A new owner has almost finished clearing out one of downtown’s last rooming houses, but some city alders are looking to stop him from converting the place into a luxury “boutique” hotel.
The alders, led by outgoing Yale Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson, have proposed that the city declare a temporary moratorium “on the conversion, demolition, and rehabilitation of boarding-rooms and boarding-room units,” or SROs (single-room-occupancy facilities).
The moratorium would last six months or until the the Board of Alders “adopts a new, permanent ordinance or ordinances addressing the conversion, demolition, or rehabilitation of boarding-room units into non-residential uses, including hotel use.”
The moratorium would not cover structures being demolished for public safety reasons or conversions being carried out by affordable-housing builders.
Whatever happens, a legal battle may loom over the alders’ ability to stop work. One question will concern whether the moratorium would cover the Duncan plan. (Mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the corporation counsel has concluded at this point that the proposal would indeed cover the Duncan.) A second question could concern whether it would still cover the Duncan if it obtains that initial exploratory demolition permit first. Meanwhile, the debate over affordable housing in an upscaling downtown, and who gets to live where in the new New Haven, will gain a new forum.
Chicago, Oakland Inspiration
The alders’ proposal would take the form of an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance. The amendment (you can find the full text at the bottom of this story) is being introduced Thursday night to the full Board of Alders, which in most cases like this would assign the matter to a committee for a hearing and preliminary vote. Joining Eidelson in introducing the amendment are Alders Dolores Colón of the Hill, Frank Douglass of Dwight, Wooster’s Square’s Aaron Greenberg, and Newhallville’s Delphine Clyburn.
Eidelson, who did not run for reelection this year (and thus ends her tenure in office on Dec. 31.) last month hosted a community meeting to air concerns about the loss of single-room occupancy rooming houses or boarding houses downtown, along with the evaporation of central-city affordable housing.
Four of the five alders sponsoring the bill are members or employees of Yale’s UNITE HERE locals, which represent hotel workers in the area. UNITE HERE Local 35 President and international Executive Board member Bob Proto did not return phone calls seeking comment on whether UNITE HERE is seeking a union-organizing neutrality agreement with the hotel’s new owner. In the past, hotel owners have fielded requests from UNITE HERE for neutrality agreements in conjunction with the quest for public approvals for renovations. Developer David Cordish, for instance, won city approvals to renovate the old Park Plaza Hotel into the Omni after he signed to a neutrality agreement (in which he promised not to interfere with the organizing of a union). Labor leaders argue that such agreements enable workers to earn living wages and the community to share in the benefits of economic development.
Eidelson said in an interview Wednesday that her motivation is preserving affordable housing, not labor organizing.
She said she does intend the proposed moratorium to halt the plans for the Duncan renovation. She said she was inspired by similar moratoria passed in Chicago and Oakland, which have also seen housing prices soar and affordable housing disappear. Chicago passed its moratorium in 2014 with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Oakland approved a 45-day moratorium this past December.
“For me this is really about affordable housing,” Eidelson said. “How we use the spaces that we do have, and who these buildings are going to serve, are at the heart of our values as a city.”
Her proposal would “hit the pause button and give the board a little bit of time to craft regulations to say if this types of conversions are going to happen, under what conditions,” she said.
It’s not clear whether AJ Capital will need to come before City Plan, because at this point it doesn’t plan on doing exterior work, just interior demolition. But that remains an open question, one the corporation counsel’s office is looking into, according to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer.
Building Official Jim Turcio said he has reviewed preliminary plans for the Duncan. The builder does need a building permit. Turcio said he has a meeting scheduled this coming Tuesday with AJ Capital’s code consultant to discuss the renovation plan’s plumbing needs, floor area, and occupancy levels, as part of the process of preparing an initial exploratory demolition permit (which would allow AJ Capital to tear open walls to learn what future work will be needed).
If AJ Capital manages to get a permit approved before the moratorium takes effect, one legal question would be whether New Haven has the right to deny subsequent permits under the terms of a moratorium passed after an initial permit approval.
Graduate Hotels President Tim Franzen did not return calls for comment for this story. “I’m studying this,” his local attorney, Carolyn Kone, said of the alders’ moratorium proposal. She declined further comment.
