Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Additional notes on SB 75, Mayor's race

In my latest Mayoral race roundup, a reader wrote in to suggest that I'd been too hasty to remove trumpeter Irvin Mayfield from the list of potential contenders. This is probably right. He should be on there. It's hard to gauge where he'd fall on that list. People love Irvin Mayfield but I kind of doubt people will love him in politics.

Also, I indicated that State Sen. Murray might be playing to developers because of his sponsorship of SB 75, which would put the master plan to another referendum after a charter change was passed by voters last year. A commenter indicated that this was likely as HRI Properties, Pres Kabacoff's development firm, had paid for the T-P add that urged support for the bill.

Now, proof:



Civitch said...

This whole bill is a tool of the developers, and is NOT about giving citizens the right to vote on the bill, despite Sen. Murray's laughable assertion thereto.

The citizens have *already* voted on this. A revote is a usurpation by the state of our rights, and a violation of the Home Rule Charter.

If you agree, send ole Ed a little note:

jeffrey said...

The citizens actually have NOT voted on the master plan as it (we assume) eventually will be written. Rather they have had their rights usurped by... whatever-the-fuck-the-planning-cabal comes up with.

I go back and forth between deciding if it is more sad or more hilarious that the Yuppie Left in this town somehow believes that this master plan will serve as some sort of protection from the evil hand of "developers". People who tell you this are either misguided or lying.

What it will do is codify some social norms that many of us don't necessarily agree with. (Fewer neighborhood bars for example) It also will likely further calcify the socio-economic make-up of most neighborhoods.... which, if you happen to be Stacy Head might sound fine to you.

E said...

I guess I'm kind of in the middle on it. I believe that a strong master plan can, in theory, help regulate piecemeal sprawl development and help guide sustainable urban growth. I have not been pleased with the practice of master plan processes, including this one. The whole idea of a master plan is to safeguard against unfair political interference in technical planning processes but I'm not feeling like the GC plan was permitted to be free of that inappropriate influence.

jeffrey said...

And I don't think it's possible to isolate a planning process from "inappropriate influence" At least not in the actual world it isn't.

E said...

Maybe not entirely, jeffrey. But there are some basic urban planning principles that are pretty damn fine tuned for a social science that I think ought to be applied to the kinds of big development proposals (Reinventing the Crescent, LSU/VA, the Sports Entertainment District, moving City Hall, etc.) on the docket that are specifically not addressed in the Goody Clancy plan. That's not the fault of Goody Clancy or the master plan concept, it's a result of efforts of politicians undermining the process in order to preserve their own poorly prioritized legacy projects.

Jeffrey said...

Other jeffrey: you are absolutely right that a Master Plan and comprehensive zoning ordinances are one of the best ways to institutionalize changes or norms in a community. There is nothing essential to a Master Plan and the zoning that makes it law, and you are correct that such a Master Plan and attendant zoning could very well serve some pretty onerous ends if it is used to institutionalize a vision of the city that is more segregated, more corporate, more developer-driven, with a smaller footprint, etc.

But there is also the chance that our Master Plan will actually do a great deal of good by institutionalizing really positive changes. Every other city of our stature, size, and age has a well-functioning Master Plan. Rather than having to fight tooth and nail for affordable housing, kiss the ring of the City Council or powerful developers, and attend every general and neighborhood meeting every single time some new development is proposed, we can make provisions for inclusionary zoning (guaranteeing affordable housing), provide density that supports a functioning transportation system in the city, protect neighborhoods from unwarranted demolitions or pressure from development, create a Community Benefits Agreement proviso for large developments; the list goes on and on. A Master Plan and good zoning also create a stable development environment so that we can actually get quality development in the city, rather than a race to the bottom (especially after a crisis). There is a really good chance that the Master Plan--as Goody-Clancy and the CPC are currently conducting it, not in an abstract sense--is going to be a great one. It's fundamentally optimistic, and the principals in charge of the process here are the antithesis of starchitects or developer-pawns; Mary Means created the Main Street program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the 70s, and David Dixon only works in challenged cities like Baltimore and West Philly.

