Category Archive: Our Neighborhood

A Fresh Look For Westview Streets

Some exciting things have been happening in Westview. In early spring the Westview Development Committee found out that Quality of Life Bonds were being distributed to improve intown neighborhoods. The bonds were actually on their third round, each one having been for $150 Million. Somehow Westview had been overlooked and not received a single penny. Needless to say we were upset to find out we had been totally neglected and started an angry email and phone call campaign to our councilmember, CT Martin. (Westview continues to face a challenge as we are split between two council districts and have two council members…the majority of which is in CT Martin’s area.)

Finally this summer our complaints were acknowledged – we were informed we’d be getting new sidewalks and streets repaved!! (At least the two streets we complained about.) The letter informed us the work would start in early June and be done at the end of August. I think it will be to few people’s surprise that despite the fact that it is late September the work is not done! Our street was scheduled first, so we’re pretty much done…so I can show some pictures!!

This is what our sidewalk looked like before. The portion in front of our house was actually lacking a curb altogether, though I know other houses on our street did in fact still have barely visible curbs. Because we had no curbs in front of our house we’d constantly have a flooded sidewalk when it rained (not that Atlanta knows what rain is anymore). Oh, and note our decent looking Crossvine growing on the mailbox. This was July 23rd.

East Ontario Avenue sidewalks before

Here they tore up the old sidewalk in front of our house. The plan was to raise the sidewalk in order to create a curb. This was July 24th.

Sidewalk demolition

Finally two weeks after they tore up our path they came back to put down the concrete sidewalk and curb. You can see their excellent craftsmanship when you notice the fat curb closer to us and see how it gets narrower behind the mailbox. (It’s not just an optical illusion from the leaning boards.) They also left the strip between the sidewalk and driveway apron unfinished. This was August 6th.

Sidewalk concrete

It was yet another week before they came back to tear up our driveway apron and pour it the same day. This is the before photo, and as you can see our driveway was in need of some repair. Since the sidewalks were being raised it meant everyone’s walkways and driveways were too low, so they tore up parts of everyone’s driveways to slope them and line up properly with the new height. So we were lucky to get our driveway fixed in the process!

New driveway

This is the driveway apron after they poured it. At this point the triangle between the sidewalk and driveway still remained unpaved. Upon my inquiry of the missing piece I was essentially told that I should be grateful that they were even pouring our driveway since it was 3:30pm on a Friday and they were working “overtime” to pour our driveway since their clock out time is 4:00pm. (Another worker tried to downplay this by telling me that the guy was exaggerating.) If I remember correctly I was also told that they would come back on Monday to finish that missing piece. This was August 15th.

Sidewalk footprints

Two weeks later the missing triangle was still not done. Not only was it not done, but at one point they came to take away the barricades they had put up to prevent people from walking on the fresh concrete. I finally happened to drive by them as they were working on a portion further down the street and reminded them that the triangle still had not been poured and that it was a safety issue if someone walked down the path at night and could break their ankle because there was no barricade. I think they showed up a day later to finish off the triangle. I noticed too late that they had again failed to put up barricades, leaving footprints on the fresh concrete. (Why pedestrians failed to notice that it was freshly poured is also beyond me, but oh well.) I was pretty much steaming at this point, determined to complain and have them tear the portion back out and re-pour it. In the end I was convinced by Patrick’s idea that instead of potentially creating greater damage we should leave the footprints as an ode to the idiocracy of the City of Atlanta employees. This was August 29th.

Damaged driveway

A week and a half later a contracted company (not City of Atlanta!) came and prepped our street in the late morning by stripping the pavement on the sides of the street. (You can again view the wonderful craftsmanship of the crooked curb.)

Street repaving

A couple hours later our street was entirely repaved and looking great!! :) Please also note the debris left in the landscaping strip. This was September 9th.

New street and sidewalk

In the meanwhile the City of Atlanta workers had still not finished with our sidewalks. The new landscaping strips were still not filled with dirt by our house, instead only with remains of concrete, rocks, bushels of grass and some scattered cigarette buds and plastic soda cup lids, etc. When they finally came back to fill our stretch it took ten (!) workers a full workday (!) to transfer the dirt from the truck to the landscaping strip in front of four (!) houses. (Yes, we actually counted the workers as they were working in front of our house.) I made sure to point out to them that there was a lot of debris that needed to be removed before the dirt should be filled in since you can’t exactly put in landscaping with all that junk in it. I watched one guy do a half ass job of shoveling out some of the debris before the dirt came. Oh yeah, and the best part, this is what the quality of their work looked like in the end:

