Third draft.


Ten Basic Laws of Un­-Stuffing your City (Neighborhood)


  1. Stuff breeds – the more you have, the more you seem to need. Many Cityscapes are out of control with more and more disorganized-development (with undeveloped infrastructure), too many Signs (far outstripping acceptable size), Pole Signs (taller than trees and its owner’s building), Signage that is too large (with more square footage than the front of the owner’s building), and Signage that is on and above the roof line in or near residential neighborhoods causing visual pollution. If a sign can be seen from a residential house’s property it is unacceptable. Go to for Signage Code missing from our (Shreveport) community. Grandfathering signage to allow existing sign clutter is not acceptable. These unacceptable signage permit situations are akin to piling your mail on your tables, drain board, and floor, then never throwing it away. Eventually you will be wallowing in it and your home will become cluttered and unsightly, bordering on un-usability. Throw those old signs away, restrict new Signage square footage, eliminate Pole Signs, restrict the number and size of signs per occupancy, open the visual space for uncluttered views, and never allow signs on or above the roof line. In fact all signs should be on the ground. Never allow off-site advertising. Our State does not allow its cities control of Signage along State Highways. We are forced to endure unsightly forests of giant Billboards in our neighborhoods. Write and Phone your State Legislators to pass laws turning over Signage along State Highways to the resident city. People get used to too much traffic in neighborhoods. You have heard of the story of the frog that will boil to death if placed in a pot of cold water with flame under it. The water temperature rises slowly and the frog dies because the temperature rises slowly. Traffic irritations are like this. Our neighborhoods experience ever increasing traffic. It increases over the years and we do not notice except for the irritations. Older neighborhoods were designed and installed more than 50 or more years ago. The planner then had no concept of what we, in the present, are experiencing. There are 100 times more vehicles today than then, the average vehicle speeds are much higher, illegally high. Speeders are the most frequent complaint to Police. Police Enforcement is not a solution and is very expensive. Our city spends far more money on Police Enforcement for these crimes of safety than the cost of the well-established permanent solution; Traffic Calming which will make the problem permanently go away. Residential streets are to service the residents of that neighborhood, not a bypass for cross-town traffic to avoid busy intersections. Implementing Traffic Calming measures ( will permanently restrict traffic to that of the residents achieving control of the neighborhood by those who live there. Shreveport, The State of Louisiana, and all surrounding States of the Ark-La-Tex lack a Traffic Calming Bureau. This puts Shreveport and Louisiana in another unique statistic in the USA, being completely without a solution to our most reported crime. Get together with your neighbors to petition your elected officials to form a Traffic Calming Bureau. Petition them for earmarked funds to finance these much needed infrastructure improvements. Traffic Calming is a permanent solution not involving Police action or Code Enforcement.
  2. Useless stuff crowds out the good stuff. We get used to too much congestion. Over the course or many years we allow more and more traffic, offensive and unwanted Commercial encroachment, and copious litter to spoil our cityscape. Start with your neighborhood. Make sure every concern, especially commercial concerns, are up to Code and do not spread litter and illegal signs. Meet with your Councilperson. Stress the concern over these issues and request to be informed if there are any requests by nearby properties for a variance or zoning change.
  3. Filth loves stuff. Bugs love stuff. Rodents love stuff. Moisture loves stuff. Prevent empty lots and open areas from growing foliage out of control, but do not destroy old growth habitat. Old growth bayous and wooded areas should be preserved. Health and Safety problems come about from old cleared and graded open areas which have been cleared of its old growth for development. When that property is allowed to grow tall grass, vector pests proliferate out of control. Many communities encroach on pristine habitat attracting the resident wildlife into neighborhoods. This is very different from the owner of a vacant lot next door to you growing grass that allows rodents, snakes, and roaches to invade your home. If you can not completely cut the grass in the errant lot next door, at least cut it five feet or more from the edge of your property. Obtain (perhaps free) rodent bait from Animal Control and place the bags in open rain-resistant containers to reduce rodent pests. Place several fresh bags per month between you and the offending property. If there is an abandoned house nearby, pursue the owner with letters of commitment informing him or her that you have filed a complaint with Code Enforcement and that ignoring his or her responsibility to maintaining the property will result in fines, Civil Action, and demolishing and removing the derelict buildings.
