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Project Sponsors ~

The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project funding partners include The City of
Buffalo, Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County,
Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Community and Economic Vitality, and Cornell University
Community and Rural Development Institute. The report was prepared by Darlene Vogel, Community
Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County and Cornell University provide equal program
and employment opportunities.

Photographs are courtesy of Partners for Urban Resources and the Environment Erie-Niagara.

Edition 5.0 Printed 12/04

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 1 Ed.5.0
City of Buffalo, New York

Vacant Land, Buildings


and Facilities Asset
Management Project
A Project Report, January 2004
Services provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County

Report Overview

The purpose of the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project (Project)
is to develop recommendations for the sustainable, economical and productive conservation,
development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of
Buffalo.

Executive Summary

Part I Project Description & Acknowledgments

Part II Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


A Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Strategy

Part III Project Recommendations

Part IV Maps & Tables

Part V Appendices

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 2 Ed.5.0
Contents

Report Overview........................................................................................................................................... 2

Executive Summary...................................................................................................................................... 4

Part I - Project Description & Acknowledgements ................................................................................... 9


Purpose ................................................................................................................................................... 9
Process.................................................................................................................................................... 9
Technical Assistance ........................................................................................................................ 10
Participation...................................................................................................................................... 10
Project Status .................................................................................................................................... 11
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy .................................................... 13
Asset Management Strategy Goals................................................................................................... 13
Draft Project Recommendations....................................................................................................... 14
Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................................. 15

Part II - Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities ....................................................................................... 18


The Development of Vacant Property .................................................................................................. 18
Common Ground, Potential and Liability......................................................................................... 20
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities.................................................................................................. 22
What is vacant?................................................................................................................................. 22
Who Owns Vacant Property? ........................................................................................................... 23
Distribution of Vacant Property – General ....................................................................................... 24
Property Abandonment..................................................................................................................... 26
The Cost of Abandoned and Vacant Property – A Hypothetical Example....................................... 28
Maintenance and Mowing Plan 2003 ............................................................................................... 31
Vacant Property Asset Management Strategy ...................................................................................... 31
General ............................................................................................................................................. 31
Vacant Property Asset Management Elements................................................................................. 32
Land Reuse and Conversion, General............................................................................................... 42
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy – FLOW CHART Parts 1-3,
pages 45-47....................................................................................................................................... 44

Part III - Project Recommendations......................................................................................................... 48


Recommendation Criteria..................................................................................................................... 49
Information and Communication.......................................................................................................... 50
Information and Communication Recommendations ....................................................................... 51
Policy and Planning.............................................................................................................................. 54
Policy and Planning Recommendations ........................................................................................... 55
Regulation and Enforcement ................................................................................................................ 58
Regulation and Enforcement Recommendations.............................................................................. 60
Procedures, Processes & Practices ....................................................................................................... 62
Procedures, Processes, and Practices Recommendations ................................................................. 63
Financial ............................................................................................................................................... 65
Financial Recommendations............................................................................................................. 66
Near Term, Next Steps Toward Implementing the Preceding Recommendations ............................... 68

Part IV - Maps & Tables

Part V - Appendices

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 3 Ed.5.0
Executive Summary
City of Buffalo
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project Report
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County
January 2004

Project Purpose
The purpose of the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project (Project)
is to develop recommendations for the sustainable, economical and productive conservation,
development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of
Buffalo. The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities report is a product of an effort designed
to provide an overview of an array of related subjects and issues deemed important by Project
participants. The results are intended for use as a starting point for continuing dialogue,
setting priorities, exploring solutions and selecting actions for change and improvements to
the urban environment.

Estimates put vacant land of all types around 12,700 or 13% of the total number of parcels in
the City of Buffalo. This figure represents 10% or 2,860 acres (1,157 hectares) of the land
area within the city. Approximately 8,500 vacant properties are privately owned, and less than
4,000 are city-owned.1 To further heighten the urgency of action, 1998 neighborhood
conditions analysis estimates a surplus or vacancy of 22,290 residential units. Some of these
vacancies include vacant residential structures, and others have the potential to become
abandoned structures or lots if reuse options are not established for them.2 In addition to
vacant land parcels, project estimates put the current number of vacant structures around
7,000. A conclusion of Project discussions is that it is very likely that the cost of vacant
property exceeds millions of dollars per year spread over many city department and agencies
and the community.

1
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, estimate provided fall 2003.

2
City of Buffalo, City of Buffalo Master Plan, Phase I: Community/Neighborhood Conditions Summary,
November 1998, Appendix E.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 4 Ed.5.0
A Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy
The Vacant Properties Asset Management Strategy described in this report is an attempt to
build a decision-making framework that incorporates the challenges and near-term
recommendations articulated by the Project participants.

Why develop an asset view of vacant properties? It cannot be stressed enough that vacant
property prevention and intervention are City and regional priorities. The tasks of keeping
properties habitable and occupied are challenging - so is conserving neighborhood assets and
preserving cultural features. Those efforts should be stepped up, more efficiently utilized, and
funded in a way that reflects their importance. There is a fact, however, that the pace of
physical resource degradation, especially in housing, is outpacing the ability to rehabilitate
and conserve. And further because of this, the prevalence of existing vacant land, buildings
and facilities is a negative, cyclic factor in redevelopment. Recognizing vacant properties as
assets attempts to uncover the value in future redevelopment and begins to reveal vacant
properties from a “glass half full” perspective.

The primary goals of a vacant properties asset management strategy as determined through
this Project include:

! Slowing the rate at which properties become vacant.

! Managing existing and future vacant properties.

! Returning vacant properties to appropriate, functional and revenue


generating or cost-saving uses.

The asset management strategy has two major components. The first component recognizes
the life cycle of a property in a set of 7 elements that are both continuous (1 through 3) and
cyclic (4 through 8). The elements include:

!" Communication and Information

#" Monitoring

$" Prevention and Intervention

%" Preliminary Evaluation and Asset Review

&" Conservation

'" Remediation

(" Demolition

)" Vacant Land Reuse and Conversion

The second major component is Element 4 in its entirety – Preliminary Evaluation and Asset
Review. There are seven asset layers described to aid in the evaluation of vacant property and
provide guidance towards reuse and redevelopment. The layers include: “paper” layers,
buildings and facilities, green infrastructure, infrastructure/utilities, land/at grade, land/sub-
grade, and surrounding land use and conditions.

To aid in decision-making, the asset manage cycle elements and asset layers are tied together
in a flow chart for decision-making.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 5 Ed.5.0
Project Recommendations
Any recommendation should meet the following conditions as established in the Project
purpose:

! Recommendations should lead to the sustainable, economical and


productive conservation, development and management of vacant
properties.

! Because this is a very broad charge, stating it in the negative can


create some clarification - Recommendations or remedies in the
forms of programs, solutions, actions, changes, reforms, etc.,
should not burden community and local government resources,
should not adversely impact human health and the environment,
should not be exclusive, nor be counterproductive or exacerbate
negative conditions.

! Decision-making should be consensus based to preserve a sense of


community, to encourage the development of joint solutions, and
to reduce future conflict.

! Vacant land, buildings and facilities asset management


recommendations should reinforce the City vision to:

Repopulate residential areas.


Rebuild the industrial base.
Revitalize commercial areas.
Maintain and enhance green and open space to
support the preceding three.

The challenges and recommendations are placed into one of five categories. More detailed
recommendations or guidance is provided within each section.

! Information and Communication

1) Develop an information and communications system(s) that


will serve the various needs of vacant property asset
management.

2) Community Education – Disseminate information supportive


of vacant property goals and recommendations to the general
community, or targeted as needed.

3) Marketing – Use components of the information and


communications system(s) to aid in the marketing of vacant
land, buildings and facilities assets.

4) Research and Technology – Monitor research and technology


trends to optimize the city’s competitive position in the region,
state, and nation.

! Policy and Planning

1) Establish and support a multi-disciplined, representative team


to regularly coordinate, review, and advise on policy, plans,
local regulation, procedures and funding involved in or
affecting vacant property asset management.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 6 Ed.5.0
2) Policies should be re-evaluated, updated, or developed to
reflect city and community-wide redevelopment goals. Such
policies should be communicated in a manner to aid
redevelopment and to promote solidarity of efforts.

3) Plans involving or impacting vacant properties must be


centrally coordinated to optimize effectiveness, maximize the
use of limited resources, and support citywide goals and
policies.

! Regulation and Enforcement

1) Regulations are necessary to insure orderly development,


protect the quality of life, preserve and manage resources,
manage risk and control liability, and to track and monitor
conditions and progress.

2) Consideration and study should be given to the


recommendations in this report and other creative ideas that
may require regulatory evaluation and/or adjustments to
implement.

! Procedures, Processes, and Practices

1) An administrative priority for the team assembled to address


vacant properties should be an effort to:

Shed the excessive number of city-owned vacant


properties.

Reduce the number of vacant properties acquired.

Expedite closings to achieve reduction goals.

2) Conservation, rehabilitation, and preservation priorities must


be incorporated into processes, procedures and practices to
maintain the physical integrity of neighborhoods and to
maintain the greatest number of properties on the tax role
possible.

3) Demolition projections, practices and funding priorities must


be re-evaluated to maintain the physical integrity of
neighborhoods, to minimize maintenance costs, and to aid in
redevelopment.

4) The shear amount of vacant land in the City of Buffalo


requires a vacant land maintenance and mowing plan that is
implemented and funded to accommodate the number of
existing and future vacant lots.

! Funding

1) Budget planning around the vacant property cost center is an


immediate need.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 7 Ed.5.0
2) Decision-making and vacant property spending criteria must
reflect established policies, regulations, plans and city and
community priorities.

3) Funding development and leveraging community and private


resources should be expanded for the purpose of conserving,
developing, and managing vacant land, buildings and facilities
throughout the City of Buffalo.

Next Steps
There are five items within the recommendations that comprise good near term, next steps.
The good news is that aside from dedicating personnel, time, and creativity, only one of them
costs anything additional to start.

1. A Vacant Properties Team (VPT) or Task Force should be


assembled to guide the initiation of these preliminary actions. The
team core can be composed of representatives of the original
Project tracks originating in the Mayor’s Office of Strategic
Planning.

2. The Comprehensive Plan, currently in draft form, should be


championed by the VPT by providing assistance with its further
development and adoption by City elected officials.

3. The “community conservation plan” (historic preservation plan)


and housing policy under development should be completed as
soon as is practicable to fill significant gaps in community
planning; they are the missing piece to the vacant land, building
and facilities asset management strategy.

4. The VPT should begin provisions for existing vacant land,


buildings and facilities implementation by:

a) Identifying all components of the vacant property cost


center for budgetary planning needs; and

b) Developing criteria and costs for post-demolition site


finishing and interim treatments for vacant land for
budgetary planning.

5. The VPT should adapt Philadelphia’s example reference,


“Reclaiming Vacant Lots,” for general community use in restoring
existing vacant lots to help meet immediate community needs.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 8 Ed.5.0
Part I - Project Description
& Acknowledgements
Purpose

The purpose of the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project (Project)
is to develop recommendations for the sustainable, economical and productive conservation,
development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of
Buffalo. The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities report is a product of an effort designed
to provide an overview of an array of related subjects and issues deemed important by Project
participants. The results are intended for use as a starting point for continuing dialogue,
setting priorities, exploring solutions and selecting actions for change and improvements to
the urban environment.

The issues of vacant urban properties, both causal and resultant, are vast in scope and in
depth. Because the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Project intercepts these issues in
their various stages of progression, it did not attempt to investigate each issue, but instead
strives to show the connectivity between and among important issues. Because of issue
connectivity, and the interplay of cause and effect, addressing vacant property issues must be
multi-disciplinary. Successful and sustainable solutions must be built on inclusive and multi-
disciplinary problem solving, decision-making and capacity building. Piecemeal solutions and
programs developed without considering the larger picture are at risk of fragmented or
incomplete outcomes. More often, solutions developed without regard to the big picture only
satisfy individual sectors of the community at the expense of others.

Process

The Project comes at a very interesting time in the history of the City of Buffalo. Though it
appears that the local urban development and economic trends are stagnant,3 the dynamics

3
“Population Trends Keep WNY Stuck in Slow Lane,” Business First, 12/02/02.
(footnote continued)
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 9 Ed.5.0
within the City are very changeable and fluid. The energy associated with the dynamics has
lead to a surge in planning activity throughout the City and region. As of this writing, a draft
Comprehensive Plan, Queen City in the 21st Century,4 has been released for comment. Works
in progress include a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a preservation plan, the Good
Neighbors Planning Alliance areas plans, and many more localized neighborhood and specific
resource and economic development plans. The City has formally adopted the New York
State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Codes and is in the process of adapting the codes
for local use.5 The vacant properties Project attempted to be cognizant of the general flux in
community goals and administrative process details, but the targets never the less are still
moving.

In order to accommodate the number of initiatives in progress and be inclusive of community


input, a Project process was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie
County and the City’s Office of Strategic Planning, Diagram 1.0 Project Process, pg. 12.

Technical Assistance
Technical assistance for the Project was provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension staff,
Cornell University’s Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI), members of
Partners for Urban Resources and the Environment Erie-Niagara (PURE), and the Office of
Strategic Planning’s comprehensive planning unit.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County provided project facilitation,


monitoring, and reporting in large part. The agency’s involvement grew out of its experience
in regional urban programming, public issues education and access to Cornell University staff
and resources. It has also been the lead agency for the PURE organization that has facilitated
community-based, environmental Projects on vacant land in the City of Buffalo since 1998.

Participation
The Project design included the voluntary participation of representatives from major general
stakeholder groups or tracks. Five Project tracks were selected to balance near-term
administrative technical needs with general community needs relative to vacant properties.

Participant tracks –
* Administrative
* Community
* Youth
* Elected Officials
* Developers

The Administrative track was composed of City of Buffalo departments, divisions, agencies
and authorities. Input was gathered through various meetings, exercises, individual
conversations and correspondence.

The Community track availed itself of the already organized Good Neighbors Planning
Alliance (GNPA). GNPA committees are designed to be inclusive of all stakeholders within

4
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, Queen City in the 21st Century, Buffalo’s Comprehensive
Plan – Draft June 2003, Buffalo, New York.
5
New York State, “Governor: State Adopts New Fire Prevention and Building Codes – New Codes
Encourage Construction, Rehabilitation, Energy Conservation.” [Online] Available WWW:
http://www.state.ny.us/governor/press/year02/march6_1_02.htm.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 10 Ed.5.0
their designated geography. Input was gathered at meetings of the GNPA co-chairs, and
through exercises with individual GNPA planning area committees. Informal questionnaires
were answered by groups or representative individuals based on the routines of individual
GNPA planning committees.

The Youth track was represented in a single, but important session organized through Cornell
Cooperative Extension’s urban 4-H programs. The Youth track was used for contrast and
comparison, in addition to introducing a youth voice into municipal planning. High school
students from YO Buffalo and Weed n’Seed were presented an overview of the Project and
then asked to react through one of two facilitated exercises.

Elected Officials were presented an overview of the Project and then requested to react to it
through meeting comments and a questionnaire similar to the one given to the GNPA
committees. Responses were used to compare Council District priorities with community and
administrative priorities.

Developers were taken as a separate track in a single gathering to balance administrative


priorities. Meeting attendees were asked to react to a Project overview. The result is a set of
comments that help to establish parameters that would ease the redevelopment of vacant
property. Some developers also responded to the subject in general by telephone or writing.

In short, there were no groups or individuals that did not have an experience, opinion, or
recommendation on the subject of vacant properties. The level of cooperation was
commendable and an abundance of useful information was shared. As the Project became
established, participants unfolded a universe of vacant property subject matter and
experiences. Everyone knew someone or some other entity that was involved in some way
with aspects of vacant properties. The number of hands that touch the subject, the paperwork,
and the physical property itself involve, just within the city government, is over 48
departments, divisions, agencies, authorities, and organizations. See Part V – Appendices,
“City of Buffalo departments, divisions, agencies, and authorities involved in various
aspects of vacant properties.”

Project Status

Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project – The vacant
property asset management Project process has been completed to the stage of
recommendation development. This is the furthest practical point for the total Project until
citywide housing and preservation policies are established. These two policy areas, and the
city’s comprehensive plan currently under construction, will guide major decision-making
with respect to land use and vacant property development. The guidance provided by these
policies can then be used to flesh out the asset management strategy described in Part II of
this report. Conversely, there are many recommendations in this report that can be used to
help fashion housing and preservation policy due to the close relationship to the vacant
property subject matter.

Maintenance and Mowing Plan 2003 - A vacant lot Maintenance and Mowing plan
(M&M) was developed within the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management
Project. While not originally included in the Project, the M&M plan provided the Department
of Public Works an opportunity to satisfy a Common Council request for a plan to maintain
vacant lots in a timely and more frequent fashion. The Project provided a vehicle to assist the
Department in meeting its March 2003 deadline. A copy of the M&M plan is included in
Part V of this report.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 11 Ed.5.0
The maintenance and mowing plan is the result of the cooperation and assistance of several
City Departments and Divisions. Representatives of these units will also be involved in the
coordination and implementation of this strategy. Participants include Public Works, Streets
and Sanitation, the Office of Strategic Planning, Real Estate, Citizens Services, Inspections
and Permits, Impact Team, Mayor’s Task Force, Mayor’s Office of Support Services, Parking
Enforcement, and the Buffalo Police Department.

A wealth of information and experience was gained in the development of the M&M plan and
in the challenge to implement it within weeks of its approval. The list of administrative
participants involved in cleaning and cutting the grass on vacant lots points to the complexity
of the tasks as it exists. However, it is property ownership issues, and labor, equipment, and
funding access that are in the driver’s seat. Departmental reorganizations and a cool wet
spring further challenged implementation of the plan. In the end, the grass was cut more often
than most years and complaints were generally down. Opportunities for simplification still lie
ahead. The M&M plan is due for review and adjustments prior to the 2004 maintenance and
mowing season.

From the M&M Plan - The maintenance and mowing strategy is designed to help meet the
challenge of caring for vacant properties in the City of Buffalo until such time that interim
treatments or final reuses are developed for specific properties. The immediate need is to
organize and plan an approach for maintaining and mowing vacant lots using the available
existing resources for the spring, summer and fall of 2003. The items highlighted in the
“FUTURE” sections of the plan include further proposed improvements for subsequent years.

Diagram 1.0 – Project Process

Vac ant L a n d , B u ild in g s an d F ac ilit ies


A s s et M an a gem e n t P ro jec t

P ro je c t P ro ces s

P ro je c t P a rtic ip a tio n
S up p o rt
C C E /C U A d m in . GNPA
OSP E le c t e d
-- O f fic ia ls
In fo
D a ta Y outh
D e v. O ther
M aps
TA
P a rt n e rs
R e p o rti ng

C rite ria &


R e c o m m e nd a tio ns

M &M W o rk F ut u re
Te am Work T e am

M a inte na nc e & R e vie w ,


M o w ing P la n & P la n ni ng , &
Im p le m e nta tio n Im p le m e nta tio n

C o mp le te d 3 /0 3
H o us i ng
L iv a b le Co m mu n itie s In it ia tv e s
Dr a f t h o us in g p o lic y 0 1 /2 9 /0 4
P o lic ie s

P re s e rva tio n
P o lic ie s

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 12 Ed.5.0
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy

Why develop an asset view of vacant properties? It cannot be stressed enough that vacant
property prevention and intervention are City and regional priorities. The tasks of keeping
properties habitable and occupied are challenging - so is conserving neighborhood assets and
preserving cultural features. Those efforts should be stepped up, more efficiently utilized, and
funded in a way that reflects their importance. There is a fact, however that the pace of
physical resource degradation, especially in housing, is outpacing the ability to rehabilitate
and conserve. And further because of this, the prevalence of existing vacant land, buildings
and facilities is a negative, cyclic factor in redevelopment. Recognizing vacant properties as
assets attempts to uncover the value in future redevelopment and begins to reveal vacant
properties from a “glass half full” perspective.

The problem of vacant properties is one of magnitude, however, and not of single, isolated
incidences. The City of Buffalo has experienced visible waves of business and industrial
disinvestments characterized by large, empty commercial and industrial facilities. Less
visible from the main thoroughfares and internal to the neighborhoods that once supplied the
labor for this commerce are the thousands of vacant residences and post-demolition
residential lots. In some neighborhoods, individuals voluntarily care for abandoned houses
next door or across the street in order to maintain the appearance of orderly and well-kept
neighborhoods. In other neighborhoods, vacancies are so prevalent that the remaining houses
are scattered in no pattern against vacant lots that have no readily apparent signs of
ownership.

Estimates put vacant land of all types around 12,700 or 13% of the total number of parcels in
the city. This figure also represents 10% or 2,860 acres (1,157 hectares) of the land area
within the city. Approximately 8,500 vacant properties are privately owned, and less than
4,000 are city-owned.6 To further heighten the urgency of action, 1998 neighborhood
conditions analysis estimates a surplus or vacancy of 22,290 residential units. Some of these
vacancies include vacant residential structures and others have the potential to become
abandoned structures or lots if reuse options are not established for them.7 Project estimates
put the current number of vacant structures around 7,000.

Asset Management Strategy Goals


The primary goals of a vacant properties asset management strategy as determined through
this Project include:

! Slowing the rate at which properties become vacant.

! Managing existing and future vacant properties.

