March 05, 2020 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - During today's regular meeting, the Council adopted a resolution calling for gender-neutral language throughout the City Code, passed two motions regarding a new Interim Zoning District (IZD) requiring off-street parking for any increase in residential density in the Carrollton neighborhood, authorized an amended lease agreement with Harrah's Casino, approved a zoning docket to permit New Orleans East's first cosmetology school since Hurricane Katrina, and voted to revise the Council rules in their entirety.
Additionally, the Council received a presentation from the New Orleans Health Department on local preparation efforts relative to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Italian American St. Joseph's Society.
Members of the Council with the Italian American St. Joseph's Society of New Orleans
Coronavirus Updates from the New Orleans Health Department
At the start of today's meeting, Dr. Jennifer Avegno and the New Orleans Health Department (NOHD) gave a special presentation with updates on current efforts to monitor and make necessary preparations relative to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). In light of heightened panic and the spread of misinformation around the virus, the speakers provided factual details, terminologies and critical takeaways for residents.
COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and has since spread globally. Symptoms include fever and lower respiratory symptoms, with the primary complication being pneumonia in older adults, and the incubation is between 2-14 days. Thus far, there has been an estimated 3.4% fatality rate based on confirmed cases.
The (NOHD) began monitoring the situation in early January when it became clear COVID-19 was likely to spread. Starting March 2, they established a formal planning team that meets twice weekly to discuss preparation measures and begin developing a citywide response plan and targeted outreach strategy. The response plan will be shared publicly at www.nola.gov/coronavirus once it has been finalized.
Dr. Avegno listed the following key messages for the public:
Stay home when sick;
Cover your cough;
Wash your hands;
If you feel sick, call your doctor instead of showing up at the office;
Have necessary food and medications at home;
Check on elderly family members and friends regularly;
Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date;
Monitor guidance from the CDC & State Department; and
If you are healthy, do not wear a facemask (they do not provide the type of protection people believe they do and create a shortage for healthcare providers who need them).
Health officials are also urging local business leaders and employers to take a close look at their sick-leave policies.
"If workers can stay home with their children or can't stay at home because of employee policies, that puts us at higher risk of worsening an outbreak," said Dr. Avegno. "We cannot stress enough the benefits of paid sick leave at this time, and are asking all local business owners to provide maximum flexibility and adjust current policies as needed."
Dr. Jennifer Avegno presenting to the Council as part of today's first special order of business
The NOHD also encourages any residents with questions to call 3-1-1 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be transferred to NOHD for answers.
To view the full presentation, click here.
Council Advocates for Inclusivity in City Code Language
The Council approved Resolution R-20-76 calling for the amendment of the City Code to ensure its language is entirely gender-neutral and inclusive of all people in New Orleans. The resolution seeks to amend Chapters 1 through 170 to revise all male-centric verbiage, which has become outdated and inaccurate.
Today, the City of New Orleans is governed by an unprecedented number of inspiring female leaders, including the Mayor, City Council members, directors, department heads and staff. With March nationally-recognized as Women's History Month, the Council stressed the importance of these changes as a way to honor and thank all the women who have made significant contributions to the growth and strength of the city.
"New Orleans' future is female, its past is female, and it's important our young people know that the discrimination faced by previous generations of women in our city will not be tolerated or dictate how we operate moving forward," said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams.
Amended Lease Agreement with Harrah's Casino
The Council passed Ordinance 32,907 amending and extending the lease between New Orleans Building Corporation (NOBC) and Harrah's Casino, opening the door for a $300-million renovation that will feature a new Caesar's Palace Hotel at the foot of Canal Street. The new hotel is slated to open by 2024.
"Under the previous lease language, we were obligated to give funding from the lease to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) or not at all. I want to be clear; this amendment does not prevent OPSB from receiving this funding. We are being very intentional about working in partnership with the school board to make our children's lives better, and this does not change that. What it does do is give us more flexibility to work out a plan to best determine how these dollars are spent," said District "B" Councilmember Jay H. Banks.
