NFB Board Meeting 6/19/19

Attending: Julie Jones,  Anthony Eschmann, Susan Korec, Stephen Haedicke, Steve Jacobs, John Andrews, Mark Gonzalez, Nancy Thacker, Brian Luckett, Rhonda Findley

Meeting called to order 7:10

First we discussed the next General Meeting. As it falls just before the holiday, the question was asked: should we meet on the 3rd of July? A vote supported the idea to stay steady and consistent.

Items to discuss at this meeting include:

The possibility of a coordinated effort for cameras in the neighborhood, with ways of sharing the information that are not as inefficient as any current communication between neighbors – or with neighbors and law enforcement. Mark will lead this discussion.

A  presentation on an expanded network of protected bike routes from Bike easy NOLA is possible.

HANO/ITEX and the “Planned Development”. Brian will update on that – as he and Joe Brown, a near neighbor, are both on the committee. Things are moving at breakneck speed on this it seems – so a need to be clear and communicative was stressed. Rhonda volunteered to host an ongoing meeting site for said meetings between NFB, near neighbors etc for updates if need be. 

General Business:

Follow-up on the powers or lack of powers at the HDLC then ensued. The introduction of an ordinance seemed to be the best approach, and if some one or organization were to take that on, then it was motioned and unanimously passed that NFB would “Release the petition for an injunction against the  HDLC and/or City of New Orleans on a case by case basis with proper supporting evidence.”

Mark and John will pen and send a letter to Councilperson Palmer re: change of ordinance for the HDLC. I think this is to involve a meeting rather than a letter. 

Possible bans on outdoor seating: What’s inappropriate and what’s unfair. Is this a residential neighborhood with commercial corridors on all four sides? How to support the development of St. Claude without it impinging on residents of Bywater. Some confusion as to if this includes outdoor food with music or without? Is there a 10PM limit? What is buffer for Uptown and Mid City? Is there any protection in the form of sound and light abatement for either seating and/or music? The CZO requires sound abatement, but is not very clear on what effective abatement involves.Would like to see residents protected with Space/Time Buffers as well as Sound and Light abatement. Information that there are some good remedies–for example, memory foam sold by a company in Tampa is apparently effective in questions of sound–was referenced. 

Again, how to provide core protection, as conditional uses seem to be granted no matter what. Discussion ongoing.

Before a motion can be made to support any ban it was noted that more information was needed on how other neighborhoods have approached this and what degree of success they have with enforcement. Allen Johnson, president of the FMIA, is trying to get an ordinance introduced that would provide the same kind of protection we see in some Uptown neighborhoods; the board decided to wait and see how Allen’s proposal fares. 

Food, Drink and General advertisement for the JULY 3rd General Meeting is at this point unclaimed.

Meeting adjourned 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted by Nancy Thacker, stunt secretary

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Neighbors First for Bywater General Meeting – June 5, 2019

Julie introduced Nick Kendall, the Zoning Administrator from Safety and Permits. Mr. Kendall has been with Safety and Permits for a few months, and was with the City Planning Commission for over four years before this. As new businesses are being planned around the neighborhood concerns have been raised about outdoor seating rules for bars and restaurants abutting residential properties. There are two types of commercial zoning that allow restaurants in Bywater. HMC-1 zoning is generally along commercial corridors and HMC-2 properties are usually scattered within neighborhoods, e.g. corner stores. There are two types of restaurants permitted in such districts: standard restaurants and specialty restaurants. In Standard Restaurants customers are seated and food is brought to their table. Alcohol is permitted by right. Specialty restraints are more like coffee shops, where customers order receive service at the counter. They do not necessarily provide a full meal, and alcohol is not permitted without a conditional use. Fast food or carryout restaurants are not permitted in HMC-1 or HMC-2 districts. If more than 50% of sales are from alcohol then the business is considered a bar. 

In the zoning ordinance (Article 21.6w) outdoor seating is addressed. Many districts have a required setback of 10 to 20 feet for businesses that abut residential property, but Bywater does not, as properties here have typically been developed from property line to property line. Sidewalk dining requires a special permit. There are no specific standards requiring a certain percentage of seating to be indoors if there is outdoor seating. There are limits to the amount of square feet that can be used. Businesses under 3000 square feet do not have to provide parking. Commercial use over 3000 square feet requires a conditional use. Over 5000 square feet of impervious service requires storm water management. 

Allen Johnson told the group that the FMIA has been asking for improved regulations regarding outdoor seating in HMC-1, HMC-2, and HM-MU districts. They have met with other neighborhood groups and Councilmember Palmer. 

Julie then asked Andrew Sullivan, Councilmember Palmer’s Chief of Staff, to update the group regarding the HANO development, the implications of the zoning change, and the planned development process. 

Councilmember Palmer and her staff were certain that the zoning change would have been approved by other Councilmembers, which is why they chose to modify the request and initiate the planned development process. Community members that met with other council members were under the impression that they were sympathetic to our concerns, so it was a surprise to hear they would have voted in favor of the original zoning change request. A meeting will be planned soon to discuss the new process.