! Returning vacant properties to appropriate, functional and revenue


generating or cost-saving uses.

6
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, estimate provided fall 2003.

7
City of Buffalo, City of Buffalo Master Plan, Phase I: Community/Neighborhood Conditions Summary,
November 1998, Appendix E.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 13 Ed.5.0
Urban land left as vacant, ranging from post-demolition residential to never developed
parcels, may by its nature be perceived as common property.8 The positive view of the
common property notion includes parcels that have been informally or formally adopted by a
community. These parcels generally serve a common function such as gathering, gardening
or open space. This is more likely to include parcels that have been vacant for long periods of
time and where the property is publicly owned. Another public perception is that of
“nonproperty.” The negative nonproperty condition is one in which the land is perceived to
be owned by no one due to its lack of care, and “everyone therefore has both access and cause
to abuse it.” The results are further decay, blight, illegal dumping and illicit activities, and
ultimately, more vacant property. Both common property conditions are present within the
City of Buffalo.

Vacant property is a leading quality of life issue that encompasses the majority of the City’s
administrative and legislative responsibilities and interests. The recognition and utilization of
inter- and intra-governmental and community relationships and linkages is essential to dealing
with and managing vacant properties. The Census figures and neighborhood condition trends
continue to indicate that there is a housing surplus of approximately 22,000 units.9 Housing
and some retail (commercial) vacancies, if not occupied in a reasonable amount of time, can
easily progress into structures requiring demolition. Abandoned housing is general rendered
useless about two years after abandonment due to damages caused by weather and vandalism.

Tackling the subject of vacant properties involves slowing the rate at which properties
become vacant, managing existing vacant properties, and returning vacant property to
appropriate, functional, revenue generating uses.

Draft Project Recommendations


Vacant land, buildings and facilities asset management recommendations should reinforce the
City vision to:

! Repopulate residential areas.

! Rebuild the industrial base.

! Revitalize commercial areas.

! Maintain and enhance green and open space to support the


preceding three.

The Vacant Properties Asset management strategy described in this report is an attempt to
build a decision-making framework that incorporates the challenges and near-term
recommendations articulated by the Project participants. Both the challenges and
recommendations address five areas:

! Information and Communication

! Policy and Planning

! Regulation and Enforcement


8
Alice E. Ingerson, “Urban Land as Common Property,” Land Lines, January 1997, Vol. 9, No. 1.
[Online] Available WWW: http://www.lincolninst.edu/landline/1997/march/commonprop.html.

9
City of Buffalo, City of Buffalo Master Plan, Phase I: Community/Neighborhood Conditions Summary,
November 1998, Appendix E.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 14 Ed.5.0
! Procedures, Processes, and Practices

! Funding

Acknowledgements

The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project was made possible by
the generous contribution of time, guidance, and technical and financial resources from the
following.

Sponsors
* City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
* Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency
* Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County
* Cornell University Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI)
* Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Community and Economic
Vitality

Participants
* Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, and Administrative Staff
* Buffalo Common Council Members and Staff
* Office of Strategic Planning
Real Estate
Land Use Planning
Analysis
Comprehensive Planning
Economic Development
Environmental
Neighborhoods & Housing, and CBO’s
* Administration and Finance
Budget & Management
Collections
Parking Enforcement
Towing & Storage Operations
* Taxation & Assessment
* Audit & Control
* Citizens Services
* Community Services
Support Services
Mayor’s Impact Team
* Fire Department
* Law Department
* Permit &Inspections
Inspections

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 15 Ed.5.0
Permits
Demolition
* Police
* Public Works
Forestry
Engineering
Streets & Sanitation
* Planning Board
* Preservation Board
* Buffalo Arts Commission
* Wellness Institute
* Good Neighbors Planning Alliance Co-Chairs and Committees
* Buffalo Environmental Management Commission
* Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority
* Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation (BERC)
* Buffalo Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation (BNRC)
* Buffalo Urban Redevelopment Agency (BURA)
* Buffalo Coalition of Community Gardeners
* Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County 4-H Program
* Partners for Urban Resources and the Environment (PURE) Erie-Niagara:
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning Erie Co. Soil and Water Conservation
COB Mayor’s Office of Support Services District
COB Public Works – Parks and Forestry Erie Co. Department of Environment and
COB Environmental Management Planning
Commission NYS Department of Environmental
Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Conservation – Forestry

And local or regional offices of:


USDA CSREES Cornell Cooperative USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Extension Erie County (PURE lead agency) Service
US Environmental Protection Agency USDA Forest Service
US Army Corps of Engineers US Housing and Urban Development
NY Sea Grant USDI Fish and Wildlife Services

Appreciation is extended to the Buffalo community for their generosity and hospitality in
hosting Project meetings and sharing valuable meeting time with us.

A special thank you to the following individuals for sharing their support, enthusiasm and
knowledge in this special initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life in the City of
Buffalo.
* Daniel P. Harris, Exec. Dir., Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County
* Chuck Thomas, Dep. Dir., City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
* David Sengbusch, Dep. Dir., City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
* Rod Howe, Asst. Dir. Cooperative Extension, Cornell University
* Don Tobias, Assoc. Prof., Policy Analysis and Mgmt., Cornell University
* John Whitney, District Conservationist, USDA NRCS

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 16 Ed.5.0
A few words about references and resources – The references and resources used
throughout this report were selected for one of two reasons. One, Buffalo is not alone in
trying to deal with vacant properties. No one municipality has fully completed a
comprehensive process or procedure for managing and redeveloping vacant land, but
some municipal programs in progress have a strong relevance to the local situation. Two,
Project participants have expressed ideas and concerns during the Project that bear
support or further investigation. In your own exploration you will find that references
and resources on vacant land buildings and facilities and all of the related issues are
plentiful – many are very good and many more are interesting and inspiring.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 17 Ed.5.0
Part II - Vacant Land,
Buildings and Facilities
A Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Strategy

The Development of Vacant Property

Cities with excessive amounts of vacant land, buildings and facilities are clearly in the midst
of economic, social and environmental transition. The City of Buffalo was once fully built-
out sometime in the 1960’s. In the beginning of the 21st Century, the City again finds itself in
a position to resettle itself using vacant property resources, ranging from available to
unavailable in the near term. There is also a portion of vacant land resources that should
remain undeveloped, or only minimally improved, as the highest and best use. These uses
include flood plains and parcels that should be used to redistribute green space, environmental
assets, and connect neighborhood amenities. Further, any proposed new development should
be conducted in a coordinated manner that makes the best use of the land and community
resources, and in a planned manner that corrects for past development incongruities. Smart
growth principles used as guidance within the City will help to sustain the urban core as an
important regional asset.

Any proposed new development should be conducted in a


coordinated manner that makes the best use of the land and
community resources, and in a planned manner that corrects for
past development incongruities.

Estimates from 2003 put vacant land of all types around 12,700 or 13% of the total number of
parcels in the city. This figure also represents 10% or 2,860 acres (1,157 hectares) of the land
area within the city. Approximately 8,500 vacant land properties are privately owned, and less

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 18 Ed.5.0
than 4,000 are city-owned.10 To further heighten the urgency of action, 1998 neighborhood
conditions analysis estimates a surplus or vacancy of 22,290 residential units. Some of these
vacancies include vacant residential structures and others have the potential to become
abandoned structures or lots if reuse options are not established for them.11 Project estimates
put the current number of vacant structures around 7,000.

Project discussions indicated a desire by city administrators, elected officials, community


representatives, youth and developers that vacant, developable vacant land should have one or
more the following qualities depending on its location. In the interim (prior to
redevelopment), vacant land should be:

! In a useable condition to encourage community stewardship.

! In a developable condition or shovel ready to encourage economic


development.

! In a permeable and “finished” condition to return environmental


function to an area.

! In a visually pleasing and sanitary condition.

! In a condition appropriate for surrounding land uses that


ameliorates impacts to nearby property values.

! In a condition that is affordable and efficient to maintain to


minimize the strain on city and neighborhood resources.

A tension currently exists between the regional and local perception of vacant properties in
the City of Buffalo. Vacant urban properties come in a distant second in comparison to the
contemporary preference for suburban, campus-style developments and subdivisions. A
published list of identified “shovel ready” development sites has so far excluded properties
within Buffalo and cite many available in the region’s suburban and rural areas.12 This is due
to a number of factors, but important factors include existing parcel size limitations and their
near-term availability.

To improve its competitive position there are options that the city is pursuing and can pursue
to free up space for residential, commercial, and industrial redevelopment. For example, the
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning Analysis Section figures indicate that 56 parcels
categorized as brownfields are 5 acres or larger. The total combined acreage is 1,448, ranging
from 5.3 to 159.6 acres in size.13 Designated investment corridors,14 including land bank
areas within the city have a substantial footprint, but assembly within the areas is fragmented

10
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, estimate provided fall 2003.
11
City of Buffalo, City of Buffalo Master Plan, Phase I: Community/Neighborhood Conditions
Summary, November 1998, Appendix E.
12
“Come and build…where?” Buffalo News, 01/27/02.

13
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, estimate provided 02/21/03.

14
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, Queen City in the 21st Century –Buffalo’s
Comprehensive Plan – Draft June 2003, Buffalo, New York.

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Asset Management Project 19 Ed.5.0
and cumbersome at the present time. See Part IV, MAPS B and C – Strategic Investment
Corridors, and Areas.

In the past, Buffalo neighborhoods were subdivided into housing lots averaging 30’-40’
frontage and 60’-120’ depth. These narrow or small lots are undersized for rebuilding by
current zoning regulations and development preferences. Both new housing and new
industrial development generally require larger lots and multiple, contiguous parcels. Without
a land assembly policy and procedures in place, the accumulation of multiple contiguous lots
through attrition (abandonment and demolition) is a slow inefficient process. Land assembly
done more effectively is a prerequisite of larger scale neighborhood and economic
development.

Vacant buildings and facilities pose other challenges. Structures, as part of the real property,
contribute to an area’s economic and social value - houses, apartments, places of worship,
office buildings, corner stores and other neighborhood businesses. They can perform
economic functions that help to constitute a “neighborhood” such as affordable shelter, the
exchange of commerce and local employment. Structures also contribute to a sense of place,
continuity and history – the other part of “neighborhood.” Place includes many aspects, but
more important, many “local places” contribute to the complete entity that is the city. Within
a neighborhood, the built landscape may include structures of unique, cultural significance as
well as structures of regional landmark notoriety.

Problem solving involving vacant buildings and facilities (including preventing abandonment)
must take into account social and economic systems via community participation in decision-
making. For example, citywide public reaction to the topic of demolition runs the entire
spectrum from doing more, faster, to slowing down or prohibiting demolition until a measure
of control can be achieved. In practice however, opinion differs widely from neighborhood to
neighborhood. Demolition can result as a request from the neighborhood to help eliminate
abandoned structures that harbor illegal or dangerous activity. In contrast, private owners
wishing to demolish structures significant to a neighborhood for any number of reasons may
be met with local protest against demolition.

Common Ground, Potential and Liability


Early Project activity involved examining the prospects of viewing vacant properties as
community assets. Vacant properties, in all of their variety, sizes and conditions, pose known
liabilities and challenges to local governments and neighborhoods. What is also known, but
less evident, is the potential stored in the asset value-view of vacant property. Value includes
the economic, social and environmental aspects of vacant property. Value is further derived
from property location and the identification of new strategic development locations as
vacancies occur. The quality, reusability, and marketability of vacant properties can also be
increased through interim investment in the form of maintenance, monitoring, and interim
treatments.

Strengths & Opportunities


The Project tracks - Administrative staff, Good Neighbors Planning Alliance representatives,
elected officials and youth - revealed common ground for moving forward with an asset
management approach. For starters, vacant land, buildings and facilities in the City of
Buffalo can feature local strengths and highlight opportunities. A summary of the Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats exercise results appears in Part V.

Sample strengths and opportunities surrounding vacant property in the City of Buffalo:

! Available land at affordable prices.

! Great location – both Regional & International.


City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 20 Ed.5.0
! Land assembly options for development.

! Development incentives, existing and new.

! An exceptional cultural and natural resources foundation.

! Room in the landscape for innovative solutions.

! Room in the landscape to provide community common areas in


association with new development.

! Expanded access to green space, recreation and connecting


corridors.

! Potential for a variety of development types and mixes.

! Generating jobs around a skilled workforce, development themes,


restoration and greening.

! Build upon our strong neighborhood identities.

Weaknesses and Threats


The same groups were also asked to identify the weaknesses and threats associated with
vacant properties. This listing reflects the common concerns across the community whether
viewed from paper-based regulation or living among vacant houses, businesses, and vacant
lots. A more detailed listing is located in the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and
Threats exercise results in Part V.

Sample weaknesses and threats surrounding vacant property in the City of Buffalo:

! Vacant properties create a negative public perception with regard


to safety, cleanliness, blight, and property values.

! Vacant properties attract illegal activities.

! In general, the vacant sites are scattered and most are small in size.

! The current oversupply and low demand for city property works
against redevelopment.

! The current cost of rehabilitation and conservation is high.

! Vacancies negatively affect the tax base and municipal resources.

! Absentee owner issues and cumbersome legal processes challenge


the capacity of enforcement agencies and departments.

! Outside forces impact priorities and ability to deal with vacant


property – Greenfield competition, global market economy, etc.

Problem-Solving
In the City of Buffalo, government, community and the marketplace are ready to work on
vacant land, buildings and facilities, but not are positioned for comprehensive action together.
The Project administrative group worked well as a group to identify priorities, share processes
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 21 Ed.5.0
and recommend administrative changes. The community is in a planning mode and is setting,
or has set, neighborhood priorities and goals including planning for some vacant properties.
Elected officials have been busy focusing on the condition of vacant properties and beefing up
related ordinances. Developers are ready to participate in prioritized redevelopment
initiatives. The next moves require a coordinated effort by the administration and elected
officials to provide the community-based partners, citizens, regional partners and developers
access to the information and the tools for more comprehensive decision-making and
investing.

During the Project both structured and casual discussions about vacant properties invariably
raised possible solutions to address the “problem” of vacant property development. The
solutions varied in scope and creativity but were most often based on a personal or group
position on a particular aspect or issue of the larger problem. These positions are extremely
important in that many are formed over long periods of time and experience.

Vacant property positions are responses to decades of housing policies, community


development initiatives, economic cycles and marketing trends. The positions also speak
from the reality of the experience of living in the variety of neighborhoods and conditions that
have flowed across and through the city boundaries over time. Identifying the common
interests that underlie these various positions within the community on the other hand is
essential to drive at more comprehensive solutions. The solutions will likely be multifaceted
and more complicated than before, but the solutions will involve more partners and be more
satisfying to implement and live with.

An interesting solution posed many times throughout the Project goes like this - bring
100,000 (or more) people to live in the City of Buffalo. The rationale is that the needs of the
additional people would create a demand for housing, stimulate the local economy, and use
the infrastructure more efficiently. Exploring the positions behind this solution would be very
instructive, but revealing some of the interests or needs underlying this position might draw
more people into problem solving around vacant properties. For example, many people have
an interest in creating a positive image of the city as a great place to live, work and play.
Others have an interest in attractive, healthy, vital neighborhoods. Many others have an
interest in a healthy local economy with employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. And
others would like to reduce the rate of sprawl into less developed areas of the region. All of
these interests intersect with the possibility of attracting more people to live in the city.
Examined in this fashion, the original proposed solution could be a milestone or goal in
vacant property problem solving.

Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities

What is vacant?
“Vacant” property in simplest terms is property not occupied or in use. Vacant property in this
Project includes the land or parcel that may or may not have buildings, facilities or other
improvements associated with it. Other descriptors include: derelict, deserted, abandoned,
occupantless, unoccupied, unfilled, untenanted, unused, undeveloped, undevelopable,15 and
occasionally “former”. In this sense, parks, farmland and forest are not “vacant.”

15
Roget’s International Thesaurus, (New York: Thomas Y. Crowley Co., 1962), 91-92.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 22 Ed.5.0
Other more precise descriptions of vacant property tend to be linked with the property use or
most recent past use or condition, i.e. vacant house, vacant residential lot, abandoned railway,
former industrial site, brownfield, etc. In most cases however, the property is unoccupied or
uninhabited by owners or legal tenants.

Vacant property may also include land otherwise “open” or undevelopable for human
occupation other than recreation or natural uses. This includes riparian (stream bank) and
shoreline, buffer areas, natural areas, wetlands, forests, wildlife habitat, or floodplain and
other environmentally functional land uses.

Other unused16 or reserved vacant land includes:

Single, small or odd shape parcels.


Land-locked parcels.
Parcels in designated land assembly or land bank
areas.

In rem property includes many types of vacant properties described above but differs in that
the properties may have delinquent property taxes and/or public liens associated with them.
After title clearance the tax obligations and liens are dissolved through legal proceedings.
Periodic in rem public auctions are held to disperse qualified properties for recovery of
municipal costs. In rem means “against the property” as opposed to “against the owner” who
in this case exhibits no interest in the property.

VACANT PROPERTIES TYPES - Current and former land and structure uses identified
throughout vacant property discussions.
Residential – single Brownfields Commercial Undeveloped “open”
Residential – double Other contaminated Industrial land
Residential – multi sites Outbuildings Floodplain and stream
Inactive hazardous bank
Garages Military facilities
waste sites Storm water detention
Cultural facilities Utility transmission and areas
Junk yards conveyance
Historic structures - Snow storage areas
Monuments, etc. Dumps Water supply and
Parking lots and off conveyance Reforestation areas
College and University
facilities street parking Wastewater treatment Community gardens
Institutions Road, street & and conveyance Greenways and
highways ROW’s Abandoned cemeteries linkages
Schools
New parkways (lack of “Paper” streets
Religious facilities equipment for care) Inactive rail corridors
Health facilities NYSTA – On/Off ramps Songbird and urban
Community and public Transportation facilities wildlife habitat
services facilities
Railroad property Land-locked lots

Who Owns Vacant Property?


Basically, every type of property owner can and does own vacant property. This includes
both public and private, taxable and tax exempt entities.

16
FannieMae Foundation, “Housing Facts and Findings: Vacant Land Presents Problems and
Opportunities,” Vol. 3, Issue 1. [Online] Available WWW:
http://www.fanniemaefoundation.org/programs/hff/v3i1-sidebar1.shtml.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 23 Ed.5.0
Public ownership includes all levels of government and their agencies and authorities - city,
county, state, and federal, including military. It may also include Sovereign Nation and
international or bi-national ownership arrangements. In addition to New York State Law,
government-owned property has as a matter of regulation, prescribed methods for
the acquisition and disposal of real property that vary with the level of government
and agency or municipality involved.

Private ownership includes individuals, community organizations, businesses, partnerships,


corporations, investors, banks, mortgage and finance companies, trusts and many other
interests.

Vacant property owners may be local, out-of area, or foreign. A major challenge in addressing
the disposition of vacant properties in the city is the number of out-of-area owners of local
property and the time it takes to reach these owners. The City of Buffalo Office of Citizen
Services manages the User Fee (garbage) statements distribution. It is reported that of the
90,000 statements mailed, 81,000 are destined for Zip Codes within Erie County.
Approximately half of these have City of Buffalo addresses. The remaining 9,000 statements
are spread over 1,500 out of area Zip Codes and 2 countries (Canada and Mexico) and South
America. These numbers are an indication of the scope of the communication challenges
facing property ownership resolution.17

Distribution of Vacant Property – General


Vacant land of all types is distributed throughout the city. See Part IV MAP A – Vacant Land
Use. Property vacancy is most commonly tracked by the city through tax assessment rolls and
the vacant label is attached to the parcel description. The majority of vacant property
discussed in this report is property classified as “vacant” in the tax assessment rolls. Any
parcel-based descriptive information refers to the parcels’ immediate past use. Due to the
frequency of spot zoning throughout the city, the past use may or may not be of relevance to a
categorization exercise using general zoning. As a result, correlating vacant property with
land use can be a time consuming task. Therefore, the reliability of the estimate may be
questionable. For the purpose of this Project, the gross area of the land listed as vacant is
assumed to be 2,860 acres (1,157 ha.): 12,700 parcels of various sizes.

The Redevelopment Context


This Project attempts to address the vacant property categorization issue from a perspective of
assets and opportunities. The existing or potential utility of a property can be derived from its
redevelopment context. Therefore, the current and future opportunities are with those
initiatives that can leverage the redevelopment of vacant property resources. Vacant property
analysis should be performed in the context of redevelopment for neighborhoods, business,
mixed use, commercial, industrial, recreational and environmental policies, plans and
Projects. Occasionally, the vacant parcel may be better recognized as “natural capital” with
minimum traditional redevelopment value. The ability to classify vacant property according to
its potential highest and best use founded on community consensus will better position the
city for sustainable redevelopment.

New plans, such as the City of Buffalo comprehensive plan currently in the draft review
process, should be used as the platform for reinvestment and the eventual zoning changes that
will provide the framework for vacant property redevelopment. This will ease the pressure of
non-conformity and save time and effort over multiple, piecemeal spot zoning exercises. The
draft comprehensive plan and its component plans offer a number of starting places. This

17
City of Buffalo Office of Citizen Services, estimate provided February 2003.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 24 Ed.5.0
exercise should be done for each planning overlay to set a preliminary designation for all
existing and Projected vacant property.

