Quoted in DBJ about Dayton Diode- our hackerspace

Page 3 of Dayton Business Journal, January 28, 2011, published on the 25th anniversary of me buying 113 Bonner Street for $14,500- I’m quoted about economic development;

David Esrati, a local political blogger and chief creative officer of Dayton-based advertising agency The Next Wave, said Dayton Diode represents true economic development because it boosts the quality of life in the region.

“It’s incubators like this that make Dayton a more attractive and interesting place to the kind of people we should be trying to attract,” said Esrati, who began publicly calling for the development of a local hackerspace last spring, unaware Dayton Diode was brewing.

Dayton Diode is having an open house Feb 5- see the release. Well worth checking into. What makes Dayton Diode more interesting is that it’s being done without government interference, “help” or sponsorship.

Sort of like what happened when I bought my house in Dayton.

It had been on the market for 2 years. First listed for $22,900, it had been reduced to $17,900 when I looked at it and one other house. Mine was a two-story frame Victorian half-cross, with a 2-car garage, fenced yard and a parking pad. The other, a brick 4-room shotgun- for $14,500. I told the realtor, I was going to spend $14,500- didn’t matter to me which house- and they accepted the offer.

I never expected any help- or interference from government in my grand plan to transform the house. Yet, when I got to take possession of my garage 90 days after closing (a condition to help the tenants out) and started replacing the bypass sliding wood barn style doors with modern overhead doors- my introduction to Inspector Gotcha and the culture of NO in City Hall.

Apparently- I’d bought a “Historic Home” and had additional laws and regulations that I had no way of knowing about.

There was nothing on the deed- nothing required in the transfer process- no signs stating this was a historic district- yet- I’d made the horrible mistake of putting up “wood grain vinyl” garage doors- instead of just wood- or vinyl- that wasn’t imitating wood. This was a huge No-No- despite the huge steel and plastic dumpster that was parked in front of one of my doors by the city. I found that the same doors were on a house in the Oregon District- owned by a judge- but, that didn’t matter. I was fined, sentenced to 30 hours of community service and forced to change the doors (which were installed by one of Dayton’s biggest door companies- they didn’t know either).

And, if the folks in City Hall wonder why more people haven’t felt Dayton was a good place to invest- and create “economic development” on their own- you now know one reason why.

There are lots of buildings that could be fixed up, if we just had a realistic view of what’s important. Trying to use today’s building codes for yesterdays buildings isn’t going to work. Nor is forcing yesterday’s materials for yesterday’s buildings (the replacement doors had to go last summer- rotted out).

Front Street- where Dayton Diode is now setting up shop- is one of the few old buildings in Dayton that seems to live without “help” from the city.

We could have lots of “economic development” in Dayton – if the government would stop trying to interfere about things that don’t really matter.

What matters most is attracting people who have a dream- and letting them pursue it.

That’s how economic development happens.

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14 Responses

  1. Robert Vigh January 28, 2011 / 12:40 pm
    David,
    I believe the greater the respect for private property, the faster and greater economic development will be. I do not remember which side of the argument you are own for historic districts, but truth be told, historic districts are a way to tell other people what to do with their property. They are rather absurd laws that force certain neighborhoods to maintain an inefficient, uneconomical way of living. We should be fighting to remove all “historic” zoning in Dayton and they might just find that someone will want to buy a house on Bonner and fix it up with nicer materials. Or heaven forbid, buy a plot, burn the house the ground and build a brand spanking new 75K dollar house right in the middle of dilapidated neighborhood.

    Smackdown!. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 14

  2. jstults January 28, 2011 / 1:23 pm
    David, thanks for the plug on the open house.  I think DDN should be carrying a story soon too.  I’m encouraging BYOB (even empties) so we can feed our furnace.  I think we’ll try to provide ‘scrap’ full of frosty beverage for a suggested donation (settle down Inspector, we’re not running a restaurant, emphasis on donation).
     
    RV, I agree about “greater respect for private property = better”, but I disagree about historic neighborhoods.  My experience was very different than David’s.  We moved into a historic neighborhood knowing full well what we were getting into, and, in fact, that’s one of the reasons we chose to live in Grafton Hill.  We like the history of the place, and the homes are well preserved (maybe because of historic zoning, maybe not).  The neighborhood association is a bit more “militant” than we were used to, but I can hardly blame them given the history of drug-dealing and scumminess they had experienced.  Perhaps it would have been better for Dayton if our little pauper’s mansion was torn down to make room for some more high-density housing, we certainly wouldn’t be living here if it were though.
     
    I think as long as there’s no “knowledge asymmetry” (like existed in David’s case, through whatever cause), then the market can work: you choose not to live in a historic zoned area if you don’t like it.  I understand that is little comfort to the property owners who may not have wanted the zoning in the first place.