Mark Gonzales noted that the petition we gave City Council opposing the current ITEX/HANO plan had over 600 signatures, and it specifically stated support for affordable housing on the lot – a goal we share with Jane Place and GNOFHAC. Signees were opposed to the development for a number of legitimate reasons, such as design, scale, massing, traffic, impact on infrastructure, loss of green space, and a lack of storm water management studies. He added that requiring the lot to be used for affordable housing permanently would be preferable to the current arrangement.  

Julie then introduced David Grenadier and another gentleman to discuss their plans for a hotel they are planning for the lot at 3220 Chartres (next to the “Rusty Rainbow”). The lot is zoned HM-MU, and a hotel would be a conditional use, which they have applied for. A hotel was deemed a better use for the lot than the luxury condos they had previously planned. The ground floor would be commercial space with outdoor seating in front on Chartres St. They plan to ask the French Market Corporation to lease them space for seating along the side of the building as well. The rooftop would include an “infinity pool”, a bar, and lots of outdoor seating. The roof will get a lot of sun. The pool would be open to the public. The hotel would consist of 60 bedrooms grouped into 18 2 to 4 bedroom suites, more like apartments. They feel this is a good way to compete with STRs in the neighborhood. No parking will be provided on the lot. They are asking the French Market Corporation to lease 30 of the 84 parking spaces in the Crescent Park lot. Rick Prince pointed out that the French Market Corporation may not be able to offer anything permanently. Another neighbor voiced concerns about potential noise from the rooftop bar, congestion on Chartres St., and potential parking issues for near neighbors. Live entertainment is not planned as they do not believe it is permitted in HM-MU zoned lots. They said they will definitely do a sound study. They hope to use a neighboring lot for construction staging. 

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary

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Neighbors First for Bywater – Special Meeting – June 2, 2019

Present: Julie Jones, Anthony Eschmann, John Andrews, Brian Luckett, Tyler Harwood, Michael Owings, Nancy Thacker, Mark Gonzales, and Allen Johnson, President of Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association. Andrew Jacoby, an attorney that has been working with NFB, was also in attendance, along with near neighbors Joe Brown, Alisa Cool, and Judy Bolton.

John Andrews gave the group a brief recap of what has happened so far. City attorneys told the HDLC that they have no jurisdiction over publicly owned properties, such as HANO lots. The ARC wrote several reports that were not in favor of the submitted plans. Ultimately it went to on to be reviewed by the full HDLC commission and they made no decision regarding approval of the project because they had been told by the City Attorneys that they had an advisory role only. NFB filed an appeal to City Council regarding the HDLC’s decision not to vote on a Certificate of Appropriateness on the basis that the buildings on the lot would be privately owned and operated and should therefore not be excluded from HDLC oversight. The Clerk of Council responded stating that our request to appeal the decision was not valid because there was no decision by the commission to appeal. The ordinance regarding HDLC jurisdiction in these kinds of cases is unclear. HANO-selected private developers plan to build homes on the “scattered sites” around Bywater and Marigny and other historic districts, and these homes will in turn be sold, and the HDLC is not being allowed to consider the design on any of those either. The general feeling is that HANO is brushing off our concerns regarding this subversion of the HDLC and the city is content to avoid getting involved.

Andy Jacoby discussed language in the ordinance that states “anyone who causes construction” has to get a Certificate Of Appropriateness. There is a separate ordinance that says private buildings and structures require a CoA. There is also a line that says certain government bodies have to go to HDLC for “advice”.  As we have seen, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to follow said advice. The law doesn’t address what happens when a private entity plans a project on public land. Andy thinks our argument would prevail in court, but it’s not a “slam dunk”. The City would likely try to throw the case out since there is technically no HDLC decision to appeal, but would be appealing their decision not to act. State laws set the framework in which the HDLC exists, which was created through municipal ordinances. State laws make the same distinctions between private and public developments, but leave the same gray area when it comes to privately owned structures on publicly held properties. It seems that HANO intends to continue to take full advantage of their perceived immunity in these cases.

It is not clear how the new Planned Development designation, which City Council has recently written into law, will address the involvement of the HDLC as the HANO/ITEX project goes forward. It was inferred that the project would go through the HDLC’s Architectural Review Committee and staff once again, and then on to the City Planning Commission Design Advisory Committee for approval. Further review of the Planned Development process is needed. If concerns regarding HDLC oversight are adequately addressed it may affect the viability of a lawsuit based on this particular development.

Andrew suggested the possibility of filing an injunction to prohibit the issuance of a building permit. There are records of successful cases of this kind. If a permit is issued in error it turns into a different argument. The deadline to file a lawsuit would technically be 30 days after an HDLC decision, but once again it could be argued that there was no decision, or that since the project is now a planned development the issue is irrelevant. There was some question if the deadline would be from the HDLC decision not to act or the City Council vote on the zoning change. Reviewing the motion that was voted on by City Council is necessary. It was noted that the HDLC decision not to act and the City Council vote to grant the modified zoning change are two separate issues. The efforts to circumvent HDLC’s authority has implications city-wide and sets a precedent. Regardless, we had a better case and clearer argument before the City Council’s decision to create a planned development. There is concern how the planned development process will work. All interested parties are essentially guinea pigs since the process is so new and the guidelines are uncertain. The ARC is a part of the process but their authority is still in question, and whether or not the project would need to be approved by HDLC staff. Depending on those factors there could be another opportunity to appeal the outcome or file a suit. Going to court could have unintended results, as it did when the FMIA wound up with added height increases by right and no affordable housing that they wanted in the Riverfront Overlay.

