Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Photo by daviss on Twitter, used under First Amendment Fair Comment and Criticism, blog post by John Hoff

Somebody took a picture of a dramatically "all marked up" house in North Minneapolis and posted it to Twitter. Somebody else posted the pic to North Talk Facebook page and asked, "Just curious, does anybody know where this is?" A rollicking discussion ensued about the house, why it was marked up like that, who owned it, (Neighborhood Housing Service Minneapolis, Inc) and from there it became a discussion about the role of nonprofits in North Minneapolis housing market issues.

The house is at 1406 Girard Ave. N.

Why is it all painted up like that? Is it not OBVIOUS that 100-year-old houses have lead paint, that house and houses all around it? Why would anybody deliberately create this eyesore?

Near as anybody can figure...

Because some well-meaning, well-intentioned people acted in a way that just wasn't that bright. One participant in the Northtalk forum made a 311 report and posted the incident number so it could be tracked.

Heck of a thing, when you have to report the actions of the city to the city.

The bigger issue is the nonprofits. Are they helping our neighborhood? Or are they stuck in a way of thinking that has begun to hurt our neighborhood? Exhibit A, photo above, and WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?


Anonymous said...

Whats wrong with this picture?

A Non-profit group who's goal is to restore and sell community housing with the use of public funds, plasters a local home with scarey and misleading graffiti suggesting that this 100 years old neighborhood is an unhealthy place for families to invest in?

How do we say - Pull that funding?

chouette harfang said...

Interesting. Perhaps a disgruntled new owner?

We purchased our house two years ago from a couple who purchased it newly "renovated" from MHS (they owned it for about 10 years with no issues) From what we can tell, the renovations were mostly cosmetic (the permit states "no structural work") however, structural work WAS done--either badly (in the case of installing egress windows without the proper framing on both sides of the house) or half-assed (replacing the basement stairs and installing fake supports; installing a new concrete basement floor around the completely rotted-through vertical supports, building a new load bearing wall onto hacked-off floor joists and rotted/hacked-off chimney cage). So now many of those cosmetic improvements were for naught as the weight of the 2010-11 snow put so much pressure on the rotted out vertical supports our home literally started to implode. Replacing the center beam, vertical posts, and jacking up the sagging floor cracked nearly every wall in the house to varying degrees.
Obviously older homes require maintenance and repair; it wasn't our intention to live improvement-free (as we've made other upgrades to the property) but it doesn't make any sense to me for a non-profit to put money into painting walls when it should be investing the same funding for new timber or for hiring people who can competently install egress windows and build a new staircase. Now we must backtrack and pay to fix those mistakes rather than move forward.

Johnny Northside! said...

As for the house pictured, there's no home owner there yet.

In fact, the way it's taking so long and there's no home owner there yet is part of the reason people in the neighborhood are unhappy. And now this.

Anonymous said...

Talk about a 'tempest in a teapot'. The Northside Neighborhood Housing Services of Mpls has done more then most other local groups to repair abandoned, vacant and 'problem' houses on the Near North Side. This house at 1406Girard is now being given a new life, after sitting vacant for several years. Rather then the quick 'Fluff & Bluff' of the flip investors, this house will have new heating, plumbing, electrical, roofing, siding, windows and yes (behold) the lead paint will be fully abated as regulated and inspected by Federal standards.
To those who misconstrew the good work and efforts of local groups and contractors, and turn it into an effort to put down some of the primary forces of good in the community, I simply say, 'Shame'

Johnny Northside! said...

Bottom line is it looks terrible, and what the hell were they thinking? If this group is doing so much good, then...


Fix. Now.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

What exactly is being "misconstrewed"?

chouette harfang said...

Anon 10:12, I'm not sure I understand why either the original JNS posting or my anecdote are worthy of "shame". I'm pretty sure my current home was in shambles before the Neighborhood Housing Service bought it--vacant, fire boarded, hell, there is even a CityPages story from '98 or '99 about Section 8 landlords and renters ripping out built-in furniture and stained glass from homes and it mentions my address permanent-markered on a recovered stained glass window--the author assumed the home was demolished long ago. I'd wager the story prompted the salvation of the house.
LIke I posted earlier, it doesn't make any sense to put in money in aesthetics and not also invest in the structural integrity of the home, and I'm sorry to say that in our case, several key issues were either missed, ignored or completed sloppily by contractors hired by MNHS. I doubt you'd be very happy purchasing a home after wading through plenty of "fluff & buffs" and then watching your floor sink two inches in a year after you thought you made an intelligent choice. How is the MNHS renovation, then, much different than a "fluff & buff"? Would you like to see photos of the completely rotted vertical post some buffoon poured cement around and tell me I should be ashamed for calling them out? Or the floor stringer hacked off to less than 2 inches in width with an oversized-supporting wall placed on it? I had contractors examining the mess for over two hours just flabbergasted by what was done/not done here. If MNHS is unhappy with this post then they can come pay for all the repairs, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Please...Anon 19:12

Lets call this what it is - A blatant attempt to glorify the work of a non-profit organization out of touch with the realities of neighborhood economics and the sensitivities of adjacent landowners who all own older homes.