    Well-loved. Brilliant: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. larry sizer January 28, 2011 / 3:12 pm
    David: If memory serves you correctly, my wife Susie and I had a similar problem with the City, with ours being a rear facing elevation widow. The house had been next to being carried away from the cockroaches, which openly walked around our house in the day time with tooth picks in their mouths. The people that lived there at the time were Foster Parents with about six or seven kids in their responsibility. The roof next to the chimney had a foot wide hole, not only broken widows, but missing windows, with the house reeking of smells completely foreign too our noses. The day we signed the deal on the house the Housing Inspectors cited us with so many violations you couldn’t believe it. Why wasn’t the previous owners cited are to this day a complete mystery to me. We had applied for all of the permits, including the window that we wanted to place to the front of the house, which was turned down, but was told that there was no problem with it being to the rear of the house; since it faced an alley, which we did. Nine months later we got sited by the city and were told to remove it, since we failed to get it in writing.
    We hired a lawyer, to represent us with one of the first things she asked was to hear the recording of the meeting, of which they agreed she could come down and hear it. Needless to say they lost the recording, and she was unable to hear it. We then hired an architect out of Cincinnati, seems the ones in Dayton didn’t want to touch it, and after $3,200.00 we was allowed to keep our window in, though we did have to change the grid in the window, which we never did and all is well with our window.
    Thus: I developed a web site and pulled the covers off of one of the members of the Landmarks Commission, one Joe Walsh, which had put my wife in tears from his verbal tongue lashing over the window. Seems South Park had a nuisance bar called Skinners at the corner of Oak and Wayne and they couldn’t get it shut down from the drug traffic. This Joe Walsh happened to represent and was close friends of Ron Woods, the owner of Skinners, as well as the President of South Park Preservation Works Inc. which was an arm of the South Park Historic organization. I then snitched out Joe Walsh to the Internal Revenue Service to show all of the miss deeds, who agreed that there was violations, but they wasn’t going to pursue them because of the time. There is no longer a South Park Preservation Works Inc..
    I then went to the Planning Board to get another permit to upgrade our house, when I pulled out a tape recorder to record our transaction; he refused to allow me to use a tape recorder. I then produced a written prescription from my family doctor stating, that I had recently received a severe brain concussion, and he prescribed a memory retaining device like a tape recorder. He took my script and stormed out of the office, only to return an half an hour later with a City Attorney. I made my request, got my permit, and have never had trouble from the City again.
    I have found that dealing with the City is like history, just one damn thing after another.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Robert Vigh January 28, 2011 / 3:25 pm
    Hello Jstults,

    Let me revise my written opinion. I agree with self imposed Historic zoning. If the property owners want to maintain a particular feel or style to their neighborhood, then they should be able to contract with one another to do so. They can make that contract binding to the property and future owners would purchase under contract. However, I feel this has to be a unanimous decision and not a majority rules type of vote to get the process started. Someone that did not agree may be initially compensated by the other owners to agree etc, etc.

    When it is a vote that is cast and can effect property owners without their consent is when the problem develops. Also, since it is more of a city “zone” format, I feel there is a much greater chance of knowledge asymmetry.

    So we agree on private property, and I think we agree that the market can work surrounding a contracted historic neighborhood.

    My contention and you may agree, is the method in which these zones develop and the very real and possible mis- and over- allocation of these types of zones in a city. Sense all the districts I am aware of exist because of the city legislating them into existence, my first reaction is a strong one that says get rid of them all.  

    Well-loved. Brilliant: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. jstults January 28, 2011 / 4:34 pm
    Robert:

    the method in which these zones develop and the very real and possible mis- and over- allocation of these types of zones in a city. Sense all the districts I am aware of exist because of the city legislating them into existence

    I’m not exactly sure how they come to be.  I did a little research on it when we first moved in to the neighborhood; it’s not as simple as the city declaring one.  The National Park Service is actually involved.  I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear of this efficient use of your tax dollars ; – ).
     
    BTW, any Austrian with sufficient Komment Karma(TM), as noted in my little cylindrical file where I track such important things, is welcome to a frosty beverage on me at Dayton Diode’s open house.  Based on my pseudoscientific studies, Jstults’ Komment Karma(TM) is far more discriminating than red or green thumbs.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Ice Bandit January 28, 2011 / 9:15 pm
    …..true story, Mr. Vigh. A non-profit in the neighborhood near East Third and Van Lear Streets, having been willed a former Doctor’s office by a grateful patron, asked the city to raze a garage on the property that fallen into disrepair, with the hope of adding additional parking spaces for members. “No can do” the city responded, “this is a historical district.” “Historical district?”, the non-profit board responded, “this is a hysterical district. Nothing but hookers and hockey players in this steadily deteriorating and crime ridden neighborhood.” Several months later, after the back and forth with the city listed by others on this site, the garage “mysteriously” burned to the ground. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink. Arson is, as you allude Mr. Vigh, easier than dealing with an inflexible bureaucracy…….