4 Tenants Left
AJ Capital Partners paid $8 million to buy the circa 1894 Duncan building, which had been serving as part SRO, part regular hotel. The company paid an arm of the housing authority $50,000 to help the 39 SRO tenants find new homes. (Click here for a story about the some of the tenants who moved out.) The tenants paid between $170 and $240 a week (rather than a night) to stay there. It was a rare downtown room available at that rate.
As of Saturday, only four of the 39 SRO tenants still remain in the hotel, according to housing authority Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton. She said the remaining four have move-outs scheduled for between Nov. 14 and Dec. 1.
Through its university-focused Graduate Hotels division, AJ Capital plans on scrapping the SRO business model in the renovated Duncan, converting the entire hotel by January 2019 to traditional, nightly rentals, and reducing the total number of rooms to around 70 or 72. Each room is to have its own bathroom, as opposed to the current layout, in which some rooms share a single bathroom. (Click here to read more about the plans.)
The city’s economic development chief, Matthew Nemerson, both embraced the idea of preserving SROs in town and opposed the idea of having a moratorium that would stop the Duncan renovation plans from proceeding.
“You can’t change the rules after someone has spent $8 million and has plans and has been talking to people about what it wants to do. That’s not the way the city wants to be presenting itself to the developing and investing public.
“Everybody’s already left. They already spent tens of thousands of dollars to help people find new housing,” Nemerson said.
“This is really a hotel. Because the hotel had been failing over the years and hadn’t been invested in and because it still had rooms that were laid out at the turn of the last century, it defaulted to having people living in it.”
Nemerson noted that only two of the former Duncan SRO tenants showed up at the recent public meeting about the plans. “The two people talked about how they were alone and there was a community. We see the power of people living in communities, especially when they’re alone and they don’t have family, they don’t have spouses. Some people would like to do that in cities and not out in the more suburban retirement communities that they have. So I think we’re really talking about: How does America treat aging people? How does America treat its seniors? And how do we create a range of community and give them a high quality of life?
“Everyone in the city — because other places don’t — are dedicated to that. There really aren’t other communities that are open to having people of all different incomes at all stages of their lives living together.”
Hovering over the debate is the hot New Haven real estate market. Developers have been racing to build market-rate (read: expensive) apartments downtown, transforming entire blocks practically overnight. The Hotel Duncan was one of the few places left where someone could rent a single room for under $800 or less a month.
Even if a developer wanted to construct a new rooming house downtown and could obtain financing, he or she would have trouble obtaining permission under the current zoning code. The Hotel Duncan’s zoning permission was grandfathered in; it dates back more than a century. The place currently has no enclosed stairway where students could flee in a fire, for instance, and limited handicapped accessibility.
“That building would not meet code today” in its current condition, observed Building Official Turcio.
The city building code defines a rooming house where four or more people live in rooms “intended to be used for living and sleeping, but not for cooking or eating purposes.” They often have shared bathrooms or central eating areas.
Thirty-one establishments in New Haven are licensed as rooming houses, according to records on file at the city Building Department. That list includes all hotels in town (including the Omni and the Study) as well as the Rochdale co-op on Elm Street. The remaining facilities geared toward poorer and transient renters include:
• The Duncan • Continuum of Care at on Howard Avenue. • Lori Saunders Rooming House on Upper State. • Lorenzo Wilson Rooming House on Ellsworth Avenue. • Project More’s Walter Brooks facility on Howard Avenue, Transition House on Grand Avenue, and Virginia Wells facility on George Street. • The Connection’s six separate programs at the Y housed at 44 Howe St.; a second facility on Park Street; and a third on Dwight Street. • Fellowship Place in the Dwight neighborhood. • Careways Shelter on Portsea Street.
Following is the full text of the proposed amendment:
ORDER OF THE BOARD OF ALDERS APPROVING AMENDMENTS TO TITLE VI, VOLUME III, NEW HAVEN ZONING ORDINANCE, OF THE CODE OF ORDINANCES.
