tweaks that George Lucas makes each time he releases the Star Wars classics in a new format.  (Today is a dark day for us as it marks the release of all six movies on Blu-Ray.)  This round of changes includes Darth Vader yelling "Nooooo!" as he kills The Emperor in Return of the Jedi, reminding viewers of Vader's cringe-worthy close to Revenge of the Sith.  Oh, and R2-D2 hides behind even more rocks.  Really?  That's what kept George Lucas up at night, thinking "You know what Tatooine needs?  I've got it!  More rocks."

So BTW and I agreed to do our own dueling blog posts about what five things we would add to improve the original trilogy.  The prequels weren't worth mentioning, as fans have pretty much edited those movies already.  The Other Side of the Eye has its top five here.

And now for Star Wars:  The Hawkman Edit...

Dragon's Breath Stir Fry - Another Ghost Pepper Recipe

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I love Cub Foods on Broadway.  Admittedly, their selection of fresh fruits and peppers has diminished slightly this year (no starfuit, I haven't seen pomegranates in a while, and no lychees this year, not to mention a dearth of hot peppers).  But they have brought back the ghost pepper this fall.  A close comparison to what I cooked with last year shows some clear differences though.  Last year's peppers were advertised as "bhut jolokia," and the ghost peppers available this year are "naga jolokia."  The research I've done seems to indicate that these are essentially the same pepper.  The bhut pepper was grown in California while the naga is from Holland - both a far cry from the pepper's native area of India and Bangladesh.  If you have enough of a tolerance for hot peppers, both the bhut and naga jolokia have a smoky taste to them.  Remember - where there's smoke, there's fire.

Furthermore, I found that the Scoville scale, the most widely-accepted method to measure the spiciness of a pepper, is still somewhat disputed and there is no clear "hottest pepper in the world."  Several types, including the ghost pepper and the trinidad scorpion, lay claim to that title. And THEN my random neural firings led me to a non-sequitur...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NoMi Home Tour This Saturday!

2522 James Ave N

2601 Humboldt Ave N

2811 Irving Ave N
5227 Bryant Ave N
Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos from Jennifer Olstad.

This Saturday from noon to three p.m. over thirty homes will be open for viewing on the NoMi Home Tour.  As you can see from the photos above, a variety of styles are available, with prices ranging from $59,900 to $249,900.  You could own a house for several hundred dollars less than what it costs to rent a 2-bedroom apartment.

Stop by the NoMi Home Tour table at Penn and Lowry during the Harvest Festival to get a complete list, and welcome to the neighborhood!

Plop Fifty Units of Housing into a Low-Density Part of NoMi? Bad Idea.

 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the Plymouth Christian Church Foundation website.

When I first heard of plans to put 48 units of rental housing at 18th and Emerson, where there is currently no such facility or density anywhere nearby, Several questions immediately popped to mind.  The proposal is misguided on so many levels that the rapid-fire questions kept coming before the last one could even be completed.  "Who the--?"  "What the--?  They can't possibly think that--?  I mean, where is there even space for--?  How does that fit--?  Isn't it zoned--?  And kids/daycare without green--?"

Thankfully, the Old Highland group put together a response (without my coordination) that completes my sentences and answers many of those questions.  The link under the photos above goes to one of the foundation's questionnaires, this link goes to their homepage, and you can click here for a Q&A document that in my opinion is inaccurate, misguided, or both.  This is the wrong spot to put up a four-story, 48-unit complex that calls for day care but has no open space for children to play outside.  If you want to even think about a complex like the one being proposed, take it up to Lowry Avenue, which was just rezoned for that kind of density.  Emerson and 18th is the wrong spot for this proposal.

Feel free to use the comment section to agree or disagree with me, but more importantly, come out to the community forum and weigh in on the topic.  That meeting is Thursday evening, 6-8 at UROC.

Back-to-Back Onsides Kicks Spur Tommies' Win Over Polars

Scenes like this made me think that every football game could be improved upon by playing in front of trains.
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Friday's matchup between the North High Polars and the Edison Tommies was that work kept me from missing at least some of the action.  I couldn't make it before part of the first quarter had passed by, and the Tommies were already up 14-0.  Adding insult to injury of this volunteer blogger, the Star Tribune has not posted the full box score of the game like they used to last year.  I haven't found out yet whether this is due to cutbacks at the newspaper or if the schools simply didn't pass on enough information.  So I won't be able to describe HOW the Tommies jumped out to the early lead.

Looking at the program, I was struck at how YOUNG our North High Polars team is this year.  We have only a handful of seniors, and quite a few sophomores and freshmen are playing at the varsity level.  On the other hand, we weren't sure if we would even have a school this year, much less field a football team.