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  7. Ice Bandit January 29, 2011 / 7:52 pm
    We could have lots of “economic development” in Dayton – if the government would stop trying to interfere about things that don’t really matter. (David Esrati)
     
    Fill in the blank: Inside David Esrati’s liberal facade, secretly a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ is just screamin’ to get out…………

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  8. Civil Servants Are People, Too January 30, 2011 / 2:37 am
    Kudos to Dayton Diode on their efforts.  Too bad you ruined a nice post by harping on something that happened 25 years ago.    Are those people even around anymore?   I’m sure things like globalization, poverty, and shifting demographics have far more to do with Dayton’s issues than the absence or presence of any given policy.
     
    Also, I suspect you are confusing people by describing the professions of zoning enforcement, city planning, and economic development as if they are interchangeable.  That is a dis-service to your readers.    Yes, sometimes they are at odds with each other but it’s part of the system of checks and balances that makes our local governments work.
     
    It’s like saying a doctor and an orderly are the same because they both work in a hospital.  In fact, it’s the economic developer’s job to say YES to good projects and the inspector’s job to say no when it doesn’t meet code, which is written by the planners.  It’s like a triangle.   Please be clear on which side you’re actually complaining about here.
     
    If code enforcement is not being applied consistently, I have to wonder if it’s really because there is too much, or perhaps not enough to make it seem uniform.   Dayton certainly could use more aggressive enforcement in some areas.
     
    By the way, I’m sure there are LOTS of folks like JS who PREFER historic zoning because of the unique character and history that comes with these homes.   In fact, there’s an entire magazine dedicated to it.  Dayton would be much worse off without those neighborhoods.    Trust me, it is not a few areas with historic zoning that is stopping people from building McMansions in Dayton.   Let’s see what happens if you run an anti-historic platform in the next election.
     
    Finally, how much money did you save with the City’s property tax abatement you enjoyed on your home?   I remember reading about that pesky government interference before, too.
     

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  9. Jason January 30, 2011 / 11:53 am
    I’m pretty sure that every historic district in Dayton was established with the approval of at least 50% of the property owners.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. David Esrati January 30, 2011 / 12:23 pm

    @Jason- I wasn’t around when they did South Park- but, I believe it was 75%- and it made for some very funky borders.

    Both the bottom 4 homes on Oak and Adams were cut out- and 4 behind Wendy’s were added.

    If it wasn’t for the unifying force of the rules- and getting it passed- I doubt we’d be where we are today.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Jeff Dziwulski January 31, 2011 / 4:45 pm
    They have one of these in Louisville and it got a front page write-up in LEO, Louisvilles’ free weekly (sort of like City Paper):

    http://leoweekly.com/news/hacktory

    Techies, builders and engineers get their geek on at Louisville’s first hacker space

     Almost every night of the week, LVL1’s 2,000-square-foot communal workshop is a hive of tinkering, socializing and building. Oscilloscopes, wave-form synthesizers and multi-meters, all donated by members, line the shelves and tables inside the hacker space. Puffs of smoke and tiny explosions erupt from the poised tips of soldering irons. Hand-built robots click and flash. Musical instruments are modified, purposefully mangled and built from scratch. Consumer electronics have their warranties voided by simply being opened up, cheap broken toys are cannibalized for parts, and, above all, information, free and plentiful, is shared.

    (more at the link)

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Ice Bandit February 12, 2011 / 11:56 am
    They have one of these in Louisville and it got a front page write-up in LEO, Louisvilles’ free weekly (Jeff Dziwulski)
     
    …gotta admit, dear Jeff, the Old Bandito went to Louisville with his skepticism tank on full, but a couple of days at the Brown Hotel cured that ailment. The good folks of Louisville seem to have figured out how to keep a midwest town vital without resorting to the gimmicks (such as monorails, streetcars and casinos) that drain the treasury but add little to the quality of daily life. Furthermore, democracy is alive there, with everything from tolls on bridges to X-rated entertainment being discussed, cussed and argued. And as an aside, the Brown Sandwich, served at the hotel of the same name, is on the Bandito’s top five guilty pleasures list. A concoction of turkey and bacon, served in an exquisite sauce, this open faced sandwich has no peer this side of the Ohio River. Whatta’ great town………

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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