Mark Gonzales suggested that in addition to a suit regarding subversion of HDLC oversight we could consider challenging the decision of City Council to modify the zoning request at the last minute. Neither supporters or opposition to the zoning request had time to understand the planned development process before the Council voted on it. Brian Luckett pointed out that regardless of process we should be grateful we got a compromise. He asserted that any suit would be regarded as obstructionist, and would invite further scorn from affordable housing advocacy groups, since they would errantly perceive it as another attempt to stop affordable housing from being built. It could also undermine the opportunity to work effectively through the planned development process, and would be discourteous to Councilmember Palmer since she and her staff were trying to give us what we asked for. Michael Owings reminded the group that HANO and ITEX did not get the HM-MU zoning change and if they had they would have proceeded with no regard for the concerns of the community. Reviewing the Planned Development process is necessary before considering any legal action.

There was further discussion on potential deadlines for filing a suit. The law isn’t clear. Mark again voiced his disapproval of the last minute modifications to the zoning change and our lack of an opportunity to study what it means. John Andrews suggested we pick our battles, and we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any favors by opposing the process at this point. However, if there is nothing in the planned development documents legally requiring ARC approval and a CoA from HDLC staff he would be in favor of an injunction. [A near neighbor] asked if there was a chance that filing a suit regarding ambiguity in ordinances defining HDLC’s jurisdiction may result in the law being changed in favor of developers, or result in losing the opportunity to participate in a Planned Development process. Andy said it would depend on the judge, but it would help if other organizations like FMIA or Louisiana Landmarks Society sent letters of support. Allen Johnson told us more about the FMIA law suit regarding the Riverfront Overlay, which they won but ultimately ended with negative impacts because they ran out of funding. He suggested that if we did decide to file a suit to be sure we have funding to see it all the way through. Filing a suit could result in the process starting all over again, and it’s not likely to go any better than it did this time. There was further discussion on the difference between suing on procedure and suing on merits. Mark again asserted that the HDLC issue and the procedural issue regarding the Planned Development designation are two separate things and should not be confused or thought of as related.

Mark moved that we file an injunction and a lengthy discussion ensued. Andrew suggested a preliminary injunction, which he hopes would force the issue, be a purely legal dispute, and not require lengthy court proceedings. Brian stated that he believes that now that the zoning has not been approved as expected the plans submitted will not meet the zoning requirements, and are no longer viable. To sue now seems like we’re suing about something that doesn’t really matter any more. John again stated the importance of studying the Planned Development process, implying that it may indicate if the argument matters or not. Brian countered that fighting for HDLC staff approval may result in them ignoring the concerns of the ARC anyway. He suggested we wait to file an appeal, if deemed necessary, until after the HDLC or ARC makes a decision so we at least have something concrete to appeal.

Mark formally moved that we authorize Andrew to file an injunction challenging the City’s decision to deny our appeal pertaining to HDLC’s refusal to vote on the appropriateness of the ITEX/HANO development. John requested to amend the motion, stating we proceed only if the Planned Development ordinances do not require ARC or HDLC staff to approve the final design. Mark agreed and John seconded the motion. Two board members voted yes, four voted no. The motion did not pass, but we all agreed the discussion isn’t over. Andrew will look into the issues more closely and advise us further. If we ultimately decide to take action we need to be aware of any potential deadlines.

The meeting ended at approximately 4:50PM.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary

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NFB supports the “Backyard Ordinance”

With the agreement of the City Council, and at the request of the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, Councilmember Palmer has proposed an ordinance to address Commercial properties with front, back or side yards that abut Residential properties in District C (except for the French Quarter). This will curtail outdoor dining and outdoor entertainment  in new businesses. It will NOT affect existing businesses and will NOT affect residential yards (you can still have your crawfish boil, pool party or barbecue). It is intended to allow new businesses to open while protecting the quality of life of residents whose yards abut those businesses. Other neighborhoods throughout the city have a similar policy, but we don’t in the Historic Marigny/Treme/Bywater zoning district. It’s a glitch in the system, which the proposed ordinance would address. The Board of Neighbors First for Bywater has voted unanimously to support this proposed ordinance.

If you wish to contact the City Planning Commission to support this proposal, you must do so by this Monday, August 5, by 5pm. Address the email to CPCINFO@NOLA.GOV.  Remember to include your address in this email. You should refer to Zoning Docket 080/19. You can also attend the CPC meeting, on Thursday, August 13, at 1:30pm in the City Council Chambers. ZD 080/19 is the 5th item on the agenda. 

Remember that we have a General Meeting this Wednesday, 7pm, at the Stallings Center. In addition to the items on the agenda already sent to you, Captain Young will attend to bring us up to date on crime in Bywater.