What does NHS hope to accomplish with this garish display. Does it make the neighborhood more marketable? Increase adjacent property values? Warn small children not to eat paint chips? No,No,No.

My parents, your parents, and their parents all grew up with lead paint. In fact, lead paint had been in use since the 1700's and although banned in Europe in 1909; continued in use in the US until 1978. Over 95% of American homes contain some degree of lead paint.

Now, I am not going to say that precautions shouldn't be taken regarding lead, especially around young children - but this display is way out of line.

BTW...You should also know that other documented substances still used in modern construction may carry equally unsafe side effects. Some drywall carry high contents of carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. Chipboard sheathing and press board furniture contains a Formaldehyde (Yup- like you kept frogs in during Biology class) which is used as a binding agent. Tyvek house wrap and vapor barrier material which are code in new construction create perfect conditions for the growth of molds if the home is vacant or the HVAC equipment is not kept maintenance. New Carpet contain high levels of known carcinogens and PBDEs which cause cancer and immune system damage. Yet I don't see any garish signs painted across homes warning neighbors about those dangers. (Maybe in 100 years when the contracting industry wants to scare people into newer homes again).

Former Good Deeds are meaningless. It is how the organization conducts itself now and in the future that counts. I am sure the administrators of this "non-profit" were adequately rewarded with tax dollars for their past work. That makes this lack of consideration for surrounding homeowners seem like an even greater betrayal.

Johnny Northside! said...

To Hawthorne Hawkman, asking what is being "misconstrewed."

I don't think the commenter knows how to USE the word "misconstrue" any more than they know how to SPELL the word "misconstrue."

And I want to say THANK YOU to chouette harfang, who hasn't been on this blog to comment very much but has added incredibly substantive and specific discussion to this story.

Johnny Northside! said...

I received an email about this, as follows:

Hi John,

caught your picture/blog re 1406 and wanted to pass on some info.

I am the general contractor of the project and am proud to be part of the project. the lead abatement firm is obligated to literally, almost cover the encapsulated lead painted old siding with the phrase "lead paint" The lead firm" must" put the phrase, "lead paint", on the building and often.

the purpose is to warn any future contractors about the presence of encapsulated lead painted siding, in case they put on additions or change window locations.

The delay(which I regret) in installing new siding is on my shoulders and is due to a broken arm (mine) poor planing (mine) and delays in receiving the special order siding.

Northside Housing should be commended for their actions and any other thoughts should be directed to me.

thanks for your consideration.

Gary Kittelson

General contractor


To which I replied that I would like him to show me the regulation he is citing so I could look it over myself.

Johnny Northside! said...

One participant in the North Talk FB page received this email about the house.


Hi Joel -

What appears to be graffiti is actually our compliance with Federal Rules regarding Lead Paint Abatement. We had the building tested for Lead and the report came back that there is evidence of lead on the original siding.

The asbestos siding was removed revealing the wood lap. Lead rules state that we have to warn future owners about the location of lead hazards by spray painting "Lead Paint" at stated locations (we have to do this on interior surfaces as well). Should future owners decide to work on this home, they must be warned about the hazard.

I've asked the construction supervisor when the new siding will be installed and will let you know after I hear.

Please let the residents know this is not random graffiti and actually serves as a health and safety warning.

Thank you Joel


It would be fair to say these emails have not satisfied the complaints and there is doubt about the existence (or correct interpretation) of the regulation being cited in defense of this graffiti job on the house.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

If the regulation IS being interpreted and applied correctly, then it would be a pretty good argument for ignoring federal funds and allowing the private market to take care of historic home rehabs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you would be happier if these non-profits just got out of NoMi and let the neighborhoods go to shit.
You're obviously ungrateful towards the work they are doing.
Let's just let the slumlords buy and rehab houses with windows that don't fit and multi-colored siding.
Once the non-profits are gone, we can let the do-nothing neighborhood organizations hold meetings and blog until NoMi has rotted away. Then we can bulldoze the entire area and let the for-profit builders take over.
Sounds like a great idea.

ASHI Inspector said...