  4. Stuff loves to stay where it lands. Many older neighborhoods pile up with abandoned neglected buildings and possessions (automobiles), never getting cleared away. Dilapidated buildings and old signage degrades and devalues nearby property values and raises your insurance rates. Check with Code Enforcement and Zoning, get them to inspect these properties for compliance. Request a hard copy report from these agencies on the inspections. If a report is not forthcoming, request your Councilperson to investigate the delay. Mail copies of these reports to the owner with a letter promising Civil Action over non compliance. Most, if not all, Code Enforcement Agencies and Zoning Boards are under funded and over worked, forcing them to make enforcement priority decisions. If you live in a low income neighborhood, you can assume your neighborhood is not on that priority list. Make sure you and your neighbors voice their concerns to your elected officials if you are not getting results from these agencies. Many times, but not always, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Unless you and your neighbors actively pursue complaints, budgets earmarked for Code Enforcement and Zoning compliance will be spent elsewhere by default.
  5. Stuff expands to fit the space available. Again, many areas with old dilapidated structures, abandoned vehicles, and litter go unattended. Many were overdeveloped in past Administrations and are now unacceptable. Study the variances that may have been allowed for these properties and make sure they are in compliance. If the properties are over-developed, make sure your Letter of Complaint is included in the property’s Zoning file so any future development or request for variance will be scrutinized. Do not stop there, be sure to check back in the future to see if that letter is actually in the Zoning file. Request that you are sent a letter informing you if there is a request from the owner of any changes in permits, new permits, zoning changes, or requests for variances.
  6. Over time, stuff becomes invisible. Do not get used to “The way things are.” Complacency is the breed stock of trouble. Take pictures and video of your neighborhood. Get together with your neighbors and have a viewing party where everyone studies the pictures and video together with you. If there is something offensive, go about doing something about it. Get Code Enforcement and Zoning to inspect the offending property for compliancy; do not forget the follow-up report from these City agencies.
  7. Stuff costs you money more than once. Uncontrolled or errant development, giant Billboards, too much traffic, noisy traffic, and noisy or smelly Industries, devalue your property and negatively impact your health and state of mind. Make sure you pay attention to development and renovations in your neighborhood. Check with Zoning for new permits to build nearby. Attend City Council meetings with your neighbors to protest a development which may negatively impact you and the value of your property.
  8. Stuff has a powerful effect on your state of mind. Traffic is like an unwanted visitor that will not leave or when gone returns again. Booming stereos, loud and smelly exhaust, hundreds of trips per day, speeding and reckless operation, all have a negative impact on your health and safety. Learn about “Traffic Calming” and get your neighbors to participate in petitioning your City Council to implement Traffic Calming in your neighborhood. Traffic Calming is a solution. The Police can not solve your traffic problems. Law Enforcement is expensive and fleeting.
  9. Stuff takes on value only when it is used. If after a 90 days, Code Enforcement and Zoning has not produced results or what you results you expect, file a small claims suite together with your neighbors against the property owner. Another very effective option is to file a Peace Bond ($15.00) with the Clerk of Court to get the owner or resident in Court. Go online or phone with the Tax Assessor’s Office to determine the owner’s identity. Produce for the Court Photographs and Video to make your point to the Judge. Even if you do not receive the protection or results you expect, each neighbor can file a similar Peace Bond, requiring the Owner or Resident to appear again and again in Court. Numerous Summonses to Court will send a strong message. This is your right; you can drag the offender through Court over and over until the situation is resolved. You and your neighbors have the right to phone your elected officials to voice your disappointment. Just the summons served to the errant owner from the Clerk of Courts may convince them to do what they should. When a property goes unused and falls into disrepair, it devalues your nearby property, raises your insurance rates, promotes crime, and may attract arson and drug dealers.