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Neighbors First for Bywater – Board Meeting – May 15, 2019

Present: Julie Jones, John Andrews, Brian Luckett, Anthony Eschmann, Mark Gonzales, Steven Jacob, Tyler Harwood

The meeting started shortly after 7PM with an informal discussion regarding the HANO / ITEX project at 4100 Royal. John said he was interviewed by a reporter from The Advocate.

Mark and Tyler reported that the Just Press Pause post card writing event at Vaughan’s Bar Tuesday evening was a big success. Attendance was good, and hundreds of postcards were sent to City Hall. The event was organized by Cherry May, who NFB has hired to help with PR. We all agreed she is doing a fantastic job. Mark objects to our financial agreement with her. An agreement has already been signed allowing for a $3000 budget, but doesn’t specify her hourly rate. Mark believes it isn’t appropriate for a non-profit to sign an agreement without being more specific about rates. Steven and other board members countered that the cost to NFB is reasonable for what we have gotten so far, and Brian reiterated that she is doing great work.

Joe Brown obtained a letter HANO sent to HUD with information about the lease for the HANO/ITEX lot. In the letter, dated April 22, HANO is asking for approval to give ITEX a 99 year lease for $10,000 a year. ITEX is guaranteed to make a hefty profit at this price, and 99 years is a long time. The project is essentially a multimillion dollar gift to ITEX. HANO states in the letter that they plan to build “150 units, of which 60 will be market rate and 90 will be Project-Based Vouchers.” The letter also proposes “to dispose of all the vacant land at 710 Clouet (0.31 acres) via a negotiated sale at less than FMV to Clouet Gardens Inc, via a 15-year ground lease at $1 per year in rent.” A second letter was obtained that discusses the details of a loan from HANO to ITEX. The loan is for $4,250,000 with 1% interest for up to 40 years. The letter is dated April 5, and refers to “construction of 136 new construction and mixed-income rental units [including 34 project-based voucher units] to be located at the development to be known as the Bywater Scattered Sites…” All present agreed that the letters should be shared with City Council and the press. Mark will email the reporter from the Advocate on John’s behalf.

There was then a discussion regarding the letter recently released from Kristen Palmer. It’s unclear whether she approves the zoning change or not. In the letter she states that “all stakeholders, from the neighbors to HANO to advocates have agreed that 90 affordable units is the right number for this development.” Julie spoke with her on the phone and was told the scattered sites are included in this number. Palmer advocates for the HDLC in her letter, stating that she believes their guidelines should be followed. Elliot Perkins, the Executive Director of the HDLC, has stated that he is not pleased with the City Attorney’s assertion that the HDLC does not have jurisdiction over publicly owned property. NFB has filed an appeal to City Council regarding the issue, because while the land is HANO’s, the building would be the property of ITEX, which is a private corporation. If we are told we can’t appeal because there was no decision we can argue that the HDLC did indeed make a decision – the decision to do nothing. NFB may file a suit if it is necessary after the City Council meeting. It was noted that allowing HANO to abuse their power in this way has implications for the entire city, and that other agencies, such as Audubon Institute, could pull the same stunts.

Brian was informed of a similar zoning change case in Algiers Point. Prohibitive and stringent covenants were attached to the zoning change that ultimately made the project difficult for the developers. If this winds up being the strategy of City Council we will want to have suggestions ready, but in the meantime our focus remains on simply opposing the zoning change and advocating for affordable housing that would fit in to the surrounding neighborhood and better serve potential tenants.

Anthony received a notification regarding 4214 Dauphine being on the agenda for an ARC meeting. Little was known about the proposal.

Julie informed us that the ARC will be reviewing plans for an open air restaurant that is being proposed for 830 Piety at their May 21 meeting. The lot is currently zoned HMC-1. Brian suggested inviting someone from the City Planning Commission to speak about outdoor seating regulations at our next general meeting. Inviting someone from FMIA was also suggested, as they are asking for the current regulations to be modified. Tyler will bring food and the water left over from the last meeting.

An NPP is apparently scheduled soon for the hotel project being proposed at 3220 Chartres Street (the lot next to the “rusty rainbow”), but none of us had seen any information regarding it yet. It was also reported that realtors are marketing condos in The Saxony as Short Term Rental investment opportunities.

The meeting ended at 8:23.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood

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Ask City Council to JUST PRESS PAUSE!

Introducing The Neighbors First for Building Community Coalition! The Coalition has been formed in response to the efforts of HANO and the Texas developer ITEX to build a massive apartment complex that would have a negative impact on Bywater. The Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, Louisiana Landmarks Association, and Parks For All have joined NFB in the Coalition so far. A web site is in development and events are being planned to mobilize neighbors. More updates will be coming very soon!