WHEREAS, the City of New Haven’s Comprehensive Plan for Development and Land Use Vision 2025 says that the city “currently lacks opportunities for transitional, single-room occupancy housing suitable for young adults, seniors, persons with disabilities, etc” and sets a goal to “pursue Zoning Ordinance amendments to allow the construction of single-room occupancy housing within and closer to Downtown”; and WHEREAS, boarding houses—including “single-room occupancy” hotels (SROs)— provide flexible and easily accessible housing that allows residents to remain in New Haven and to avoid homelessness, often as an option of last resort for the poor; and WHEREAS, a number of economic forces, including the high cost of new construction, create incentives for developers to purchase boarding houses, including SROs, and repurpose them for uses that result in the displacement of existing tenants or the removal of rental units from the market; and WHEREAS, the loss of SROs would exacerbate the already overwhelming burden on public and non-profit agencies that provide important and necessary services to the tenant population of such hotels; and WHEREAS, there is an urgent need for the City to study the effects of the conversion of boarding houses to non-residential uses and its impact on the affordability of housing in New Haven, and to consider amendments to the City’s Housing and Zoning Ordinances to address the problem, including by considering the requirement of housing relocation assistance for those displaced by boarding-house conversions and by encouraging the construction of more SRO units within and close to Downtown; now, therefore,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED that
SECTION ONE: The New Haven Zoning Ordinance shall be amended by the addition of the following Supplement: 1. Duration of Interim Ordinance. This Ordinance shall remain in full force and effect for a period of six (6) months from the date of its adoption, except as in Section 3 below. This period may be extended by resolution of the Board of Alders. 2. Definitions. The following terms, whenever used in this Ordinance, shall be construed as defined in this section. Words and phrases not defined here shall be construed as defined in the New Haven Code of Ordinances. • Affordable Housing Organization means a religious, hospital, scientific, or charitable fund, foundation, limited liability company, or corporation, including a limited partnership in which the managing general partner is an eligible nonprofit corporation or eligible limited liability company, or a veterans’ organization. • Affordable Housing Development means a property used exclusively for rental housing and related facilities, owned or operated by an affordable housing organization where, pursuant to legally binding restrictions, all of the units are restricted as affordable housing at an affordable rent or affordable housing cost, as defined in C.G.S., Title 8, § 8-39a. • Boarding House means a rooming house, as defined in Code of Ordinances, Title IV, Par. 100(v), which contains four or more Boarding-House Units. • Boarding-House Unit means a rooming unit, as defined in Code of Ordinances, Title IV, Par. 100(w) which has been let to the same person or persons for a period of more than 30 days at any time during the previous six months. • Conversion means any action that converts one or more existing boarding-house units in a boarding house to be used for other residential or commercial activities, regardless of whether substantial improvements have been made to such units. • Demolition means an action that reduces the number of existing boarding-house units in a boarding house, either through complete or partial demolition of the building, or by combining two or more existing boarding-house units. • Owner means the owner of record of a boarding house or an entity or individual with a long-term lease in a boarding house. • Rehabilitation means reconfiguration, reconstruction, renovation, repair, or other improvement to all or part of a boarding house or boarding-house unit which results in displacement of existing residents for more than two (2) weeks. 3. Temporary Moratorium. For a period of six (6) months from the effective date of this Ordinance, or until such time as the Board of Alders adopts a new, permanent ordinance or ordinances addressing the conversion, demolition, or rehabilitation of boarding-room units into non-residential uses, including hotel use, whichever comes first, the City of New Haven hereby declares a moratorium on the conversion, demolition, and rehabilitation of boarding-rooms and boarding-room units (the “Moratorium”). During the term of this Moratorium: • No site plan approval or permit, including building permits, shall be granted to convert, demolish, or rehabilitate a boarding house or boarding-house unit; • No site plan approval or permit, including building permits, shall be granted for any new construction, demolition, or rehabilitation on a lot where a resident of such boarding room or boarding room unit has been or will be displaced for more than two (2) weeks; • No new rooming house license shall be granted for a rooming house that has converted, demolished, or rehabilitated a boarding house or boarding-house unit during the pendency of this moratorium, and any rooming house license issued subsequent to the passage of this ordinance shall be deemed null and void if the holder of the license subsequently converts, demolishes, or rehabilitates the boarding house or boarding-house unit during the pendency of this ordinance. 4. Exceptions. This Ordinance shall not apply to: • Any boarding house that has been or shall be converted into an Affordable Housing Development, as determined by the Fair Rent Commission; or • Any boarding house that must comply with a City order (1) to repair or demolish all or part of the boarding house that is unsafe, uninhabitable, or in substandard condition; (2) to rebuild due to destruction by fire or natural disaster; or (3) to comply with administrative nuisance abatement proceedings. 5. Petition for Relief from Moratorium. The Board of Alders, acting in its legislative capacity and by resolution, may grant an exception from this Ordinance in cases (1) where the Moratorium’s application would be unlawful under and/or conflict with Federal or State law; or (2) where it has been shown to the satisfaction of the Board of Alders that application of the moratorium to the boarding-room house would deny the owner of the boarding-room house all economically beneficial use of the property. An application for exemption shall be filed with the City Clerk on forms provided by the City. 6. Implementing Interpretations and Regulations. The City Plan Commission has authority to issue interpretations of and regulations to implement this Ordinance, including without limitation to develop a list of boarding houses that are subject to the Moratorium. Such interpretations and regulations shall be subject to revision by resolution of the Board of Alders.