Would it not be better for these homes to have hazardous materials properly abated? Even if for a short time the home looks unpresentable?
If these homes are being rehabbed we want them to last another 100 years, and we would want them to be safe for the residents and any children that live there.
Most of these old homes were built with materials long before we know they were hazardous. Lead paint, asbestos, arsenic, are often present in these older homes. There are thousands of children sickened by these materials every year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities have made it a priority to remove these hazards from homes.
All too often, private parties rehab homes not knowing the hazardous wastes they toss into dumpsters that get disposed of improperly.
Insulation and floor tiles were often made with asbestos. Asbestos was frequently used as a binder in plaster on lath walls. And interior and exterior walls are coated with layers of lead based paint.
I am appalled that Jeff Skrenes, the Hawthorne Housing Director thinks it would be better for private parties to improperly rehab homes, exposing themselves and neighbors hazardous wastes, rather than have licensed contractors who are required to follow EPA guidelines for lead paint abatement do the work properly and safely. And for Mr. Skrenes information, all contractors are requires to follow the EPA Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP) for renovations on homes pre-1978, federal funding has nothing to do with it.
If Mr. Skrenes thinks following the EPA guidelines is an impediment to having homes properly rehabbed, I would suggest his priorities and misconstrued, and he is out of touch with today's regulations.
One would assume it is his job to help people obtain federal /local funds to assure their homes are rehabbed properly, and that contractors are following EPA guidelines.
If that is not the housing director's job, what is it?

Anonymous said...

ASHI Inspector! Oh My that sounds pretty impressive if it wasn't for the fact that American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is just a trade organization you can join for 100 bucks and a Home Inspectors Certificate can be earned through a correspondence course.

And what else would a good self serving entrepreneur have to say but to stand up for the very governmental organizations that create the legal nightmares to home renovation that his organization profits from.

Now, no one wants to see 1000's of children sickened, but in the perspective that there are 76 million children living in the US alone...perhaps the threat is a bit overblown.

Precautions need to be taken, however the quality of life and opportunity for homesteaders to offer home ownership to those children within their means in older neighborhoods such as ours also need to be protected from unscrupulous or ignorant opportunists who might twist the facts under the guise of child protection.

It is brave for Gary Kittleson to step forward. I am sure that many viewing the insensitive presentation of his work might think twice about contracting for his services.

And Yes, if a non-profit can't do a better job than a slumlord they are welcome to leave.

You loose sight of the fact that the reason non-profits have to be subsidized by our tax dollars to rehab older homes is that as a society we have created so many obstacles in the name of health, safety, and energy efficiency that the normal home buyer can no longer accomplish home renovation.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

If lead paint is such a huge risk, why aren't we hearing about kids with lead poisoning in neighborhoods like Linden Hills? If the kind of lead abatement practices put in place on the northside are so great, why aren't the rich neighborhoods fighting with us to get those subsidized repairs done over there instead?

Every time I express reservations about how lead abatement is carried out, I get responses that accuse me of essentially wanting to put lead paint chips in kids' cereal.

Now in this case here, it would seem that defacing the property is HIGHLY unnecessary. You see, there's these things called seller's disclosure forms that are part of a real estate transaction. You could just make it a rule that one such form say: LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT!!!!!

Problem solved, without mucking up the house.

Johnny Northside! said...

(Kidding font)

How many times, exactly, would the form need to say it?

I would propose that all the necessary warning language be on the form, but then any extra space be filled in with the words LEAD PAINT over and over, to the bottom of the page.

Or the bottom of the LAST page, if it consisted of more than one page.

But the top of each page would need to say LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT LEAD PAINT.

Johnny Northside! said...

And even the guy who DID IT seems to admit what actually happened was they marked up all that siding, they were going to put OTHER siding over it but then, oops, AFTER those words were painted, over and over, something took him off the task.

In short, we have every right to be unhappy about this ugly thing left in mid-task. It's like putting a tarp on a roof and never fixing the roof. People have a right to be mad about the ugly tarp.

Anonymous said...


"the purpose is to warn any future contractors about the presence of encapsulated lead painted siding, in case they put on additions or change window locations."

In other words, the "professionals" hired by non-profit developers are so unprofessional and poorly trained that they themselves might eat paint chips or use methods that will spread contamination to neighboring homes.

I guess anyone who has followed this discussion can see that the old ways of doing slam-bam cheapo renovations and conversions in NoMi are over. Many homesteaders take value in their homes and neighborhoods and demand investors and contractors be more sensitive and aware of esthetics and community values.

If Nonprofits, landlords, or contractors don't have what it takes to be good partners in our community they can stay away!

Folwell Neighbor said...

If the paint used to write the words "LEAD PAINT" was itself a lead-based paint, would you have to write "LEAD PAINT" in teeny-tiny letters on each letter?
If the paint used to write the teeny-tiny "LEAD PAINT" was itself a lead-based paint...


Weed killers are poisonous. Perhaps if you use weed killer on your lawn, you should be required to write "WEED KILLER" all over your lawn.
If you write "WEED KILLER" using lead paint, well...