Vacant property analysis should be performed in the context of


redevelopment for neighborhoods, business, mixed use,
commercial, industrial, recreational and environmental policies,
plans and Projects.

The Vacant Property Asset Management Strategy uses this perspective to gain the initial
advantage as a basis for describing vacant property. The examples below use the various
paper representations of the city’s assets to build upon.

Strategic Investment Corridors


Strategic Investment Corridors include industrial development land bank areas.
These potential land assembly areas total 5,000 acres (5,700 parcels).18,19

See Part IV, MAP B – Strategic Investment Corridors; MAP C – Strategic


Investment Areas; TABLE C-1 – Number of Parcels and Acres by Strategic
Investment Corridors.

Neighborhood Planning
Good Neighbor Planning Alliance areas and general vacant property distribution.
Area maps can be produced to establish neighborhood inventories and set local
priorities.

See Part IV - MAP A – Vacant Land Use & GNPA Areas.

Neighborhood Business Development


Neighborhood commercial districts and nodes, 31 in all, contain a total of 419 vacant
properties, both storefronts and empty lots.20

See Part IV - MAPS D-1 and D-2 – Commercial Strips and Live Zones.

The information provided in the report “City of Buffalo Neighborhood Retail Area
Tables, Draft, January 2003, further shows that including vacant properties in the
analysis of retail areas shows a vacancy range of 15-52% by zip code using the
number of retailers and vacant storefronts or lots in a specific retail area.

See Part IV - TABLE D-1 – Vacant Property in Neighborhood Retail Areas.

18
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, “Queen City in the 21st Century – Buffalo’s
Comprehensive Plan” – Draft June 2003, Buffalo, New York.

19
Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., “City Smart: Targeted Land Development,” May 2001.

20
Paula Rosner, City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, “Proposed Designation of Existing and
Emerging Retail Areas as Neighborhood Redevelopment Areas”, Draft - January 2003.

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Asset Management Project 25 Ed.5.0
Green Infrastructure
Vacant property should also be viewed as “potential green infrastructure” relative to
existing protected and non-protected green infrastructure such as parks, greenways,
institutional grounds, etc. This type of analysis is essential to planning for schools,
parks, neighborhood connectivity, flood control, reforestation, waterfront habitat,
and recreation access.21

See Part IV - MAPS E, F, G, H - Green Infrastructure, Exiting Protected,


Existing Non-protected, Potential, and Composite.

Property Abandonment
The trends and reasons for property abandonment are varied and often complex. Intercepting
abandonment through prevention and intervention can be a mixed proposition depending on
the circumstances of ownership and the degree of structural deterioration of a particular
property. Voluntary prevention and intervention programs that offer assistance for structural
repair, maintenance, preservation and other rehabilitation activities are available through the
city and many not for profit organizations. See PART V – Contacts and Assistance.

Abandonment can occur from a single event such as the death of the property owner, or from
a combination of variables including marketplace trends, shifts in employment, financing
policy favoring new builds, and deteriorating housing stock to name a few. There are many
publications and studies that look at the effects of single and multiple variables, and
population and marketplace trends. A synopsis of a report entitled “The slow death of great
cities? Urban abandonment or urban renaissance” 22 mirrors the general assessments a person
may make about the City of Buffalo. Surprisingly or not, the results are from the cities of
Manchester and Newcastle, England. “The problems are at three levels: acute problems at the
city level; extreme problems at the neighborhood level; and complete abandonment in the
very worst pockets of the most difficult areas.” Yet here and there throughout these cities
there are pockets of stable residential and commercial areas, and areas of moderate to high
demand similar to Buffalo, NY.

An example of an aggressive approach to eliminate vacant properties and discourage


abandonment can be found in the City of Wilmington’s Vacant Property Registration Fee
Program.23 Owners are required to register existing and new vacant properties and pay a fee
based upon the length of time a property is vacant. A vacancy period of one year is charged
$500. A sliding scale can assess a charge in excess of $5,000 and more for vacancy periods of
11+ years. Failure to comply is criminal with fines and other legal actions possible. Fee
waivers are available for owners engaged in rehab, construction, and sales to new owners to
discourage long-term vacancy.

21
Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers, “Buffalo Green Infrastructure Report: Inventory, Analysis &
Recommendations,” January 2001.
22
Anne Power and Katherine Mumford, “The problem of low housing demand in inner city areas,”
Findings, May 1999 – Ref 519. [Online] Available WWW:
http://ww.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/housing/519.asp.

23
“City of Wilmington Vacant Property Registration Fee Program” [Online] Available WWW:
http://www.ci.wilmington.de.us/vacantproperties.htm.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 26 Ed.5.0
The Project’s Top 4
There are four types of conditions that continually made their way into the Project
discussions. Abandonment and rehabilitation remedies may be difficult to achieve in these
cases but these problems should be the subject of citywide discussion and planning.

The pervasiveness and high level of poverty within the city is the foundation for the first two
cases: low income renters and homeowners. With the poverty level approaching 40% in some
census tracts and growing in others, it is no coincidence that the poor, inclusive of minorities,
elderly, unemployed, underemployed, disabled and immigrant, are being shuffled through
deteriorating housing stock.

The 2000 Census information using 1999 housing data shows that 57% of households (69,381
of 122,270) are living in rented units in the City of Buffalo. The percent of these renter-
occupied housing units below the poverty level is 38% or 26,699 households. In contrast, the
number of owner-occupied housing units with households below the poverty level is 9% of
owner-occupied units. Approximately 32% of owner-occupied unit include householders over
65 years of age. See Part IV – TABLE I-1 Census 2000, QT-H10.

Case 1 – Low Income Renter


These renters generally have little control over the condition of the rented houses and
apartments in which they live. When the conditions become intolerable, unsafe or too
expensive, they may relocate relatively easily to other accommodations. Motivated
renters seldom qualify for housing rehab assistance.

Case 2 – Low Income Home Owner


There is a significant portion of homeowners who live at or below the poverty levels in
the census tracts noted above or scattered through the city. Typically these owners have
little to invest in home maintenance beyond regular expenses even though mortgages are
often paid off. Assistance for repairs may be obtained if the owner qualifies, however
very often the unemployed or elderly owner has too few resources to qualify for home
improvement loans. In these cases housing inspection and enforcement are difficult at
best and compliance is low due to the inability to afford the repairs.

This situation can be further aggravated if unscrupulous lenders or home repair


contractors agree to provide home repair loans to otherwise unbankable owners. The
interest rates charged on the loan can quickly double or triple the amount borrowed in a
short period of time. If a person cannot extricate his or herself from this situation, the
owner can fall behind in taxes and city fees. The possible end result is losing the home
through foreclosure or abandonment.

Case 3 – Walk Away


The simplest case is one in which the owner, for whatever reason, simply walks away
from the property. Generally, the owner perceives that the property is no longer of any
value to them or to the marketplace. The owner may be local or out-of-area, and no
longer provides for the care of the property, nor responds to official inspection or court
notifications. The condition of the property determines its fate – sale, rehab, city
acquisition, or demolition. Project discussion estimates indicate that only 5% of those
owners notified for a demolition hearing show up in court.24

24
Lou Petrucci, Department of Permit and Inspections, Project correspondence, 01/24/03.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 27 Ed.5.0
Case 4 – Disinterested Absentee Owner
A category of irresponsible or disinterested owners is the fourth common case.
Disinterested absentee owners may be local or out of area. Generally, but not always, this
type of absentee owner has no ties to the area, nor any affinity for the tenants that may
rent from them or their third party property managers. The typical pattern is for such a
buyer to acquire the properties for very low prices, make minimal improvements or none,
and collect rent until the accommodations become uninhabitable, or end up with multiple
code violations, whichever comes first. These homes may get resold – flipped - or the
owner might walk away. The proliferation of Internet “investment” sales and flipping
opportunities across the country is growing, popular and very accessible.25 Investors are
attracted to buying up foreclosed, in rem, or auctioned housing anywhere in the U.S. in
the mode of internet stock trading using a credit card as deposit. This further adds to the
challenges of inspection enforcement and the owner notification process, and takes
advantage of low/moderate income renters in the city.

The Cost of Abandoned and Vacant Property – A Hypothetical Example

Estimating the cost associated with vacant property is a difficult task because there are many
paths that a piece of property, with or without buildings and facilities on it, can take to
abandonment or eventual city ownership. Example studies are available from other cities such
as St. Paul, MN and Philadelphia, PA.26,27 These examine rehabilitation payback and a vacant
land cost benefit analysis. The Project explored possible paths and attempted to describe the
processes and resources that are typically involved from the time a property is first cited by
inspectors to final disposition or reuse.

Project discussions generated a hypothetical example of the cost associated with the number
of times a single vacant residential property could possibly be touched by community and city
resources. The example is spread over 5 years and assumes non-compliance by the owner and
eventual demolition in year 4. The Year 1 assessed value of the home is assumed to be
$25,000; the Year 4 assessed value of the lot is assumed to be $2,000. The taxation rate is
fixed at $19.04 per thousand for all five years.

For the purpose of this illustration, the labor costs were estimated using approximated direct
man-hours and a citywide average salary ($45,000) plus fringes estimated at 15% for a total
hourly rate of $25.00 per hour. Materials or other costs are estimated and no indirect costs
were included. The actual costs will vary by circumstances and the complexity of ownership
issues.

25
“Internet sales leave houses in neglect,” Buffalo News, 08/26/02.

26
Goetz, Cooper, Thiele, and Lam. “Pay Now or Pay More Later: St. Paul’s Experience in
Rehabilitating Vacant Housing.” CURA Reporter, April 1998, pp 12-15.

27
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, “Vacant Land Management in Philadelphia Neighborhoods:
Cost Benefit Analysis,” April 1999.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 28 Ed.5.0
Table 1.0 Hypothetical Residential Case: Year 1 - Year 5

Activity Est. Labor Est. Estimated Total


Materials/Char Taxes
ges
Year 1
Initial inspection –
confirmed vacant, code $75 $75
violations noted
Citation 50 50
Follow-up inspection 25 25
Clean and seal ordered 100 $250 350
Year 2
Fire response 250 250
Debris removal – 2 times 100 50 150
Series of citizen complaints 75 75
Police respond – 2 times 100 100
Inspection response 150 150
initiates demolition
proceedings
Year 3
Notification to all parties 200 200
with interests and
ownership
Real estate, collections, 200 200
courts
Court hearing scheduled – 100 100
no response
Vector control (rodents) 50 50 100
Police response (x2) 100 100
Unpaid taxes Yrs 1-3 1,428 1,428
Year 4
Demolition in year 4 7,500 7,500
Private land is idle – 200 200 400
Neighbors voluntarily clean
and mow
Year 5
Abandoned vehicle 50 50 100
reported and removed
City cleans and mows, bills 420 420
owner
Unpaid taxes Yrs 4-5 76 76

Total est. costs $1,825 $8,520 $1,504 $11,849

Given that this is a hypothetical example, there is much room for debate. Realistically, there
are many cases that take less time and effort to resolve, and many cases that take more. The
labor costs are purposefully conservative (low) but do represent the participation of a number
of different city departments. Because the example ends with the private lot in a vacant idle
condition, there were no costs added for reuse by neighbors or the community.

The significance of the example is in the number of abandonments and vacancies


that currently exist and the number Projected for the future. Whatever the actual costs
are, these costs can be multiplied by the thousands and are expected to continue for the
foreseeable future. Using this example, and assuming there are 500 properties in this cycle at
any given time, the annual cost to the city could be $5.9 million dollars per year distributed
over a number of municipal activities and departments.

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Asset Management Project 29 Ed.5.0
Using this example, and assuming there are 500 properties in this
cycle at any given time, the annual cost to the city could be $5.9
million dollars per year distributed over a number of municipal
activities and departments.

The actual municipal and community costs need to be studied more thoroughly to determine
the fiscal burden of abandonment and vacant properties in the city. In January 2003, the
Common Council approved the transfer to the property tax bills of over $100,000 of unpaid
city mowing and maintenance charges to owners of vacant property who neglected to care for
their properties.

The Real Estate Division and the Inspection and Permit Department have been working at
minimizing the time it takes for internal processes, and therefore reduce internal and external
costs to the city. The tax delinquency threshold was reduced in 2000 from two years to one
year to preserve the condition of houses and buildings in order to facilitate a more timely
foreclosure and purchase procedure. The real challenge as explained throughout this report is
the number accumulated “properties in the pipe” and the time it takes to resolve ownership
issues.
Costs: Stability, Perception and Trust
Other important costs associated with abandoned and vacant properties not itemized above are
property devaluation, insurance risk, and socio/psychological costs. There are entire studies
on these important subjects that are beyond the detail of this report, but some major aspects
mentioned throughout the Project are included below.

The presence of vacant property can have an immediate effect that depresses the
resale value of adjacent properties. As the number of vacant properties increases in a
neighborhood, depressed real estate values can spill into adjacent neighborhood.

The presence of an abandoned house can cause an insurer to abandon an insured


homeowner next door to the vacant property even though the legality of this practice is in
question. The rationale for increasing the cost of homeowners insurance or
dropping the homeowner altogether is the increased fire risk presented by the vacant
property or structures. The homeowner insurance controversy has pushed some owners
into requesting that the vacant house affecting their insurance status be demolished.

The presence of vacant properties poorly or not maintained diminishes the quality of life
and can further attract nuisance and destructive behavior. These are reflected in
reduced physical activity, increased health problems, crime, and the cost of remedial
social programs targeted to areas having high numbers of vacant properties. The
progressive decline commonly results in a loss of confidence in municipal
governance and assistance efforts.

From this perspective it is easy to conclude that vacant properties are a substantial drag on
municipal and community resources and community redevelopment. It is likely that the cost
of poorly or not maintained vacant properties exceeds millions of dollars per year spread over
many city department budgets and the community. From an asset management perspective,
changes in policy, management, and procedures can be justified through future avoided costs
and cost-benefit comparisons.

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Asset Management Project 30 Ed.5.0
It is likely that the cost of poorly or not maintained vacant
properties exceeds millions of dollars per year spread over many
city department budgets and the community.

Maintenance and Mowing Plan 2003

A vacant lot Maintenance and Mowing (M&M) Plan was developed during the Vacant Land,
Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project. The M&M plan provided the Department
of Public Works an opportunity to meet a Common Council request for a plan to maintain
vacant lots in a timely and more frequent fashion. The Project provided a vehicle to assist the
department in meeting its March 2003 deadline. A copy of the M&M plan is included in Part
V.

From the M&M Plan – “The maintenance and mowing strategy is designed to help meet the
challenge of caring for vacant properties in the City of Buffalo until such time that interim
treatments or final reuses are developed for specific properties. The immediate need is to
organize and plan an approach for maintaining and mowing vacant lots using the available
existing resources for the spring, summer and fall of 2003. The items highlighted in the
“FUTURE” sections include further proposed improvements for the subsequent years. The
M&M plan is due for review and adjustments at the end of the 2003 season.”

The maintenance and mowing plan is the result of the cooperation and assistance of several
City departments and divisions. Representatives of these units will also be involved in the
coordination, implementation and improvement of this strategy. Participants included Public
Works, Streets and Sanitation, the Office of Strategic Planning, Real Estate, Citizens Services,
Inspections and Permits, Impact Team, Mayor’s Task Force, Mayor’s Office of Support
Services, Parking Enforcement, and the Buffalo Police Department.

Vacant Property Asset Management Strategy

General
An asset management strategy can form the foundation for more detailed, site-specific
recommendations for the productive, economical, and sustainable development, maintenance,
and monitoring of the various types of vacant land, buildings and facilities within the City of
Buffalo.

The asset management approach is broad in that it strives to integrate all of the parties
involved in the various aspects of vacant property, and that it encompasses the entire life
cycle of a property inclusive of land, buildings and facilities.

The strategy that follows is an attempt to utilize existing resources and processes in an
integrated, coordinated manner. Its intended use is to provide a platform for continuing
discussion and refinement of the elements of vacant property management in the City of
Buffalo.

The asset management strategy presumes some form of centralized oversight and
the incorporation of the conservation and preservation plan, and housing policies
currently under development. The cost of implementing any part of the strategy is

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 31 Ed.5.0
dependent on the number and degree of the elements and recommendations
selected.

The justification for an asset management strategy should be weighed in favor of avoided
costs, future cost savings derived from efficiencies, and eventual investment throughout the
community.

The primary goals of a vacant property asset management strategy established


through the Project include:

1. Slowing the rate at which properties become vacant.

2. Managing existing and future vacant properties.

3. Returning vacant property to appropriate, functional and/or revenue


generating uses.

The justification for an asset management strategy should be


weighed in favor of avoided costs, future cost savings derived from
efficiencies, and eventual investment throughout the community.

Vacant Property Asset Management Elements


A vacant property asset management strategy takes the view that the natural and built
environments have tangible and intangible values that contribute, or may potentially
contribute, in positive ways to the community. These values can be economic, environmental,
social or any combination of the three.

Decision making processes require a hierarchy to assure that land, buildings and facilities are
used, reused, or changed in a manner that is productive, economical and sustainable.
Prevention, conservation, rehabilitation, resource recovery, and property remediation, reuse,
or conversion, represent various stages in a decision tree or property life cycle.

At first consideration, these various stages may seem a tall order. But in fact, these stages are
all currently being implemented by a variety of departments, boards, community
organizations and developers across the city. The challenge lies in carrying out decision-
making and daily activities according to unifying policies, goals and coordinated procedures.

An asset management strategy calls upon a variety of disciplines and involves the community.
The outline of a proposed asset review of a property includes an examination of all of the
assets or resources that it contains, above, at and below grade. It is not exclusively a real
property appraisal or an environmental assessment. It is an integrated combination of
considerations to satisfy neighborhood, preservation, environmental, and development goals.
The umbrella of the asset management strategy is a set of communication, monitoring and
prevention elements.

The vacant properties asset management strategy elements follow and are summarized in flow
chart form in the Vacant Land, Building and Facility Asset Management Strategy Parts 1-3,
pages 45-47. The element components include the major considerations or aspects necessary
to guide an asset management strategy as they relate to the systems or processes currently in
place.
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 32 Ed.5.0
Diagram 2.0 Vacant Land, Building and Facility Asset Management Strategy Overview

All Properties, continuous:


COMMUNICATION & INFORMATION
MONITORING
PREVENTION & INTERVENTION
_____________________________

The Subject Property:


PRELIMINARY EVALUATION
ASSET LAYER REVIEW

CONSERVATION
REHABILITATION
PRESERVATION
RESOURCE RECOVERY

REMEDIATION

DEMOLITION

LAND REUSE OR CONVERSION

REPEAT

Element 1: Communication and Information


1. The communication and information elements involve the development
of systems and networks that support the productive, economical and
sustainable conservation, management, and development of vacant land
buildings and facilities in the City of Buffalo.

2. Communication and information systems or networks serve to preserve


and enhance sense of community; reduce future conflict; facilitate joint,
creative solutions; improved the quality of decisions; and save time and
money.

3. Communication and information systems or networks integrate, and are


accessible to, the stakeholders involved in and affected by vacant
property.

4. Information systems provide a wide variety of information and


resources related to vacant properties, the scope and content to be
determined by the stakeholders.

5. Communication networks provide a means to exchange information


and updates, facilitate decision-making, and should be designed to
concentrate or focus resources.

6. Information and communication systems or networks provide an


education opportunity for prevention and intervention resources, and a
mode to report monitoring outcomes.

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Asset Management Project 33 Ed.5.0
7. Information and communication systems or networks provide a
foundation for marketing and its associated activities; these same
systems can co-function as elements of a marketing strategy.

8. Information and communication systems or networks should be


centrally organized or linked, efficient and regularly maintained.

9. Systems and networks may include representatives, committees, special


task-oriented groups that reach both into the administration and the
community. They may also include electronic portals such as web-
based access to common information and resources. Good examples of
this are the city’s web-based, geographic information mapping system
and assessment information, both located online at http://www.city-
buffalo.com.

Element 2: Monitoring
1. Monitoring is an activity performed throughout the life cycle of a land
use, and it repeats as the use is renewed or changed.

2. Monitoring is the generalized activity of recording real time


transactions and observed changes to property that will aid in
intervention and prevention, planning, preservation, and vacant
property management.

3. Monitoring can be used to measure accomplishments, program


outcomes, the impact of investments, compliance results, and to detect
trends.

4. Many departments, boards, and community organizations perform


independent monitoring. Sharing the resulting information through
communication and information systems will aid in reaching mutual
goals.

5. Monitoring criteria relevant to abandonment trends and vacant property


should be reviewed to determine the scope of information currently
collected. The criteria should be examined for information gaps and the
appropriate manner for including the criteria or not.

Element 3: Prevention and Intervention


1. Prevention and intervention are taken to be a set of services, activities,
programs and support that aims to arrest the deterioration of structures
and intercept owners tending toward property abandonment, i.e.
housing services, lending institutions, historic preservation districts,
etc.

2. Prevention and intervention benefits individual property owners and is


often dependent upon program education and varying degrees of
financial support to achieve successful outcomes.

3. Prevention and intervention benefits neighborhoods and includes


neighborhood conservation and redevelopment; the preservation of
unique or historic places structures or articles; resource recovery; and
the enhancement or establishment of accessible green and open spaces.

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Asset Management Project 34 Ed.5.0
4. Prevention and intervention service providers include public and
private sector agencies and organizations serving regional or localized
audiences; all are collecting information and could benefit from
information and communication (legal constraints recognized).