In the mean time: The next meeting regarding the proposed giant HANO / ITEX project planned for Bywater is a critical one. It is in front of the City Council, Thursday, May 23, at about 11 (we’ll get a more exact idea of the time this comes up as soon as we can and fill you in). Our message to the Council is JUST PRESS PAUSE. We want affordable housing, but we don’t want a rushed job that Bywater and the surrounding neighbors will live with for decades. Once the zoning is changed it cannot be unchanged. If it goes to HU-MU as is proposed, that will allow almost anything. Please make plans to come! A big turn-out will be very important here. Affordable housing groups that want the project to be built regardless of its shortfalls will certainly show up in force, and we have to show the Council that we welcome affordable housing, but we want to get it right. Below is more information on the proposal as well as email addresses for all the City Council members.

This is proposed as a mixed income development. 40% of the building would go for market-rate units. A one bedroom, 750 sq. ft. market-rate apartment would go for $1200 (some houses in Bywater twice that size are available for that price). And the zoning change would allow any un-leased units to convert into Short-Term Rentals.

The out-of-state developers—who need the market-rate units for their business model to work— are proposing about 80 units of affordable housing in this fortress. We’d like to return to the original RFP, which we have always supported: 56 units, all affordable, architecturally appropriate and open to the neighborhood. We’ve always supported a design that protects our beautiful indigenous trees—some a hundred years old—and maximum green space that also protects the watershed. The original plan may not work for this Texas developer but it sure does work for us.

But there’s more.

We support development that is sustainable, but there have been no studies of the impact on traffic, parking, electrical service, water, sewerage or storm water. None! There has been no Section 106 review, which is the federal impact study required for historic sites to receive public funding (this developer’s business model requires significant amounts of federal and state dollars). This flawed proposal is at the hub of immense disruptive changes to our neighborhood, including the 78-unit Arrive hotel next door (with only 27 parking spaces and three bars), a proposed cruise ship terminal directly across the street, the massive Navy facility (soon to be developed—in large part, the developer hopes, as affordable housing—just three blocks away), a 3-4 story, mixed use 30 room hotel/retail complex with rooftop bar on Chartres at Piety plus multiple potential development sites at play in between—all located between two active rail lines that stall traffic multiple times each day.

Here are the email addresses of the Council Members. Thank you.

Helena Moreno
Jason Williams
Joe Giarusso
Jay Banks 
Kristin Palmer
Jared Brossett
Cyndi Nguyen

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Neighbors First for Bywater board meeting – April 17, 2019

Present: Nancy Thacker, Anthony Eschmann, Mark Gonzales, Julie Jones, Tyler Harwood, Steven Jacob, Stephen Haedicke, Brian Luckett. The meeting was held on Nancy’s lovely back porch.

Called to order at 7:15 PM.

Our next general meeting will be May 1st. Stephen Haedicke will bring food with plates and utensils. Steven Jacob will bring water and cups for wine. Someone from SOUL NOLA, an organization that has been planting trees around the neighborhood, would like to do a presentation. John Koeferl would like to speak about the Corps of Engineers plans to expand the lock and Industrial Canal.

Julie passed out letters she had written for us to review regarding a “community feedback” meeting being hosted by the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance at Holy Angels, April 22 at 6PM. The letter would be to our members, encouraging them to go. We all agreed the letter was good, but planned to all read it more carefully after the meeting and let her know if we have suggestions. Everyone present agreed advocating for a smaller project with 100% affordable housing would be much better than the current proposal. HANO / ITEX is requesting zoning for the lot be changed from HC-2 (neighborhood commercial) and HMR-3 (neighborhood residential) to HU-MU, the highest density zoning in the city. Up-zoning to that extent isn’t necessary to do what they currently plan, and we are opposed to the change. We would also like to delay the decision as Gregg Fortner, the current executive director of HANO, is stepping down soon. He might try to push this project through, and he is the one insisting on the large number of units. When he leaves the new executive director may not be accountable if the project has already been approved. The project is very clearly profit driven. Everyone should stop calling it affordable housing because it is actually mixed housing. We need to try and get people to the GNOHA meeting because ITEX will certainly have their people there, and there have been efforts to paint those opposed to the project as “NIMBYs” or as being opposed to affordable housing developments in their neighborhood. We have to keep reiterating that we are absolutely in favor of affordable housing but that this project will not serve the tenants or neighborhood well. As it is currently zoned they could put 56 units and make them ALL affordable, which everyone would support. Some board members met with Kristin Palmer Monday to discuss our position, and also met with members of Jason Williams’ staff.

Julie, Nancy, and Brian all went to a Neighborhood Engagement Meeting hosted by Concordia LLC at the Parleaux Beer Lab the evening of Monday the 8th. It was not a NPP, but more of a “brainstorming session” with activity sheets for groups to fill out to give them ideas on how best to plan a hotel development on Chartres next to the “Rusty Rainbow”. The previous condo planned for that site was unsuccessful. They described their hotel idea as “The Drifter 2.0” (The Drifter is a hotel on Tulane Avenue with a bar and publicly accessible pool that frequently has events, which Concordia helped develop). They said they want to have a pool and bar on the top level of their hotel and have live entertainment. They don’t plan to have any parking because commercial space is a better use for the ground floor than a garage, and they can lease parking spaces from the French Market Corporation in the adjacent Crescent Park parking lot. They plan to have an NPP in 6 to 8 weeks.

The City Planning Commission is looking at the proposal to re-insert the affordable housing requirement in the riverfront overlay, which would require 10% of units to be affordable housing to get the height and density bonus. 10% doesn’t seem like enough – why not 15% as it is outside of the overlay in the existing Affordable Housing Density Bonus? The FMIA is still pushing for a 55 foot limit and affordable housing should be included anyway. Brian is going to try to meet with Kristin Palmer to discuss it with her.

Brian then informed us that the CPC is looking into a possible “backyard buffer” for commercially zoned businesses that wish to have outdoor seating in backyards that may be adjacent to residential homes. The FMIA is asking the city not allow any outdoor seating for HMC-2 zoned property that abuts a residentially zoned property. What effect could that have on development along St. Claude Ave.? Uptown they designate only a certain percentage of the back yard can be used. We agreed to wait and see what the CPC says and do more research before we take a position.

Up next was the appointment of officers and positions on the board. Everyone was comfortable with maintaining their current position, with the exception of Nancy, who will remain on the board but no longer as co-secretary. Tyler agreed to be secretary but will need backup from time to time. Mark agreed to make audio recordings of meetings if necessary. We discussed adding positions to potentially get new people on the board. We came to the conclusion the current size of the board is ideal – however, we need to make efforts to encourage other nominees. We do not want to be a self perpetuating board. We agreed the board election date being just after Mardi Gras every year is not ideal, so Anthony and Julie will propose revisions of the by-laws to be presented to the board for approval. If the board approves they will be submitted to the general membership for a vote.

The meeting ended at 8:19 PM.

Respectfully submitted by Tyler Harwood

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Neighbors First for Bywater General Meeting – April 3, 2019

Meeting called to order by President Julie Jones at 7:19PM

NOPD 5th district Commander Frank Young explained some recent personnel changes in the NOPD. He introduced Lieutenant Wayne DeLarge, who was promoted in December after spending many years in homicide. Lt DeLarge is now second in command for the 5th district.

New Orleans is now experiencing record low numbers of homicides. We had 15 fewer homicides in the 5th district last year, which was the bulk of the reduction for the city. This year we have only had three so far, which is good. The worst spot for violent crimes in our district is on the other side of Elysian Fields in the 7th ward. Car theft has been a problem lately. Usually the suspects are juveniles. They are armed, and have a tactical approach. They generally take the cars out for joy rides until they get “hot” and then abandon them. More officers wouldn’t necessarily help, it just puts more kids in jail when what we should be doing is looking for solutions, collectively as a city, to keep our youth from heading down these dangerous paths.

Commander Young has made efforts to address the continuing problems at the NSA (former Navy facility on Poland St.). It’s “cloudy” who is actually responsible for keeping the property secure, but the MCC (Joe Jaeger) said they will work to keep the perimeter secure with 24 hour security if the NOPD cleared it, which they did last Monday. There was some concern where the approximately 20 “residents” that were chased out have wound up.

Mark Gonzales advised a need for better community policing. He suggested it would be beneficial to have officers walk the neighborhood when possible, getting to know the neighborhood and interacting with residents. Commander Young agreed that it would be nice, but the NOPD simply does not have enough staffing to make it a priority. The NOPD gets around 30-34,000 calls a month. He reminded us he has a weekly MAX meeting that residents are encouraged to attend. Meetings take place every Tuesday at 1PM in the roll call room at the 5th district headquarters. There is also a meeting the second Wednesday of every month at 6PM. In the past officers were assigned to smaller geographical areas and did know the areas and residents better. Different communities have different needs, and some in our district require more police attention. Commander Young said it “would be a dream” if they had enough time or adequate staffing to be more present.

Commander Young and Lieutenant DeLarge were thanked for their time. It’s always great to have them at our meetings!

Next Julie introduced Jennie Canon West, the new HDLC commissioner for Bywater. Ms. West is an experienced architect and has been a Bywater resident since 2012 and lived in the Marigny prior to that. Neighborhood commissioners are volunteers appointed by the mayor, and serve four year terms. We can contact her with questions or concerns at Commissioners are not permitted to discuss a position on projects, but we are free to voice our opinions to them. Projects are first reviewed by the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), and they make recommendations to the commission. The ARC is made up of professionals, mostly architects. Commissioners must have a thorough understanding of the HDLC guidelines, and base their decisions on them. Ms. West has been to many orientations and one official meeting so far.

A member asked for clarification as to why the HDLC is reduced to an “advisory” role on some projects. The HDLC only has control over projects planned on private property. Concerns were raised that projects built on public land in historic districts, but technically owned and operated by private entities, should not be exempt from HDLC guidelines.

Another member asked if the HDLC was concerned with the impact of the proposed industrial canal lock expansion on neighboring historic homes. Ms. West had heard of the project as a neighbor, but it hasn’t come up as a point of discussion in HDLC meetings yet. As commissioner, she won’t hear anything until there is a proposal submitted to the HDLC, and that’s where her involvement would begin. To voice our concerns over issues like these Ms. West encouraged us to contact C. Elliott Perkins, the HDLC Executive Director [ or (504) 658-7040]; or Alex Nassar, who is familiar with Bywater [, (504) 658-7048].

