October 07, 2021 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - During today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council increased the hourly wage for City employees, waived fees related to building and demolition permits following Hurricane Ida, established a University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay, authorized required independent safety inspections of construction sites, and more.
In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Council also recognized breast cancer survivors and heard from an expert panel. The eighth annual event, organized by Ms. Lena Stewart, included testimonies, presentations and a reception for all those in City Hall.
"I’m very proud to participate in this citywide celebration of life," said Council Vice President Donna M. Glapion. "The City Hall community alone has scores of survivors but also many members who have been lost to breast cancer. This annual recommitment is a meaningful opportunity to acknowledge and support all who have been impacted."
Councilmembers gather with breast cancer survivors, experts, doctors and research advocates during today's meeting.
Council Unanimously Passes Resolution to Appeal for Federal Assistance for Storm Restoration Costs and Power Grid Upgrades
The Council unanimously passed Resolution R-21-363 recognizing that federal assistance was essential to recovery after Hurricane Katrina, Gustav, and Ike and collectively foreseeing grant funds being critical to offset the cost of necessary upgrades, not just repairs, to the distribution and transmission systems.
Hurricane Ida restoration costs now total more than $4 billion across Louisiana and almost $150 million in New Orleans alone. The resolution appeals to federal officials, including President Biden and Louisiana's Congressional Delegation, for funding to shoulder power restoration costs from Hurricane Ida, as well as future grid resiliency investments.
"Protecting the people of New Orleans from escalating storm restoration costs, as well as from the storms that are sure to come into the future, is essential," said Council President Helena Moreno. "We are all committed to working as hard as possible to find federal resources to help defray the costs already at our doorstep, but we're not willing to simply wait for the next storm. We must make generational investments in grid hardening and resiliency to protect us into the future from an increasingly tumultuous climate to keep costs from piling up in years to come."
Council Passes Measure to Adopt Civil Service Commission’s Plan to Increase Minimum Wage for City Employees
The Council passed Motion M-21-314, which raises the minimum wage for City employees to $15 per hour.
District "D" Councilmember Jared C. Brossett and District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer also held a press conference before Thursday's regular Council meeting, where they were joined by Step Up Louisiana and members of the NOFD.
“There is so much we need to do to create a more equitable city, but this is a big first step,” said District “D” Councilmember Jared C. Brossett. “City employees do not deserve to just scrape by but to thrive in the city they so graciously serve. They’ve been forced to get by with very little while providing unwavering dedication and hard work. We saw this hard work especially following Hurricane Ida and continue to see it throughout the ongoing pandemic. I’m grateful to our firefighters and our City employees, who have been in this fight with me since the beginning. I look forward to continuing to work with them as we advocate for workers all over the city.”
"We know it's important that our City employees are able to focus on work without being constantly stressed about making ends meet," said District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. "Let's be clear, $15 an hour is not enough, but it's a start. Hopefully, companies and businesses will understand that our people in every industry deserve a livable wage and a decent quality of life in the private sector. I'd like to thank Councilmember Brossett for his leadership on this, Step Up Louisiana and the New Orleans Fire Department for their collaboration."
“I am honored to be part of this movement," District "E" Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen added. "Focusing on families is long overdue, and the families of City workers need to be taken care of."
The motion was passed unanimously in the Council meeting and will be effective January 1, 2022.
Councilmembers Brossett and Palmer speak at today's pre-meeting press conference.
Council Waives Certain Building and Demolition Permit Fees Following Hurricane Ida
The Council passed Ordinance 33,459, which waives certain fees relating to building permits and demolition permits necessary to repair or rebuild structures damaged by Hurricane Ida and occupied on August 29, 2021, except where renovation or new construction was in progress. This allows residents to start the rebuilding process as expeditiously as possible.
Permits must be applied for, approved, and issued, but this ordinance allows work to begin more quickly and incentivizes residents to make repairs the right way – with approval. The ordinance will not affect review by New Orleans Safety and Permits.