Rendering of the proposed renovations for Harrah's Casino via today's NOBC presentation
New Parking Requirements to Account for Increases in Residential Density
The Council approved two motions regarding the establishment of a new Interim Zoning District (IZD) requiring off-street parking for any increase in residential density.
Through M-20-79, the Council directs the City Planning Commission (CPC) to conduct a public hearing and formal study to determine appropriate parameters, regulations, and requirements for parking in the Uptown University Area. The study will help ensure that any future amendments to the CZO (via an overlay) to address parking requirements are fully researched to properly balance the institutional, commercial and residential uses, and adequately address the needs of residents.
M-20-80 requests the CPC to conduct a public hearing to amend the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to establish the University Area Interim Off-Street Parking Zoning District, which would require off-street vehicular parking for any increase in the number of existing bedrooms. The IZD would affect all lots bounded by the lakeside of Saint Charles Avenue, downtown side of South Carrollton Avenue, riverside of South Claiborne Avenue, and both sides of Audubon Street (excluding the portion between Plum Street and Zimpel Street that exists solely within Tulane's campus).
"What's occurring right now, particularly in this Uptown neighborhood, is that doubles are being converted into dormitories, so instead of having one or two families reside in a home, we have between 8-10 college students," said District "A" Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. "This trend is changing the complexion of the neighborhood, and we have spent ample time working with the neighborhood association and residents to examine all available options and make sure that this was not an isolated incident, but occurring, as you can see on the map, in rapid succession. The goal of this IZD is to slow this down and maintain the integrity of the surrounding community."
Revision of Council Meeting Rules & Regulations
The Council authorized the revision of its meeting rules in their entirety. Motion M-20-50 represents months of hard work and collaboration amongst all seven members of the Council to ensure its meeting policies and procedures are as efficient and effective as possible while respecting those who attend to provide public comment.
The approved changes accomplish the following:
Rule 10.1(B) - Establishes the requirement that each public speaker seeking to address the Council on an agenda item shall personally complete and submit a comment card to the Clerk. No person may reserve speaking time or submit a comment card on behalf of another, except on behalf of a person who is present in Council Chambers but physically incapable of doing so themselves. Additionally, it requires public speakers to submit nine copies of any written documentation to the Clerk. Previously, this rule required eight copies, which has proven insufficient.
Rule 10.1(E) - Clarifies that for Land Use matters, the approval of a zoning docket (zoning map change, conditional use application, or zoning text amendment) will not require final Council approval. No zoning change shall be effective until an ordinance is introduced and adopted.
Rule 41 - Requires the Administration and/or City departments executing a by-request legislative instrument to acquire the sponsoring Councilmember's initials on the summary form and the legislative instrument to acknowledge sponsorship. If a by-request ordinance provides for multiple sponsors, each named member shall initial the ordinance.
Rule 47 - With regard to time limits for non-land use items, this change establishes the requirement that each public speaker seeking to address the Council on an agenda item shall personally complete and submit a comment card to the Clerk. No person may reserve speaking time or submit a comment card on behalf of another, except on behalf of a person who is present in Council Chambers but physically incapable of completing and submitting one themselves. The rule also requires public speakers to submit nine copies of any written documentation to the Clerk, as opposed to the previous eight copy requirement.
Approval of New Cosmetology School in New Orleans East Marks First Since Hurricane Katrina
The Council passed Zoning Docket 9/20 requesting a conditional use to permit an educational facility for a cosmetology school in the Little Woods neighborhoods, close to the intersection between Morrison Road and Crowder Boulevard. The approved Cosmetology Institute will become the first cosmetology school in New Orleans East since Hurricane Katrina.
The CPC recommended approval of the initiative citing the need for greater educational and vocational services in the area. The new school will have a positive impact on the surrounding community with little to no adverse effects on nearby residential properties. Per the CPC findings, all activities will be contained with the existing building, and associated traffic will solely affect Morrison Boulevard rather than the surrounding residential street network.
A Cosmetology Institute representative thanking the Council prior to its vote on Zoning Docket 9/20