SECTION TWO: Severability. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of the Ordinance. The Board of Alders hereby declares that it would have adopted the Ordinance, and each section, subsection, clause or phrase thereof, irrespective of the fact that one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared invalid or unconstitutional. SECTION THREE. Effective Date. This ordinance shall be effective immediately upon passage.
this is why New Haven will never be a great city and why CT will continue to loose business to NY and Boston. who protests getting rid of tenements. Only in New Haven. Its unreal the way we hold ourselves back at our own expense.
posted by: robn on November 9, 2017 4:32pm
BS move by union aligned Alders to once again invade a private market project and feather their own nest. Of course Boss Proto is involved. Same crap that stopped the hotel a few blocks away a few years ago. This corruption is unbelievable.
posted by: DrJay on November 9, 2017 5:18pm
I think this ban is bad policy. How about a plan to make it easier and profitable to open new rooming houses instead of forcing old ones to remain as is? The old Ronald McDonald house on George St would make a nice SRO
posted by: Truthbetold on November 9, 2017 5:34pm
While I applaud the four Alders intent to preserve affordable housing in the core of the downtown, I am baffled by the timing of this extremely ill-advised attempt at a last minute, questionable moratorium. Especially when the moratorium seems to be targeted only at the Duncan and, more importantly, only after essentially all of the residents have been relocated and the building is effectively vacant. Do we really want another shuttered building?
I believe this attempt to block a project that will benefit the City of New Haven in numerous ways, is very dangerous. It exposes the City to numerous claims for violation of due process as it effectively constitutes a taking. A six month moratorium can be extended effectively forever. Why would anyone, especially Alders that I know and respect, not realize the legal jeopardy and massive exposure their actions may cause. Not only that, it discourages developers from risking their capital on any project knowing that it can be stopped politically, even after a building has been emptied in reasonable reliance on existing laws and regulations.
I personally know one of the individuals who was re-located. He was treated with respect and fairly. That former resident ended up in the same general area, in a far nicer apartment without having to share a bathroom and had its own kitchen. He was pleased to get out of a sub-standard building, rife with insect infestation, for LESS than he was paying at the Duncan.
Finally, I would respectfully suggest to the Alders that it is too late (at least for this project) and that their good intentions, time and efforts are better served by changing the zoning laws to allow for micro housing (which would rent for approximately the same amount of money) while also being cleaner, safer and with more amenities. It is a matter of dignity and safety for the occupants, mitigation of damages for the City of New Haven, keeping our taxes from needlessly rising and not stopping a new asset from opening.
Recent real estate investments, exemplified by the market rate residential apartment buildings constructed in New Haven, have been about maximizing the Returns On Investment (ROI) for investors by minimizing costs and charging the maximum rent that the market can handle. It’s not uncommon for new residential buildings to achieve 20-30% ROIs, which is attractive for private investors and it’s a much better ROI as compared to conventional stock market investments.