5. As with Monitoring above, the City of Buffalo Department of Permits


and Inspection has an important and central role in Prevention and
Intervention.

Element 4: Preliminary Evaluation & Asset Layer Review


“Evaluation, review, and assessment” are used interchangeably in this section to describe
ways to consider vacant properties. This is a generalized concept that should not be
confused with a tax assessment, a real estate appraisal, or an environmental review or
audit unless specifically noted. Any “assessment, evaluation or review” conducted for the
purpose of considering a property in the manner described in this report cannot be legally
substituted for the latter.

Any “assessment, evaluation or review” conducted for


the purpose of considering a property in the manner
described in this report cannot be legally substituted
for a tax assessment, a real estate appraisal, or an
environmental review or audit.

Vacant properties can be reviewed in asset layers to help determine their condition and to
enhance conservation and reuse decision-making. Each layer contributes, some
objectively and others subjectively, positively or negatively, to the total potential or
future use of the property.

The various layers may require research, site visits or interviews to determine answers to
specific inquiries. Do not attempt to access a property without the permission of the
owner, public or private – “vacant” is not a defense against trespass. Do not attempt to
enter boarded buildings or facilities, or posted property; you may be placing yourself or
others in danger. Environmental testing or chemical analysis of any part of any structure
on the subject property, or of any surface or subsurface soil or water on the property
requires the consent of the property owner(s), public or private. This includes seeking
written permission from the City of Buffalo or any of its municipal agencies.

CAUTION!!!
! Do not attempt to access a property without the
permission of the owner, public or private –
“vacant” is not a defense against trespass.
! Do not attempt to enter boarded buildings or
facilities, or posted property; you may be placing
yourself or others in danger.

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Asset Management Project 35 Ed.5.0
! Environmental testing or chemical analysis of any
part of any structure on the subject property, or of
any surface or subsurface soil or water on the
property requires the consent of the property
owner(s), public or private. This includes seeking
written permission from the City of Buffalo or any of
its municipal agencies.

Asset Layers
Not all asset layers require attention in every case, but each layer should be given
consideration for possible future impacts and to eliminate unnecessary surprises and time
delays.

Asset Layers
Vacant properties can be evaluated in layers to
improve conservation and reuse decision-
making.
* Paper layers
* Buildings and facilities
* Green infrastructure
* Infrastructure/utilities
* Land/grade
* Land/sub-grade
* Surrounding land use and general
conditions

1. Paper layers – The paper layers are the man-made conditions,


constraints and opportunities associated with a specific property. For
example:

Ownership Economic development zones


Deeds and covenants Development plans
Special districts Strategic Investment Corridors
Zoning regulations Land assembly areas
Development constraints associated with Former uses
funding authorities

2. Buildings and facilities layer – If buildings and facilities are present


on the land and are the subject of proposed conservation or demolition,
the first review should be from a paper and sidewalk perspective.

DO NOT enter vacant buildings or facilities without the permission of


the owner, and NEVER enter boarded, sealed, or posted building or
facilities.

A preliminary search should use:

Public records - deeds Title searches


City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 36 Ed.5.0
Photographs, regular, aerial Interviews – neighbors, former
Historic archives owners or employees
Inspection information Tax assessment information
GIS data and records

A more detailed study is generally necessary depending on the planned future


use and funding sources involved. There may be city permit and inspection
requirements; asbestos surveys; preservation and planning board reviews and
approval processes; and/or environmental reviews such as New York State
Environmental Quality Review or environmental testing. Inquire early in the
planning process and add these requirements to your timetable.

Contact the City of Buffalo Planning Board for the


“Design and Site Plan Review Checklist” package for
submission requirements, process schedule, and fees,
(716) 851-5086. See also Part V.

Contact the Buffalo Preservation Board for the


operations and procedures package at (716)-851-5029.

Contact the City of Buffalo Department of Permit and


Inspection Services for code standards permits and fees
at (716) 851-4925, and Inspections at (716) 851-4949.

3. Green infrastructure layer – The green infrastructure layer includes


live and natural resources on and in the vicinity of the property under
consideration: the trees, landscaping and other vegetation on the
property and the corresponding right-of-ways.

This layer is a part of the neighborhood and citywide system of green


infrastructure that provides numerous benefits to the environment and
supplements quality of life. Trees and landscaping contribute to individual and
neighborhood property values and increase pedestrian circulation in commercial
districts.

Green infrastructure should be preserved, enhanced or replaced in a manner that


improves or preserves continuity. Green infrastructure can be used as a tool to
direct and encourage neighborhood connectivity to shopping and cultural
attractions.

The assessment of green infrastructure should also include a look beyond the
immediate boundary of the vacant property for consideration of the property’s
relationship to the neighborhood, watershed, viewshed, or other geographic or
geopolitical region.

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Asset Management Project 37 Ed.5.0
4. Infrastructure/utilities layer – This is a strategic layer that can guide or
discourage development, and that may or may not impact vacant property in
varying ways depending on location. It includes a number of manmade public
and private services:

Hardscape – sidewalks, curbs, driveways, parking lots


Roads, highways, and bridges
Sewers – storm water and sanitary
Lighting – street and traffic
Utilities
Railroads

The presence or absence of manmade infrastructure may affect the feasibility of


proposed reuse or development, and should be a major factor in locating
commercial and industrial Projects.

This layer requires special attention in land assembly areas that may offer
opportunities for consolidation and upgrade of aged public service districts.

The City of Buffalo Department of Public Works has a policy of coordinating


city and regional infrastructure upgrades where feasible with road
reconstruction.

5. Land, at-grade layer – This layer represents the physical shape and condition
of the land at-grade. It can be described by the slope, surface condition, surface
drainage and surface soil (about one shovel deep). These conditions can vary
widely from parcel to parcel and across the city.

As with the sub-grade layer below, the surface soil is generally not the original
topsoil in urban areas. Over the years topsoil may have developed under grass or
could have been developed by the landowner through care and soils
amendments. In contrast, post-demolition lots and long-time vacant lots tend to
collect rubble and debris through backfill or illegal dumping at or just below the
surface.

Above ground tanks and materials storage areas may require special attention.

A more detailed study is generally necessary depending on the planned future


use and Project funding sources involved. There may be city permit and
inspection requirements; preservation and planning board reviews and approval
processes; and/or environmental reviews such as the New York State
Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) assessment or environmental
testing. Inquire early in the planning process and add these
requirements to your timetable.

6. Land, sub-grade layer – This layer though unseen requires serious attention
depending on the location and former uses of the vacant property. The current
legal owner(s) by law is responsible for its condition.

Reuse and development plans can be affected by underground utilities and


drainage conveyances. Older residential areas often have underground heating
oil tanks that require removal prior to construction or rehabilitation.

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Asset Management Project 38 Ed.5.0
A more detailed sub-grade study is generally necessary depending on the
planned future use and funding sources involved. There may be city permit and
inspection requirements; preservation and planning board reviews and approval
processes; and/or environmental reviews such as SEQRA assessment or
environmental testing.

What you don’t see might hurt you – or certainly slow you down. Inquire about
underground storage or petroleum tanks, past land disposal and land filling
practices, hazardous material spills, and plumes from underground leaks and
spills from adjacent properties. These are topics worth checking off your list.
Inquire early in the planning process and add these requirements to your
timetable.

Plans that include excavation, tree planting, or


digging for construction or repairs require that
you CALL BEFORE YOU DIG to locate
underground utilities. Property owners should
contact 1-800-962-7962 for coordination of
utilities in your area.

Also, remember to check for overhead electrical


lines if ladders, scaffolding, and construction
equipment will be required on site.

7. Surrounding land use and general conditions layer – This layer captures a
variety of topics that may influence or add to the value of vacant property reuse
and development.

The surrounding land use, including adjacent properties and the immediate
neighborhood, should be observed for its prevailing characteristics. The
proposed Project should enhance and not detract from the surrounding land use.

Area residents, especially the immediate neighbors (residents and businesses


included), should be directly involved or provided ample opportunity for their
recommendations to ensure the proposed Project is compatible with
neighborhood plans and community spirit.

The site should be observed in more than one season and at several times of the
day and evening to observe lighting, and pedestrian and vehicle traffic patterns.
The differences may influence reuse and design parameters.

For sites that involve landscaping and gardening, the site should be checked for
light and shade patterns, summer heat reflectance, prevailing winds, snow
storage areas, soil type and fertility, and drainage. These will influence soil
development requirements, plant and tree placement and selection, and drainage
and watering needs.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 39 Ed.5.0
Urban gardening for human consumption should address the potential for soils
impacted by lead or other contaminants, and use alternative methods or location
when necessary. See Part V – Penn State “Lead in Residential Soils” bulletin.

Element 4: Conservation
1. The conservation element includes structural rehabilitation,
preservation and resource recovery.

2. A more detailed account of community conservation and preservation


goals and plans are in progress as of the writing of this report. Those
results should be substituted for like information contained in this
report when it becomes available.

3. Conservation, like prevention and intervention, requires public


education and financial support to be effective.

4. Rehabilitation and preservation initiatives benefit property owners


directly and are difficult for renters to participate in; absentee owners
have a general lack of interest in these opportunities.

5. Surrounding property and residents benefit from the stabilizing effect


of conservation. Neighborhoods benefit from the exhibit of investment
and enhanced reputation as a good or preferred place to live.

6. Preservation of unique or historic buildings and facilities help to


maintain core business or residential districts and can be cultural
destination points.

7. Resource recovery is an option for marginal sites or structures that


contain unique, period or historic architectural elements worth
relocating or storing for future display or rehabilitation. Resource
recovery is also the last resort for unique or historic structures that
require demolition.

The City has authorized the Buffalo Architectural


Salvage Committee to perform architectural resource
recovery based on an inventory of those resources,
(716) 856-4533.

Element 5: Remediation
1. Remediation applies to land, buildings and facilities impacted or
contaminated with listed chemicals or substances (solid, gaseous or
liquid) at or above threshold levels set by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and/or the N.Y.S. Department of Environmental
Conservation and the N.Y. S. Department of Health.

2. Sites or property requiring remediation before rehabilitation,


preservation, reuse or development include: buildings and facilities

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 40 Ed.5.0
containing asbestos, petroleum products and other hazardous
substances including lead; and listed hazardous waste sites, inactive
hazardous waste sites, and brownfield sites.

3. Remediation or clean-up requirements are set by regulatory agencies


and based on the actual contaminants present, contaminant levels,
treatment options, the potential threat to human health and the
environment, and the characteristics of the site itself. These parameters
are established in regulated NYSEQRA Phase 1 and 2 environmental
assessment procedures.

4. Brownfields represent opportunities for business and industry looking


for larger parcels for industrial or commercial uses. Development
incentives and regulatory programs are designed to encourage
remediation and redevelopment in exchange for liability relief.

5. Community organizations should avoid environmentally impacted sites


for community Projects or acquisition.

Element 6: Demolition
1. Demolition permanently removes a building or facility to its foundation
(or a designated sub-grade depth) through deconstruction or destruction
in a manner prescribed by regulations.

2. Deconstruction is a method of dismantling a structure to recover and


recycle reusable materials; the separation of materials enables
marketing of some recovered non-contaminated resources (ceramics,
gypsum wallboard, brick, copper, metals, wood) and a reduction of
solid waste for disposal.

3. Demolition is a procedure of last resort performed in a planned or


emergency manner, depending upon the circumstances. Not all
demolished structures are previously vacant buildings or facilities.

4. Demolition may be undertaken by the city, or by private landowners


under city permit only.

5. The Department of Permits and Inspections, the Planning Board, and


the Preservation Board must approve properties proposed for
demolition, excluding some emergency demolitions.

6. The demolition process should include site finishing to a useable,


shovel ready condition, appropriate for the surrounding land use that
ameliorates impacts to surrounding property values, especially in
residential areas.

7. A suitable turf or groundcover should be established to improve


aesthetics, minimize airborne particles, and minimize runoff.

Element 7: Vacant Land Reuse or Conversion


1. The reuse or conversion of vacant land should be consistent with city
and community-based planning for the area in which the vacant land is

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 41 Ed.5.0
located, and should return the land to appropriate, functional, revenue
generating uses or remain natural.

2. Existing vacant land and projected new vacant land should be assigned
near, mid, or long-term redevelopment timeframes to allow for interim
or permanent reuses and land assembly opportunities.

3. Until such time that vacant land is reused, it should be maintained and
mowed by the property owner(s) to a clean and sanitary condition.

4. New (post-demolition) vacant land should be “finished” with clean


topsoil and seeded for grass cover to control soil erosion, reduce runoff,
and to reduce airborne particles.

5. An inventory of vacant land and important parcel-based characteristics


is essential to track progress, forecast budgetary needs, and to market
properties. See “Information and Communication” above.

6. Not all vacant land can or should be developed or redeveloped. Open,


undeveloped and natural land – forested, wetland, shoreline, and
grassland – serves important functions in the landscape. Vacant land
proximate to these areas can be reserved for floodplain relief, snow
storage, recreation, green space and natural habitat areas.

7. Interim uses can be put in place until such time that permanent
redevelopment of an area is feasible. Interim uses are intended to hold
the land in a manageable condition such that the interim use of the land
benefits the immediate community and the City of Buffalo. Interim use
and management plans may vary depending upon the Projected
redevelopment timeframes.

Interim uses are intended to hold the land in a


manageable condition such that the interim use of the
land benefits the immediate community and the City of
Buffalo.

8. Land assembly areas require interim reuse and management plans that
should be factored into the cost of redevelopment.

9. Impacted or contaminated land (surface or subsurface), buildings and


facilities designated for reuse or conversion must be handled according
to state and federal regulations. Cleanup and reuse alternatives are site
and future use dependent. Brownfield redevelopment programs offer
some relief for commercial and industrial redevelopment.

Land Reuse and Conversion, General


The current abundance of vacant land of all types in the City of Buffalo raises a general call
from the community and community leaders to do something positive with this community
asset. Many community groups and individuals across the city have been using public and
private resources to reuse or convert vacant land for many years in different ways. There are
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 42 Ed.5.0
many successful neighborhood green spaces and gardens associated with block clubs and
schools. Each was developed for a very specific localized need such as:

! The creation of a neighborhood gateway.

! The need for a place to enjoy the outdoors.

! A place for children to learn about the environment..

! A place to grow flowers, trees and food.

! The need to secure or take back a street.

The Project asked participants in the GNPA, youth and elected official tracks what their
preferences are for vacant land reuse in three different settings. The results of this simple and
limited exercise are interesting and point to the need for expanded and diverse community
participation in neighborhood planning. A summary of responses appears in Part V.

GNPA and Elected Official Tracks

Preferred use of vacant land in a:


Residential setting -
* Side yard ownership
* New single family homes
* New multi-family homes
* Greening – grass and trees

Neighborhood retail/commercial setting -


* Mixed use – business street level, apartments upper
* New businesses – retail, commercial
* Side yard ownership

Industrial setting -
* New commercial and office
* New industry
* Passive recreation – seating only, common area

The youth track was assigned a slightly different exercise in that they were asked to design
around sketches of given housing and businesses interspersed with vacant lots.

Youth Track

Preferred use of vacant land in:


Neighborhood residential, 3 scattered vacant lots -
* Community center
* Supermarket
* House/Basketball court/Church

Neighborhood residential, 5 clustered vacant lots -


* More houses
* Homeless shelter
* Community garden

Neighborhood business, 3 scattered vacant lots -


* Food franchises closer to inner city
* Youth transition home
* Community center
* Learning center
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 43 Ed.5.0
Neighborhood business, 5 clustered vacant lots -
* More businesses, parking behind
* Restaurant/recreation club/bar complex

Two relatively recent examples of community-based vacant land reuse include a local Project
in progress by the West Side Planning Collaborative. This independent initiative under
development will produce a guidebook for community organizations and individuals desiring
to access vacant land for community or private use. The City of Philadelphia has a guide
called “Reclaiming Vacant Lots, A Philadelphia Green Guide,” published by the Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society, that offers strategies and checklists for vacant lot reuse.28 This
information is very helpful in developing interim reuses and determining the costs associated
with reuse activities.

The Partners for Urban Resources and the Environment Erie Niagara (PURE) facilitated the
development and funding for a variety of community based environmental Projects from 1998
through 2003. Many of these Projects were implemented on vacant lots of varying conditions.
Average Project costs for basic vacant lot restoration (one or two adjacent residential lots)
were around $5,000.00. The range was about $500 per lot to $30,000 per site depending on
the treatments. Site improvements included turf, perennial gardens, raised-bed community
gardens, tree planting and passive recreation areas, outdoor educational spaces, wildlife
habitat and water quality improvements. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest
Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service provided matching funds for these
projects.

Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy – FLOW


CHART Parts 1-3, pages 45-47.

The “Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Strategy” flow chart
corresponds to the preceding description of the strategy components.

28
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Reclaiming Vacant Lots, 2002.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 44 Ed.5.0
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Strategy
PART 1

ALL PROPERTIES - CONTINUOUS


Occupied & Vacant

Central
Communication &
Information System

Monitoring –
All stakeholders

Prevention &
Intervention –
All stakeholders

Buildings and Land


facilities from PART 3
from PART 2
Vacant Land, Buildings &
Facilities

Preliminary Evaluation of Subject Sites or


Properties
*+++++++ID all subject buildings, facilities and parcels
*+++++++ID current ownership, title, encumbrances
*+++++++ID local goals and preferences for reuse
*+++++++ID all regulatory or programmatic requirements for
rehab, preservation and reuse
*+++++++ID all city and community plans for redevelopment
in subject area
*+++++++ID special districts, incentive zones, restrictions,
etc. in subject area

Vacant buildings and Vacant land


facilities
continued PART 2 continued PART 3

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 45 Ed.5.0
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Strategy
PART 2

Vacant buildings
and facilities
continued from PA RT1

YES Is access NO
permissible
Obtain and safe? Review
legal site assets from
access paper and
street only

ASSET LAYER REVIEW


*++++++Additional paper layers
*++++++Detailed examination of
building/ facility
*++++++Green infrastructure
*++++++Infrastructure, hardscape
and utilities – location,
condition
*++++++Land at grade – features,
condition
*++++++Land, subgrade
*++++++General location and other
conditions

Professional or technical
assistance may be required.

Is rehabilitation, NO
Rehabilitation preservation or Resource
- Conversion conversion feasible? recovery &
YES
- Adaptive reuse salvage, safety
conditions
permitting only
access
Preservation
- Restoration
Return to - Adaptive reuse
Demolition -
PART 1 Planned or
emergency;
continued
PART 3

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 46 Ed.5.0
Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Strategy
PART 3

Vacant land
asset review
New post-
demolition

land
vacant
Existing
continued from PA RT 1
vacant
land

YES Is access NO
permissible or
Obtain safe? Review
legal site assets from
access paper and
street only

ASSET LAYER REVIEW


*++++++ Additional paper layers
*++++++ Detailed examination of
building/ facility
*++++++ Green infrastructure
*++++++ Infrastructure, hardscape and utilities
– location, condition
*++++++ Land at grade – features, condition
*++++++ Land subgrade
*++++++ General location and other conditions

Professional or technical assistance may


be required.

Brownfield
designation -
Conservation Is reuse, remediation
for permanent YES conservation or NO
required
open land, conversion
natural function feasible?
or rec reation
NO RETURN TO
YES PART 1

Projected
timeframe
Immediate
reuse or
conversion Hazardous
Land assembly - waste or
interim uses, conditions –
Interim uses,
maintenance & secure site
maintenance &
mowing
RETURN TO mowing
PART 1

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 47 Ed.5.0
Part III - Project
Recommendations
The main purpose of the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project is
to develop recommendations for the sustainable, economical and productive conservation,
development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of
Buffalo.

Project participants recognized the importance and challenge of focusing on vacant properties
because of the relationship vacant property has to the local quality of life and regional
prosperity.

The sustainable, economical and productive conservation,


development and management of vacant properties of all kinds
impacts, and is impacted by, the quality of schools and
neighborhoods, economic conditions, and investment in business
and industry development.

This statement acknowledges the multiplicity of systems, disciplines and community sectors
that are involved in, or affected by, vacant property.

There were many recommendations generated throughout the Project. Repeated items have
been consolidated, and other individual or partial recommendations were combined as themes
developed. The recommendations in this report do not include all of the possible
recommendations in the current universe of vacant property conservation, development and
management. More accurately, they represent a starting point that reflects programs,
procedures and partial solutions currently in progress or in the planning stage.

Many solid recommendations or ideas proffered were things that are already being done as a
matter of routine. This occurred many times demonstrating the need to simply communicate
procedures within the city and to the community. Some items, especially in the Regulatory
and Enforcement section, may be outside of what is presently permitted, but have been listed
as recommendations here to stimulate problem solving and future feasibility.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 48 Ed.5.0
Recommendation Criteria
Any recommendation should meet the following conditions as established in the Project
purpose:

! Recommendations should lead to the sustainable, economical and


productive conservation, development and management of vacant
properties.

! Because this is a very broad charge, stating it in the negative can


create some clarification - Recommendations or remedies in the
forms of programs, solutions, actions, changes, reforms, etc.,
should not burden community and local government resources,
should not adversely impact human health and the environment,
should not be exclusive, nor be counterproductive or exacerbate
negative conditions.

