NFB General Meeting — November 7, 2018
Meeting started by president Julie Jones around 7:05 PM.
We were given an update on the proposed HANO development at 4100 Royal St (the big lot bordered by Mazant, Royal, Chartres and France). Hano owns the property and ITEX is the developer. Councilmember Palmer is reported to have requested they downsize the development significantly. It was also suggested that some of the other smaller developments planned for the smaller lots could have more units (e.g. 4-plex instead of singles or doubles) to reduce the density at the larger development. It’s unclear if she if is supporting the zoning change, which the NFB board is opposed to.
We were then notified there is an application by “KP Desire St LLC” seeking to change the zoning at 3350 Dauphine (corner lot at Desire and Dauphine) from HMR-3 (residential) to HMC-1 (commercial). Julie requested they change their original NPP time and location because it was in the middle of the work day and at the Piety St Wharf, which can be difficult to access for some. The time has been changed to 6PM, Wednesday November 14th, and will be held at the Nora Navra Public Library – 1902 St Bernard Ave. It was noted that this is considered “spot zoning”, which the NFB is decidedly opposed to.
Julie mentioned that she has personally had issues with the NFB email announcements getting lost in her “spam” folder. She recommends members check to see that they are getting our announcements and adjust their email filtering to be certain our emails get through.
Elliot Perkins, director of the HDLC, was then introduced. He’s been with the HDLC since 1999 and director since 2005. His single most important piece of advice is to consult with the HDLC before starting any work, as it is typically more difficult to fix issues after the work has started. It was later noted that the fees are now also significantly higher “if you ask for forgiveness before asking permission”. Mr. Perkins then updated us on some new guideline changes. They can now approve “case-style” gutters on many buildings, which can be less expensive. Guidelines regarding solar panels have changed, as they have discovered the design of the panels is really more important than visibility in most cases. Black on black solar panels are preferred, as the blue and silver panels are “distracting”. They have also been working to make the approval process more efficient, and are trying to make their website easier to use and more helpful. Mr. Perkins then mentioned some changes the outgoing city council made to their definition of “demolition”. In “partial control” districts the HDLC only has jurisdiction over demolition, so we can expect to see some of these changes reflected in their agendas, and it can be a little confusing.
The ITEX / HANO people have agreed to meet with the ARC (Architectural Review Committee) regarding the large development at 4100 Royal St. The developers are required to seek the advice of the commission (whether they choose to follow it or not) before undertaking the work. Mr. Perkins noted that the developers are required to come to the public hearing as well, and that this is an excellent forum for the public to come speak on any issues they may have with the project. Kristen Palmer’s staff attends these meetings and pay attention to these forums. This will probably be scheduled next month – check for more info here: https://nola.gov/hdlc/calendars-agendas/, [you can also sign up to receive agendas via email at that address].
Mr. Perkins then took questions from members. He prefaced that their jurisdiction is over anything visible from a public right of way, including side streets, so this may sometimes include more than just the front of many structures. A member asked about the color coding used on maps to designate the significance of properties, and Mr. Perkins said they had simplified their system. Purple and blue now designate “significant”, whereas green, gold, and red designate “contributing”. Non-contributing buildings are green. He mentioned that the map they use is old and colored in with pencil, so it has been a challenge to get that information on their web site. Another member asked for clarification regarding attic vents. On some buildings historic vents have been required, and she remarked that they do not work as well as newer ones. Mr. Perkins recommended newer versions of the appropriate vents that operate a fan using a solar energy. Julie inquired about the process by which more modern looking new construction is allowed in historic districts. State Law does not allow the HDLC jurisdiction over new construction regarding style or type of building. The HDLC tries to assess new construction to help it fit in as best they can by applying existing guidelines (setbacks, materials, projections, porches, ect…) to whatever style the proposed building is in. He again encouraged us to come to ARC meetings to express our opinions on new construction. Postcards are sent out to anyone within 300 feet of properties on their agenda, though occasional issues with the USPS were noted.
A member asked about guidelines for exterior paint color. The HDLC does not regulate paint color, but they do have regulations regarding painting previously unpainted masonry, as it can cause structural issues in our wet climate.
Anthony Eschmann asked for information regarding the “belgian blocks” (aka “cobblestone”) on the 1000 block of Montegut, where there have been concerns about their preservation as the proposed Iris apartment development moves forward. Those lots were not drawn into the historic district and the HDLC does not have jurisdiction over them. There is an ordinance requiring that historic paving be restored, though it isn’t clear if it applies to this particular project or not. It was noted that this same ordinance covers the historic tile street names embedded in sidewalks, some of which have been damaged by the new gas lines being installed by Entergy / Cimarron. We were encouraged to ask the HDLC to help if we see tiles that are not replaced, as they have had success getting them fixed in the past.
Mark Gonzales asked about fence heights. Maximum allowed fence height for side and rear yards is 7 feet. Maximum fence height in front of buildings depends on the significance of the building. For most contributing and significant buildings it is usually 6 feet and it must be transparent (wood or metal picket). Unrated buildings can have opaque fencing in front, such as horizontal board fencing or capped vertical board fencing. Chain link or “non standard” fencing has to be reviewed by the commission on a case by case basis.
