Riverfront Alliance Debuts Billboard: City Council, Fix The CZO!

NEW ORLEANS – The Riverfront Alliance, comprised of New Orleans non-profit neighborhood organizations, sponsored a billboard they debuted at Loyola Avenue at Poydras Street today, sending a loud and clear message to City Hall across the street.

         At a morning press conference, the group said they want the City Council to change the proposed City Zoning Ordinance to protect New Orleans citizens and neighborhoods. They also want citizens to know they think the draft CZO in its current form is largely anti-neighborhood and pro-development, to the detriment of all neighborhoods throughout the city.

         The Riverfront Alliance announced a “Fix the CZO” public meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 7:00 p.m., at Holy Angels, 3500 St. Claude Ave. at Gallier Street, New Orleans. The Riverfront Alliance, made up of the Algiers Point Association, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, French Quarter Citizens, Inc., the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Neighbors First for Bywater and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, said formal invitations to this meeting were sent to the entire City Council and there will be several presentations and an open discussion.

         “After years of participating in city-wide planning meetings several neighborhood organizations, and concerned citizens, are frustrated that the draft CZO still does not reflect language and changes necessary for protecting residential quality of life, property values and basic rights of citizens,” Mark Gonzalez, a Bywater resident and member of the Riverfront Alliance, said. “We are about neighbors, and first and foremost, we want citizen involvement in decisions that affect us.”

         The Riverfront Alliance said the draft CZO is a complex, 600-plus page document written by and for city planners that was fast-tracked for City Council approval last fall. During this process, they said representatives from several neighborhood organizations spent countless hours participating at the CZO public hearings, had meetings with City Council members and wrote letters and emails requesting changes, but, to no avail.

         The group said the CZO removes citizen input from important land use policy decisions, promotes over development of the riverfront in historic districts for the benefit of a handful of developers and enables gross exploitation of quaint neighborhoods for the sake of increasing tourism revenue.

         The Riverfront Alliance said their top priorities specifically include returning Section 8.1 to the CZO to protect the character of the French Quarter. They said since the 1936 Louisiana Constitution the Vieux Carré Commission has had the power to ensure new developments respect the unique interest and character and the French Quarter. They said the current draft CZO deletes this vital protection.

         The group wants to remove Section 18.13, the Riverfront Overlay, from the CZO, which could allow buildings up to 75 or 100 feet tall along the river. The Alliance argues this would give developers a “luxury bonus” that would price residents out of historic, Riverfront neighborhoods. They said the Overlay, as drafted, would allow a small number of property owners to bypass the Neighborhood Participation Process (NPP), which provides community input for plans that could alter the cityscape forever.

         The Riverfront Alliance said the want to remove Article 5, which they said would allow developments as small as 10,000 square feet to be exempted from restrictions on use, density, parking, floor area ratio, signage and more. Article 5 also removes neighborhood participation processes and zoning requirements and gives the City Planning Commission staff unbridled decision-making powers, they said.

         Last, the Riverfront Alliance wants to remove language in Appendix A on expanded alcohol sales, expanded restaurant hours and live entertainment. They said the draft CZO proposes all standard restaurants be allowed to have alcohol by right rather than by condition use and allows for restaurants to remain open serving customers until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 2:00 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. They also said it would allow for live entertainment in all restaurants (except for in the French Quarter where it will be a conditional use and an intensification of the current zoning) which opens the door for any restaurant to operate as a nightclub without neighborhood input.

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