“In the wake of the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida, this ordinance will remove the fees for people to repair their homes,” said District “B” Councilmember Jay H. Banks. “It is our duty to take the pressure off of our citizens who are trying to get back on their feet.”
The Council has passed similar ordinances following other storms to ensure repairs across the city are completed in a timely manner. After Hurricane Katrina, lots of work was done with no approval, resulting in long-standing issues. This ordinance will help prevent unapproved work while returning the city to its pre-storm state.
City Planning Commission to Conduct Public Hearing to Consider Additional Waste and Recycling Transfer Stations
The Council passed Motion M-21-364 directing the City Planning Commission to conduct a public hearing to consider amending and reordaining the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance to create a new use category of “convenience centers,” or “waste and recycling drop-off centers.”
If passed, residents will have the opportunity to get rid of waste without having to wait on a sanitation truck, including not only trash and garbage but also recyclable materials.
Many residents have gone weeks or even over a month without trash pickup following Hurricane Ida’s landfall at the end of August due to labor shortages. As a result, the City of New Orleans Department of Sanitation has been allowing residents to dispose of bagged household garbage at the Elysian Fields Transfer Station for free.
This ordinance will address the sanitation concerns the city is facing, expanding garbage and recycling disposal options to more than just curbside pickup.
Council Establishes University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay
The Council passed Motion M-21-373 which establishes the University Area Off-Street Parking Overlay. The intent of this overlay, stemming from District “A” Councilmember Joseph Giarrusso’s University Area Interim Zoning District, is to stem the spread of “Doubles to Dorms (D2Ds).”
D2Ds convert historic single- and double-family homes into mini dormitories for students. Developers typically add bedrooms and bathrooms, expanding the intensity and footprint of homes. Once converted, these homes typically do not appeal to anyone other than students. These quasi-commercial properties rent at up to $4,000 per unit per month, increasing housing costs for entire neighborhoods.
“These neighborhoods are already dense as shown in the CZO," said District “A” Councilmember Joseph Giarrusso. "The commercial development there is supposed to be limited and support the neighborhoods. Converting single and double-family homes in dense areas to mini dormitories drives up the cost of existing housing stock, irrevocably converts homes for families into student living, stresses existing infrastructure, and does not support owners and renters who live there.”
This overlay requires one off-street parking space for new dwellings or renovations over 4 bedrooms and over 2.5 bathrooms. It also features a homestead exemption and carve-out for affordable housing projects and only applies to the residential district. Each new parking space must be permeable.
Council Authorizes Required Independent Safety Inspections of Construction Sites
With its passage of Ordinance 33,147, independent inspections are now required during the construction of buildings taller than 75 feet (measured from grade level to the average height of the highest). This third-party review will provide independent verification of the structural integrity of all large New Orleans construction sites and add a layer of accountability to prevent future site collapses similar to the 2018 Hard Rock Hotel site in downtown New Orleans.
The ordinance states that the third-party structural review must be performed by a structural engineer who is selected by the City's Department of Safety and Permits. The selected engineer cannot have a financial interest in the construction project. In addition, the reviewer must provide a report to the Department of Safety and Permits, ensuring that the structural and foundational design complies with Louisiana and City of New Orleans building codes and all related structural codes and standards.
“The Hard Rock Hotel workplace safety measures were so grossly inadequate that they caused the deaths of Jose Ponce Arreola, Quinnyon Wimberly and Anthony Magrette and hurt dozens of others," District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said. "While we will never know if an independent inspection of the Hard Rock structure would have prevented the collapse, we do know this ordinance can prevent negligence of future projects.”
The amendment and reordination Section 26-15 of the Code of the City of New Orleans also defines “structure” to include the structural frame and the load-supporting parts of floors, roofs, walls, foundations, cladding, cladding framing, stairs, equipment supports, railings and more.
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New Orleans City Council