That's right! A much-anticipated draft of the zoning master plan from Goody Clancy is available online.
This past November, I was pretty torn about giving any zoning master plan the rule of law given the nasty legacy of past planning efforts (see Back, Bring New Orleans).
But I reflected after the fact that the zoning master plan enshrined in law might be the only way to rebuild the sagging neighborhoods of places like New Orleans East, which has otherwise seen way too little institutional investment since Katrina.
So this is the area that I was most interested in upon the release of the plan.
Check out what's in store for New Orleans East on this pdf map.
The most remarkable decision was to zone for high density mixed use urban development around Read Blvd. This, to me, is precisely the kind of thing that the East needs. Without some sort of urban core, I don't see how the East attracts the kind of population it needs to continue to beat back the resistant footprint shrinkers who still advocate for the razing of that entire section of town. One example of what this kind of new urban development could look like is Atlantic Station in Atlanta. Given the rather nasty medium term outlook for the East, I think this kind of urban anchor would be a huge victory.
So I was disappointed but not surprised by the initial reaction of Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who "represents" the East. In a two paragraph response distributed via Vincent Sylvain's political consultancy email listserv, Willard-Lewis' primary message is a quite pathetic complaint that she was not given an advance copy of the draft before the public:
The Council President announced at the Recovery Committee on last Wednesday, that she wanted Council members briefed on the draft of the Master Plan developed by Goody-Clancy before there was public discussion. This was to take place before the draft was released to the community and press. Unfortunately I was never contacted by anyone regarding this briefing. Needless to say I was surprised to read in the local newspaper that the draft is on the website and the press had a copy before my office had access.
Of a greater concern to me were the recommendations in the draft regarding the development of eastern New Orleans. The consultants are recommending commercial and multifamily land uses. That is a major concern considering that eastern New Orleans already has high density multifamily projects which are not in proportion to the rest of the City. I understand this is a draft and I will be working with my constituents to address this disparity. This again points to the problem with citizens approving legislation, planning and zoning policies into law sight unseen.
Now let's not ignore this second paragraph, which is at least on-topic, though it may ultimately be deemed uninformed. It doesn't take much analytical skill to understand that Willard-Lewis' concern is that the East will become a dumping ground for the city's poor because she equates high density multifamily residential development with poor people. While this might demonstrate the Councilor's unsophisticated view of urbanity, it also underscores the class conflict inherent in a lot of the redevelopment debates that have occurred in the East.
Willard-Lewis should be looking to make sure that the rest of the city is building high density affordable housing as well and that it's not all just being concentrated in the East. This was a problem before the storm and it is certainly fair to be on the lookout for inherent biases in this regard. I have not yet gone into the specifics of the draft plan to see if that's true. But I doubt that Willard-Lewis had finished reading the entire draft plan herself when three days ago, she decided to stake out her oppositional posture.