The billboard is a last resort for raising awareness and getting results: changes are necessary to the CZO before it has the force of law. “After years of participating in city-wide planning meetings several neighborhood organizations, and concerned citizens, are frustrated that the draft CZO still does not reflect language and changes necessary for protecting residential quality of life, property values, and basic rights of citizens,” said Mark Gonzalez, a Bywater resident and member of the Riverfront Alliance. The draft CZO, a complex, 600-plus page document written by and for city planners, was fast-tracked for City Council approval last fall. During this process, representatives from several neighborhood organizations spent countless hours participating at the CZO public hearings, meeting with City Council members, and writing letters and emails requesting changes, to no avail. “We are about neighbors, and first and foremost, we want citizen involvement in decisions that affect us,” continued Gonzalez.
Mutual concerns and the frustration that public outcry was ignored led an unprecedented six neighborhood organizations, representing thousands of constituents stretching from Holy Cross to the French Quarter and across the river to Algiers, to unite their neighborhood advocacy efforts. The Riverfront Alliance is a coalition formed to support citizen input and neighborhood protection against over zealous development. After final CZO public hearings and additional meetings with almost every City Council member the Riverfront Alliance continues seeking changes necessary to protect fragile neighborhoods throughout the city. The creation of the billboard brings these concerns to the public at large and directly calls upon the City Council to take definitive action to support citizens and neighborhoods. The primary concerns of the Riverfront Alliance are that the CZO removes citizen input from important land use policy decisions, promotes over development of the riverfront in historic districts for the benefit of a handful of developers, and enables gross exploitation of quaint neighborhoods for the sake of increasing tourism revenue. There are a lot of things right and wrong with the CZO but the Riverfront Alliance identifies four specific items as top priorities:
Return Section 8.1 to protect the character of the French Quarter. Enshrined in the Louisiana Constitution in 1936, the Vieux Carré Commission has had the power to protect the tout ensemble of New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood. For the past six-plus decades, the city’s zoning ordinance has obligated the Vieux Carré Commission to ensure that new developments respect the unique interest and character and the French Quarter. The Supreme Court, in a 1941 decision, stated that “the preservation of the Vieux Carré as it was originally is a benefit to the inhabitants of New Orleans generally.” Inexplicably, and despite clear public input to the contrary, the draft CZO deletes this vital protection for the Vieux Carré.
Remove Section 18.13, the Riverfront Overlay, which could allow buildings up to 75 or 100 feet along the river, irrevocably altering our 19th Century cityscape. This is overwhelmingly opposed by the neighbors because it gives developers a “luxury bonus” that will price even more people out of our historic, Riverfront neighborhoods. The Overlay, as drafted, is a method for a small number of property owners to bypass the Neighborhood Participation Process (NPP), which provides community input for plans that could alter the cityscape forever.
Remove Article 5, which has the potential of undermining the entire CZO. Article 5 would allow developments as small as 10,000 square feet to be exempted from restrictions on such elements as use, density, parking, floor area ratio, signage, and more. Article 5 also removes neighborhood participation processes and zoning requirements and gives the City Planning Commission staff unbridled decision-making powers.
Remove language in Appendix A on expanded alcohol sales, expanded restaurant hours and live entertainment. The draft CZO proposes that all standard restaurants will be allowed to have alcohol by right rather than by condition use; allows for restaurants to remain open serving customers until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 2 a.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; and, allows for live entertainment in all restaurants, (except for the French Quarter, where it will be a conditional use AND an intensification of the current zoning). This opens the door for any restaurant to operate as a night club, without neighborhood input.
The Riverfront Alliance asks the question: who is New Orleans for? We think in New Orleans neighborhoods matter more than developer interests, and citizens and neighbors have a right to determine what happens in their neighborhoods. The City Council and all concerned citizens are invited to a public meeting, hosted by the Riverfront Alliance, to hear more about these core issues and engage in discussion that will assist in fixing the CZO. Again, the entire City Council is invited.
· Algiers Point Association,
· Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association,
· French Quarter Citizens, Inc.,
· Holy Cross Neighborhood Association,
· Neighbors First for Bywater,
· Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates
Info: www.riverfrontalliance.org and www.sizematters.info