Inclusionary zoning may be one strategy, among many, to encourage the development of more affordable housing, but even that requires that we continue to play this game with developers and real estate investors within the existing paradigm. While it enables the extraction of benefits like public open space or affordable units, it also usually requires incentives for developers that enable them to build more and build higher, which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a dynamic that seems based on a relationship of dependence on big developers and desperate extraction on the part of the public.
Federally-funded public housing is essentially no longer existent. Connecticut’s budget is a disaster, so I’m weary of how much affordable housing the State will (and can afford to) support in coming years. My sense is that there is an enormous source of new and affordable housing that is virtually untapped in the Greater New Haven area. I would rather see tens of thousands of individual residential property owners decide to provide additional housing through the creation of basement, garage, attic, and other apartments on their properties financed by simple bank loans and mortgages than to rely on extracting benefits from huge residential developments financed by out-of-town private equity.
I don’t think the solution to the affordable housing crisis will found in the City, the State, or the Federal government, or in large development projects, I think the solution will be found in the mirror.
Two major barriers to the widespread development of apartments within existing houses by individual residential property owners: 1) Zoning: Most residential zones in the region currently prevent people from converting basements, attics, and garages into apartments. This would need to be changed, but in order to change it, there needs to be widespread public support, but that relates to the second barrier. 2) An apathetic/disinterested/unaware general public: most people just want to go to work, go grocery shopping, and watch TV. Some haven’t ever considered the possibility of creating a home office, or workshop, or business, or rental apartment on their property. Others just don’t want to be landlords or tenants tenants living next door.
For me, the affordable housing effort should be focused on making a sea-change in the way people view their residential neighborhoods and their houses, but that would take a monumental informational/educational campaign and carefully crafted legislation to reform zoning while addressing the valid concerns of property owners that are suspicious of allowing rental apartments in their neighborhoods. I am currently working to find satisfactory solutions to these issues, but it will be another year and a half before I will have anything concrete to present.
posted by: 1644 on November 9, 2017 6:48pm
JH: 1. Any private investor wants to maximize ROI. 2. On what basis are you saying these projects have 20%-30%? Most of the developers are private companies, and their costs would be proprietary information. I am not saying that some buildings may not have ROIs like that, but other projects would be negative. There is a lot of risk, especially regulatory risk in real estate development in CT. Look at how New Haven is screwing with these guys, how Northland and Salvatore had roadblock after roadblock thrown in from to them. 3. Yes, it would be great if New Haven would encourage more housing to be brought to market. However, it does the opposite when it makes unreasonable and uneconomic demands on landlords and generally vilifies them. (see the article on Heo/Gaumans and lead abatement.)
posted by: 1644 on November 9, 2017 7:14pm
Given that the four remaining tenants already have places to go, I cannot but think that Eidelson is lying through her teeth in saying that she cares about preserving the Duncan as an SRO, or SRO tenants. As the article implies, it is far more likely just a union shakedown, another instance where union alders, this time with Harp’s support, block something good for the city overall to promote UNITE-HERE.
1644, Great points. 1) Definitely. However, I would argue that large property management companies are more adept at pricing units at the maximum that the market can handle than individual or small landlords. I am encouraging a shift to new housing being supplied by widespread residential property owners creating units on their properties. In my opinion, this would produce lower priced units because individual, novice landlords are more likely to charge the minimum amount of rent that allows them to make a profit, as opposed to a big property manager who charges the maximum that the market can handle (those are often two very different numbers). 2) 20-30% is based on estimating the proforma’s on recent development projects in the City. While I think they are pretty accurate, it’s likely that the actual ROIs are more in the 5-15% range even though the paper returns were likely much higher (20-30%) when presented to investors. I agree there is a lot of risk, which is why I encourage massively reducing the risk of supplying new housing by disseminating it across thousands of small individual projects funded by conventional bank loans and second mortgages. 3) I wonder if New Haveners might be more supportive of new housing if it were supplied by their fellow neighbor hiring a local contractor, as opposed to a big developer financed by private equity and hiring out-of-state contractors?
posted by: BevHills730 on November 9, 2017 8:29pm
Nemerson might be personally quite conservative, but the administration he serves is not. It is time he starts caring about all the people who live in this city.
posted by: Esbey on November 9, 2017 8:57pm
I am a huge fan of SROs & have argued strongly in favor of them in the NHI comment sections. We should change zoning laws so they can be built and maintained. We should probably subsidize them.