! Decision-making should be consensus based to preserve a sense of


community, to encourage the development of joint solutions, and
to reduce future conflict.

! Vacant land, buildings and facilities asset management


recommendations should reinforce the City vision to:

Repopulate residential areas.


Rebuild the industrial base.
Revitalize commercial areas.
Maintain and enhance green and open space to
support the preceding three.

Five general recommendation categories were developed for the purpose of managing
discussions within the Project. The Vacant Properties Asset Management Strategy described
in the previous section is an attempt to build a decision-making framework that incorporates
challenges and near-term recommendations. Both challenges and recommendations will
address five areas:

! Information and Communication

! Policy and Planning

! Regulation and Enforcement

! Procedures, Processes and Practices

! Funding

The five areas for discussion were compared to the Brookings Institute research brief entitled
“Seizing City Assets: Ten Steps to Urban Land Reform”.29 The brief describes ten steps that
local governments might take to develop urban land and buildings. The publication is based
on the experience and specific program components of larger urban areas involved in vacant

29
Paul C. Brophy and Jennifer S. Vey, “Seizing City Assets: Ten Steps to Urban Land Reform,”
October 2002, The Brookings Institution and CEO’s for Cities. [Also online] WWW:
www.brookings.org.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 49 Ed.5.0
property problem solving. The ten steps summarized below fit within and/or overlap with one
or more of the five discussion areas listed above. The five report discussion categories note
the Brookings Steps associated with the participant recommendations in each category for
reference purposes.

Brookings 10 Steps to Urban Land Reform

1. Know your territory.

2. Develop a citywide approach to redevelopment.

3. Implement neighborhood plans in partnership with community


stakeholders.

4. Make government effective.

5. Create a legal framework for sound redevelopment.

6. Create marketplace opportunities.

7. Finance redevelopment.

8. Build on natural and historic assets.

9. Be sensitive to gentrification and relocation issues.

10. Organize for success.

Information and Communication


(Brookings Steps 1,4,6,7,8,9,10)

Two common themes throughout the Project were 1) the need for coordinated, regular
communication among and between parties engaged in vacant property activities; and 2)
access to information for improved decision-making.

Depending on the interests of the group(s) taking action on vacant land, buildings and
facilities, there are differing aspects, problems and opportunities associated with each type of
vacant property. The number of municipal departments, housing agencies, development
agencies, community organizations, for profit and not for profit groups ministering duties,
programs and solutions for vacant properties for any the City of Buffalo is large – at least 48
excluding not for profits - making effective communication and coordination difficult.30 The
entities involved come with a wide range of capacity, accountability, and can often further
redistribute or dilute resources.

Many involved entities develop organizational needs and objectives on city-based information
sources, and many others are using or developing independent information sources. All of
this information, used together or in combination, shared or directed, can be very powerful.

30
Vacant Land Buildings and Facilities Project listing, 07/03. See also Appendix 3.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 50 Ed.5.0
The information needs reported throughout the Project includes vacant property facts,
statistics, procedures, specific regulations, and referrals that could aid in planning, decision-
making, property access and purchase.

Generally the information is available and much of it is or can be attached to a geographic


information system. Basic tax assessment property information and map-based data is
available through the city’s web site. Regulations are available through the city charter and
code updates, and permit and inspection procedures are provided through web links.
Community and business needs could be served by repackaging common information
requests, and by providing easy access to it through various media. It may also be necessary
to restrict some information for use by official regulators only, but the scope of restricted
information should not be limiting to community decision-makers.

Marketing of vacant properties is included in the information and communication section.


Constructing a uniform message that reflects the strengths and opportunities associated with
vacant property as a resource, and the responsibility of owning property, are both a function
of providing information and effective communication. Vacant property is presently marketed
though a variety of means, generally by type. Marketers include city real estate and housing
departments, municipal economic development agencies, non profit and for profit developers,
real estate companies and brokerages, state and federal agencies, and independent service
providers such as publications, newsgroups, and internet trading companies. Marketing
messages vary depending on the targeted sector or customer, and the level of market
addressed, i.e. national, regional, local, and neighborhood.

Information and Communication Recommendations


1) Develop an information and communication system(s) that will serve the
various needs of vacant property asset management.

Fully developed information and communication systems should be centralized and


comprehensive to facilitate vacancy prevention and intervention, conservation and
preservation, vacant property maintenance, monitoring and marketing.

City-based parties that can participate and support in varying degrees to form the basis of an
information/communication system and network: Public Safety, Inspections, Courts, Housing
Agencies, CBO’s*, Public Works, Citizen Participation, Real Estate, GNPA Committees,
Environmental and Historic Reviewers and Boards, Planning Department and Board,
Economic Development, Collections, Common Council, Mayor’s Office, Information
Services, Central Referral Services, etc.

Provisions for improving communication and information access must include the use and
accessibility of appropriate and efficient technologies.

General:
! Provide a One-Stop-Shop for direct communication with community –
common request for user-friendly web-based information.

! Communication and information systems are a public relations


opportunity that should reinforce City policy and goals

*
CBO refers to Buffalo’s 6 neighborhood housing organizations.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 51 Ed.5.0
! Elements to be added to information/communication system should be
prioritized – what information do decision-makers need and why.

! Sufficient training should be provided to city staff and community with


any new information system.

! Mayor’s Complaint Line, (716) 851-4890, could be incorporated as the


general tool to funnel information. Individuals responding should be
well trained to efficiently direct inquiries to begin
intervention/prevention if needed.

! Expand CityStat31 to include elements of vacant property asset


management.

Prevention and Intervention:


! Consolidate neighborhood conservation and rehabilitation program
information and promote it.

! Co-promote education on predatory lending practices.

! Agree on criteria for earlier intervention to identify problem properties.

! Consolidate information on problem properties and establish


instructions for what can be done to bring it into compliance.

! Use CBO’s to assist in collecting information and reporting on problem


properties.

! Outreach to CBO’s and block clubs to work on landlord/tenant


accountability.

Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


! Develop vacant lot maintenance and mowing communication system as
a priority – See Part V, Maintenance and Mowing Plan.

! Develop and improve a community reporting system for vacant lot


condition reports and maintenance schedules.

! Promote the pre-demolition neighbor notification process to help


facilitate the sale of newly cleared property to eligible adjacent
property owners.

2) Community Education - Disseminate information supportive of vacant property


goals and recommendations to the general community, or targeted as needed.

Develop and/or assemble information on the following subjects or issues:

31
“Tracking system aims to red-flag inefficiencies,” Buffalo News, 01/02/03.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 52 Ed.5.0
! Maintenance and mowing plans and schedule.

! Anti-littering and anti-dumping campaign.

! Develop a reverse, Internet community-to-city reporting process,


possibly linked to City Stat.

! New building and property codes.

! Package prevention and intervention materials.

! Package preservation materials.

3) Marketing – Use components of the information and communication system(s)


to aid in the marketing of vacant land, buildings and facilities assets.

Develop a marketing message that is supported by city vision, policy, plans and
goals.

! Build on place – 3rd largest region of USA, with Great Lakes resources.

! Use “if you were here” marketing strategies.

! Promote the merits of urban living – assets include walkability, higher


density living, more people interactions, support for retail and small
business creation, distinctive architecture, parks, a variety of housing
and ethnic diversity, etc.

! Co-market area assets – public-private initiatives.

Use the Internet to market screened, city-owned, vacant properties, and include
the procedure and contacts for purchasing. Get screened properties catalogued
and on the web.

Use inspection data to develop market characteristics of property sets (types); use
inspection information to initiate marketing of recently vacant properties.

Post redevelopment RFP’s on marketing site.

Investigate use of VA/FHA method for marketing city-owned buildings through real
estate brokers through use of lock boxes and daily Internet pricing with streamlined
purchase process.

4) Research and technology – Monitor research and technology trends to


optimize the city’s competitive position in the region, state and nation.

Host annual or biennial research exchanges on vacant property asset management, and
related issues or subjects.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 53 Ed.5.0
Re-establish linkages and protocol with local university and colleges using the city as a
research or Project site – undergrad, graduate and doctoral studies, grants, etc. – to add to
city information systems and help monitor trends.

Investigate the use of data loggers or palm pilots by inspectors, public works, planners
and assessors to collect real-time data on properties and download into information
system for ease of updates.32

Policy and Planning


(Brookings Steps 1-10)

A conclusion from the Project discussions and experience with local, community-based
initiatives is that there is a general difficulty in determining the differences between policy,
regulation and procedures concerning vacant properties. Residents seeking information on
city policy are often met with explanations of city procedures. City staff, meanwhile trying to
implement procedure, can be frustrated by a perceived lack of policy backing for the
important duties they are performing. This points to the need for centralized, uniform policies
and goals regarding vacant properties and related issues.

Well-constructed policy can be very effective in dealing with different constituencies and the
often times competing interests. Policy is the principles on which any measure or course of
action is based.33 Measures or courses of action may include regulation, processes, or
procedures that can further entail specific practices and so on. Policy may be founded in
legislation, local, state or federal, or it may be developed through local planning as guidance
or proposed legislation.

The subject of demolition is chosen as an example to demonstrate how demolition, as an issue


or activity, has become embedded in modern urban history as policy, procedure and practice.

! Demolition, like construction, is a regulated activity through the


City Charter and building code. It includes the demolition of
structures for any purpose, including site-specific redevelopment
or emergency. Within the code there is a process for applying for a
demolition permit and regulated conditions (practices) to be met by
the party conducting the demolition.34

! The activity of demolition (emergencies excluded) has a history in


federal housing policy going back to 1937 – “clearance,” construed
to be demolition, was part of the principles of urban housing
redevelopment. Later urban renewal policy included putting the

32
“The City of Riverside, California, Takes Weed Abatement From Paper to Pixels,” GIS Trends in
Local Government, 40. Source information not available.
33
New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, (Delair Publishing Co., 1981).
34
City of Buffalo Department of Permit and Inspection Services, “Demolition” and “Demolition
FAQ’s.” [Online] WWW: http://city-buffalo.com/Document.asp?lid=1451 and http://city-
buffalo.com/Document.asp?lid=1330.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 54 Ed.5.0
“cleared land to better use” i.e. economically productive.35 These
federal programs were adopted by the cities throughout the U.S.

! Subsequent federal housing policy changed somewhat by putting


the emphasis on neighborhood conservation and housing
rehabilitation, and demolition shifted to become part of the activity
or a tool of community renewal.

! The demolition of housing and neighborhood commercial


structures, as a matter of policy or procedure, continues throughout
the city, but is concentrated in some areas more than others. The
pattern is an enlargement of the previous public housing and urban
renewal designated areas.36 The demolitions are presently
conducted at the end of the structures’ lifecycle when occupation
standards cannot be met.

This simplified illustration points up the potential conflicts when policy, regulation, and
procedures are substituted for each other. Absent a clear local policy on the use or prohibition
of demolition in neighborhood redevelopment it is difficult to address embedded or related
issues. Are there areas or districts in which demolition is generally prohibited (emergencies
excluded)? Is there a citywide policy for surplus housing? Are there vacancy thresholds for
relocation of residents in land assembly areas? And where is the available housing where
these residents would be encouraged to relocate to?

The links between policy and planning are very strong where these questions are concerned.
The importance here is that the planning be inclusive involving departments across the city
administration and community stakeholders.

Policy and Planning Recommendations

1) Establish and support a multi-disciplined, representative team to regularly


coordinate, review, and advise on policy, plans, local regulation, procedures and
funding involved in or affecting vacant property asset management.

The team is charged to:

! Develop and maintain a system(s) of information and


communication to support community education, monitoring,
decision-making and marketing.

! Recommend policies to guide planning and legislative decision-


making to maintain a level of control over the current inventory of
vacant properties and the number of new vacant properties

35
Uzochukwu E. Ihenko, “Constructive Approaches with Contradictory Results: Community
Development and the Dynamics of Housing Demolition in the Inner City of Buffalo, New York, 1960-
1997” (PhD dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo, November 14, 2002), 107-138.

36
Uzochukwu E. Ihenko, 238-246.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 55 Ed.5.0
predicted to be added to the inventory. See Policy development
below, and Regulation and Enforcement recommendations.

! Review proposed development plans to optimize the use of vacant


properties and to advise on the compatibility or conflict of those
plans with city plans, regulation, procedures, processes, and
practices.

! A commitment to the team is necessary through city policy and


administrative support and funding.

! The team should be centralized in the city administration, and


convened and guided by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning
until such time a formal team structure and operations can be
determined by the team representatives.

2) Policies should be re-evaluated, updated, or developed to reflect city and


community-wide redevelopment goals. Such policies should be communicated in
a manner to aid redevelopment and to promote solidarity of efforts.

Policies involving or impacting vacant properties were determined to be unclear, incomplete,


ineffective, or unavailable (unpublicized, not documented) or inadequately promoted and
lacking in general support in several areas related to vacant properties.

Policy recommendations, or components thereof:

! Redevelopment with a regional and smart growth foundation should


focus on people at appropriate densities, and an enhanced quality of life
for the Buffalo community.

! The city values community input, and the resources and experience
behind it in planning and decision-making processes.

! The city’s responsibility to protect human health and the environment


will be extended to all of its departments, agencies, agents, contractors,
and development partners.

! Natural infrastructure should remain as healthy and as intact as


possible; vacant land reuse should return identified land to floodplains,
riparian, lakefront and other natural functions to balance urban
development; this includes public access to open space and recreation.

! Existing vacant land and future vacant land will be Projected for
development and reuse – legally, physically, and within an overall
comprehensive plan.

! Policies for housing, infill and land assembly or land banking must
apply citywide, be equitable, and be linked to citywide plans and goals.

! Policies involving demolition require re-examination to assure


compliance with permitting and approval processes, consistency with
development goals, and demolition practices that are safe, cost effective
and compatible with property reuse.
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 56 Ed.5.0
! Policies must be linked with legislation, regulations, and city plans; and
communicated to the community, administration, elected officials, and
courts, to improve enforcement and compliance efforts.

! The administration should support community interim reuse of city-owned


property that is consistent with city and neighborhood plans.

! A policy to adequately support and fund the activities associated with the asset
management of vacant land, buildings and facilities is essential to the success of
any such effort.

3) Plans involving or impacting vacant properties must be centrally coordinated


to optimize effectiveness, maximize the use of limited resources, and support city
and community-wide policies and goals.

With respect to vacant properties, existing plans were reported to be unclear, incomplete,
ineffective, or unavailable (unpublicized, not documented) or inadequately promoted and
lacking in general support for vacant property management or redevelopment.

Plans should be re-evaluated, updated, or developed to reflect city and community-wide


redevelopment goals. Such plans should be communicated in a manner to aid
redevelopment and to promote solidarity of efforts.

! The city of Buffalo Comprehensive Plan should guide all city and
neighborhood redevelopment plans, both public and private.

! All redevelopment plans should be subject to an inclusive,


integrated review process that is coordinated and streamlined for
maximum effectiveness.

! The site plan review process should be restructured to place


emphasis on preservation and environmental evaluations, and
expanded to include a radius of impact or influence that is
dependent upon site redevelopment criteria.

! Community and stakeholder participation in planning processes


should be embraced and encouraged in all planning venues; this
should include training in urban community revitalization.

! The City should accelerate the development of its preservation and


conservation plan, to preserve, protect, and enhance the historic
and unique integrity of city neighborhoods and special features.

! Comprehensive planning should set general rehabilitation,


preservation, housing, and vacant land development targets.

! The city should establish reduction and accumulation reduction


goals to help reduce the number of city-owned properties.

! The city should remap and market identified development areas


that include vacant land, buildings and facilities; and, rezone these
areas accordingly to help insure that development blends in with
existing structures that ultimately lead to a series of attractive
interconnected neighborhoods.
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 57 Ed.5.0
! Housing design and alternatives should include vacant land to be
reused as development green space and connecting corridors.

! Well thought out plans include combining infill and rehabilitation


of existing structures, including preservation and adaptive reuse.

! Develop land bank guidance and budgets for residential and


commercial development, including density thresholds for
relocation, relocation provisions, maintenance of land bank areas
and redevelopment marketing.

! Plan and develop funding for demolitions necessary to meet


development needs and surplus housing unit Projections.

! Adequately maintain infrastructure – sidewalks and curbs,


pavement, lighting, street trees etc. – especially in residential and
neighborhood business areas during land assembly to minimize
liability exposure.

! Develop, enhance and maintain initiatives to attract industry and


businesses retain and attract residents, improve neighborhood
amenities and schools.

! Develop a menu of permanent and interim reuse alternatives and


funding to support community –based vacant lot reuse efforts.

! City should sell qualifying vacant lots at a low cost to neighboring


landowners for sideyards.

! City should donate more vacant lots to block clubs and CBO’s for
conversion to community places (gardens, parks, green space).
Term or permanent easements can be used to provide assurance for
long term protection and availability for public benefit uses.

! Empower local planning area coalitions to do things such as:

* Weekend cleanups.
* Create development associations.
* Obtain assistance from BMHA.
* Obtain the use of, or get assistance for heavy equipment.
* Develop lot maintenance and landscaping businesses.

Regulation and Enforcement


(Brookings Steps 1,3,4,5,7,8,10)

The seventh step of the Brookings Institute list, “create a legal framework for sound
redevelopment,” is a simply stated challenge that belies the complexity of the regulations that
directly, or indirectly, pertains to vacant properties. Again, regulation can be in the form of
local, state and federal law, or prescriptions derived from federal or state legislated authorities
and programs.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 58 Ed.5.0
The scope of laws in the case of vacant properties touches everything from asbestos surveys
prior to permitted reuse or demolition, to taxation, to conveyance of properties between
parties, to environmental and historical review processes, to foreclosures, and much more.
Many of these areas traditionally involve specialists to interpret, direct, monitor and enforce
the regulations of the subject area. The functions of the city Inspection and Permit Department
is a good example of the interface between state and city regulation and the application of
building code inspection and enforcement.

Various regulations came up within Project discussions and through out the development of
this report. The needs to reduce the number of “non-strategic” city-owned properties, and to
refine the types of property that should transition through city ownership were important
topics that gravitated toward regulations. Both topics invariably defaulted to an education on
processes and procedures based on governing regulation - tax lien, notification, title
perfection, foreclosure, sale event or posting, qualifying the purchaser, etc. Each element also
has a time factor associated with its execution. The procedure just to the point of making a
vacant property available for public or private acquisition could in total vary from 9 months to
several years. If owner bankruptcy or probate is involved, 5 to 7 years is not unheard of.

The wide variation is due to matters involving regulation, but not necessarily regulation itself.
Absentee owners, multiple ownership arrangements, and complicated third party liens all add
time to notification, title perfection and foreclosure elements of the various processes. The
publication “Renewing Public Assets for Community Development” offers a way to evaluate
local processes based upon the framework of specific state and local laws.37 The publication’s
analysis flow chart has been printed with permission from the Local Initiatives Support
Corporation. See Part V, “Renewing Public Assets for Community Development” Flow
Charts.

Regulations frequently include penalties for non-compliance and evasion. Building and
property maintenance codes include a schedule of notices, fines and sentences for non-
compliance. Citywide policy should be strong in support of enforcement efforts that reveal
infractions requiring penalties. Many argue that the penalties be strong enough to truly
discourage neglectful behavior and to encourage property maintenance. Raising the illegal
dumping fine from $1,000 to $5,000 sends a clear message, but a stronger message is a
message backed by the fine plus enforcement and court action can help to reduce the cost to
the city.

For an example just considering vacant lot clean up – the city currently charges $210 per lot
to first clean, then to mow a vacant lot. Using very rough figures, if 60% of that cost involves
removing heavy trash and debris and its disposal, and if this cost was recovered from one-
third of the privately owned lots serviced (2,800), and saved from one/half of the city-owned
lots (2,000), this amounts to $605,000 - over one-half million dollars for one maintenance and
mowing cycle. The results of this estimate have not been validated, but the illustration shows
a potential cost savings to the city with an investment in enforcement and support from
judicial partners.

Discussions and submitted recommendations mentioned enforcement of existing laws and


ordinances repeatedly. There was no mention of adding new regulations, but there were many
creative suggestions that might require flexibility or adjustments to procedure to work
effectively. The consensus was that proper staffing, funding, policy and judicial support is
necessary to implement the regulations currently in place given the magnitude of the
challenge.

37
Frank S. Alexander, “Renewing Public Assets for Community Development,” Local Initiatives
Support Corporation, October 1, 2000. Pages 17-19 located in Part V of this report reprinted with
permission.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 59 Ed.5.0
Regulation and Enforcement Recommendations
1) Regulations are necessary to insure orderly development, protect the quality
of life, preserve and manage resources, manage risk and control liability, and to
track and monitor conditions and progress.

Regulation, directly or indirectly related to the sustainable, economical and productive


conservation, development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities
throughout the City of Buffalo:

! Must be clearly communicated to all parties administering and


affected by such regulations, and should be part of any information
and communication systems.

! Must be administered and enforced in an optimized, cooperative


and collaborative manner with various governmental, agency, and
program partners.

! Must be enforceable, and enforced uniformly under clearly


understood conditions with consequences proportional to the actual
burdens created by non-compliance.

! Is a means to recover actual costs incurred by the city and


community to supplement vacant property prevention,
preservation, reuse, and management.

! Should be reviewed regularly to determine the need for changes,


redundancy, conflict, or enhancement, i.e. develop stronger
language and enforcement for abandoned vehicles* and illegal
dumping.