Landscape strip

At the beginning of the project I was just so excited and grateful that we were getting new sidewalks that I was ready to accept anything they did. Now that they are done in front of our house and I’ve had time to reflect I’m really quite upset. Yes, I’m still happy that we got new sidewalks, but this is what we’ll presumably have for, say, the next 30 years! If I was a teacher I’d rate the craftsmanship of the City of Atlanta employees a big fat “F.” Plus look at the speed at which they carried out the work – they were supposed to be done at the end of August and they are still deep into the project in late September. At no other job would employees be tolerated to perform the way the City of Atlanta employees performed on this project.

So here’s the breakdown of how we got to grade “F”:
– The curb looks like it was created by a drunken person with the wide width on one end and a narrow width on the other. (At one point the backhoe also broke off a portion of the newly dried curb which they had to redo, leaving an obvious “scar” at the joint.)
– A portion of the sidewalk has a number of footprints. (Additional point subtracted to lack of safety precaution.)
– The landscape strips are largely filled with debris, then covered with the cheapest of the cheap chunky fill dirt and a handful of grass seed thrown on it.
– And as an added bonus the redbud tree planted by Trees Atlanta a year and a half ago has pretty much been killed, our Crossvine looks pretty pathetic too, and our bushes along the sidewalk have some gaping holes in them.

But enough bitching. Aside from these flaws we are thrilled to have this freshened up look!! So here again are the before and after photos:

East Ontario Avenue sidewalks before

New street and sidewalk

Updated landscaping strip photos to come when they are presentable.

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"Flip This House" – The Enemy of a Transitioning Neighborhood

While surfing the internet Patrick came across one of A&E’s TV shows, “Flip This House”. More specifically a short segment about “Flip Tip – Curb Appeal”. He showed me the video and we both watched in horror of what this “Investment Consultant” Angela Wilford was recommending. Angela and the TV show “Flip This House” reminded me of some of the challenges we’re up against as a transitioning neighborhood: INVESTORS! Bad investor’s freeze the progress transitioning neighborhoods are making – and destroying beautiful houses in the process. (And if you look at the video and see the footage of a boarded up house you know Angela Wilford is working on a house in a transitioning neighborhood because I’m fairly certain you can’t find too many boarded up houses in non-transitioning neighborhoods.)

First of all (and this part doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with harming a transitioning neighborhood), am I the only one that was puzzled by her comments to tear out landscaping? I thought it was common knowledge that landscaping is the only investment that will actually increase in value over time. That kitchen renovation isn’t getting any younger over the years…but that grown in hedge or bushy perennial will awe potential buyers. That’s what always gets me about new subdivisions – they are sooooo boringly bare! (Well, that and the fact that usually new subdivisions mean long drives into the suburbs and cheap cookie cutter construction.) I’m sure in certain cases it doesn’t hurt to remove some plants, but the house she was talking about had no landscaping but the hedges she recommended to tear out. The house would have no plants remaining.

Then the part that really terrified me was seeing those original windows being torn out. As a fellow blogger once commented, there is a special place in hell for people that tear out old windows. (And we’ll make sure there are some extra flames added for showing them being torn out on a TV show.) I know homeowners go the tear-out-historic-windows route as well, but especially investors have a tendency of harming those beautiful treasures. And that’s one of the problems with investors…they tear out absolutely everything. It hurts my heart every time I drive by a dumpster in the neighborhood knowing that some architectural detail was surely torn out. It’s easier to tear out the old woodwork and slap some drywall on the studs instead – our contractor even said so herself! Investors…out go the windows, out goes the butler’s pantry, out goes the wooden plate rail molding, out goes the old fireplace, out goes the character. We fell in love with the houses in this neighborhood because of those details. I’m sure we can’t be the only ones, so who do the investors think they’re doing the neighborhood a favor by tearing that stuff out? Besides, investors are known to put the cheapest of the cheap materials back in the house. NO thank you!

So what are we left with after the investors have come to ravage a house? “For Rent” signs! I have been a renter myself, so it would be hypocritical to be totally against renters, but renters in a transitioning neighborhood don’t exactly help to establish a neighborhood. What is needed are loving, caring homeowners to rebuild the foundation of the neighborhood. Hopefully Patrick and I are helping to do our part in this process for Westview.

