December 01, 2016
City Council Chamber
City Council Regular Meeting News Summary December 1, 2016
NEW ORLEANS- At today's City Council meeting, the Council voted to approve a legislative package to establish permit and license requirements, as well as applicable standards for short-term rentals and penalties and fees relative thereto.
In addition, the Council passed an amendment to revise funding sources to the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF), approved a proposed increase of $4.2 million to the Sheriff's Office 2017 budget, approved the Institutional Master Plan for Tulane University's Uptown campus and heard a presentation from representatives of the Greater New Orleans Foundation's LGBT Fund.
Council Votes on Proposed Requirements and Penalties Relative to Short-Term Rentals
The Council voted to approve a legislative package to establish permit and license requirements, as well as applicable standards for short-term rentals and penalties and fees relative thereto. The ordinances set regulations on short-term rental platforms (STR's), such as Airbnb, and put the City Council out front as leaders on this issue nationally.
The package of ordinances passed today wrap up a multi-year process of deliberations, which officially began in the summer of 2015. The package of ordinances include:
- Establishes permit, license, registry and data sharing requirements for STRs.
- Amends the zoning code, codifying land use regulations into the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
- Requires that $1.00 nightly occupancy surcharge be collected into the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF), which is a fund designated to promote fair housing citywide.
- Amends the City code to align with state law allowing for the assessment of hotel and motel taxes on STRs.
- Establishes an agreement with the short-term rental industry leader, Airbnb, to facilitate data sharing, remit hotel sales and use tax as well as hotel occupancy privilege taxes.
The Council allowed for public comment before the vote on all amendments individually, and the package itself. The public comment expressed both concern and gratitude toward the Council for its leadership on the controversial issue.
"Going forward, the Council will continue to listen to members of the community and re-evaluate the rules and regulations regarding short-term rentals to find what works best for us," said District "E" Councilmember Gray said. "Those adjustments will be made as soon as we can get a clear picture and consensus in order to benefit the citizens of New Orleans. The whole city should be treated the same, and no one specific neighborhood should get different benefits than another neighborhood. But at the end of the day, we're looking at a compromise, which I think, is a better deal than anyone else in the country has right now. I think it's the best deal that we can get today, under the circumstance."
"I'd like to thank the members of the Council and those at Airbnb who've been willing to work with us on this issue," said District "A" Councilmember Guidry. "This is a quickly changing industry, and I think Airbnb is coming to understand that a better business model is one that works with regulators and hopefully we'll see more of that. With our amendments being voted down, I cannot vote for the land-use regulations because I feel like we're giving up too much of our neighborhood protections to short-term rentals. My primary concern is now and has always been, the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods. Having short-term rentals up to 90 days a year with no homestead exemption requirement is unacceptable to me."
"Last year there was a proliferation of short-term rentals in The City of New Orleans, and the year before that," said Councilmember-At-Large Williams. "To vote no against this agreement, not in large part, but completely allows further proliferation in this city. I would charge both sides to understand that whoever votes yes for this, is not throwing a thumbs up to short-term rentals; we are creating an effective enforcement mechanism that not another city in this world has been able to put together yet. There will be a time and place in the future to add to this package, but today is not the day to do that. Today is the day to create an enforcement mechanism that is real."
As one member of the Council who voted against the package, District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett said, "Today, I proposed reasonable provisions regarding short-term rental zoning and enforcement that are needed to protect our residents, businesses, and neighborhoods. As I have said before," he continued, "I have many concerns regarding short-term rentals and can only support legalizing this practice if the enabling legislation requires residential short-term rental properties to be occupied by owners with a homestead exemption, limits the number of short-term rental permits allowed per year, regulates commercial short-term rentals the same as similar businesses, and includes an effective regulatory framework with a proven enforcement mechanism in place to mitigate the negative impact of short-term rentals. The zoning ordinance that passed today did not include any of these potentially mitigating provisions and was not an ordinance I could support."
