Regular Meeting (Postponed from July 11, 2019)
July 18, 2019 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - During today's regular meeting, the City Council established the Ferry Advisory Committee, approved several zoning changes to support affordable housing initiatives, reclassified Stormwater Management use, announced its intent to call an election asking voters to authorize an occupancy tax on short term rentals (STRs), and heard a special presentation from the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Council Creates New Ferry Advisory Committee
The Council unanimously passed Ordinance 32,692 establishing a Ferry Advisory Committee to provide advice and expertise regarding ongoing operations and proposed improvements to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's (RTAs) ferry boats and terminals. Specific responsibilities of the committee will include:
- Obtaining information from current and potential ferry riders on existing and desired ferry services;
- Research and identify possible sources of funding; and
- Provide periodic reports to the Council's Transportation Committee with recommendations on the items listed above with recommendations on those that require Council action.
The Ferry Advisory Committee will consist of nine members comprised of the following:
- One resident of the West Bank appointed by District "C" Councilmember Palmer;
- One resident of the East Bank appointed by DIstrict "B" Councilmember Banks;
- One habitual rider who uses the ferry as their primary means of transportation for work appointed by the Transportation Committee Chair;
- The President of the Algiers Neighborhood Presidents Council;
- The Executive Director of Friends of the Ferry;
- The Executive Director of Ride New Orleans;
- The Chair of the Council's Transportation Committee;
- The Director of the Mayor's Office of Transportation; and
- The Director of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
"This ordinance establishes a Ferry Advisory Committee to provide citizens oversight of RTA ferry operations. The Algiers and Canal Street ferries are often out of service for mechanical reasons while two, new, taxpayer-funded boats have been docked for more than a year. My hope is that the Ferry Advisory Committee, made up of riders, transit advocates, and representatives from RTA, can start forging a path forward to ensure we have regular, reliable service that benefits all of our citizens and visitors," said District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Photo of a New Orleans ferry boat courtesy of NORTA.com
Zoning Changes Approved to Support Affordable Housing Initiatives
The Council approved Zoning Dockets 41/19 and 49/19 relative to text changes to the City's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to encourage development and enhance affordable housing efforts. The approved amendments update density and height bonuses for the Marigny and Bywater sub-districts of the Riverfront Overlay per certain recommendations listed in the HR&A New Orleans Housing Study.
Zoning Docket 41/19 removes any possible conflicts within the CZO to ensure the citywide Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ) requirements designed to promote affordable housing will also apply in the Riverfront Overlay's Marigny and Bywater sub-districts. Those sub-districts include properties along the Riverfront between the Mississippi River and Chartres or Decatur streets. Developments closest to the street would still be limited to avoid having large buildings looming over nearby properties.
The MIZ also addresses incentives for developers, which will replace those previously available through the CZO's Riverfront Overlay provisions. Developments not taking advantage of those incentives will now be limited to the height and density provided by the underlying zoning district.
"The CZO we worked so hard to put in place after Katrina gave us a clear map of where we wanted commercial activity and where we wanted to preserve our residential neighborhoods. The Marigny and Bywater communities are currently in the strong market for new developments, and we want to make sure that developments taking advantage of maximum height and density allowances along the Riverfront also include affordable units," said Councilmember Palmer.
These changes will provide individuals and families of modest means an opportunity to live in the high opportunity neighborhoods located within the Marigny and Bywater near valuable amenities and resources.
"Having introduced various legislation and zoning applications to increase affordable housing, including creating and mandating the use of Affordable Housing Impact Statements, this is and has long been a priority of mine both as a Councilmember and State Representative," said District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett. "Far too many residents are cost burden, spending upwards of 40 percent of their total income on housing costs. I am grateful to Councilmember Palmer for bringing this forward and for her steadfast commitment to this issue. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues on the Council to end the current affordable housing crisis, and ensure all New Orleanians have access to safe, equitable and affordable housing."
Council Announces Intent to Authorize STR Occupancy Tax
The Council adopted a motion announcing its intent to call an election asking voters to authorize an occupancy tax on STRs of overnight occupancy. Chief of Staff to Mayor LaToya Cantrell John Pourciau attended today's meeting to present on Motion 19-268, which represents a request by the Administration as part of the "Fair Share" initiative, and answer questions from Councilmembers.
The Council stressed the need for greater oversight and transparency in regard to these tax dollars so that the public is informed and aware of how they are spent moving forward. The Council will continue to study and assess the City's infrastructure needs to determine the best possible allocation of these funds. Per the motion, the Council expressed its intention to adopt a resolution at the regular meeting on August 8, approving this ballot initiative for the upcoming election on November 16.
Mayor Cantrell's Chief of Staff John Pourciau presenting to the Council during today's meeting
Reclassification of Stormwater Management Use
The Council approved a text amendment to the City's CZO to reclassify Stormwater Management from a conditional use to a permitted use in certain districts. The CPC recommended approval of the reclassification to facilitate the process of converting vacant lots into stormwater management lots that contribute to diminishing the strain on the pumping system and preventing street flooding. To view the Zoning Docket in its entirety, click here.
Presentation on Minority Mental Health Month
As the first special order of business, the Council heard a presentation from Lisa Romack, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on their work to provide critical services to the community and their upcoming event, #GetYaMindRight Fest. The festival was founded in recognition of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of July to shed light on the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness.
#GetYaMindRight Fest will take place on Saturday, July 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the 2200 block of Pauger Street and is free and open to the public. For more information or to RSVP, visit the Eventbrite page here.
Councilmember Williams with representatives of NAMI (left) and a flier for the upcoming festival (right)