As a footnote I’d like to add that even though I mainly think investors are bad, I have witnessed some, or more specifically one, investor that I think has been doing a tremendous job. Two houses over from us was a house that was the shame of the block. It had been sitting empty since we’ve been here and had granite blocks falling out of the foundation, paint peeling, and was generally looking pretty pathetic. When Jim bought the property and said he would rent it we were worried, but he was quick to assure us he cared very much about the historic details. Over the last couple of months the house has gone from the shame of the block to one of the nicest looking houses! He had the granite and brick re-pointed (which is where we got the guys from to re-point our brick), he scraped all the paint off the porch and repainted the whole house, had railing re-installed around the porch, re-paved the driveway and path, cleared out all the kudzu from the backyard, put new grass down, had missing windows custom made to match the rest of the house, replaced the crappy front door with a restored historic Craftsman door, and the list goes on and on. From what I’ve seen I’d say Jim get’s the “Westview Investor’s Award”.


East Ontario Avenue restoration


East Ontario Avenue restoration


East Ontario Avenue restoration

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National Night Out

The Westview Community Organization, which Patrick and I are part of, participated in tonight’s National Night Out. The purpose of the nationwide event is to get neighbors out and mingle and get information about public safety. The WCO sponsored hot dogs and refreshments and passed out information ranging from fire detectors, to important phone numbers, to security video cameras. Lieutenant Deborah Cox, District 4 Councilwoman Cleta Winslow, and NPU-T Chair Kwabena Nkromo were some of the public figures that stopped by to show their support.

Neighbor Julie Orr chats with WCO Vice President Scott Smith.

Westview National Night Out 2008

Cleta Winslow chats with some of the community’s ladies.

Westview National Night Out 2008

Michelle Green passes out public safety information.

Westview National Night Out 2008

WCO Development Committee Chair Kenny Ellsworth and girlfriend Leslie Gage chat with Patrick. (We’re part of the Development Committee as well – so many projects, so little time!)

Westview National Night Out 2008

WCO President John Davis works hard behind the grill.

Westview National Night Out 2008

Patrick and I had a really nice evening. We helped put up some of the decoration and getting things ready for people to come. Then it was nice to mingle with our neighbors over some hot dogs (though it was sweltering hot!). The evening ended really pleasantly when it took us an hour to get home because we ran into neighbor after neighbor on the way home (and we only live about half a block from where the event took place!). After running into our first 3 sets of neighbors we were ready to continue on our way home. We had taken some left over helium balloons with us to give to our neighbor’s three adorable children. As we were walking down the street we realized the kids were at another neighbor’s house whom we hadn’t met…of course they were so excited to get the balloons. This homeowner that we hadn’t met was sitting and chatting with another neighbor that we know, so he called us over to meet the other neighbor. As we chatted with the two men the ice cream truck came by and our new acquaintance went to buy his little boy some ice cream – and came back with an ice cream for all of us! I’d only met this guy 5 minutes and he bought us ice cream!

So as we are drawing near our 2-year anniversary mark of being in the neighborhood (where has time gone?!) we were excited to realize how many neighbors we already know and how many new neighbors we keep meeting. It makes it a great community feeling when you can approach all of your neighbors and randomly get engrossed in conversation (and in some instances unexpectedly get treated to ice cream). It’s nights such as tonight that once again make us realize how much we love the Westview community!

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What Slackers

Wow, what slackers. I know we said that in the last post, but I think we can say it again. Last time my parents had been in town so we didn’t get too much accomplished. This time we were on vacation, followed by being so busy with work that we found ourselves slaving away until 11pm every night to catch up, followed by Patrick coming down with an unpleasant fever. Now we finally feel like we’re starting to catch up with life…work is getting back to normal, Patrick is feeling fine, and we’re starting to get our yard under control again (you know how those weeds grow when you’re gone for a little while!).

So even though we’ve been doing a little house work here and a little yard work there I’ll post about that later. In the meanwhile I’ll share some more non-house related things, like happenings in the neighborhood.

As spring/summer was coming, the trees were filling in with leaves, and the birds were busy making nests. While checking the mail one morning I was upset to see one bird’s hard work hadn’t paid off. The nest had fallen on our path and the blue eggs were lying smashed next to it. :(

Bird nest

Bird nest

In the meanwhile at a neighborhood association meeting someone asked “What’s going on with all the dead chickens in the road?” – Patrick and I, like much of the remainder of the room, burst out in a puzzled laughter. What on earth were they talking about?? Someone else chimed in and said they’d seen them at various intersections as well.

