Some of these reforms worked. Others didn’t. But one thing the Master Plan did require was a formal amendment process. Guess what time it is? You got it. Amendment time.
City Planning has already scheduled their public hearings for January 24 and 31. You can see what amendments will be on which agenda on their website (http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/).
Wait. You didn’t know? It feels like nobody does. The most surprising thing to me is how few people even realize this process is going on right now and how important it is to your quality of life and cost of living. This is by design. At this point in the process, many of the amendments aren’t very clear about what they would do or how they would impact the lives of New Orleanians. Make no mistake, though, when folks start getting into the nitty gritty in the Spring and Summer, and these changes are closer to becoming law, you’re (hopefully) going to hear a lot more about them. I’m just trying to get ahead of the curve.
When I moved to New Orleans over a decade ago, there was a robust group of engaged citizens bird-dogging city planning and land use decisions. The front pages of now-defunct daily newspapers relayed proposals from this committee or that commission, talk radio shows were dedicated to what the future New Orleans would look like, neighborhood groups held meetings of citizens who were going door to door to tell neighbors what was going on, and bloggers would spend hours of free time pouring over public documents and connecting the dots between the deep pockets and city officials in a way that put many decisions in context.
Several of those profiles weren’t flattering. At one point, a former mayor told a press conference that the bloggers were undermining the recovery of the city. That mayor ended up in jail while bloggers and journalists won awards for reporting. Good times.
What I’m doing here is far more boring than that. It won’t win any awards and it hopefully doesn’t end with anyone going to jail. But the city of New Orleans is in the process of amending its own laws in ways that will affect my life and the lives of those in my community. Participatory democracy requires participation to function, and if you don’t participate, decisions will be made without your input. Complaining about it later won’t do too much good.
There’s also a lot of ground to cover, so I’m breaking it down into something less than a lecture. These are my opinions alone, based on research done by my friends and I, with links to public documents. This isn’t any official statement from any organization of which I am a part. I’ll do my best to describe what these amendments mean to me and what I think about them.
If you agree with me or even if you don’t, I encourage you to communicate directly with your city decision makers. The City Planning Commission wants to hear from you. Your City Councilmembers may not want to hear from you, but they’re the final decision makers. And if you want your neighborhood organization involved, you’ll need to tell them what you think about this stuff. No one can read your mind, and complaining on the internet can only do so much. You can bet the folks who want to change the laws are down at City Hall right now, talking directly to our civic decision makers. If you don’t like what they’re proposing, you’ve got to at least send an email or make a phone call.
I’m going to start with the easy stuff. These are the Master Plan Amendments for Mid-City, the neighborhood where I live. They also aren’t the whole list of Master Plan Amendments for Mid-City, just the ones I find the least controversial. After that 600 word introduction, I figure I’ll lead with some softballs.
The Smaller Changes
Each of these items are amendments proposed to something called the Future Land Use Map of the Master Plan. This Future Land Use Map is supposed to help guide city planners, appointed officials, and elected city council members as they make decisions about the scale of buildings (how big they are), the intensity of land use (how much activity they involve), and the density of land use (how many people can live in an area). These are items on the agenda for the January 24th meeting of the CPC. A list of all Future Land Use Map changes can be found here: http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1216_FLUM_Tables_Final.pdf
- Request Number PD-4-12: Councilmember LaToya Cantrell request to change the land use map for 2739 Palmyra Street from Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) to Residential Medium Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre). This request brings the Master Plan Land Use Map into alignment with a previously approved up-zone at this location that allows a higher density – more residential units – in the space.
Context: the existing up-zone was inconsistent with the Master Plan, but approved in support the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (http://jpnsi.org/), New Orleans first public land trust. This project is an attempt to create permanently affordable housing in New Orleans, and is based on a model that has been successful in other cities. From a zoning and land use standpoint, there ought to be a better way for our laws to allow neighborhood scale multi-family residential developments like this one without unlocking the potential problems and legal allowances that come with designating it “medium density,” but for now no real middle ground exists. Zoning inconsistently with the Master Plan followed a few years later by lot-specific Master Plan amendments is probably not the best way to do this, but absent a better solution for this spot, here we go.