Brian Luckett brought up an issue NFB encountered where a conditional use became a proviso. One of the provisos stated that the HDLC had to approve the “overall content” of the design, but when we went to the HDLC they reminded us they can only regulate what is visible from the street. In cases of larger structures (e.g. The Saxony) some sections of the building not technically facing the street are still visible, and can tower over and crowd smaller adjacent historic structures. Brian asked for clarification regarding the limits of the HDLC’s purview over content. In terms of context and scale there are guidelines, and Ms. West suggested we look at {section 8 or 10 – can somebody help me find this? Did she send a link?}, which have recently been rewritten to make them clearer. Brian commented that the way new developments interact with a historic neighborhood can be detrimental, even though what you see from the street isn’t necessarily capturing that fact. Ms. West said she agrees that our historical structures need protecting, but reminded us her role in the HDLC is strictly limited to being certain a project adheres to the HDLC guidelines, and reiterated that a thorough understanding of them is key should we like to address any issues with a particular project or guideline. Ms. West was unsure who writes the guidelines, but suggested we could ask the one of city attorneys. Melissa Quigly (sp? contact info?) deals specifically with the HDLC. Issues with specific regulations could be directed to city attorneys or the HDLC Executive Director, Elliot Perkins. Ms. West was thanked for making time to speak with us and volunteering for this important job.

Julie then introduced Meredith Clancy from the Police Community Advisory Board (PCAB) to the group. The PCAB is made up of seven volunteer members from each district. They gather and vet community input and suggestions to the NOPD, and help the community gain a better understanding of police operations and processes. Their goal is to maintain and improve communication between the community and the police, and also to reduce crime and improve our quality of life. More info, including dates and locations of PCAB quarterly meetings, can be found at Ms. Clancy handed out surveys to members.

Julie then addressed the election of the NFB board. Since no new nominees came forward or were suggested the current board was considered “re-elected by acclamation”. NFB members present approved.

Meeting adjourned at approximately 8:07PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

Posted in Minutes | Comments Off on Neighbors First for Bywater General Meeting – April 3, 2019

Neighbors First for Bywater board meeting – March 20, 2019

Present: Julie Jones, Susan Korec, Mark Gonzalez, Rhonda Findley, Anthony Eschmann, John Andrews, Brian Luckett, Tyler Harwood

Called to order at 7:28 PM by Julie Jones.

The election for the new board needs to happen at the next general meeting. It seems all current members of the board are content to continue to serve, but we all agreed “self perpetuating” boards are not ideal. A few members have volunteered to resign if we need to make room for new members, as we are at the maximum of twelve. We will notify the membership in the general meeting email announcement that we are still accepting and encouraging nominations, and will open the floor at the meeting for any last-minute nominations.

The Krewe of Red Beans is having a block party on the 3200 block of Burgundy on March 30th as part of their “Bean Madness” charity event. Devin De Wulf, the founder and organizer, has obtained permits to sell beer, which has been donated by Urban South brewery. NFB was invited (and gladly agreed!) to man the table, and we get to keep the proceeds. Tyler volunteered to help set up the table, and will bring the NFB banner to hang as well. Rhonda and Susan will work the table from noon until 1:30, Anthony and Mark from 1:30 to 3, Brian and Julie from 3 to 4:30. The last shift is from 4:30 to 6, and we’ll ask via email for other members to volunteer. We agreed it will be really fun, and the bands are good! Tyler will coordinate with Devin and Mark to be sure we have enough coolers for the provided beer.

Julie was notified that NPR and the Lens ran a story about the large HANO development being proposed that featured a 5-minute interview focused on the difference between all affordable housing and the 60%/40% mix. It was suggested that we respond, and the question was raised how to go about doing so, and who it should be from. Near neighbors would be good, and several great candidates were suggested, but that an official statement from our organization may be most effective. Mark agreed to contact Cherry May, who is an event organizer and promoter, to see if she has suggestions. Devin from Red Beans might also have a contact. Rhonda suggested consulting or hiring a public relations expert to help us craft our message. NFB has always welcomed and encouraged affordable housing, and we need to be clear about our reasons for opposing this development. Simply stating that the development is too big leaves us vulnerable to the convenient “NIMBY” dismissal. Time is of the essence, so if we want to look into a consultant we’d need to be fast.

John reported that he recently attended one of Councilmember Palmer’s “Coffee with Kristin” events at the St. Roch Market. The HANO development was mentioned, and the lack of HDLC’s authority on these kinds of developments. Ms. Palmer said she can still base her decisions on their advice. She expressed concerns about the trees, almost all of which the developers plan to remove. We agree the trees remain a major concern. Rhonda is looking into issues with stormwater management, which may not be adequately addressed in the current plan.

We then discussed the Arrive Hotel (a.k.a “Poshtel”), and our need to speak with Councilmember Palmer about it. She has been on vacation, but will be back in a few days. It’s unclear if the project will come up in the next city council meetings. NFB has filed an appeal to the city council regarding the HDLC’s approval of the final design. The design doesn’t consider noise issues for near neighbors, and the city attorney claims the HDLC doesn’t have the authority to address it. We have hired an attorney and Mark stressed the need to pay him a retainer that he can bill against. Rhonda made a motion that we pay a retainer of $2000. It was seconded by Mark and unanimously approved. The project will not come up until the Council meeting in late April.