Ten Steps to Un-Stuffing Your City (Neighborhood)


  1. If you don’t use it, lose it. Pursue demolition of dilapidated properties. This city is overwhelmed with these dilapidated properties. Unless you aggressively pursue the demolition of these dangerous buildings little or nothing will be done, at least in the near future. Sometimes you and your neighbors can each contribute to hiring a Lawyer to force the City to demolish an abandoned building. A little money spent to protect your health and safety is a good investment. You and your neighbors may have to make monetary sacrifices to clean up your neighborhood. Make sure the signage on unused Commercial property are removed by filing reports with Zoning the day a Business moves out of a Commercial site. If a Commercial property is vacant for 90 days, all signs must be removed. Empty buildings littered with old signs devalue your neighborhood. If the signs are not removed and a new commercial resident moves into the property, they can Grandfather the old offensive signs and then it is too late. Be aggressive in getting old empty commercial properties in your neighborhood to get cleaned up and stripped of its old signs. Commercial properties are required to maintain the appearance of their Signage. Do not allow dilapidated signs to fall into disrepair. Do not allow commercial properties to litter your neighborhood with banners, A-Frame signs, stick-ons, hand spray painted signs, and street-side rollup trailer banners. All these are illegal. Every signs must have a permit with a posted serial number issued by the City. The applicant must appear before the City for that application, especially if there are any concerns from nearby residents. If there is an offensive Commercial concern near your home be sure to require Zoning and Development to inform you of any new permit requests. Code Enforcement and Zoning will not do anything about signs unless there are complaints filed. Many temporary signs, especially those stuck into the ground between the property right-of-way and street, or those attached to utility poles you may legally remove yourself. Commercial signs placed on public property belong to the public. Public Property begins 5 feet from the street or sidewalk. Signs can not be posted in these spaces. Collect these signs and take them to the Zoning Office. Many businesses go way too far with their illegal signs. Fines for illegal signs are $300.00 each. Your neighborhood is not a Parade Ground or Circus Arena. Many businesses look like they are populated with Parade floats and are hosting a Circus. Flag rope streamers, rooftop signs, balloons, and banners covering buildings are illegal. If the sign has been hand scrawled or spray-canned it is illegal.
  2. Put it away. Many older neighborhoods are littered with abandoned vehicles and non-compliant outbuildings. Vehicles must be movable and in a driveway and cannot be stored in the yard. You and your neighbors phone Code Enforcement every week and demand the reason why these vehicles are not removed. If that does not work, you and your neighbors frequently phone your City Council Representative and the Mayor’s Office until the vehicles are removed. Sometimes abandoned vehicles are legal, if they are covered or in a carport.
  3. Give it away (before you die, or it kills you). Sometimes properties are abandoned and the owner dies, is disabled, is absent, or the property is waiting for probate. Keep track of this by frequently inspecting its Tax Assessor records to learn who has ownership of the property and that its taxes are paid by the owner. You do not want an absentee Real Estate company to claim the property in a Sherriff’s Tax Sale and allow vicious drug dealers to rent the property. You can pay overdue taxes immediately at the Tax Assessor’s office. The owner must repay you plus a reasonable holding fee to reclaim his or her property. Pay the taxes yourself to keep the property under control. If you pay the taxes 3 years in a row, the owner must go to court to get his or her property returned and pay you an additional reasonable holding fee. If after 5 years, you pay the taxes, the property belongs to you.
  4. Take just 15 minutes to get started. Spend a few minutes every week to inspect your neighborhood. Take notes, take pictures, take videos, relay your concerns to your City Council Representative. Do this frequently. Count on the lack of contact with your Elected Representatives license for them to do things you will not appreciate. Poor living conditions are the result of poor planning and enforcement. Be sure to take part in planning your neighborhood and do not leave important decisions up to someone you do not even know. Take Video of suspected crime and be sure to get license numbers and address numbers in the Video. Make copies and give it to your Supervising Police Leader for your district. Phone Crime Stoppers and tell them what you recorded.