Mr. Perkins was thanked for his time and for all the great information.
We were then introduced to Jeffrey Goodman, an expert on Short Term Rental regulations.
Mr. Goodman, also vice president of the Urban Conservancy, announced that November 24th is “Small Business Saturday”, which is “a national shopping event (between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) that encourages consumers to shop local”. Over a dozen Bywater and Marigny businesses are participating. If you would like your business included email email@example.com. There is also a city-wide effort to encourage consumers to shop locally for the holidays. Make a pledge to spend 10% of your money at local and independent businesses this year. More info can be found at staylocal.org
The City Planning Commission released their report, and it’s long. Their recommendations are still fairly complicated, much like the current ordinance which is very complicated and arguably unenforceable. They want to get rid of the temporary permit category, which isn’t working, and keep the commercial permits. Commercial permits allow operation year round in any property zoned commercial, but not on the ground floor and only 25% of the units can be STRs, which is a confusing rule. 25% is also an arbitrary number, not based on any real research. People have apparently used fake businesses to apply for spot zoning to switch to commercial to run STRs. It was later noted that these are basically what would be traditionally regulated as a “Bed and Breakfast”, but this version does not have to follow the same safety and zoning standards.
AirBnB backed out of the “handshake agreement” the city had with them to share data. The CPC wants to see the agreement honored. Other cities have been more aggressive and more successful in terms of making all the STR platforms be active in enforcement off regulations. It was noted that New Orleans has such agreements with Uber and Lyft and they have been successful.
Mr. Goodman was a co-author of the “REST” ordinance (Residents for Ethical and Sustainable Tourism Ordinance), which is being promoted by the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative. Jane Place released a very informative and well researched report on STRs a few months ago, which can be read here: https://storage.googleapis.com/wzukusers/user-27881231/documents/5b06c0e681950W9RSePR/STR%20Long-Term%20Impacts%20JPNSI_4-6-18.pdf
The REST ordinance was written using research on current successful regulations being used in other cities, and has four key new rules.
The first is that STR permits should be limited to primary residences, which would be residences with homestead exemptions. This would limit the permits to one per property they live in. It prevents homes being turned into full time STR businesses. If the permit holder does not live on the property that would be considered homestead exemption fraud, which on its own is a serious offense and less complicated to enforce using existing law.
The second is to require licenses for STR platforms and require them to assist in stopping illegal listings. It’s safe to assume the platforms will fight this as hard as they can, because they have proven they don’t believe local governments should interfere in their business, and they have sued other cities.
The third change would be to increase fees to fund the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF), which helps fund and develop affordable housing that is compromised by allowing STRs to operate at all. The fee is currently $1 per night, which is not very helpful. The REST Ordinance wants that to increase to $20, which will still barely make a dent.
The fourth new rule would be zero tolerance for discrimination. Multiple studies have shown discrimination is a real problem on STR platforms, from both the host and guest side. We would not allow that of a hotel or Bed and Breakfast, and it should not be allowed here. If someone is caught they should get a lifetime ban. The platforms would be required to share data about any cases of discrimination and the process would have to approved by the city council and human relations committee of New Orleans. There really should not be any pushback in asking for this, and it would be unique to our city’s efforts to improve STR regulation.
The full REST Ordinance can be found here: https://storage.googleapis.com/wzukusers/user-27881231/documents/5b99cd288dd5c2tLOdOP/REST%20Ordinance.pdf
The CBD could have unique rules since it is a unique neighborhood. One idea suggested by housing groups is a one-for-one swap — for every unit that is an STR there would have to be one unit that is affordable housing. This could be the one place the commercial STR permits could be OK. It was suggested that the mayor could be approached with this idea, as she has frequently touted affordable housing as one of her major concerns. Currently somewhere around 40% of the units in the CBD are full time STRs. The ban should remain in place for the French Quarter, as it has been for many years even before these new platforms emerged.
Mr. Goodman made the point that we should not be privileging people who own several homes and run them as businesses, when many New Orleanians can’t afford a single home, not to mention all the people looking to rent. We should be thinking of STR regulation as a major housing issue. We have little to no control over so many factors when it comes to promoting more affordable housing, and this is the one issue where we have a significant opportunity.
The deadline for making some real progress on these issues would be roughly April, before the state session begins. Other cities lost the ability to regulate STRs because state government got involved and preempted local regulations. It happened in Tennesee, Florida, and Arizona, and it would be devastating if it happened here.
Mr. Goodman said he would stay after the meeting to answer any other questions. He was thanked for his time and hard work to help bring New Orleans smart and meaningful STR regulation.
Mark Gonzales quickly reminded everyone about the NFB Tricentennial party, which will be held December 16th, noon until 5PM, at Clouet Gardens and Tigermen’s Den. There will be food and drinks from local restaurants, activities for kids, and a forum where long time residents will share stories about our beloved neighborhood.
Adjourned at 8:23 PM
Tyler Harwood, co-secretary