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

And by the way, I'm not arguing at all against the well-documented health effects of lead paint. What I am saying is that more affluent neighborhoods have houses with lead paint in them, but don't have the same kind of health effects as we do. Why? What are the other factors that impact this and how do we address those?

Johnny Northside! said...

Here is the latest word from North Talk Facebook page.

Mike Kacer

I drove by the house last night, and it is wrapped and ready for new siding, so if nothing else, the attention it has gotten from the community may have hurried the project along.
To which I say, God Bless Social Media.

Anonymous said...

I might actually care what Johnny Northside! had to say if he was actually in NoMi. He hasn't been here for over a year, has no idea what's going on besides what he reads or is told.
He's just some guy in a far off place in the USA he won't disclose, pointing out all the bad situations, crime, and thug problems in NoMi.
He trashes Minneapolis, trashes anyone who disagrees with him, trashes the residents, trashes the non-profits and organizations trying to help, makes NoMi sound like an awful place to live.

Truth is everyone in Minneapolis got along fine when you were in Afghanistan and were offline.
A lot of great things happened while you were gone. And they will continue to happen with you away.
Now your back in the USA just talking smack and trashing NoMi.
If NoMi is so fricken bad, why don't you do us all a favor and just STAY AWAY.
Things got done before you moved here, and we'll do just fine without you.
You don't actually do anything to help NoMi but blog. And talk and blog is what Minneapolis needs the least.
Shit, you don't even fix up your own home,and you bitch about everyone else.
Why don't you go to Chicago, I hear they need bloggers.

PS And don't give me that "Sorry I've been fighting the war in Afghanistan" crap. We all know you weren't a combat soldier, so don't even go there with that excuse.

Johnny Northside! said...

This email pertaining to this topic was forwarded to me today.

Hi Sarah,

Many local homeowners in North Minneapolis have recently been appalled by rehabilitation work being done by Northside Neighborhood Housing Services of Mpls at 1406 Girard Ave North. It has come to our attention that the contractor, Gary Kittelson (DBA: Benchmark Restoration And Construction) received training for NSP certification through your agency on 9/16/10. Attached is a picture of the home Mr. Kittleson is working on at 1406 Girard. It is Mr. Kittelsons belief that he was required to graffiti this home in such a manner to satisfy the requirements for disclosure of lead based paint. Please clarify the state statutes regarding these signage requirements and forward to us the contact name and department of any Federal Agencies mandating this type of display so that we can persue this further.

As contractors working with rehabilitation of older homes on blighted neighborhoods in this housing market, a degree of sensitivity needs to be maintained to "do no harm" to the overall community welfare and especially those owner occupants who are struggling to maintain the property values and create a foundation on which the neighborhood can be restored. We see a distinct lack of concern for the well being of the surrounding community at 1406 Girard. We hope that part of the curriculum of your NSP training for contractors includes instructions regarding best practices to avoid such incidences in the future.

Please contact Northside Neighborhood Housing Services of Mpls and Gary Kittelson (DBA: Benchmark Restoration And Construction) and clarify the requirements for lead based paint disclosure.

My Thanks-

Joel Baird

Anonymous said...

For those of us "not in the loop" maybe you could explain who Sarah is. Who Joel Baird is and who or what organization he represents. Is Baird elected so some local office? Does his letter speak for an organization or just for himself?sbo 7

chouette harfang said...

I think most of this all makes sense now: the excessive marking of "lead paint" on an exterior soon-to-be covered with a new exterior prevents oversight from future contractors and homeowners who missed any reference to the lead paint issues described in the Truth -in-housing. Maybe it is overkill, but let's face it, there are many people who are too willing to jump into a project without considering what the hell they are doing or constructing a reasonable plan of work. Reminds me of a project I did a few years ago surveying a parcel of land. My instincts told me to whip out a protractor and do some quick math; one of my co-workers said "just do it". My response was, okay what is your PLAN? "Uhhh...just do it?" In other words, without proper mitigation you get people throwing lead paint-covered siding into the garbage. Unfortunately on this project a slowdown occurred and reasonably, neighbors were upset. That doesn't mean non-profits are terrible, it doesn't mean that health and environmental regulations don't exist for perfectly good and sound reasons, all people are asking for (myself included) is accountability. For some reason, Anonymous (I gather it is the same person) refuses to acknowledge that non-profits need to have accountability and instead deflects the conversation to how terrible we all are for slandering the good name of NoMi and non-profits. Although people can get unhappy with non-profits, it doesn't mean we want to throw those groups out the window with the bath water. I much prefer renovating unique housing stock to bulldozing and erecting cookie-cutter homes. However, just because a group functions at the level of "public good" rather than profit doesn't mean it is exempt from accountability. Accountability would have prevented the mess at my house and accountability has led to finally to the contractor at this home publicly apologizing and work getting done.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

It gets worse.