But this is insane. We need hotel spaces downtown. A developer comes into town, checks the zoning code, purchases a rundown hotel and plans to renovate it. NOW the alders want to change the rules?! Right as the development is moving forward? Do they want to make sure that no one ever again plans a development project in New Haven?
Face it: the Yale Union alders are the worst thing to happen to New Haven in recent years. Time after time, they vote against the interests of our city.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 9, 2017 11:09pm
I’m a Ph.D., not a lawyer. But I don’t see how applying the moratorium to the Duncan comports with CGS § 8-2h(b). This provision says that once an owner files a building permit or certificate of occupancy application, its development is not subject to new zoning regulations.
The city needs to identify ways of supporting SROs and other nonconventional types of housing. And CT courts have upheld brief moratoria to allow municipalities to rewrite their zoning ordinances. But applying the moratoria to an as-of-right development that is underway strikes me as inequitable.
posted by: mikewestpark on November 9, 2017 11:18pm
The people of New Haven who buy property are not really property owners. We are all fooled with the “3 card Monte” (yes I stole that from 3/5). The city owns the properties. We pay rent, very high rent in comparison with the rest of the state, in the form of taxes. Our landlord does not really take care of the property commensurate to the rent we pay. Our parks are dirty and filled with trash. Unsavory characters loiter on our front steps (the town green) and engage in illegal activity and our landlord does nothing to protect our environment that we pay for with our hard earned rent money. New renters come in to our community and pay an even higher rent than we do. They want to change their space to make it better. This was initially allowed in the lease, but the landlord has now decided that they want to change the rules so that the tenant has to continue to live in the same apartment conditions. Other tenants who have used their own money to improve their apartments, at their own expense, are rewarded with higher rents and less autonomy, or worse yet they are penalized and lose their “security deposit” in the form of money wasted in architects, lawyers and other development soft costs. Will someone please explain to me how the political infrastructure of New Haven is not the same as the slum lords and “gentrification vampires” they would like us to believe they are fighting. Why is no one as upset with the city as they are they would be with a landlord who didn’t he same? Why should prospective tenants (homebuyers and developers) trust the city to be a good landlord and not continue this bait and switch policy? People will lose trust, stop investing in New Haven and those that are stuck here will face housing with deferred maintenance, worsening conditions and rent that continues to increase. And the landlord will probably continue to blame its tenants for its problems.
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 10, 2017 2:35am
The ‘old’ Ronald McDonald house is directly across the street from my house.
For years, they were basically an SRO for parents of Cancer Children being treated at the Hospitals. Now they are part of the Hospital Bureaucracy…...
Directly next to my house lives Lady Mayor’s son Matt Harp….still the State’s biggest Tax Scofflaw?
It all just blows my mind…..
Meanwhile, the land values on one end of the street (my end), went up by 200% because of their proximity to the Rte 34 Development Corridor.
At the other end of Dwight, the Brownstone End, the land values increased by 800%, because certain investors are looking to justify their investment portfolio.
And in between, everybody saw their land values go down by 15% and their properties not really appreciate vis a vis their location in Downtown New Haven.
The land values in the Dwight Neighborhood are suppressed to make room for out of town investors and hospital development—plain and simple.
Look out for when the bubble truly bursts.
posted by: 1644 on November 10, 2017 9:35am
Kevin: Per the article, AJ Capital has yet to submit even their demolition permit application. They have been working in good faith with Turcio to determine exactly what is needed in that permit. I would presume, initially, they will pull off the solid plaster walls and lathe to expose structural members, plumbing, and wiring. Once they can actually see the bones of the building, they can move on to designing the new HVAC, wiring, supply and soil lines, etc., as well as reconfiguration into rooms with modern, en-suite toilets. Harp could direct Turcio to slow walk the initial permit so it’s not granted before the moratorium. As for definitions, I am not sure how one distinguishes this hotel from other hotels. All hotels offer long term deals, MacArthur stayed at the Waldorf for years. Where does one draw the line? Moreover, it was never a traditional boarding house, as it never offered board, i.e., meals, only rooms. A traditional boarding house includes communal meals, complete with the “boarding house reach”.
posted by: LookOut on November 10, 2017 9:51am
In most cities, I would be shocked that some legislators are attempting to change the rules (yes 3 card monte) on someone who has spent huge amounts of money and time buying a property, meeting with the neighbors to get approval, and then helping residents find other places to live. To change the rules now is ridiculous and should not be tolerated by the city or city government.