It also is a profound misunderstanding to say that we haven't voted on the Master Plan. We did. You don't actually vote on the content of the Master Plan, you vote on the process. The law that was passed last fall created a Master Plan that is an organic, changeable document that must account for a long term vision of the future of the city, and which can be revised once a year, at most, and at least every five years. This specifically takes 'the evil hand of "developers"' (or powerful institutions like LSU) out of the equation. For example, we can fight to make sure that the hospitals and the vision for a 'biosciences district' don't destroy a wide swath of Mid-City, but that shouldn't undermine the entire Master Plan process. Even if the land use map gets adopted as it was initially presented (and it won't), we can make sure that the biosciences district gets revised within the year, without opening the door for a shitty developer somewhere else in the city--say, Victory REIT at the Lindy Boggs site. A Master Plan and its zoning make sure that we don't have to fight on all fronts at once; Karen Gadbois won't have to face the absurd challenges that she keeps having to face if we pass this Master Plan.

Dismissing people who are optimistic about what the Master Plan can accomplish as a part of the 'Yuppie Left' or calling Goody-Clancy a "whatever-the-fuck-the-planning-cabal" is just stupid and unfair.

Please explain to me why it is "sad" or "hilarious" to believe that this Master Plan will protect us from the craptacular developers (and land use decisionmaking) that we have in New Orleans?

Alan said...

Capital J Jeffery FTW.

Lower case jeffery --

I would really like to hear your response to the points raised by Capital J. While I have listened to a lot of discussions on the MP, I would very much like to hear this one continue.

Anonymous said...

The master plan gives away the authority that citizens have over planning. It just barely got passed because most voters did not know what it meant. Jeffrey is right--the amendment to the charter was intended to prevent voters from controlling the outcomes. Murray trumped this usurpration and rightfully so. Take a look at the latest incarnation of the plan--worked out by people like Poco Sloss of the BGR and a big Ron Forman supporter (who loved greenspace). It has the typical window dressing about helping Claiborne avenue, but it has one important concept that should be rejected outright and comes right out of the BNOBC. It calls for prioritizing building close to business developments--that means shifting city resources and building away from the residenital East or the Lower 9. It's the same argument that was used to justify only investing city funds in a narrow I-10 corridor in the East. The master plan is a backdoor greenspace plan. Why did they want a plan that was not subject to referendum? Because it's going to have policies that the majority wont like.

The only way to keep these elites from "demolition by neglect" is to require that the plan pass a referendum. Had that been the condition of the BNOBC, they would never have come up with the greenspace plan which has caused so much racial distrust.

Democracy is not the most efficient system--just the fairest.

Jeffrey said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure which jeffrey you were referring to, but I was saying nothing of the kind, and exactly the opposite of what you are implying: I think that the amendment to give the Master Plan the force of law is empowering citizens and neighborhoods to, as you put it, 'control outcomes.' The Master Plan prevents just the sort of abuses or usurpations that you think it enables.

Murray's legislation panders to fears about 'shrinking the footprint' in the city, and is a stunt to raise his profile before a run for Mayor.

Civitch is right that Murray's bill makes no sense, and is probably a violation of the HRC; the state cannot mandate a local vote that would contradict a process explicitly provided-for in our Charter.

Also, anonymous, the Master Plan is most certainly not being driven by the BGR and Ron Forman, and is not an insidious attempt to get more greenspace in the city. How can you say that the Master Plan is attempting to curtail the futures of the East or the Lower 9? Not only did the city just purchase the entire medical complex in NO East--which no private developer saw fit to do, to the tune of $40M--it also is promoting (through the Master Plan) a renewed vision of a city-center lifestyle development at the Plaza site. The Lower 9 is about to blossom, as well. The Master Plan is explicitly reaffirming that these two places have a right to a future as vibrant neighborhoods.

Have you even read the Master Plan?

Puddinhead said...

Jeffrey, saying the word "developer" to some folks causes knee-jerk kind of thinking, not rational deliberation. Some become incapable of considering a proposal on it's particular merits or lack thereof.