Thankfully, watching the Polars, it's clear that they have athleticism and heart, and when they take the field it's not with an attitude of "we're just glad to be here."  They expect to win.  Unfortunately, the youth of the team shows at times.  One of my best football coaches stressed the little things over and over.  Hustle all the time, never, ever take your helmet off or remove your mouthguard, hustle, know the play and get to your spot.  And hustle, that seemed to be important.  Do enough of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.

That's a lesson these kids are still learning, but they gave Edison a handful by...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Biking the Grand Rounds

Post and images by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On top of trying to map out various 15-minute biking destinations in NoMi, I've also been building up to biking the entire length of the Grand Rounds this summer.  Well, technically not each and every inch of that trail, since some of it loops around the lakes and Minnehaha Parkway.  Recently, I made good on my goal to bike the Grand Rounds in one trip.  What you see pictured above isn't the exact map of the trail, since the designated area stops just short of north Minneapolis.  And, in a point of pride, the last little jig in northeast isn't mapped out because my phone was low on batteries.  I had to upload the map of what I had done before it shut off and erased the record of my progress.

That's right, I had more endurance than my phone's batteries.

All bravado aside, the experience led to a few observations about the Grand Rounds...

A Missing Link for River Info

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

When the National Wakeboarding Championships happened in my neighborhood and no one seemed to notice, I was pretty irate about the breakdown in communication.  I even publicly questioned two of our park board officials about it.  Well last week, a Hawthorne resident told me about an email newsletter she gets that did announce that event beforehand.  The Minneapolis River Current spreads the word about quite a few different events, not all of them happening on the river.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to locate either a website or a Facebook account for this service, only a gmail address.  Click on the link to sign up for news and information.

Since these announcements aren't readily found on the internet, the most recent River Current updates can be found after the jump...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mr. Slummy Loses Judgment, Served with Foreclosure!

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Mohammed Amro of Amro's Properties Inc., informally known in the NoMi blogosphere as "Mr. Slummy," has been served with foreclosure papers on 2515 3rd Street North.  A brief s(l)ummary of this property, as well as what specifically led to the foreclosure filing can be found at the Johnny Northside post "Mr. Slummy Owes Some Money."

As to the papers now posted at the property, a sheriff's sale is now scheduled for November 9, 2011.  Amro contracted out tens of thousands of dollars' worth of work to Siwek Lumber & Millwork, but has not paid them for work performed.  So Siwek responded with a judgment, demanding among other things...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More Fun with Sign Spammers

Post, photos, and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I've not been as diligent in my removal of sign spam as I'd like, but there's a reason.  A while ago I lent my stepladder to a friend of mine so she could finish remodeling her living room.  Without all the weapons in my sign-removal arsenal, it didn't make strategic sense for me to make a sweep like the one pictured above.  On the plus side, I learned how to put in crown molding and got a few good meals out of it when I went over to help her.

With the remodeling done, my ladder was returned, and I set out with the broom handle and pruning shears to take on more snipe signs.  My first encounter was with...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where Does the Extra Water Go?

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Recently Strib reporter Steve Brandt wrote about how the city has a significant gap between water used and water billed.  Minneapolis was losing four percent of the water pumped into the system, but when that figure was analyzed, we found that the real number was almost quadruple - 15.75%.  In other words, that's the percent of water lost in the system.  A healthy percentage is no higher than 10%.

Some water loss, as the article states, is inevitable - either due to the age of the system and small leaks as a result, or from necessary activities such as firemen accessing a hydrant.  But our current numbers are markedly higher than where they should be.

Two locations on 26th Ave N have had water gushing from them for weeks and even months on end.  They are located at...

North Minneapolis Hmong Families Celebrate New Hmong Police Officer

Quoted text and photo by Jay Clark, reprinted with permission.  Remainder of post by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The following text was posted to the Minneapolis Issues Forum by Jay Clark, organizer at CURA:

On August 31, 25 North Minneapolis Hmong soccer players came to Dessert with Don Samuels to meet and celebrate their new 4th precinct outreach officer. Kou Vang,

You can see a picture at:
 (more after the jump)

Friday, September 2, 2011

From Death to Life; Vigil for Quantrell Braxton and Rayjon Gomez

Post, photos, and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Last Sunday marked a vigil for Quantrell Braxton and Rayjon Gomez.  The organization From Death to Life was the primary organizer of the march.  I knew I would be in attendance, but part of me questioned why.  After all, this wasn't the first vigil I would attend around homicides and violence in my community.  God knows I hope it's the last, but how would my presence make a difference in that regard?  And I'm sure many people in attendance had other things they could have been doing on a nearly perfect late August weekend.  So why go?  What difference does my attendance make in solving the issues that lead to youth violence?

And that's when a thought hit me out of the blue...