A couple of days later we drove down one of the nearby streets and saw something laying in the middle of the road. What do you know, it was a dead chicken!! Of course there has been much speculation as to the reasoning of this, the main one being that it’s some sort of voodoo related thing. I believe someone mentioned that it may be a type of initiation ceremony, or someone doing a protective “spell” on the neighborhood or something. If anyone knows about these types of things, please let us know what else it may mean!

Voodoo Chicken

Voodoo Chicken

Otherwise we’ve been very busy with neighborhood related work. One of the recent projects was a neighborhood BBQ…an “excuse” for neighbors to come out, meet new neighbors, chat with acquainted neighbors, and an opportunity to get to know their local police officers and firefighters. The firefighters brought out the truck for kids to play with, the police brought out barricades to block off the street, and generous neighbors donated food, money, and time to make the BBQ happen.

2008 Ontario Park BBQ

Patrick and neighbor Leslie enjoying some food in the shade during the Ontario Park BBQ.

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We’ve been busy, busy, busy!

We have really been slacking on the blog lately, but Steffi’s parents were in town visiting so we have a good excuse! Of course we did continue working on the house (and the neighborhood) while they were here. We have made some great progress in the garden. We enlarged our vegetable garden, came up with a garden plan, laid out a path, created some new flower beds, weeded the old flower beds, and started a compost pile.

Westview bungalow garden plan

Garden Plan

It took us a while to come up with the plan, but it really helps to have a clear vision of the garden.

We also finally put up the Westview street toppers yesterday. We have been working on these since October (Steffi was the lead on the project), so it was very rewarding to finally see it all coming together. We had a small unveiling ceremony at Ontario Park, and then neighbors drove around with ladders installing them. The street toppers are very important for Westview since people often think we are part of West End.

Westview street topper

Westview street toppers

Months of hard work finally paid off!

Lastly, a couple weeks ago (when Steffi’s parents were visiting) we went to the Inman Park tour of homes. Inman Park is a beautiful old neighborhood on the east side of town, and it holds a lot of historical significance to Atlanta. Their tour of homes is always one of our favorites.

As we walked up to house number six on the tour Steffi’s dad headed inside while we remained outside reading about the house in the handout they provide you. Her dad promptly returned with a huge grin and informed Steffi’s mother she was in for a big surprise! As it turned out Steffi’s younger sister had gone to school with the homeowner’s son. Surprise, surprise! They had recently built a traditional Austrian Weinkeller (wine cellar) in the basement using old bricks, so the conversation turned to where they acquired the bricks.

I’ll pause the story here to explain why old bricks are significant. We have been looking for old weathered bricks since we bought the house. We want to tear up the front walkway, which is currently broken concrete, and replace it with brick. We specifically wanted old bricks to match the old house. New bricks just don’t have the same character. Unfortunately we haven’t had much luck. It seems that when a building is torn down these days a lot of the time the bricks are sold, recaptured, and then re-sold. Additionally, we don’t have many connections to the demolition industry in Atlanta, so we had no clue how to go about trying to ask for bricks that are headed landfill. This has been a very frustrating situation for us.

Okay, so back to the story… Sandi told us she would have to check with her husband, but they had a pile of old bricks left over in the backyard from the construction of the wine cellar. Could it be true?! Had we finally found the elusive bricks we were looking for? We got her email and phone number and left with our fingers crossed.

We waited for the weekend to be over since we knew they would be occupied with hundreds of people touring their home! Steffi sent a couple emails back and forth with Sandi, and finally the email we had been waiting for came through. She told us to come and get them!!!

This morning our neighbor Carl from West End rang our doorbell bright and early (10:30am) and offered to help us with his truck. We made a trip over there and filled up the truck and the trunk of our car. Then we headed back to the house to drop them off. We probably were able to move at 1/3 of the bricks on this first trip. (THANKS FOR THE HELP CARL!) Steffi and I then returned four more times by ourselves and were able to move the remaining bricks in our car. In the end when we stacked them up they look like a palette of bricks. Lucky for us it seems as if it is going to be exactly the number of bricks we need for the front path. Hooray!

So we have to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU TO SANDI AND KEVIN for giving us the bricks!! It means more to us than we can really express in words. They also put a lot of hard work into removing the mortar from the bricks, and we know that is no easy task. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

We had a lowrider with all those bricks in the trunk.

Trunk full of bricks

Trunk full of bricks

Pile of bricks

A big old “Pile-o-Bricks”

Steffi with bricks

A girl and her bricks have never been so happy!

Old Bricks

Check out the beautiful old bricks!

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