Planning the next general meeting was then discussed. Councilmember Palmer expressed interest in having a community meeting / forum regarding the HANO project, and we agreed to offer to host it. Another option is to invite the new HDLC commissioner. It would be good to ask serious questions about her thoughts on issues specific to our neighborhood. Susan will check with Commander Young to see if he can come. It’s been a while since we’ve had him at a meeting, but Mardi Gras was understandably too busy for him to make time. Brian will bring food. Mark will bring plates, cups, and napkins. Steven Jacob was elected to bring water.

Rhonda then expressed serious concerns about crime in the “parklet” located at Independence and St. Claude Ave. Should it be fenced? The owner of the lot did not take any money from the “Main Street Initiative” to put in the parklet, and had expressed concerns about its potential for criminal activity when it was proposed. Men with assault rifles were apparently arrested there recently. Commander Young has been contacted. Some have suggested turning it into a small, fenced dog park. We discussed inviting the owner of the lot to a meeting to discuss possible solutions. Can we help? It may be complicated as he does not live in New Orleans. John has his contact information.

The last item of business was an email Julie received from Joe Brown regarding a friend of a near neighbor that expressed interest in an informal meeting to discuss our concerns with the “Arrive” hotel project. This friend is apparently an acquaintance of one of the developers, and could possibly help mediate, should it be helpful. There was some curiosity as to what his motivations may be, but we agreed there was no reason not to meet him. Mark suggested emailing him to see what his concerns are ahead of time. We agreed to have the near neighbor contact John, whom he knows, to discuss it further.

Meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

Posted in Minutes | Comments Off on Neighbors First for Bywater board meeting – March 20, 2019

NFB General Meeting – March 6, 2019

President Julie Jones called the meeting to order and introduced Bettina Reutter, Elizabeth Macy and Panacea Theriac, who were active in the opposition to the Sun Yard hotel development. The idea was to hear about their experience and learn from their success as other neighbors work to have their issues with HANO or the “poshtel” addressed.

Panacea became aware of the development when she got the zoning change notice in the mail, and was alarmed about it. The near neighbors know each other well and called each other. They also know each other from gathering at the “Chaz Fest” event that used to take place on the property. Elizabeth was out of the state when the news started to come in. Her backyard backs up to the yard where Sun Yard would host events. The group was diverse and had an assortment of helpful skills, which was advantageous. In addition to contacting people in the neighborhood they made efforts to inform folks outside of the immediate area. Efforts were made to distribute information to neighbors in a variety of ways – telephone, email, door-to-door – so that nobody would be left out, and gathered as much contact info as they could.

Sharing letters that were written to the HDLC, ARC, and City Council was helpful, so that other neighbors could have ideas about what to write. Getting press was also important, so that the issue would be heard about outside of just their block. Through the process they learned a lot about how city government works and grew closer as neighbors. Allen Johnson from FMIA commented on how the group organized their speakers at public meetings, and how it has inspired his organization. Instead of several people saying the same thing over and over in the short two minutes that are allowed, they each took on individual issues to maximize time. The only issue with that approach is if speakers get called up out of order. Joe Brown suggested numbering the cards that speakers hand in so they know what order speakers would like to be called up.

Organizers also met with City Council members outside of public meetings whenever possible, and sent thank you notes when they took time to meet with them. They printed maps showing where all the members of their group lived in relation to the proposed development to show at the meetings.

Establishing personal contact was extremely helpful, and they created a phone bank from numbers they got off their petition so they could call to personally remind neighbors about upcoming meetings. They brought their petitions to events around town. They focused on getting signatures in the neighborhood first but then talked to people all over the city as time went on.

Julie then brought up an upcoming meeting regarding a proposed up-zoning at the lot at 4100 Charters, which HANO owns and plans to develop. In the past the lot held as many as 50 units. A few proposals have come up for larger, but fairly reasonable developments. The latest proposal is very large, with more than 150 units, which would include 60% “affordable” units, with the rest rented out at market rate. The developer, ITEX, plans to lease the property and would own the building. Ron Loesel from Weber Consulting (hired by ITEX) informed everyone that the CPC report had been released earlier that day. It can be viewed by using the city’s “One Stop App” web site and searching for 4100 Royal.

A member commented that the increase in traffic this development would create would be a major issue, as well as the impact on infrastructure. He suggested that outside of scale and massing, neighbors should make note of all the other specific issues. Joe Brown added that the “Arrive” hotel that is planned for the lot across the street would exacerbate many of these issues. Getting facts correct in letters to city officials helps to be taken seriously.

Since the lot is owned by HANO the HDLC only is able to serve in an advisory capacity. A member commented that it didn’t seem right that the development is being called a HANO development when the reality is that ITEX is leasing the property to profit off of the development.  

These minutes were transcribed from a recording made by Mark Gonzales.

Respectfully submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

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