! Should be reviewed for procedural compliance and accountability.

2) Consideration and study should be given to the recommendations in this study


and to other creative ideas that may require regulatory evaluation and/or
adjustments to implement.

! Revise zoning laws to reflect actual and intended land uses


immediately after the adoption of the City of Buffalo
Comprehensive plan.

! Publicize the content and changes in the new Building and Fire
Prevention Code affecting city departments, agencies, the
community and developers.

! Develop more sophisticated quality of life design standards for


new buildings, housing, and other facilities such as:

*
Abandoned vehicles are addressed in the Maintenance and Mowing Plan 2003.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 60 Ed.5.0
* Improved building design and materials.
* Expanded green space and incorporation of vacant land.
* Criteria for mixed-use development.
* Neighborhood walkability, connectivity and universal access.
* Conformity with surrounding uses and special features

! Begin the SEQR process for selected land assembly areas as soon
as possible.

! Use the most recent Brownfield legislation and funding to


prioritize and plan for brownfield redevelopment; include in
marketing information.

! Use eminent domain to clear problem properties or areas for public


redevelopment purposes.

! Use more police presence, response and enforcement on quality of


life issues.

! Install “no trespassing” signs on all vacant buildings – process


trespassers accordingly.

! For buildings scheduled for demolition, but not in hazardous


condition, publish a demolition date and salvage sale date.

! Improve financial access for the purchase of vacant lots by


residents through amnesty of interest or penalties owed (taxes, user
fees, etc. that might prevent qualifying for property purchase) in
exchange for neighborhood community service.

! Sell qualifying adjoining lots to qualified adjacent property owners


for a nominal fee with the condition that maintenance be done for a
period of time (3 years) before title is transferred.

! Give community organizations first right of refusal on all


qualifying city-owned properties at discounted prices in exchange
for rehab and return to tax roles.

! Make vacant commercial/industrial lots tax-free if


business/industry maintains the lots as green/park/art space for a
10-year period. After 10 years the properties will be given to
businesses to use for development and taxation resumes.

! Sell adjoining lots with buildings on them to qualified adjacent


property owners for a nominal amount and forgive the city taxes
for a period of 5-10 years after the building is removed and the lot
is cleared of all debris. If the city cites the property 3 or 4 times,
the deal is terminated and the owner will demolish the building.
Title is transferred only after the lot has been cleared. Drug and
criminal arrests will cancel the arrangement.

! Give vacant houses to pre-qualified real estate investors for rehab.


Place a limit to the maximum number homes (example - 5) for
each investor and they must perform on their first house in

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 61 Ed.5.0
exchange for a refundable deposit. Drug and criminal arrests will
cancel the arrangement.

! Re-examine what the City requires for ownership – what potential


buyers must bring to the table (violations, delinquent taxes, etc.).

! Investigate the feasibility of a quick closing for certain types of


properties.

! Streamline processes to expedite closings – esp. inspections,


collections, legal department, etc.

! Use flat fee per square foot or flat price on residential vacant land
to speed up or eliminate Common Council approval process and
increase ownership.

! Use a $1,000 arrears cap as pre-qualifier for property purchase.

Procedures, Processes & Practices


(Brookings Steps 1,2,4,5,10)

Policy, and to varying degrees regulation, is the “what and why” behind the “how, where,
who and when” of procedures, processes and practices. These 3-P’s must be built on a
foundation of sound policy and planning. Alternately, they may be prescribed through policy-
based regulation as a course of corresponding action or guidance.

Similar to the Regulation and Enforcement section, procedures, processes and practices
involves many diverse specialties when it comes to vacant properties – tax assessment,
collections, inspections, planning, zoning, historic preservation, economic development to
name a few. And as previously stated, the 3-P’s may be predetermined, for example a
condition of receiving grant funding, or set internal to a department or organization, i.e.
management and operations plans.

The effectiveness of any particular procedure, process, practice, or collection of the same,
should be evaluated based on outcomes or productivity, and the relationship to other parts of
the city systems supporting similar policy and goals. Procedures, processes, and practices
should be changed or eliminated if they prove to be redundant, unduly complicated, outdated,
or if they produce results contrary to policy, regulations and goals. Effectiveness, efficiency
and timeliness are dependent on optimal support in manpower, budget, and cooperation or
collaboration with the community and other partners.

The majority of time spent with the Project’s Administrative Track was involved in the area
of procedures, processes and practices. Many of the recommendations from this group
focused on procedural or technical detail. The opportunities identified include:

! Communicating the various processes and information across


departments, the community and common council.

! Using the existing available processes and resources to their fullest


extent.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 62 Ed.5.0
! Streamlining processes or procedures, especially where they
intersect departmental lines.

! Using best practices in the office and field.

! Vacant property asset management should:

For public properties – centralize organization, labor and equipment.

For private properties – improve enforcement and communication at all


levels.

General community interest in city processes included concern for the time processes or
procedures take, and a need for communicating what the procedures are for basics such as
homesteading, vacant lot purchase, housing rehabilitation opportunities, reporting concerns
and complaints, and obtaining assistance for neighbors in need of property maintenance.

Procedures, Processes, and Practices Recommendations


1) An administration priority for the team assembled to address vacant properties
should be an effort to:
b) Shed the excessive number of city-owned vacant properties.
c) Reduce the number of vacant properties acquired.
d) Expedite closing to achieve reduction goals.

Identified opportunities include:

! Expanded notification for city actions – demolitions, change of


use, new development, etc. – to increase sales potential.

! Reduce turnover to new ownership and rehab to 18 months or less


(most residential becomes unusable after 2 years or more).

! Make homesteading a priority using a quicker, easier process.

! Educate and pre-qualify interested buyers to expedite debt


clearance.

! Real Estate Office could be the central entity to coordinate with


financial institutions and developers and to assist in loans for
purchase and construction.

! Do collections process in-house to expedite real estate transactions.

! Use outside agency(s) to assist with dispersals.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 63 Ed.5.0
2) Conservation, rehabilitation and preservation priorities must be incorporated
into processes, procedures, and practices to maintain the physical integrity of
neighborhoods and to maintain the greatest number of properties on the tax role
possible.

The development of a community conservation plan is in progress. Project points relevant


to this segment include:

! Maintaining and publishing the location of special and historic


districts, sites of significance and how to access resources and the
criteria for conservation and rehabilitation.

! Evaluate and inventory architectural, historic and unique features


significance of structures across the entire city; monitor changes to
the same.

! Emphasize alternative and adaptive reuse for structures and


facilities.

! Create a fund for the “adoption” of priority structures or sites to


enable mothballing and interim repairs.

! Encourage as a last resort the recovery of salvageable landscape


and architectural features for reuse in another location or as a
means to support preservation efforts (revenue).

! Investigate house-moving as an alternative along with compatible


relocation sites.

3) Demolition projections, practices and funding priorities must be re-evaluated


to maintain the physical integrity of neighborhoods, to minimize maintenance
costs, and to aid in redevelopment.

! Identify vacant property potential and reuse before demolition to


evaluate final grading and finishing requirements – drainage,
topsoil, seeding, site security, etc.

! Develop awareness and protocols for possible contaminant


assessment and remediation.

! Match demolition requirements to potential reuses in vicinity.

! Protect curbs and sidewalks during demolition in residential and


commercial areas.

! Leave sites in condition to be dressed (seeded) or dress as part of


demolition.

! Develop specifications for tree removals at or near time of


demolition as part of total demolition because all trees and
landscaping on property reverting to city-ownership become the
city’s maintenance and liability responsibility. Many trees are non-

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 64 Ed.5.0
native, non-desirable species and many trees are left damaged post-
demolition presenting immediate hazards. In the alternate, if trees
and landscaping are left on-site, increase funding and staffing for
the city forestry department to absorb the additional increase in
responsibility.

! Provide 100’ total clearance (removal area) where possible to


improve management results, especially where vacant property is
adjacent to ROW’s.

! Include provisions for deconstruction and recycling of demolition


debris.

4) The shear amount of vacant land in the City of Buffalo requires a vacant land
maintenance and mowing plan that is implemented and funded to accommodate
the number of existing and future vacant lots.

A preliminary Maintenance and Mowing Plan (See Part V) was developed during this Project
to utilize existing available city and agency staff resources.

This plan should be re-evaluated at the end of the season to determine actual costs and
equipment needs to provide for future seasons.

The following recommendations were incorporated into the plan.

! Coordinate existing resources - city, agency, CBO, private, etc. - to


clean and cut public and private vacant lots.

! Develop a reporting system for lot condition reports and


maintenance schedules.

! Improve funding and recovery mechanisms to offset maintenance


costs.

! Investigate the process, storage and cost recovery mechanism for


abandoned vehicles.

! Develop educational recommendations for community


cooperation.

Financial
(Brookings Steps 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10)

Any proposed recommendations for the sustainable, economical and productive conservation,
development and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of
Buffalo require direct and indirect financial support to attain city and individual community
goals. Throughout the Project discussions, insufficient financial support, both real and
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 65 Ed.5.0
perceived, for existing policies, regulation, enforcement, planning, procedures and practices
was a constant theme.

Funding for regular activities, staffing, programs, community-based Projects, and


redevelopment initiatives involving vacant properties is a disjointed allocation process that
fails to recognize vacant properties as a significant city cost center in the near and long-term.
As a result, funds may be diluted among departments and agencies, or not used in a manner to
support city goals and neighborhood priorities. While this report and Project participants
acknowledge and commend the many fine efforts past and underway, the preceding
statements seek to bring attention to the vacant property dilemma and the need to tackle it in a
comprehensive manner.

Further investigation into vacant property issues beyond this report must develop the actual
cost of vacant property to the city and its residents to advance financial decision-making. The
report provides simple “what if” examples to help shift the focus to thinking in terms of
vacant properties as potential assets using avoided costs, lost revenues, externalities, and
Projected timeframes. These examples and similar queries should be the basis for budgeting,
cost-benefit analysis and investment planning.

In an era of fiscal limitations and severe spending constraints, a vacant property asset
management strategy and implementation plans becomes even more important. Currently
there are too many city-owned facilities and vacant properties than a city of its size can
maintain. There is also a concern for duplication and gaps in services that may prevent
efficiencies and economy of services.

These same fiscal limitations also create opportunities through turning our attention to the
basic elements of city and community services and economic development. There is potential
job creation and investment potential in maintaining, conserving and redeveloping vacant
properties. Incentives should be more tightly targeted and geared toward guaranteed
redevelopment outcomes. Green and hard infrastructure strategies should be used to
incorporate vacant property to attract retailers and customers to city business districts.

Financial Recommendations
1) Budget planning and development around the vacant property cost center is
an immediate need.

! The vacant property team should develop annual estimates for the
implementation of an optimal conservation, development and
management of vacant properties for use in departmental and
agency budget planning. The estimates should include information
and communication costs, implementation costs, appropriate
staffing levels, equipment and technology costs and provisions for
marketing.

! Actual departmental and agency annual costs associated with the


conservation, development and management of vacant properties
should be monitored and reported for adjustments in subsequent
years and Projected vacancy activity.

! Develop near and long term cost Projections for the vacant
property cost center and corresponding financial contingencies in
order to be prepared for unforeseen shortfalls or windfall
incentives.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 66 Ed.5.0
2) Decision-making and vacant property spending criteria must reflect
established policies, regulations, plans and city and community priorities.

Properly done, this should shift funding within the vacant property cost center to reflect actual
costs attributed to the departments and agencies charged with those responsibilities and duties
to attain desired outcomes and common goals. It will also shift the distribution of funds
applied across the city landscape and Common Council districts.

Detailed points include:

! Commit to support redevelopment in designated priority areas.

! Development awards should be evaluated against conformity with


established policies, regulations, plans and city and community
priorities.

! Return on investment, cost-benefit, and similar payback analyses


should include all known and projected costs and avoided costs
over the period of investment terms. For example:

* What is the “break-even” house/business structure to support


current public and community services?

* What are the break-even timeframes for various rehabilitation


investments using tax income, avoided costs, etc. over the
period of investment bonds (20 yrs or more)?

! Target the use of rehab support funding for housing and business
in areas immediately surrounding new-builds and investment to
insure the sustainability of community and private investment, i.e.
Home Ownership Zones, Live Zones.

! Increase available grant funds for housing rehab and neighborhood


infrastructure improvements.

! Concentrate funding in and around reuse (HOZO, etc.).

3) Funding development and leveraging community and private resources


should be expanded for the purpose of conserving, developing, and managing
vacant land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of Buffalo.
.

! Develop a dedicated fund for the sustainable, economical and


productive conservation, development and management of vacant
land, buildings and facilities throughout the City of Buffalo. The
fund should be active until a manageable equilibrium of vacant
properties is attained.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 67 Ed.5.0
! Improve enforcement and tax/fee recovery mechanisms and
reinvest to offset vacant property development and maintenance
costs.

! Encourage department and agency efficiencies and reinvest to


offset vacant property development and maintenance costs.

! Investigate low interest, incentive and grant programs.

! Specifically, investigate funding mechanisms for future Projected


demolitions and land assembly activities.

! Re-institute the Matching Fund program to fund community based


reuse of pre-qualified vacant properties.

! Provide incentives or rewards for residents who voluntarily


maintain adjacent vacant property that they do not own.

! Work with building supply companies to offer donated or


discounted home improvement materials and supplies.

! Work with utility companies to get donated services for tree


removals on vacant lots.

Near Term, Next Steps Toward Implementing the Preceding Recommendations

At this critical juncture in the City of Buffalo’s overall condition, positive and negative trends
require that work on vacant land, buildings and facilities begin in earnest immediately. There
are six items within the recommendations that comprise good near term, next steps. The good
news is that aside from dedicating personnel, time, and creativity, only one of them costs
anything additional to start.

1. A Vacant Properties Team (VPT) or Task Force should be assembled to


guide the initiation of these preliminary actions. The team core can be
composed of representatives of the original Project tracks originating in the
Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning.

2. The Comprehensive Plan, currently in draft form, should be championed by


the VPT by providing assistance with its further development and adoption
by City elected officials.

3. The “community conservation plan” (historic preservation plan) and


housing policy under development should be completed as soon as is
practicable to fill significant gaps in community planning; they are the
missing piece to the vacant land, building and facilities asset management
strategy.

4. The VPT should begin provisions for existing vacant land, buildings and
facilities implementation by:
City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities
Asset Management Project 68 Ed.5.0
a) Identifying all components of the vacant property cost center for
budgetary planning needs; and

b) Developing criteria and costs for post-demolition site finishing and


interim treatments for vacant land for budgetary planning.

5. The VPT should adapt Philadelphia’s example reference, “Reclaiming


Vacant Lots,” for general community use in restoring existing vacant lots to
help meet immediate community needs.

City of Buffalo Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities


Asset Management Project 69 Ed.5.0
Part IV - Maps & Tables
CITY OF BUFFALO:

MAP A Vacant Land Use and GNPA Areas

MAP B Strategic Investment Corridors, From Draft Comprehensive Plan

MAP C Strategic Investment Corridors and GNPA Areas

TABLE C Number of Parcels and Acres By Strategic Investment Corridor

MAP D-1 Commercial Strips and Live Zones

MAP D-2 Retail Density with Commercial and Residential Vacancy

TABLE D-1 Vacant Property in Neighborhood Retail Areas

MAP E Protected Green Infrastructure (parks, trails and recreation)

MAP F Non-Protected Green Infrastructure (other public and private spaces – schools,
institutions, etc.)

MAP G Potential Green Infrastructure (vacant land)

MAP H Green Infrastructure Composite (connectivity)

TABLE I US Census – Units in Structure, Householder 65 Years and Older, and


Householder Below Poverty Level: 2000
MAP A
MAP B
MAP C
TABLE C
MAP D-1
MAP D-2
TABLE D-1
TABLE D-1
MAP E

City of Buffalo
Protected Green Infrastructure
Parks, trails, and recreation
Jan. 2001
MAP F

City of Buffalo
Non-Protected Green Infrastructure
Other public and private spaces – schools, institutions, etc.
Jan. 2001
MAP G

City of Buffalo
Potential Green Infrastructure
Vacant land
Jan. 2001
MAP H
TABLE I
TABLE I
Part V - Appendices
!" Contacts and assistance

#" Project bulletin

$" City of Buffalo department, divisions, agencies, and authorities involved in


various aspects of vacant properties.

%" Selected Project materials*:

a) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Exercises, Session 1


Summary - Combined GNPA and Administrative Tracks

b) Youth Neighborhood Design Exercise Results, Youth Session Summary


12/19/02

c) Administrative Track Session 3, Draft Summary 12/20/02, Recommendations


Section

d) Vacant Property Projects, Priorities and Recommendations Questions Posed to


GNPA and Elected Officials January 2003

e) Project Briefing - Area Developers and Development Agencies Summary

*Not all Project developmental materials are reproduced in this report.

&" “Renewing Public Assets for Community Development, pp17-19, analysis


flow chart; reprinted with permission from LISC, July 2003.

'" Design and Site Plan Review Checklist, City of Buffalo Planning Board

(" 2003 Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Plan

)" Other Project resources:

a) Bibliography and other resources

b) “Lead in Residential Soils: Sources, Testing, and Reducing Exposure,”


Penn State Cooperative Extension
App. 1
Proposed vacant properties contacts and assistance*
Contact Topic Number/Email/Web
City of Buffalo department and agency contact information is available on the web at
http://www.city-buffalo.com

Mayor’s Complaint Line Central contact for vacant property 716-851-4890


maintenance and mowing Online form at:
concerns, abandoned vehicles, http://www.city-
trash pick-up, recycling buffalo.com/document_1700.html

Office of Strategic Making Houses Homes - Housing 716-851-5035


Planning (OSP) rehab, loan and new housing
programs services and referrals Please call for contacts and
instructions
Buffalo Economic Renaissance
Corporation (BERC) and other
economic development programs,
services and referrals
OSP – Comprehensive Plan, city and 716-851-5035
Community regional plans, and Good
Planning Neighbors Planning Alliance
OSP - Real In rem properties, city-owned 716-851-5275
Estate vacant property information, Urban
Homestead Program
OSP – Planning Site Plan Review, SEQRA reviews, 716-851-5086
Board NYSHPPO review
OSP – Preservation planning, permits 716-851-5029
Preservation affecting proposed work on historic
Board structures and in designated
districts

Permits and Inspections Building and construction code 716-851-4925


standards and fees, court and fines Changes to permit process and links
House, building and facility to ePermits and fees:
inspections http://www.city-
buffalo.com/document_2008_127.html

Central Referral Important contacts for: 716-851-5555


Services Emergency numbers
Social services Printed and digital directories
Medical services available
Community services
Consumer services www.wnyservices.org
Government services
Election districts
Regional service information

Buffalo Don’t Borrow Lending, foreclosure prevention, 1-866-375-0408 toll free


Trouble Project credit card debt 716-954-7625

Police – Fire – Ambulance Emergencies only 911


City of Buffalo Police Non-emergencies 853-2222

*Updated for FINAL Edition, Dec. 2004.


App. 2

VACANT LAND The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project is a
component of a larger, multi-part strategy to conserve and manage land and
BUILDING & building resources in the City of Buffalo. This developing strategy incorporates
FACILITY citywide comprehensive planning, preservation plans, and the development of
funding resources, along with vacant property management, to position the City
ASSET for redevelopment and growth.
MANAGEMENT ____________________

PROJECT The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project was
developed in response to community, organizational and city requests for
technical assistance in a variety issues and subjects all involving vacant
properties, such as:
* Open space inventory needs
* Preservation and conservation initiatives
* Lot restoration and maintenance issues
* Access to vacant land for community projects and beautification
* Interest in tree planting and community gardening
* Soil and water quality concerns
* Concern for limited community and financial resources.
The project is also designed to take advantage of the window of opportunity and
the momentum provided by the development of a citywide comprehensive plan.
This planning initiative is generating information and community input that can
be used as a foundation for the management of vacant properties.
Striving for the
sustainable, Common Ground:
economical &
productive Strength & Opportunity
conservation,
development & Early project activity involved examining the prospects of viewing vacant
management properties as community assets. Vacant properties, in all of their variety, sizes
of vacant land, and conditions, pose known liabilities and challenges to local government and
buildings & neighborhoods. What is also known, but less evident, is the potential stored in
facilities the asset value-view of vacant property. Value includes the economic, social and
within the environmental aspects (and sometimes quantities!) of vacant property. Value is
City of Buffalo. further derived from location and the identification of new strategic locations as
vacancies occur. The quality, reusability, and marketability of vacant properties
can also be increased through interim investment in the form of maintenance,
monitoring, and interim treatments.

