In The News › HANO set to keep city’s ball rolling

Sep 21, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

HANO set to keep city’s ball rolling

HANO set to keep city’s ball rolling
No-bid deal extension plan raises questions
Thursday, September 21, 2006
By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer

A lucrative no-bid contract that the New Orleans City Council awarded to a team of planners this year might be extended to include four of the city’s shuttered public housing developments.

The proposed “cooperative endeavor agreement” has the Housing Authority of New Orleans paying $498,000 to the city for planning services. But there’s no ambiguity about who is to benefit from the agreement: a team of consultants led by Paul Lambert and Sheila Danzey, whose nearly $3 million contract for the city’s “Neighborhoods Rebuilding Plan” is about to run out.

HANO’s executive administrator, William Thorson, has already signed the proposed 15-page agreement with the city, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is on board. But questions arose this week, namely from New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacey Head, over the contract’s origins.

HANO says it wanted to work with the city on the redevelopment of public housing, and since Lambert and Danzey already had started citywide planning work, the agency decided it was best to stick with the city’s existing contractor. As for the proposed no-bid agreement, which has not yet been signed by Council President Oliver Thomas, HANO said it followed government regulations.

List of questions

But the councilwoman had some concerns.

“I have requested the following information from (HANO): 1) the genesis of the contract; 2) the reason that the $500,000 dollar figure was used; and 3) why a public bid was not performed,” Head said in a recent e-mail message to some of her supporters.

Head said Wednesday that she just wants to ensure the new “unified” citywide recovery planning effort includes all of New Orleans. The foundation-financed unified planning process, which is separate from the city’s and includes all its neighborhoods rather than just 49, recently got under way.

“To me, it seems like it’s almost disenfranchising public housing residents from the unified planning process,” Head said Wednesday. “We need to make sure special considerations are taken to integrate public housing into the neighborhoods’ plan. Public housing residents are part of the neighborhoods and they need to be respected as that.”

Thomas canceled a housing committee meeting scheduled for Monday, during which the cooperative endeavor agreement was to be discussed. Council spokeswoman Danae Columbus said it was canceled for personal reasons, and as of Wednesday, the meeting had not been rescheduled.

The City Council earlier this year unanimously voted to spend nearly $3 million in Community Development Block Grant money to create redevelopment plans for 49 flooded neighborhoods. The results of that effort are scheduled to be released on Saturday and folded into the broader unified planning process.

Going in-house

When the council decided to hire professionals to help create the plans in the spring, it turned to consultants already working for it on a different project instead of issuing a request for proposals. But since that decision, voters have removed three council members from office, and a fourth was ineligible to run because of term limits.

The council’s planning consultants are Lambert of Miami and Danzey of New Orleans, working with the Miami architectural firm Bermello-Ajamil & Partners, New Orleans architect Lonnie Hewitt and several other planners, architects and consultants.

Danzey has served as a housing director for Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, as a HANO manager and an executive at Historic Restoration Inc., owned by developer Pres Kabacoff. She also owns a company called SHEDO, which in 2003 won part of a contract to build a number of units of low-income housing as part of the redevelopment of the former St. Thomas complex.

Lambert, who won a $125,000 contract with the city in 2004 after responding to a request for qualifications, had been helping the council review plans for redeveloping HANO public housing complexes. After Katrina, that contract was amended to include the planning work.

The no-bid deal was criticized by the Bureau of Governmental Research for the council’s failure to collect competitive proposals. At the time, Thomas said the city was running short on time to get the planning process going, and that a competitive bid would only delay New Orleans’ recovery.

Staying around

Under the cooperative endeavor agreement being proposed now, Lambert and Danzey, who essentially have finished their planning work in the 49 neighborhoods, would stay on the city’s payroll and begin developing rebuilding plans for the C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, Lafitte and St. Bernard public housing complexes.

None of those complexes has reopened since Katrina hit the city.

In June, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would demolish four complexes to make way for redevelopment, including “mixed-income” housing that typically employs private developers to build market-rate homes alongside homes reserved for public housing residents, who pay reduced rents based on their incomes.

Before Katrina, New Orleans had 5,100 units of public housing in use. The number of occupied public housing units today is 1,076, HANO said Wednesday.

HANO has described the proposed contract as a way to work closely with the city on planning public housing.

HANO has determined that it would be in the agency’s best interest to join the city’s Neighborhoods Rebuilding Plan process in order to best define the plan for, structure, tenure and income mix, and housing typology to be developed on HANO redevelopment properties, as well as the best way of accommodating low- and moderate-income households served by HANO,” the agreement says.

For the $500,000 contract, the city, via Lambert and Danzey, would provide HANO with “pre-and post-storm assessments” of the conditions of these properties, and also conduct resident surveys.

The city would also hold two public meetings to discuss redevelopment of each of the four complexes, HANO said.

Deal has critics

Danzey and Lambert said the proposed HANO contract came from HANO’s interest in teaming up with the council’s recovery plan. Council members, particularly Arnold Fielkow, urged HANO to participate in the planning effort, they said, but doing that involves work well beyond that outlined in the existing contract.

“You have to come up with a program for the property, what density of development, how the street layout would work,” Lambert said. “There’s some continuity (with the neighborhood planning), but they are separate and distinct efforts.”

The planning consultants conceded that they didn’t have to compete with other firms for the proposed HANO work, saying the work would be a natural outgrowth of the neighborhood project already under way and that federal housing officials were comfortable with the single-source hiring.

But Lambert said “we haven’t heard from the council as a body” on whether it backs the project.

Both said they don’t want a dispute over whether they should be hired for the HANO project to cloud public discussion of results of neighborhood recovery plans, the subject of a public meeting at City Hall on Saturday.

Some, however, believe any additional planning for public housing would be best handled under the new “unified” citywide recovery planning effort approved by city officials in late August and backed by foundations. That program is designed to incorporate results of dozens of neighborhood plans developed with technical help from the Lambert/Danzey team.

Bobbie Hill, a planner who is helping coordinate the unified effort, said some of its newly appointed consultants are confused over how they should treat housing developments and that the unified team has asked HANO officials to discuss the matter at an orientation meeting next week.

Hill said it would be logical to include the public housing planning in the charge of the unified team, to ensure that planning from this point on is in sync, but she said that decision is one the City Council and HANO must make.

“I think if it’s separate, it’s problematic, but that’s not my call,” Hill said.

. . . . . . .

Staff writer Coleman Warner contributed to this report. Gwen Filosa can be reached at or (504) 826-3304.

Sep 21, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

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