  5. Group like things together. Many older neighborhoods are poorly planned. The evils of past-poor-planning and lack of forethought are visited on us in the present and future. Grandfathered property variances may be unacceptable. You and your neighbors tell your City Council Representative how these unsavory conditions can not be tolerated and you demand action on changing the situation. Follow up with further inquiry into the cause of the undesirable condition. Many times the situation is because there is no money available to mitigate the problem. There may be a Mom and Pop Liquor/Variety Store near your Church, School, Library, or home. There may be too many of these undesirable Alcohol-oriented Neighborhood Markets in your neighborhood. These establishments promote antisocial activities and crime. Inspect these properties, especially on Friday and Saturday Nights to determine if minor children are loitering on the property or that groups of adults are gathered on or nearby the property consuming alcohol. The property owner is responsible for maintaining the property. If these illegal activities are consistently occurring where alcohol is being consumed in public, especially in close proximity to children and your home, you and your neighbors should file complaints with the appropriate State Alcohol Beverage agency. You and your neighbors phone the Police and file reports every time you witness illegal activities around these Stores. People are not allowed to stand around outside these Stores. Take pictures or video of illegal activity and give copies to the Police and your City Council Representative. Inspect these properties for illegal signage. Most if not all of these small stores that sell alcohol and tobacco litter their properties with illegal signage. Take pictures of this and give copies to Code Enforcement and Zoning with a complaint report.
  6. Consolidate and compress. Less is more. Open space is more desirable than congestion. Request your City Council to compress over-development into islands of isolated manageable sites. Require these over-congested developments be surrounded by sound-blocking fences. Make sure new developments are surrounded by friendly open space. Do not allow development to closely border old developments. Require property owners of adjacent Commercial Properties to maintain their fences, if they do not, take them to court. Make sure developers install infrastructure to mitigate traffic, noise, and utilities before they are allowed to grade and build.
  7. Alphabetize. Organize your neighborhood’s problems in a check list or outline with time stamped events that impact degrading and improving circumstances. Share this list with your neighbors. Form a Neighborhood Watch Committee. Seek assistance from your City Staff (Neighborhood Action Team) to help organize this activity.
  8. Label it. Take pictures and video and label or name them with the pertinent data, time and place, like property addresses, Owner’s Names, and Code violation designations. The City’s Codes are online  Be sure to include the list or outline with any copies of video and pictures to officials for reports and complaints you file.
  9. Go for Quality, not quantity. One working vehicle is more desirable than a hundred abandoned vehicles. Check your neighborhood for Code Violations. If your neighbor has more vehicles than residents plus the number of bedrooms in the house, they are collecting vehicles. A 2 bedroom house with three residents should not have any more than 5 vehicles. Check to see if these vehicles are registered. If there are more than these numbers, there are probably occupancy violations occurring or the occupants are illegally storing vehicles. Vehicles can not be used to store flammable materials like lumber or building materials. A vehicle can not be parked over a water meter. If your neighbor has trash littering their yard, a friendly letter with pictures may get them to clean up their yard without a complaint to Code Enforcement. But do not let them off the hook. Use Code Enforcement to get the job done if the friendly letter is not successful after a reasonable time span. Yards are not places to store refuse or lumber. Building materials must be under a roof or inside a legal structure, not under a tarp. Piles of refuse are illegal, unhealthy, and unsafe. Tall grass harbors unwanted insects and rodents.
  10. Think multipurpose, not single purpose. It does no good to pursue one thing at a time. If there are multiple problems, file the necessary reports or complaints for all of them at once and often. Do not let too much time go by without observable results. Even though the ultimate power of Code Enforcement is through the Courts which takes a long time, do not let the reports or complaints go without a follow-up. If you are unhappy with the long time periods that the City takes to enforce Violations, request these time periods be reduced by lawful Code Changes.