This is clearly a union power play and should be reported and treated as such.
posted by: ShadowBoxer on November 10, 2017 11:39am
It’s a no brainer: they both are right. Nemerson is right that the city cannot now change the rules of the game on the developer given how much money they have invested. Sarah is right that some thought be given to this issue. Can a moratorium be passed, and somehow exempt the Duncan?
posted by: 1644 on November 10, 2017 12:32pm
Shadow: Except Sarah is not trying to address the SRO issue. It’s a subterfuge to block the renovation until the owner agrees to unionization. If she were trying to address the SRO issue, she wouldn’t be seeking to stall a project where all the residents already have other, and often better, residences lined up. The developer has been extremely generous and humane, yet the BoA is still being obstructionist. As other commentators have pointed out, zoning regulations which were friendlier to micro-apartments, boarding houses, communal housing like the new Elm Street graduate dorm, accessory apartments, etc., would go a long way toward making housing more affordable. So would making the zoning regulations more urbanist by reducing parking requirements, etc. Yet, changing the zoning regulations to make them more suitable for the New Haven of today would deprive the union employees on the BoA of a tool for extracting concessions unrelated to actual zoning. So, don’t look for any change from them.
posted by: Atticus Shrugged on November 10, 2017 1:07pm
This is why businesses don’t want to come to New Haven. First, the moratorium may be an unconstitutional taking that might make the city on the hook for any loss of revenues or legal fees incurred during this time period. It’s literally being done to prohibit one developer because the alders aren’t worried about non-downtown SROs, which makes this legally suspect. Just think of Trump and the iterations of travel ban that were rejected. Second, New Haven needs new hotels. Third, the Duncan at $240 per week is $960 per month, which there is other non-downtown housing in New Haven for that price.
The notion of preserving housing stock in a market just to keep it there without a larger plan is silly. I’m not suggesting that there be no SRO or affordable housing near downtown, but don’t waste an asset (a taxable entity). As the City and State grapple with budget deficits, we’re worried about maintaining 39 units when we’ve already placed the tenants?
posted by: Colin Ryan on November 10, 2017 7:54pm
This is a gross abuse of power. If the alders sink this deal, the developer is completely justified in seeking damages.
If you want to encourage SROs through regulations that’s fine. But it’s wholly unacceptable to target a single development that’s already underway just because you didn’t have the foresight to get ahead of the curve.
Pursue your regulations. And let this deal go through unimpeded.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 10, 2017 10:57pm
1644, thanks for the response. But my point was that zoning regulation changes don’t apply once a building permit application is filed, not once it has been approved. The building owner decides when to file the application. I trust Turcio will enforce the Building Code fairly. But even if he “slow walks” the review, it does not matter with regard to the applicability of the moratorium 2
posted by: 1644 on November 11, 2017 8:55am
Kevin: From the article: The redeveloper’s team has begun meeting with the city’s building department to get an exploratory demolition permit. My reading of this is that the developer has yet to file for a permit. In any case, it’s pretty clear that the Alders want to block this project, now fast-tracking their “moratorium”, although in fact a “rooming house” is being replaced with a “rooming house”, just a one with more modern rooms. Nemerson has got to have one of the most frustrating jobs around, where the Alders actual work to frustrate and block economic development and the betterment of the city.
posted by: thecove on November 11, 2017 9:29am
Alder Eidelson decides NOW to become ambitious? Give me a break!
posted by: Stylo on November 11, 2017 11:12am
Alders. Please. Just. Stop.
As someone who had friends that WANTED to visit New Haven from NYC but couldn’t get a decent hotel room on the weekend and had to stay in Milford instead, just realize this is GOOD and needed for progress. There aren’t enough hotel rooms for visitors to enjoy our city and spend money, which helps the local economy and residents.
