Community Benefits Agreements in Cleveland

Arthur Hargate
5 min readFeb 2, 2023
Photo by J.E. Hargate

Cleveland City Council will introduce legislation this year to ensure developers provide community benefits for residents. City Council is asking for public input via this survey:

Please take a minute to fill out the survey. Your voice needs to be heard. My comments follow.

What concerns do you have about new construction in your community?

New construction in our community raises many concerns based on development experiences we have had in Little Italy and the greater University Circle area:

-There has been an avalanche of high-end rental built here; driving up rents, home values and property taxes. Families that have lived here for generations find it difficult or impossible to afford their property tax, and the area has become unaffordable for families to move here.

-This community is overwhelmingly opposed to more upscale rental housing, subsidized lavishly by our tax money. We DO NOT need any more high-end rental. We need affordable housing here that people can buy.

-Our lived experience here demonstrates lax building contractor attention to OSHA safety regulations, nuisances of construction like noise and air pollution, maintaining a safe right of way for pedestrians and heavy equipment damages to existing infrastructure like sidewalks and roads. The City does a terrible job of oversight on construction contractors.

-Likewise, developer commitments made to secure approvals frequently are not followed up on. Promised landscaping and public amenities simply do not happen. Changes to construction happen without community notice and involvement. Promises to refurbish purchased properties are broken.

-Public pronouncements by developers and civic leaders to build more owner-occupied homes turn out to be meaningless. Neighborhood Master Plans and authoritative studies about what the community wants and needs in terms of housing are ignored.

-Certain CDC’s are inherently conflicted, represent the interests of developers and real estate investors over the interests of the neighborhoods and simply do not represent the consensus of opinions of residents. Block clubs and independent community organizations better reflect the feelings of residents.

-When development and construction happen, public involvement is meaningless. It is clear that the cabal of the city, power-broker attorneys, real estate investors, developers and landlords, most from outside the community, the state or even the country, and egged on by the complicit boosterism of the mainstream press here, care little about what residents want or need, preaching the cosmic lie of “trickle down” economic development that helps the rich get richer and never actually helps people in neighborhoods.

-There’s a reason why Cleveland remains one of the poorest big cities in the United States. It’s because of the economic development choices our civic “leaders” have made over the last 50 years. Poverty is a policy choice, and our leaders chose to let the poor here stay poor. New development and new construction just perpetuate income and wealth inequality unless it is targeted to community wealth-building.

-What public participation does happen is a joke, as the public is ignored, bullied, lied to and dismissed as anti-development, anti-Cleveland or NIMBYs simply because the people that live here want healthy neighborhoods supported by proper infrastructure. All the city wants is more density to fund income tax revenues and developer profits.

-New construction means additional density without supporting infrastructure, and that brings chaos. Supporting infrastructure means community policing, safe streets, adequate parking, good sidewalks and crosswalks, proper access by service and emergency vehicles, bike lanes, street lights, traffic enforcement, sufficient utilities, a robust tree canopy, green-space, parks and gardens and other amenities that make our neighborhoods safe and healthy.

-Much construction happens here because good properties get neglected and then demolished. It’s happening now on E. 115th between Cornell and Mayfield. Two dozen century homes have been neglected and now will be torn down. Why? So the philanthro-capitalist institutions in University Circle can build more revenue generating facilities? That’s one good reason why we are in an affordable housing crisis. New construction here almost always means it’s good for profits, not people.

-New construction is an insult because we don’t maintain what is here. Code enforcement is abysmal or just non-existent.

-New construction means more damage to the tree canopy that protects the city’s most vulnerable people from the dangerous effects of the climate crisis. Developers are not made to enhance and protect the tree canopy and provide ample green-space. Again, profits before people is the mantra of new construction.

-Too often new construction means more economic extraction from neighborhoods by private equity investors from far-away places, hidden behind phantom LLC’s. Rents are going through the roof, and every dollar spent on excessive rent that flows up and out of the neighborhood is a dollar not spent on local goods and services. That’s economic extraction by people that don’t live here. When we develop and construct new buildings, we should follow community wealth-building principles, keeping capital recycling in our neighborhoods, not helping fat cats from the fancy suburbs and out-of-town get that much fatter.

What could be done to lessen your concerns about new construction in your community?

-Vigorous code enforcement.

-Hold developers accountable for commitments they make to get permits.

-Vigorous city oversight of construction.

-Community benefits agreements enforceable by citizens. Residents must be a party to these agreements.

-Health impact and infrastructure assessments, including parking studies.

-More effective community based policing and traffic law enforcement.

-Complete transparency on real estate investor and building contractor donations to politicians and philanthro-capitalist institutions in Cleveland.

-Meaningful and timely public communication and public participation. Developers should be required to meet with the community (NOT the CDC) before design review and contemporaneously with any meetings with City Planning. Any developer meeting with City Planning should be publicized and open to the public.

What community improvements would you like to see generally? Examples could include (and are not limited to): playgrounds, parks, jobs, programming for young people, other neighborhood improvements)

-Reestablish and grow the tree canopy and provide more greenspace.

-Crosswalks where red lights can be engaged to get law-breakers to stop for pedestrians.

-Traffic enforcement, especially speeding on residential streets.

-Living wage jobs with benefits for those that live here, in all development and construction project phases and after the fact, attracting local business investment and promoting community wealth-building principles.

-Increase substantially allocations of development and construction work to minority owned business from the city.


-Increased funding for schools.

-More affordable housing.

-High compliance rates in lead-free rental homes.

-Broad-band access.

-Expanded and less expensive rapid transit.

-Investments in family-oriented and cross cultural events to promote understanding of community and culture.

What else would you like us to know?

-Community Benefits Agreements legislation should codify detailed and mandatory public participation requirements for new development and construction.

-Citizens need an Ombudsperson inside City Hall to represent them in the development and construction process, including making funds available to support citizen legal actions when necessary.



Arthur Hargate

Arthur Hargate is retired after a 40-year management career in the environmental services business. He now writes, plays guitar and is a social activist.