June 03, 2021 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - During today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council amended its COVID-19 meeting procedures, requested a text amendment to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to ensure Inclusionary Zoning requirements are aligned with previously adopted legislation, adopted a resolution to establish a health crisis intervention program task force, and authorized a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) to repair and reconstruct the Municipal Yacht Harbor in New Orleans.
Additionally, the Council permanently relocated the Emergency Polling location at Edna Karr High School to Connect Church at 1110 Kabel Dr., asked the City Planning Commission (CPC) to consider CZO amendments to incorporate certain 2019 “Billboard Study" initiatives, and adopted a resolution supporting HB 604.
Move to Align Inclusionary Zoning Requirements with Previous Legislation
The Council passed two motions (M-21-82 & M-21-193) requesting a text amendment to the CZO to incorporate changes that will ensure Inclusionary Zoning requirements are aligned with previously adopted legislation, including:
- Providing parking reduction standards in Article 28, Section 28.7;
- Amending or creating definitions for inclusionary zoning voluntary provisions;
- Aligning the tables in Article 5 (5-5 through 5-12) with the respective zoning base use tables of Articles 9 through 17; and
- Determining and amending any other inconsistencies as determined by CPC staff.
The proposal includes text changes that would apply to properties located within a designated MIZ Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning District or utilizing a Voluntary Inclusionary Zoning provision. The CPC staff supports the proposed text amendments, as they would allow the inclusionary zoning program to operate as intended.
The amendments also clarify an existing policy that provides the necessary incentives for developers to create affordable housing, which will help combat New Orleans’ affordability crisis by offering individuals and families of modest means opportunities to live in desirable neighborhoods near amenities and resources.
Council Supports Creation of Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force
With its adoption of Resolution R-21-196, the Council called for the establishment of a new health crisis intervention program task force to respond to behavioral health crises for which police or emergency medical services (EMS) involvement may not be warranted.
According to recent data, there are approximately 240 million 911 calls each year, all of which require the attention of local police, even though the majority of which do not actually involve criminal activity. Across the country, local law enforcement personnel are increasingly forced to serve as frontline professionals who manage persons in crisis, often acting as gatekeepers that decide whether a person with a mental illness should be placed in custody or enter the mental health system. While police officers are vital to the safety and success of their communities, local leaders must recognize the potential impacts of police presence during mental health and substance abuse crises, including exacerbating feelings of distress and unnecessarily escalating the situation.
This Council believes in the power of policing alternatives, diversion initiatives, and supportive services in reducing arrests and the incarceration of people experiencing extreme poverty, drug addiction, or mental illness. Shifting to these community-based techniques will address the inadequacies of the current system by establishing a more equitable response centered around health, wellness, and transformative approaches to harm reduction. Therefore, the Council supports the creation of a health crisis intervention program task force with representation from the New Orleans Health Department, Police Department, EMS, Orleans Parish Communication District (OPCD), Metropolitan Human Services District, and other community advocacy organizations.
“This resolution is about best-serving people in mental health crisis and also best utilizing our public safety resources,” said Council President Helena Moreno. “We need to better address the immediate needs stemming from calls for crisis intervention with appropriate mental and clinical support. I look forward to working with the Health Department, City Public Safety agencies, and the community to establish this critical service for our city.”
The Council will move to establish the “Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force” by July 1, 2021, to serve as an advisory committee to engage stakeholders and the community, better inform a strategic policy framework through research and review of the current state of the City’s emergency response to behavioral health and substance abuse calls, and develop specific legislation to effectuate a health crisis intervention program in New Orleans.
Efforts to Revitalize Municipal Yacht Harbor Move Forward
The Council authorized the Mayor to enter into a CEA with the City and the Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corporation (MYHMC) to repair and reconstruct the Municipal Yacht Harbor in New Orleans. Ordinance 33,335 sets requirements and terms for the CEA, highlighting its positive fiscal impact for the City through the receipt of $300,000 from the MYHMC relative to expenses not covered by FEMA on Yacht Harbor projects.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the Municipal Yacht Harbor housed approximately 595 boat slips of varying sizes, constructed by the WPA between 1938 and 1940 before being upgraded in the 1980s. When Katrina made landfall, all of the piers and slips suffered severe damage. Redevelopment efforts began in June of 2018, with half of the marina fully operational. The approved CEA will support the completion of the remaining half of the marina and help restore the facility to its pre-Katrina operating capacity.
The floating dock system on the East side of the Harbor courtesy of nomunicipalharbor.com
CPC to Consider Incorporating Billboard Study Zoning Recommendations
The Council approved Motion M-21-191 directing the CPC to consider amending the CZO to incorporate certain recommendations and initiatives contained in the 2019 “Billboard Study.” Specifically, to provide the following desired CZO text amendments:
To implement recommendation “Option 2: To provide ‘trade’ incentives allowing nonconforming billboards to digitize in exchange for removal,” along with the following additional considerations:
- Conversion of billboards with two sides/faces;
- Conversion of billboards out of residential and historic districts;
- Protections to ensure that there will not be a concentration of digitized billboards in one location/area of the City;
- Illumination standards; and
- Density standards.
Council Backs State Efforts to Create Automated Expungement Process for Arrest Records
With its unanimous adoption of Resolution R-21-199, authored by Councilmembers Gisleson Palmer and Brossett, the Council expressed its full support of HB 604 relative to the creation of an automated expungement process for arrest records. As outlined in the resolution, there are 1.2 million Louisiana residents with criminal records, which are burdensome and costly to expunge using the legal processes currently in place.
Recent studies have shown that only around 5% of people who are currently eligible for expungement actually complete the process to be able to clear their records. HB 604 is “clean slate” legislation that would lessen the impact of an arrest record by providing government-initiated expungements to any individual with an arrest that did not result in a conviction. This initiative would help strengthen families, communities, and local economies across the state, in addition to promoting public safety and saving taxpayers money by reducing the court system costs toward processing expungements.
The Council applauds Louisiana State Representative Ted James, who filed HB 604, and encourages the New Orleans delegation to pass the legislation citing its potential to improve local and statewide employment rates, government efficiency, and countless other benefits.