More than four dozen people signed up to speak against a 37-room boutique hotel proposed in Bywater at Tuesday's city planning meeting.
The outsized crowd triggered an impassioned discussion about the toll from the neighborhood's rising number of short-term rentals, which residents blame for rising costs and declining affordable housing.
In the end, the City Planning Commission deferred making a recommendation on the project, a delay that came at the request of the developers. They hope to clear up lingering issues, including questions about parking, and plan to continue meeting with neighbors.
In another matter, the Planning Commission could not reach a majority decision on a proposed 354-unit mixed-use development slated to be built on roughly 3 acres adjacent to the Mississippi River levee in Algiers Point.
That means the City Council, which has final say on projects regardless of the commission's decisions, will decide the project's fate on its own.
Despite delaying a verdict on the proposed Sun Yard hotel in Bywater, the meeting provided neighbors a chance to voice their opposition to the project. Most speakers echoed a sentiment that the once working-class neighborhood is being transformed into a hotspot for tourists.
"We cannot continuously cannibalize ourselves," said Eve Abrams, who lives nearby on Montegut Street. "The health of New Orleans' culture is not bottomless."
The site — known as the Truck Farm — previously hosted the popular Chazfest alternative festival for local musicians. Last year, two first-time hotel developers, Liz Solms and her husband, Giuliano Pignataro, purchased the property and have proposed spending $10 million building the hotel, including a restaurant plus an outdoor bar and pool with event space.
The site, at St. Claude Avenue and Montegut Street, includes four 19th-century, two-family homes and a 1960s ranch-style building last used as an office, as well as significant backyard space. The project requires a conditional-use permit from the city.
In a report, the planning commission's staff acknowledged that the proposed uses represent "a definite increase in the overall intensity." However, the staff found that noise-related issues could be remedied, and recommended that the commission approve the project. The staff said it would "invigorate commercial activity along St. Claude Avenue while being compatible with neighboring residential properties."
The commission is scheduled to pick back up on it March 13.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen people spoke either for or against the proposed Algiers Point apartment project, which was proposed by a company called River Street Ventures LLC. Plans call for building four, eight-story buildings, including apartments, as well as a pool, patio and seating areas.
However, the planning commission's 4-2 vote means that the proposal moves on to the City Council without a recommendation, which would require an OK from five members on the nine-member board. The commission's staff recommended approving the project.
Backers included members of the developer's team as well as a handful of Algiers residents.
Nearby neighbors seemed to turn out in louder, if not larger, numbers, with many standing in the back holding signs against the project. Local neighborhood groups, including the Algiers Riverview Association and the Algiers Point Association, are also against it.
The proposal includes ground-floor commercial space for three tenants, ranging from nearly 3,000 square feet to more than 17,000 square feet. Residential units would be on the upper levels, and the buildings would include central parking garages to serve residents and shoppers.
The site, which is undeveloped, is bounded by Brooklyn Avenue, Socrates and De Armas streets, and the Mississippi River Protection Levee and River Street.
River Street Ventures lists Philip Spiegelman as a managing member.
Thirty-five of the 354 units were proposed as affordable housing for those who earn no more than 80 percent of median income.
The commission initially delayed a vote on the proposal in November to give the developer more time to meet with neighbors, collect feedback and make adjustments. Now, the final decision is up to the City Council. The site is in Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey's district.