Administrative staff, Good Neighbors Planning Alliance representatives, and


elected officials revealed common ground for moving forward with an asset
management approach. For starters, vacant land, buildings and facilities in the
City of Buffalo can feature our strengths and highlight opportunities.
* Available land at affordable prices
* Great location – both Regional & International
Anthony M. Masiello * Land assembly options for development
Mayor * Development incentives, existing and new
* An exceptional cultural and natural resources foundation
* Room in the landscape for innovative solutions
* Potential for a variety of development types and mixes
* Generating jobs around a skilled workforce, development themes,
restoration & greening
* Build upon our strong neighborhood identities …next page
JANUARY2003
App. 2

More Common Ground…

The project team met with a sample of area youth from Youth Opportunities and
Weed ‘n Seed in December to gather their input for the project. After some
vacant property math using some assumptions, we figured that if the estimated
number of vacant properties (12,500) were the size of a residential lot
(30’X100’), then that would be an area of about 37,500,000 square feet. In more
familiar terms, that is roughly the size of 860 football fields, or 27 Buffalo Zoos,
or more than 2 Delaware Parks! And what would they do with it if they could
redesign the blank spaces? They would develop neighborhood shopping,
eateries, and add more houses, businesses and gardens. Items that stand out are
providing homeless shelters, youth transition homes, supermarkets and places to This project is
chill with their friends and families like playgrounds. ## funded in part by
the Buffalo
Urban Renewal
Agency and the
Mayor’s Office of
The Project In Brief
Strategic
* The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management project is designed to Planning.
develop recommendations for the sustainable, economical, and productive conservation,
development, and management of vacant land, buildings and facilities within the City of Many thanks to
Buffalo.
our City
* The project will produce a vacant properties network, a work team, a set of information Departments and
and identified gaps, recommendations, a written report, and a web page. staff, project
* Cornell Cooperative Extension* is guiding, facilitating and providing technical participants from
assistance throughout the project development process. the community
* The project will examine the current approach and discover opportunities for innovative, and allied
collaborative solutions. agencies, and our
friends for their
* Vacant land, buildings and facilities are pervasive throughout the city and the number of
such properties is expected to double in the next 4 to 10 years. time and
contributions to a
* An asset management approach to the problem will require a multi-disciplined, multi-
partnership network to be successful.
work in progress
and our common
* Asset management is a way of managing and marketing our resources; value is social, purpose.
environmental and economic; there are strategic locations; investment is required to
maintain value; management can be designed to promote future development.
* A “property” has many asset layers – paper layers, structures, other facilities, green
infrastructure, public infrastructure and utilities, the land at grade, the land sub-grade.
* A “reuse strategy” is cyclic – assessment (including intervention), conservation,
demolition if necessary, vacant land treatments, and monitoring.
* The project samples the community through 5 tracks – administrative, the GNPA
(community-at-large), elected officials, developers, and youth. Other partners are
identified throughout the process.
* A vacant properties “work team” for future implementation is a desired outcome and
should be composed of representatives from each track.
* The project is fast-tracked and due for completion January/February 2003.
* Recommendations (strategy, plan, or other descriptive) may fall into a variety of
categories – policy, planning, regulatory, financial, and other (technology, outreach,
etc.).

* Cornell Cooperative Extension includes Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie


County and Cornell University’s Community and Rural Development Institute.
Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment
opportunities.
App. 2

City of Buffalo

Vacant Property
Distribution
2001

Vacant parcels are


indicated by lightly
shaded or darkened
parcel shapes.

The estimated number of vacant properties being used for discussion and planning
purposes is 12,500. This includes properties of all types and sizes – residential,
commercial, industrial, etc. Approximately 4,000 are city-owned; the balance is privately
owned. Some properties currently in the development process may be included in this map
due to the age of the data. Please note, major water features are also shown in black.
App. 2

Project Discussion Themes VACANT LAND


BUILDINGS AND
Asset Layers FACILITIES
Vacant properties can be evaluated in layers
ASSET MANAGEMENT
to help determine condition and to enhance
conservation and reuse decision-making. PROJECT
* Paper layers
* Structures
* Other facilities
* Green infrastructure
* Infrastructure/utilities
* Land/grade
* Land/sub-grade

Reuse Strategy
A “reuse strategy” should include these or similar components, should be
included in policy and appropriations, and should be designed for the future.

* Assessment
* Prevention/Intervention
* Conservation
* Demolition
* Vacant Land
* Monitoring
* Repeat cycle

Vacant Lot Maintenance


No matter how you talk about them, the fact remains that public and private
property owners need to take care of the existing vacant lots. Discussions are
underway about how to tackle the tough issues like illegal dumping and littering,
grass cutting, and how to coordinate the logistics of who is doing what and
where. Eliminating the need for costly clean-ups prior to each cutting seems a
good place to save money and get to the grass sooner! Antilittering and
antidumping education – what do you think?

Additional resources on the Internet - Sample sites to check out include:


http://www.phila.gov/mayor/jfs/mayorsnti/index.hmtl
http://ci.richmond.va.us/citizen/neighborhoods/cmxxs_neindex.asp
www.bnia.org
Search the Brookings Institution, smart growth, planning, and government sites
for “vacant land” and other related subjects for examples of redevelopment
initiatives in the U.S. and Europe.

For more information on this project, contact:


Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project
Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning
Darlene Vogel, Project Coordinator
Room 913, City Hall Tel: 716-851-5635
65 Niagara Square Fax: 716-851-4388
Buffalo, NY 14202 dvogel@ch.ci.buffalo.ny.us
VLBFAM Project 7/03 App. 3

City of Buffalo -
Departments, divisions, agencies, and authorities involved in various aspects of
vacant properties

Office of the Mayor


Administration and Finance
* Budget & Management
* Collections
* Parking Enforcement
* Towing & Storage Operations
Taxation & Assessment
Audit & Control
* City Auditor
Citizens Services
* Mayor’s Complaint Line
* Weed n Seed
* Community Schools
Community Services
* Block Grant, Grant in Aid
* Support Services
* Mayor’s Impact Team
Fire Department
Law Department
* Corporation Counsel
Management Information Systems
Permit &Inspections
* Inspections
* Permits
* Demolition
* Building Code Review Committee
Police
Public Works
* Forestry
* Streets & Sanitation
Strategic Planning
* Real Estate
* Land Use Planning
* Analysis
* Comprehensive Planning
* Economic Development
* Environmental
* Neighborhoods & Housing plus 6 CBO’s
Common Council
Planning Board
Preservation Board
Buffalo Arts Commission
Wellness Institute
Good Neighbors Planning Alliance
Buffalo Environmental Management Commission
Buffalo’s Green Gold Development Corporation
Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority
Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation (BERC)
Buffalo Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation (BNRC)
Buffalo Urban Redevelopment Agency (BURA)
Buffalo Board of Education
App. 4a
App. 4a
App. 4a
App. 4a
App. 4a
App. 4b
App. 4b
App. 4b
App. 4b
App. 4b
App. 4c
App. 4c
App. 4c
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VACANT LOT
MAINTENANCE AND MOWING PLAN
2003
CITY OF BUFFALO

ANTHONY M. MASIELLO
MAYOR

JOSEPH N. GIAMBRA
COMMISSIONER, PUBLIC WORKS, PARKS & STREETS

PAUL V. SULLIVAN
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, STREETS

DAVID K. SENGBUSCH
ACTING DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING

A SUPPLEMENT TO THE
VACANT LAND
BUILDINGS AND
FACILITIES
ASSET MANAGEMENT
PROJECT

EDITION 1.3
CONTENTS App. 7

GENERAL 2
ANTI-LITTER AND ANTI-DUMPING EDUCATION 4
COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION 5
MAINTENANCE AND MOWING PROCEDURES 7
ABANDONED VEHICLES 10
BUDGET PLANNING 12

LIST OF MAPS 14
MAP 1 – VACANT LAND DISTRIBUTION
MAPS 2, 3, 4 – M & M ZONES 1-3

The Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Plan is a supplement to the


Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project currently
under development (03/17/03).

Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Plan participating City of Buffalo


Departments/Divisions:
Public Works, Streets and Parks
Streets and Sanitation
Office of Strategic Planning
Real Estate
Permit and Inspection Services
Citizens Services
Office of Support Services
Impact Team
Mayor’s Task Force
Parking Enforcement
Police

The Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project


funding partners include The City of Buffalo, Buffalo Urban Renewal
Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Erie County, and
Cornell University Community and Rural Development Institute. The plan
was prepared by Darlene Vogel, Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University provide equal


program and employment opportunities.

CITY OF BUFFALO 1
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
App. 7
VACANT LOT
MAINTENANCE AND MOWING PLAN

Goal: Develop a vacant lot maintenance and mowing strategy 1) to coordinate existing resources for the
2003 season, and 2) to provide recommendations for future years.

Such a strategy should satisfy the following objectives:


* Improve the appearance of vacant land through maintenance and mowing.
* Reduce health and safety exposure to problems associated trash, high grass and weeds.
* Communicate public and private property care responsibilities.
* Provide proactive education and communication to prevent costly trash and dumping
removal and disposal.
* Collaborate with community-based property maintenance efforts.
* Deploy City labor and equipment efficiently using cost effective practices.
* Establish a procedure for communicating maintenance and mowing needs and progress.
* Improve recovery of costs associated with maintaining and mowing non-compliant
private properties.
* Aim for a future optimal situation where city maintains and mows only city-owned
properties.

GENERAL

The maintenance and mowing strategy is designed to help meet the challenge of caring for vacant
properties in the City of Buffalo until such time that interim treatments or final reuses are developed for
specific properties. The immediate need is to organize and plan an approach for maintaining and
mowing vacant lots using the available existing resources for the spring, summer and fall of 2003. The
items highlighted in the “FUTURE” sections include further proposed improvements for the subsequent
years. This plan is part of the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset Management Project currently
under development by the Mayor’s Office Of Strategic Planning. The maintenance and mowing strategy
will be included as part of the final project report.
The maintenance and mowing strategy is the result of the cooperation and assistance of several
City Departments and Divisions. Representatives of these units will also be involved in the coordination
and implementation of this strategy. Participants include Public Works, Streets and Sanitation, the Office
of Strategic Planning, Real Estate, Citizens Services, Inspections and Permits, Impact Team, Mayor’s
Task Force, Mayor’s Office of Support Services, Parking Enforcement, and the Buffalo Police
Department.
Credit and appreciation must be extended to the many community organizations, block clubs,
families and individuals who have volunteered countless hours and energy trying to help maintain and
mow many of the vacant lots within the City. Council members and local leadership have assisted on
many occasions by providing resources and support for community-based cleaning and greening
initiatives. From cleaning the lot next door, to helping out a neighbor, to organized cleanup campaigns, a
foundation has been established to help tackle one of the City’s largest challenges – caring for vacant
properties.
The number of vacant properties is approximately 12,500; an estimated 4,000 are city-owned and
approximately 8,500 are privately owned. These include properties of all types that may or may not have
houses, buildings or other improvements on them. Of particular interest in this plan are those properties
considered “vacant lots” or vacant properties no longer having improvements as a result of the demolition

CITY OF BUFFALO 2
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
process. See map – Vacant Property Distribution. City resources are currently supporting the careApp.
of 7
6,000 to 8,000 of both public and private properties. The number of added vacant lots may approach 500-
700 per year as the City attempts to catch up on the backlog of deteriorated housing and commercial
stock.
Though local code delineates responsibilities and standards for properties, a central perception
problem challenges the City’s maintenance and mowing capacity. Because property ownership is not
readily apparent on the property surface, people often make little or no distinction as to ownership and
generalize incorrectly that all vacant lots are owned by the city. As a result, responsibility of caring for
many vacant private properties defaults to the City due to missing, delinquent or infirm property owners
unwilling or unable to meet their property maintenance obligations. Known property owners are given
annual notice of their maintenance and mowing responsibilities and many do elect to comply. Those who
do not, or those who are non-respondents, are charged for City services. The fee has been set at $210.00
per lot per cut to recover clean-up and cutting labor, equipment, fuel and large trash pick-up and disposal
costs.
Discussions to an approach for vacant lot maintenance and mowing provided the scope of work
required to tackle for the 2003 season. It became apparent very quickly that developing and
implementing a grass-cutting plan is not a simple task. It was also apparent that there were opportunities
for saving time and money through internal cooperation and communication, and community education.
Experience has demonstrated that grass cutting cannot take place without first cleaning individual lots.
The pre-mowing maintenance often includes the removal of heavy trash and abandoned vehicles that
obstruct maintenance and mowing. Maintenance and mowing crews in the past have required high-lifts
and dump trucks along with the cutters and trimmers because of the frequency of trash and illegal
dumping on vacant lots. Additional information has been provided in this report on abandoned vehicles
due to the specific legal requirements governing their removal. Any attempt to reduce littering, dumping,
and abandoned vehicles can only help to reduce the time and costs required to tend to the City’s vacant
properties.
Items within the City’s control include things like a communication protocol for maintenance and
mowing, anti-littering and dumping campaigns and access to the appropriate equipment for maintenance
and mowing. What is not within control, however, is the seasonal and variable nature of grass, weeds and
weather. Even in ideal conditions lawns require maintenance in the form of nutrients, water, and cutting
to a desirable height. Vegetation growth rates depend on the preceding elements and temperature. Grass
growth rates are highest in the late spring and early summer, slow down in the summer heat, and then
pick up again in the early fall. As the thousands of vacant lots currently exist, most will never attain the
appearance of a manicured lawn. Lots that have been vacant for 20 years or more may have some sod
formation on them but they are generally very weedy. Lots more recently vacant tend to be mostly
weeds. Most poorly vegetated vacant lots tend to have similar conditions – compacted clayey soils, lack
of friable topsoil, low fertility, high pH, surface rubble, and poor infiltration – all conducive to weed
growth.
The approach outlined in this strategy promotes spring and early summer attention to grass and
weed cutting. This should enable a first cut early enough to meet the property maintenance code
threshold of 10 inches of vegetative growth. It will also make it easier for community groups caring for
adopted lots in their neighborhoods. Community groups should be encouraged to keep mowing heights
high (4 inches or more) to help crowd out weeds and crab grass. For more information on restoring turf
to vacant lots or reseeding existing areas, refer to the Vacant Land, Buildings and Facilities Asset
Management report (under development).
The Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Plan includes the direct involvement of several City
Departments and Divisions for implementation:
Public Works, Parks and Streets
Streets and Sanitation
Permit and Inspection Services
Office of Strategic Planning
Strategic Planning - Real Estate Division
CITY OF BUFFALO 3
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
Parking Enforcement App. 7
Citizens Services
Impact Team
Mayor’s Task Force
Mayor’s Office of Support Services
Police Department

This list can be expanded to include neighborhood and agency-based groups participating in local
property maintenance initiatives. Potential funding sources and resources for future maintenance and
mowing activities may include other City departments, Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, Erie County
Health Department, various neighborhood housing services, community service organizations, corrections
agencies, and designated allocations from fines and service charges.

ANTI-LITTER AND ANTI-DUMPING EDUCATION


The anti-litter and anti-dumping campaign should be organized through the Mayor’s Office of
Support Services and Citizens Services in coordination with the departments and divisions involved in the
maintenance and mowing activities.

2003

The education portion of the maintenance and mowing effort should be in effect immediately
directed towards the community beginning with how to report vacant lot complaints.

An education campaign should -


* Make ties to community beautification, neighborhood economic development, tourism,
public safety, rodent and pest control, West Nile Virus prevention, tax savings, Great
American Cleanup, other initiatives, etc.
* Emphasize the changes or updates to the City Code – trash, recycling, grass cutting,
abandoned cars, etc. (Note: The NYS Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code went into
effect in the City of Buffalo January 1, 2003)
* Be disseminated through the City website, local papers and bill inserts
* Include instructions for reporting littering, dumping, illegal/abandoned cars
Citizen reports to Mayor’s Complaint Line
Determination of necessity of citizen referral or send additional information
Notification to appropriate city departments and agencies

Enforcement and follow-up are needed for success -


* Policy and budgetary commitments are needed from City leaders and City departments,
enforcement agencies and courts
* New or enhanced penalties may be needed as further deterrents

FUTURE
Increased surveillance to monitor illegal dumping may be necessary –
* Cameras in strategic areas; How many and where?
* Who monitors, reports and maintains surveillance?

Evaluation of anti-litter and anti-dumping efforts are needed for planning purposes -
* Past and current costs of clean-ups and tipping charges
* Change in number of reports
* Before and after photos
CITY OF BUFFALO 4
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
App. 7
COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION

The following communication and coordination steps will help to ensure the sharing of
information among and between City Departments for the immediate 2003 maintenance and mowing
(M&M) season.

The objectives of the communication protocol are to: 1) coordinate maintenance and mowing
activities; 2) update the inventory of vacant lots requiring maintenance and mowing; and 3) evaluate the
results and make adjustments for subsequent years.

2003

1. The proposed M&M schedule (See Where to Mow and When section) will be agreed upon by
M&M team and communicated to City Departments (See 3 below), the Mayor’s Office and
the Common Council at least 4 weeks prior to the first scheduled mowing. The schedule
should take into account wet weather conditions and forecasts that may impact grass growth
rates and site access. Regular special events should be built into this schedule as well.
2. Notification letters are to be sent by DPW Streets-Billing, based on M&M schedule, to
private property owners regarding their responsibility to maintain and cut their property in
advance of the first City of Buffalo cut. Responses should be recorded in lot books and shared
with Citizen Services.
3. Anticipated changes to M&M schedule of more than 5 days, plus or minus, must be reported
to the following Departments or Contacts:
Commissioner Department of Public Works, Streets and Parks
Deputy Commissioner Streets and Sanitation
Commissioner Permit and Inspection Services
Director Office of Strategic Planning
Director Real Estate
Director Citizens Services
Director Office of Support Services
Coordinator Impact Team
Superintendent Mayor’s Task Force
Director Parking Enforcement
Other: __________________
4. Emergency or extenuating circumstances impacting the maintenance and mowing schedule
must be reported to the above Departments and contacts as soon as possible.
5. Report new vacant lot addresses (post-demolition) to Deputy Commissioner Streets and
Director of Citizen Services for addition to the M&M lot list 1) before July 1 for current
season, and 2) before January 31 for next season.
6. Department of Permit and Inspection Services should report before March 1 projected
demolition numbers and approximate locations to the following departments for annual
budget planning purposes:
Commissioner DPW
Deputy Commissioner Streets Department
Director Citizens Services
Director Office of Support Services
Coordinator Impact Team
Superintendent Mayor’s Task Force
Director Office of Strategic Planning
Director Real Estate
CITY OF BUFFALO 5
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
Other: ___________________ App. 7
7. Report vacant lot reductions or other changes (community gardens, new homesteads, new
housing, etc.) before March to Deputy Commissioner Streets Department and Director of
Citizen Services for adjustments to the M&M lot list.
8. The Mayor’s Complaint Line is to be used for reporting ALL lot cleaning and grass cutting
needs or requests, including inspector observations, and trash removal and grass cutting
needs for the purpose of centralizing dispatch in ALL M&M zones.
9. The Mayor’s Complaint Line is to be used for reporting community-based lot cleaning and
grass cutting for the purpose of coordinating dispatch in ALL M&M zones.
10. Inspections and Maintenance superintendents and foremen are to report suspected abandoned
vehicles on city-owned vacant lots to Parking Enforcement for coordination of vehicle
removal. A 72 hour lead time is needed prior to removal actions; vehicle identification
number MUST be checked by Police Department to begin process – See Abandoned Vehicle
section of this report).
11. Citizen and other M&M requests should be communicated to ZONE 1, 2 and 3 M&M
contacts and worked into the planned M&M cycle unless there are hazardous conditions that
require immediate attention.
12. DPW’s private vacant lot owner notification results should be reported to Director of Citizen
Services to establish which lots NOT to cut (property owners responded that they WILL
maintain) for relay to the Zone contacts. [Tentative - These vacant lots should be physically
marked to determine a “BEFORE” status for documentation prior to cleaning/cutting if
necessary.]
13. Report daily M&M results of lots cleaned and cut:
a) Impact Team and Mayor’s Task Force turn in daily results to the Impact Office
for compilation and input. These summaries should be distributed to DPW
Streets-Billing for billing purposes and to Director of Citizen Services for
tracking progress. “Before” and “After” photos should be turned in to DPW
Billing section for filing.
b) DPW crews turn in daily results to DPW Streets-Billing for billing purposes
and to Director of Citizen Services for tracking progress. “Before” and “After”
photos should be turned in to DPW Billing section for filing.
14. DPW Streets and Sanitation will maintain this documentation, 12 above, for use by DPW
Streets- Billing, Inspections, and community follow-up or inquiries.
15. All Departments - Settle allocations/reimbursement/charge-backs to assigned departments,
funds or agencies as reported (requires assessment of who did what for whom).

FUTURE

Tie the maintenance and mowing progress reporting and feedback into a centralized,
computerized, map-based operations management and reporting system (CityStat):
* Litter/antidumping reporting and dispatch
* Inventory changes and condition reporting
* Cleanup and cutting updates and dispatch
* Photo-documentation access
* Include service billing and collections to improve cost recovery rates
* Summary progress reporting to Administration and Common Council

Enable community access to the results of the above system.

CITY OF BUFFALO 6
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
MAINTENANCE & MOWING PROCEDURE App. 7

The Communications and Coordination protocol established in the preceding section is the basis
for organizing M&M activities. The following M&M procedure uses the proposed M&M schedule and
further encompasses location priorities, the seasonal aspects of grass and weed growth, equipment and
labor availability, progress reporting and record keeping.

Where to Mow and When - General

Where – Prioritization of locations:


1. Vacant lots in neighborhood business areas and main thoroughfares
2. Residential areas and schools in areas of high concentration vacant lots
3. Residential areas and schools in areas of scattered vacant lots
4. Special events areas
5. Other areas

When – Seasonal recommendations based on vegetative growth:


Scheduling and coordination will use these recommendations as seasonal goals. The final
number of cuttings and cutting dates in 2003 will be dependent on observed vegetative growth
rates, weather, and accessibility of individual sites. The amount of site cleaning needed prior to
mowing is also a major factor in site access.

