I question the vision of our mayor and City Council for the future of New Orleans.
Scores of citizens participated in the lengthy master planning process. Now, as they prepare to vote the draft CZO into law, the mayor and City Council have introduced last-minute amendments that clearly favor developers and tourist-based businesses over the interests and needs of actual New Orleanians.
For example, the proposed “Riverfront Overlay” has been extended for the entire length of the river from Elysian Fields to Poland Avenue. Developers with properties along this overlay expect the city to grant them special permission to build to heights far exceeding the historic limitations in the Marigny, Bywater, Algiers and Holy Cross neighborhoods.
The council also proposes extended operating hours of corner bars and restaurants, allowing liquor and live entertainment with no input from residents of surrounding neighborhoods.
Every citizen should be looking with a critical eye at these actions.
Taken together, they paint a picture of a leadership with no vision for growing a diverse business sector and no regard for the needs of its residents, and one that instead wants only to capitalize on ever-increasing visitor counts and our status as America’s latest “it city” for the leisure class.
It’s a disturbing trend.
The City Council has said the CZO is a “living document,” subject to change even after it is ratified. But you can bet that the minute it’s passed, those favorable amendments will set the developers’ pile drivers hammering into our levees.
Quiet little corner bistros could morph into hoppin’ late-night joints practically overnight. Residents will have no recourse when business owners can say, “We’re zoned for it.” All of us should question why our elected officials are making these choices.
If we want diverse job opportunities (tech companies, a hospital corridor), if we want working New Orleanians to be able to stay in New Orleans, to be able to live somewhere we can afford to rent or buy and get a decent night’s sleep, our city leaders need to make these issues their priority. Residents want to be part of a neighborhood that is livable for working people.
Sometimes there is no “win-win” compromise. Sometimes the needs of residents and developers are irreconcilable. In those cases, I submit that our city leaders need to courageously make hard choices, choices that favor the residents of this city: the people who put our life savings into our homes, into raising our kids, being good to our neighbors and preserving the spirit of our historic neighborhoods, which are unlike anywhere else in the country.
We are the heart and soul of New Orleans. We deserve to be heard — and served — by our elected officials.