CBS 6 News Problem Solvers just did a story entitled “Neighbors irate ‘eyesore’ school costs taxpayers $26K a year to maintain” about the old abandoned and vacant Oak Grove Elementary school owned by the City of Richmond’s Public Schools system.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident of neglect.
The City of Richmond’s various departments including Richmond Public Schools, Parks & Recreation, etc, are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of abandoned and underutilized real estate which they have a track record of not maintaining. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say the City of Richmond is the areas’ largest slumlord, contributing to blight, neighborhood decline, declining property values, and crime. This neglect occurs while the city stubbornly clings to these abandoned properties as they watch them slide into an ever increasing state of disrepair.
Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior has a more sinister outcome.
These properties are allowed to degrade, sitting vacant for years, often decades. Then they are eventually sold to a friend of the City of Richmond’s Economic and Community Development for a below market price, rather than being auctioned off to the highest bidder. All the while the developer is heralded by the City as a knight in shining armor who is there to save the day by turning a dilapidated property with a caved in roof, boarded up windows, trash littered rooms filled with vagrants, and graffiti into luxury apartments via historic tax credits. The pattern is disgusting. One might even call it fraud, or theft.
We highlighted this con in detail in our article: City Shafts Taxpayers Again By Giving Away City Owned Property To Friends And Family. These properties shouldn’t be allowed to languish, but should be sold via auction to the highest bidder immediately after they are no longer in use. This would enable the City to attract the highest price for the taxpayer for these highly valuable pieces of real estate which are often located in desirable neighborhoods that are experiencing a rebirth.
This cronyism has caught the attention of at least one City Council member: Councilman Parker Agelasto. Councilman Agelasto has sponsored a paper to overhaul the process for dealing with the City’s surplus property. You can read that paper here: Unsolicited Surplus Real Estate Offer (Agelasto 031617). Unsurprisingly, the paper is meeting resistance from the City’s Economic and Community Development department, a handful of old guard city council members, and various local developers who benefit from this arrangement because they are in cahoots with City administration holdovers from Mayor Jones’ administration.
Let’s hope the newly elected members of City Council and Mayor Stoney fix this broken paradigm. This lingering problem drags down our communities and unnecessarily enriches the developer friends of the City’s Economic and Community Development at the expense of City taxpayers.
Credit: CBS 6 News Problem Solvers