* First cut target – Late Spring - mid May through Mid June
* Second cut target – Late summer/Early fall – Late August through September

Where seasonal access and funding resources are available, a mid-season cut may be
feasible. Plans for a mid-season cut should be added to the M&M schedule and distributed
as soon as is possible.
* Mid-season cut target – Early summer – mid/late June through mid July

Proposed M&M Zones:


The described M&M Zones shown in this plan use the new Common Council District boundaries
as of 04/01/03. Adjustments to the proposed M&M Zones may be necessary while performing
M&M activities due to the actual distribution of vacant lots within the zones relative to
scheduling logistics.

See MAPS – Maintenance and Mowing Zones 1-3

ZONE 1 - Fillmore/Masten/Ellicott/South – DPW/Real Estate (4 cutters)

ZONE 2 - Niagara/Lovejoy – Mayor’s Task Force (2 cutters)

ZONE 3 - North/Delaware/University – Impact Team (1 cutter)

Plus 3 cutters for repair rotations and extra mower-only crew

Other or potential M&M areas:


There are other areas within the City that may from time to time require maintenance and
mowing. Parkway medians are normally done by Parks Department during park grass cutting
rotations. The Thruway and Interstate exit/entrance ramp areas and right-of-ways are under the
jurisdiction of the NYS Department of Transportation. The Buffalo Municipal Housing
Authority is responsible for BMHA controlled properties. Other miscellaneous areas include:

* City-owned right-of-ways
CITY OF BUFFALO 7
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
* Other-owned right-of-ways (utilities, railroad, highway, etc.) App. 7
* Bridge embankments
* Berms and storm water detention areas
* Gaitor Parkway
* List others: _______________________________________

2003 Maintenance and Mowing Process

A time study, using actual costs and hours invested in the first and second 2003 cleanings and
cuttings, is recommended for future scheduling and budget planning. This requires tracking all
labor and costs associated with the following process.

1. Vacant lot identification:


Permanent marking of private vacant lots NOT requiring cutting (see DPW Lot Book).
2. Pre-cleanup survey:
Check areas to be mowed for abandoned vehicles or other unusual clean-up requirements.
Begin abandoned vehicle removal process if needed, including VIN and plate report to
Police Precinct. Report vehicle descriptions and locations to Parking Enforcement to
begin removal process. See Abandoned Vehicle section below.
TAKE “BEFORE” PICTURE OF PRIVATE LOTS REQUIRING CLEANING
AND CUTTING.
3. Coordinate abandoned vehicle towing and disposition with Parking Enforcement.
4. Large trash/debris cleanup.
5. Clean-up/Pick-up report – record location and completion date/time.
6. Before/ahead of cutting – pick-up litter and light trash (papers, etc).
7. Mowing and trimming.
8. Mowing report – record location and completion date/time; TAKE “AFTER” PICTURE
OF PRIVATE LOTS CLEANED AND CUT.
9. Street cleaning follow-up.
10. Report other conditions (trees needing trimming, major changes, etc.) – record location and
condition.
11. Track weight and tipping costs associated with all M&M trash; turn in copy of tickets for
trucks used in M&M to Citizen Services and DPW Streets-Billing.
12. Turn in DAILY M&M results and BEFORE & AFTER pictures to:
a) Impact Team and Mayor’s Task Force turn in daily results to the Impact
Office for compilation and input. These summaries should be distributed to
DPW Streets-Billing for billing purposes and to Director of Citizen Services
for tracking progress. “Before” and “After” photos should be turned in to
DPW Streets-Billing section for filing.
b) DPW crews turn in daily results to DPW Streets-Billing for billing purposes
and to Director of Citizen Services for tracking progress. “Before” and
“After” photos should be turned in to DPW-Streets Billing section for filing.
13. Evaluation of results including time study for first and second cuts. Distribute results to all
Departments on Communication list.

CITY OF BUFFALO 8
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
FUTURE App. 7

Investigate and test a variety of vacant lot identification and marking methods to facilitate
maintenance and mowing activities.

Develop a maintenance and mowing appeal committee and appeal process to assist property
owners in dealing with vacant lot management issues and service recovery charges.

Reduce maintenance and mowing crew sizes and equipment for second and third cuttings as lot
cleanup needs decrease (i.e. crews with cutters and trimmers only, etc.).

Reorganize or consolidate vacant lot maintenance and mowing responsibilities within and among
City departments.

Explore alternative equipment options for varying vacant lot sizes and arrangements.

Explore community-assisted vacant lot monitoring and maintenance, including reimbursement for
supplies and liability coverage.

Customize vacant lot interim use and care plans to complement housing and business
development goals.

CITY OF BUFFALO 9
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
ABANDONED VEHICLES App. 7

Abandoned and illegal vehicles require special attention in the maintenance of vacant properties.
There are legal and logistical provisions that require dealing with them separately from the lot cleaning
prior to grass cutting. Removal and disposal of individual abandoned vehicles can be handled in a few
different ways, however a large-scale removal campaign would require support, planning, equipment and
dedicated funding.

The treatment of illegal and abandoned vehicles is covered under NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law
and City ordinances granted authority under the state law. Early in the removal process a recovery report
(check for stolen vehicles) is run by request on each suspected abandoned vehicle to determine if it is a
stolen vehicle. Suspected stolen vehicles are taken to the City impound lot for reconciliation by the
Police and the vehicle owner. Vehicles are determined to be junk vehicles if their value is estimated at
$750.00 or less. Vehicles are illegal if there is no valid registration, plates and/or inspection certification.

Parking Enforcement operates 3 tow trucks; about 95% of their operation is occupied by daily
police requests. The Department of Public Works has 2 tow trucks and the Fire Department has one tow
truck. Additional heavy equipment is available through DPW to assist with difficult removals or for
loading flatbed carriers. Parking Enforcement currently retains 5 tow truck companies under contract for
enforcement purposes and the “direct scrap” program. The city impound lot is limited in sized compared
with the throughput of vehicles. An estimated 7,000 vehicles were run through this lot in 2002 making
weekly vehicle auctions a necessity.

Official reports or citations of suspected or known abandoned vehicles can be made by Parking
Enforcement, City Inspectors and Police. Citizens may also report abandoned vehicles to any of these
offices and the Mayor’s Complaint Line. The following cases include the current processes for
abandoned vehicle removal.

Abandoned, non-stolen vehicles on city-owned property, including streets, yards of vacant


properties, and vacant lots – The “direct scrap” program is used to tow or transport abandoned vehicles
worth less than $750 by contracted services directly to the junk yard for storage bypassing the impound
lot. The city receives a nominal reimbursement for the scrap value of the vehicle. The vehicle is held for
the required period of time by the yard for recovery by the owner. The towing and storage expenses are
paid by the owner to the salvage yard. Unclaimed, non-stolen vehicles are used for parts or scrapped.
Approximately 1,200 units were handled in this manner last year. In the event the vehicle is inaccessible,
additional costs may be incurred by the city to haul the vehicle to a location that is easier to tow from. A
flatbed tow costs about $50. When the vehicle value is over $750 the abandoned vehicle may end up at
the City’s impound lot for reconciliation with the owner. In this, case depending on the condition of the
vehicle and the required holding period, unclaimed vehicles can be removed from there by a service
contractor or be included in a weekly auction. An exception to this process is abandoned vehicles on city
streets. Parking Enforcement is currently required to wait 72 hours from the first citation before
attempting to remove the vehicle unless in the case of emergency.

Abandoned, non-stolen vehicles on private property, including occupied or vacant business,


commercial, residential or vacant lots – City Inspections may cite a suspected abandoned or illegal
vehicle on private property as a violation of City Code. The citation is directed to the owner of the
private property. The vehicle identification is run to determine if it is a stolen vehicle or not. Action is
required within 10 days of the citation including proof of registration and a valid inspection sticker. No
action authorizes removal of the vehicle. The disposition of the vehicle is based on whether it is stolen or
not, and it’s condition and value as described above. Citizens may also report suspected abandoned or
illegal vehicles. Private property owners may qualify to contact a licensed tow operator directly to have
an abandoned vehicle removed. The conditions of Motor Vehicle Form 37, “Statement of Abandoned
Vehicle Transfer” (vehicle is $750 or less, and is 10 or more years old, and has been abandoned for at
least one month, and is never to be titled again) can be used to remove junk vehicles. And again, if not
stolen, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for recovering it from the tow operator.
CITY OF BUFFALO 10
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
App. 7
2003

The 2003 Maintenance and Mowing season will include abandoned vehicle removals on a
priority basis. Priority removals include:
* City-owned vacant lots with abandoned vehicles obstructing maintenance and
mowing activities
* Abandoned vehicles at vacant properties reported by city inspectors
* Abandoned vehicles reported by citizens

A large-scale abandoned vehicle cleanup may be attempted in high priority cleanup areas.
Requirements for an abandoned vehicle blitz would include the following components under the
current rules and processes.
* An advance community education campaign explaining the purpose of the cleanup,
relevant local and state ordinances, and a deadline for compliance for vehicles they
may own.
* A team to survey and take data on suspected abandoned or illegal vehicles including
Parking Enforcement, DPW, the Impact Team and Police.
* Coordination between Parking Enforcement, DPW and contract towers to remove
accessible and inaccessible vehicles.
* Designated funds for inaccessible vehicles and flatbed trailers.
* Tracking all costs associated with large-scale removals for future reduction targets
and budget planning.

FUTURE

* Reduce the number of abandoned vehicles with expanded community education and
notification.
* Involve community groups in addition to Parking Enforcement, Inspections, DPW, Police,
and Fire in abandoned vehicle reporting.
* Investigate adequate city impound storage for future abandoned vehicle cleanup blitzes
(added responsibility and costs).
* Work with the NYS DMV to help track illegal cars – Proof of registration and valid vehicle
inspection are now required by City Inspectors.

CITY OF BUFFALO 11
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
M&M BUDGET PLANNING App. 7

Budget planning must include all associated costs for all City departments, divisions or agencies
maintaining and mowing vacant properties, including dealing with abandoned vehicles to measure the
actual costs, determine duplication or overruns, and to help identify opportunities for savings. Some of
the budget considerations for implementing a successful M&M program include: the multi-departmental
management and labor requirements; M&M crew assembly and performance; and M&M equipment
needs to match the scope of the tasks involved in M&M.

Crew assembly and assignments


* Labor needs - Safety gear and training/OSHA
* Seasonal scheduling and workload– MAY/JUNE/JULY/SEPT
* Coordination with other agencies or volunteers
* Coordination with special events
* Supplemental contracted assistance as an option

Equipment needs
* Surveillance cameras
* Digital cameras for “before and after” documentation
* Laptop, palm computers, or data loggers with GPS capabilities for integration with
CityStat
* PPE/Safety equipment (gloves, goggles, dust masks, etc.)
* Trimmers
* Cutter parts/tools
* Other heavy equipment – larger cutters for land assembly areas

Sample Summary of All Departments - Next page.

CITY OF BUFFALO 12
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
SAMPLE SUMMARY OF ALL DEPARTMENTS App. 7
The list of involved departments/division includes, but is not limited to:

Public Works, Streets and Parks Office of Support Services


Streets and Sanitation Impact Team
Office of Strategic Planning Mayor’s Task Force
Real Estate Parking Enforcement
Permit and Inspection Services Police
Citizens Services Other: _____________________

Citywide Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Costs


All Departments Combined

BUDGET ESTIMATE Estimated Actual Projected


2002 Season 2003 Season 2004 Season
M&M Labor - Clean-up and
mowing (ALL - management,
crews, shop, etc.)
Fuel
Equipment
Parts
Preventative maintenance and
repairs
Transportation – crews, trailers

Pre-mowing trash SAMPLE


tipping/disposal costs

Pre-mowing abandoned vehicle FORM


removal costs - contractor
Pre-mowing abandoned vehicle
removal costs - City

Misc. contracts
Misc. rentals/leases

Coordination and
communication system (labor,
computers, misc.)
Evaluation
Reporting

Community expense offset*


Community insurance*

Other
Other

TOTAL

*These future items may include reimbursements for community-based initiatives


assisting in seasonal M&M activities.

CITY OF BUFFALO 13
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
App. 7

LIST OF MAPS*

Vacant Land Distribution, City of Buffalo (1/2002)

Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Zone 1

Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Zone 2

Vacant Lot Maintenance and Mowing Zone 3

*Office of Strategic Planning, City of Buffalo, 3/17/03

CITY OF BUFFALO 14
VACANT LOT MAINTENANCE & MOWING PLAN
App. 7
App. 7
App. 7
App. 7
App.8a

Bibliography & Other Resources

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Frank S. “Renewing Public Assets for Community Development.” Local Initiatives
Support Corporation. October 1, 2000. Pages 17-19 located in Part V of this report
reprinted with permission.

City of Buffalo. Queen City in the21st Century: Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan. Draft - June
2003.

City of Buffalo. City of Buffalo Master Plan, Phase I: Community/Neighborhood Conditions


Summary. November 1998.

City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, Analysis Section. Estimate provided fall 2003.

City of Buffalo Office of Citizen Services. Estimate provided February 2003.

City of Buffalo Department of Permit and Inspection Services. “Demolition” and “Demolition
FAQ’s.” [Online] WWW: http://city-buffalo.com/Document.asp?lid=1451 and http://city-
buffalo.com/Document.asp?lid=1330.

Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation. “City Smart – Targeted Land Development: A


Strategic Plan for Real Estate Investment.” May 2001.

Brophy, Paul C. and Vey, Jennifer S. “Seizing City Assets: Ten Steps to Urban Land Reform,”
The Brookings Institution and CEO’s for Cities. October 2002. [Online] Available
WWW: brookings.org

Fannie Mae Foundation. “Housing Facts and Findings: Vacant Land Presents Problems and
Opportunities.” Volume 3, Issue 1. [Online] Available WWW:
http://www.fanniemaefaoundation.org/programs/hff/.

Friends of the Buffalo Niagara River. “Buffalo Green Infrastructure Report: Inventory, Analysis
and Recommendations. January 2001.

Goetz, Cooper, Thiele, and Lam. “Pay Now or Pay More Later: St. Paul’s Experience in
Rehabilitating Vacant Housing.” CURA Reporter; April 1998, pp 12-15.

Ihenko, Uzochukwu E.. “Constructive Approaches with Contradictory Results: Community


Development and the Dynamics of Housing Demolition in the Inner City of Buffalo, New
York, 1960-1997.” (PhD dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo,
November 14, 2002), 107-138.

Ingerson, Alice E. “Urban Land as Common Property.” Land Lines; January 1997, Vol. 9, No. 1.
http://www.lincolninst.edu/landline/1997/march/commonp.html.

New York State. “Governor: State Adopts New Fire Prevention and Building Codes – New
Codes Encourage Construction, Rehabilitation, Energy Conservation.” [Online]
Available WWW: http://www.state.ny.us/governor/press/year02/march6_1_02.htm

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Petrucci, Lou. City of Buffalo Department of Permits and Inspections. Written comments
submitted 02/05/03.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “Vacant Land Management in Philadelphia


Neighborhoods: Cost Benefit Analysis.” April 1999.

Philadelphia Horticultural Society. Reclaiming Vacant Lots. 2002.

Power, Ann and Mumford, Katherine. “The problem of low housing demand in inner city areas.”
Findings, May 1999 – Ref 519. [Online] Available WWW:
http://ww.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/housing/519.asp

Rosner, Paula. “Proposed Designation of Existing and Emerging Retail Areas as Neighborhood
Redevelopment Areas.” Draft - January 2003. City of Buffalo Office of Strategic
Planning.

“Population Trends Keep WNY Stuck in Slow Lane.” Business First, 12/02/02.

“Tracking system aims to red-flag inefficiencies.” Buffalo News, 01/02/03.

“Internet sales leave houses in neglect.” Buffalo News, 08/26/02.

“Come and build…where?” Buffalo News, 01/27/02.

“The City of Riverside, California, Takes Weed Abatement from Paper to Pixels.” GIS Trends in
Local Government. Summer 2002. (Source information unavailable).

“City of Wilmington Vacant Property Registration Fee Program.” [Online] Available WWW:
http://www.ci.wilmington.de.us/vacantproperties.htm

OTHER RESOURCES
City of Buffalo -

“City of Buffalo, Draft Comprehensive Plan: Inventory of Existing Conditions,” 2000.

Draft – “Queen City Hub: Regional Action Plan for Downtown Buffalo,” 2003.

Draft – “Urban Forestry Master Plan for the City of Buffalo,” September 2003.

Draft – The Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, 2003.

In progress – Olmsted Parks and Parkways Plan.

“Protecting Buffalo’s Best…Operations and Procedures of the Buffalo Preservation Board,” City
of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning – Land Use and Zoning Administration.

“Buffalo River Paper Streets: A Status Report,” Friends of the Buffalo-Niagara Rivers for the
City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning, Draft, February 2002.

“Urban Ecosystem Analysis, Buffalo-Lackawanna Area, Erie County, New York,” American
Forests, June 2003.

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“City of Buffalo, NY; Building Preservation Policy; Yes we can!” Report by Buffalo
Architectural Salvage Committee, excerpted pp. 11-13 (rec’d by VLBFAMP 01/08/03).

Vogel, Darlene. Observations on Vacant Lots (handout), Urban Resources Partnership of Buffalo,
11/05/99.

Community Garden Sample Lease – Grassroots Gardens, 10/14/99.

“2003 Trash and Street Cleaning Schedule.” City of Buffalo Department of Public Works.

“Council seeking solution to unsightly vacant lots.” Buffalo News, 06/02/02.

“Mayor, preservationists look to build on the lessons of Pittsburgh.” Buffalo News, 10/03/02.

“Empty Lots across city may bloom with farms.” Buffalo News, 12/01/02.

“City officials propose $5,000 fines for illegal dumping.” Buffalo News, 01/05/03.

“Philadelphia gambles on massive demolitions.” Buffalo News, 03/15/03.

“City’s house demolitions add up to a mixed blessing.” Buffalo News, 03/17/03.

“HSBC Bank, Freddie Mac launch new mortgage program.” Buffalo News, 5/9/03.

“Citizens lend voices to revitalize Buffalo.” Buffalo News, 5/19/03.

“City looks for revenue from tax-exempts.” Buffalo News, 5/21/03.

Other Municipalities -

Cohen, James R. “Abandoned Housing: Exploring Lessons from Baltimore.” Housing Policy
Debate. Vol. 12; Issue 3. Fannie Mae Foundation 2001.

Gurwitt, Rob. “Betting on the Bulldozer.” Governing. July 2002. [Online] Available
www.governing.com.

Kromer, John. “Vacant Property Policy and Practice: Baltimore and Philadelphia,” October 2002.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “The Green City Strategy.” Philadelphia Green-Urban
Impact. [Online] Available WWW: www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org.

“Pennsylvania Greenways: An Action Plan for Creating Connection.” Sylvan Communities.


Winter 2003, pp. 13-15.

“Managing Vacant Land in Philadelphia: A Key Step Toward Neighborhood Revitalization,” and
related reports sponsored by the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Horticultural
Society” and other publications under the web site
http:www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org.

City of Baltimore, Maryland, example of neighborhood analysis methods, www.bnia.org.

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Baltimore, MD - “Neighborhood Open Space Management: Transforming Vacant Lots to Green
Space.” Source information unavailable.

City of Richmond, Virginia, example neighborhood development,


http://ci.richmond.va.us/citizen/neighborhoods/cmxxs_neindex.asp.

City of Charleston, North Carolina, “Community Greens,” (redevelopment with green space)
www.communitygreens.org.

City of San Diego, California, Vacant Property Rehabilitation programs, Neighborhood Code
Compliance Department, http://www.sanet.gov/nccd/housing/vacant.shtml. Ballard,
Bullock and Dahnert.

“Corrective Vision” (esp.Greenline-Spartanburg neighborhood master plan, Greenville, SC).


American City & County, May 2002., pp. 38-43.

General -

Community Culture and the Environment: A Guide to Understanding a Sense of Place. 2002.
U.S.EPA (EPA 842-B-01-003), Office of Water, Washington, DC.

Honachefsky, William.” Ecologically Based Municipal Land Use Planning.” EcoIQ Magazine,
Spring 2000. http://www.ecoiq.com/magazine/features/feature61.html

IAAI/USFA Vacant and Abandoned Buildings Community Group Presentation Outline (Setting
up a Community-Based Anti-Arson program),
http/www.interfire.org/features/community_talk.htm.

Kansas City, Kansas, “Dangerous Building Demolitions Program.” Internet.

New York Main Street Alliance’ [Online] Available WWW: www.NYMSA.org.

“Phytoremediation of Chicago’s Brownfilelds: Consideration of Ecological Approaches and


Social Issues,” Lynne M. Westphal and J. G. Isenbrands, USDA Forest Service;
Brownfields 2001 Proceedings, http//www.brownfileds2001.org/proceedings/BB-11-
02.pdf.

“Recipe for Demolition,” NTH Consultants Newsletter, Spring 2002, Issue 48,
www.nthconsultants.com/newsletter.com.

Valone, Anthony. “Selecting Areas for Street-Front Retail Development: Developing a


Methodology.” Thesis, January 2002. State University of New York at Buffalo.

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