"If this legislation is not passed, we'll continue to see a proliferation of short-term rentals in New Orleans," said District "C" Councilmember Ramsey. "I'd like to see this as an opportunity to preserve our neighborhoods and culture. I continue to work vigorously for the enforcement of short term rentals and particularly residents in the French Quarter. This issue is worldwide, and we'll continue to look at what other cities are doing while remaining sensitive to concerns of those on both side of the issue. I want to express my gratitude to the members of the community here today for their participation in this discussion."
The Greater New Orleans Foundation's LGBT Fund Presents to New Orleans City Council
The Council heard a presentation from Suzanne Raether, Wes Ware and Rebecca Mwase of the Greater New Orleans Foundation's LGBT Fund. The fund was established in 2016 by community champions ready tostrengthen nonprofit organizations that represent the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Through the pooled financial resources of individuals, corporations, and foundations, the LGBT Fund aims to make profound improvements in the quality of life for members of these communities. The ultimate goal is for LGBT Southerners to shape their own lives and futures.
The presentation focused on the lack of philanthropic support for LGBT communities in general but particularly in the south. The southern region of the United States receives four cents for every philanthropic dollar invested in LGBT communities. New Orleans and Baton Rouge receive a little more at six cents to the dollar as a result of the increased instances of HIV/Aids in these areas. The Fund stresses the importance of philanthropic support to ensure that everyone is protected and represented through law. Hoping to increase cultural competency to mainstream organizations.
"Hopefully we will be responsible people who embrace all and continue to lead by example here in New Orleans, so these communities feel safe and accepted in every way," said Councilmember-At-Large Stacy Head.
"It was really gratifying working with you all in creating this fund and to see in those early stages of implementation how far we've come in such a short period of time," said District "B" Councilmember Cantrell. "Thinking about the future, we have to continue to be positive and focused on what we need to improve the quality of life of our people. I am committed to working with you on that and remaining focused on the end goal. Let's continue to do what we know is necessary for our people regardless of what's happening at the federal level. We need to be proactive in working with everyone who's willing to work with us."
Council Approves Transfer of Funds to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office
The Council unanimously approved a proposed increase of $4.2 million to the Sheriff's Office 2017 budget. The amendment called for an appropriation of funds from Intergovernmental transfers to the Sheriff for prisoner-related operating expenses.
New Orleans is expected to acquire an additional $6 million to $8 million in costs next year to relocate enough Orleans Justice Center inmates to the Orleans Parish jail. The increased funds to the Sheriff's Office will allow deputies at the jail to be taken off guard duty to obtain their required training. The increased staffing and training for guards are among the 173 facets of a consent decree placed on the city's detention center in 2013.
"The expenditures today are part of a fiscally responsible plan to get the jails back on track," said Councilmember-At-Large Williams. "The money spent today will ensure that we're spending less money on these efforts down the road."
Council Approves Institutional Master Plan for Tulane's Uptown Campus
The Council unanimously approved a request from Tulane University for consideration of its Institutional Master Plan for its Uptown Campus at 6823 Saint Charles Avenue. Tulane University's comprehensive planning document is named "Master Process Design and Planning Uptown Campus." It consists of 14 components drafted, compiled, and in some cases revised between 1991 and 2002. The document is considered a working document rather than a formal Master Plan. Still, it serves as the principle guide on major campus planning issues.
The components of the document include landscaping, parking, circulation, lighting, signage, open space, environmental issues, accessibility, security design, housing, project relationships, and project procedures. Facility audit and infrastructure are identified as potential plan components but are not yet included.
"I want to thank Tulane University for working with neighborhoods and the City on this master plan," said Councilmember Guidry. "I think it's going to be good for the University as well as for the community. For such a large campus adjacent to residential neighborhoods there were very few exceptions and requests we had to consider, which is remarkable when considering the complexity of a college campus and addressing all of the needs for growth in an urban campus setting. I appreciate this commitment very much."
To view the plan in its entirety, click here.