Visitors don’t want to stay in an old, worn hotel like the old Duncan.
Stop with the NIMBY BS.
posted by: cellardoor on November 11, 2017 4:26pm
I propose a moratorium on union alders voting on issues in which there is a clear conflict of interest between their responsibility toward the City of New Haven and their role as union representatives. Ms Eidelson might be well-intentioned, but she is at best misguided here.
posted by: Esbey on November 11, 2017 5:09pm
1644 is right. These same alders oppose small apartments is other contexts, they vote against them.
The rush here has nothing to do with SROs and everything to do with bludgeoning potential hotel developers into accepting unionization, which may make a small boutique hotel unprofitable. It is their usual MO: the inappropriate use of “zoning” by heavily conflicted alders as a way to threaten harm to New Haven if their narrow interest does not prevail.
A likely outcome, if they succeed, is no hotel with no jobs. But each one of those zero jobs will be union.
posted by: Elizabethaiken on November 11, 2017 8:40pm
A six month moratorium for this project is insane. I think there are huge problems with this piece of legislation in general, but particularly with a project that is underway.
posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on November 12, 2017 10:59am
Boy do I hate the Union hostage-taking machine, that is our BOA. This is another flagrant use of political power to fatten up their union ranks, nothing more.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 12, 2017 9:53pm
1644, we are largely in agreement. The developer has not filed the permit application yet. But nothing stops him from doing so before the BOA takes any action. CGS 8-2h applies once the application is filed, not once the building official deems it complete or approves it.
The process for amending an ordinance normally takes a couple of months. The notice and hearing requirements mean that the ordinance cannot be amended next week. With regard to the Duncan, the alders are wasting everyone’s time.
posted by: wendy1 on November 13, 2017 9:59am
I learned a lot from all the comments. Evidently our city gov. has been taken over by a weak union that is trying to manipulate all incoming developers into using labor that is unionized.
I love hotels; I love unions but I do not love bullies. In the meantime the BOA, zoning people, permit people are holding up a good project here and a decent developer. Our city gov. remains a corrupt and aggravating disaster for the most part shooting itself in the foot every chance it gets and as a result further injuring the poor, the jobless, the homeless, AND the taxpayers. The slumlords continue to do OK.
posted by: Anonymous Bosh on November 13, 2017 10:17am
This: “Eidelson said ... that her motivation is preserving affordable housing, not labor organizing.” “Four of the five alders sponsoring the bill are members or employees of Yale’s UNITE HERE locals.”
And my love/hate relationship with this mind-bogglingly wonderful-yet-still-disgusting city continues.
As for King Duncan: I blat my Schumpeterian trumpet in loud salute, tears in my eyes. Thank you, Dear Duncan, you cheap Scott, for memories irreproducible (and certes some unspeakable and, sadly unerasable). And lo, though I anticipate with hope your post-chrysalis incarnation, how now your prophetic words ring, just ahead of the shiv:
See, see, Our harp-ing hostess!— The love that follows Us sometime is Our trouble, Which still We thank as love. ... Fair and no-bull hostess, We are your guest to-night. —-
I note that comments here and the (useless) online poll comport not with the N’Haven vote that put the progress-killing unionista in power, whose Machiavellian motto is “the end justifies the means” (or is it “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”?). Given CT gun laws, how *does* this city manage to shoot itself so often in the foot?
—- $8 million? Eight?! That’s *it*? Day-um; shoulda bought it maself. Of course, one assumes that the $8MM price does *not* include the costs of rehab plus the now-evident (potentially, of course) grift-n-graft and any other shakedown shimmy. (Maybe Trump was wearing his union hat vis-à-vis cities when he talked about just grabbin’ em by the private sector?)
posted by: brownetowne on November 13, 2017 11:35am
Imagine what this city would be like if we had some Alders who were interested in projects that would benefit our people (including students, homeowners, renters, visitors) and the economy and infrastructure and jobs and tourism.
This group of Alders loves to protest and they actively work to obstruct legitimate building projects as described here and as they do for Yale under the guise of considering their parking plan.
posted by: LookOut on November 16, 2017 12:11am
even classic blue collar employees are tiring of unions