- Request Number PD-4-31: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for multiple addresses at the intersection of N. Carrollton Ave and Dumaine Street. The lots in this area currently mapped as Neighborhood Commercial (NC) will be re-mapped Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL). As I understand it, this is part of a city-wide proposal to use the NC designation in more suburban neighborhoods and the MUL designation in the more urban neighborhoods. Despite the name change, the differences are relatively minor ones, as all these lots are already mostly “neighborhood commercial” and “mixed use low density.” If the shoe fits. (This is a similar type of change to PD-5-5 below, and changes like this will be found all over the city.)
- Request Number PD-4-40: The City Planning Commission staff request to change the land use map for 501 S. Bernadotte Street from Open Space/Parkland (OS) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). This is the triangle of property on the outfield side of St. Patrick Park, between the neighborhood and the railroad tracks and I-10. Remapping this space would allow the private property owner to do something with this property that could include residential or commercial uses depending on what zoning it applies for.
- Request Number PD-4-52: The City Planning Commission staff request to change the land use map for 2901 Canal Street. from Transportation (TRAN) to Industrial (IND). This is the RTA HQ Streetcar/Bus Barn. This is a nominative correction to the map that should have little impact. I doubt the City of New Orleans is going to abandon this important public facility and sell it off to some factory. But the noise and activity involved with the streetcar and bus barn justify the “Industrial” designation from a land use intensity perspective.
- Request Number PD-5-3: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for 5290 Canal Blvd from Cemetery to Residential Single Family Post-War (RSF-Post). Some of the land owned by the church probably got mapped into the cemetery, and this corrects that so the church can do something on their property. Yeah, it is outside Mid-City. This is across City Park Ave in Navarre, but you always want to look at proposed changes nearby.
- Request Number PD-5-5: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for multiple addresses between City Park Ave, N. Hennessy St, St. Ann St., and N. Murat Street. The lots in this area currently mapped as Neighborhood Commercial (NC) will be re-mapped Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL). As I understand it, this is part of a city-wide proposal to use the NC designation in more suburban neighborhoods and the MUL designation in the more urban neighborhoods. Despite the name change, the differences are relatively minor ones, as all these lots are already mostly “neighborhood commercial” and “mixed use low density.” If the shoe fits. (This is a similar type of change to PD-4-31 above, and changes like this will be found all over the city.)
- Request Number PD-5-6: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for 615 City Park Ave & 5501 General Diaz. This is Delgado Community College, and the change would remap from Open Space/Parkland (OS) to Institutional. Institutional is the designation usually associated with uses like colleges and hospitals. This is also outside Mid-City, on the other side of City Park Ave in Navarre, but you always want to look at proposed changes nearby.
- Request Number PD-5-8: An owner-initiated request to change the land use map for 5068 Pontchartrain Blvd. from Residential Single Family Post-War (RSF-Post) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). This is on the other side of the Interstate from Mid-City, so I don’t really have an opinion. Just looking at proposed changes nearby.
Now, let’s be clear. Everything I just wrote is my opinion and my opinion only. If you see something on here you don’t like, or something that you do, don’t complain to me. I’m only some guy writing stuff on the internet. Ain’t nothing I can do for you I ain’t already done.
If you want to fuss at someone who CAN do something, contact a city decision-maker. For stuff like this, that’s the City Planning Commission and your City Council members. You don’t have to be some sort of expert. This is America, all you have to have to talk to your government decision makers is an opinion. We live in a participatory democracy, so feel free to participate!
(Just make sure that when you do, identify your opinion appropriately according to the correct Request Number.) To tell the CPC what you think, email CPCINFO@NOLA.GOV. They’ll put your thoughts in the public record for any proposal. Full contact info here for letters & phone calls: http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/contact-us/.
If you want to take it a step further, tell your City Council members: http://nolacitycouncil.com/meet/meet.asp?id=45. Remember that no matter where you live in New Orleans, you have 3 representatives on the Council, your district reps and the two at-large members.
And don’t forget to share your thoughts with your neighborhood organization. Neighborhood organizations don’t have any power and can’t do much, but they do host meetings and communicate with the city on a regular basis. Letting them know how you feel can go a long way to amplify your voice. If you’re in Mid-City, you can reach Mid-City Neighborhood Organization at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I didn’t make any of this up, y’all. You can find all the information online at the CPC website. And if you’re not in Mid-City, don’t worry, there are plenty of Master Plan amendments for your neighborhood, too. You should talk to your neighbors about them.
New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments webpage:
New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments (itemized):
You can also view where the proposed Master Plan changes are on a map of your neighborhood. Go to the above link, scroll to the bottom, and click on your neighborhood map. Mid-City is in Planning District 4 with Treme: