NFB General Meeting – July 1, 2020

Held via video conference. 

After the inevitable technical issues the meeting started at 6:05PM when Julie introduced Allison Cormier from the Mayor’s Neighborhood Engagement Office. She informed us of The Marigny / French Quarter Transportation meeting July 7th. She then reminded us how important the census is, and encouraged everyone to participate and spread the word. New Orleans has a census web site at It takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and the money the area will receive from the federal government is dependent on the census numbers of the population.

Julie then introduced District “C” Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer and her Chief of Staff Andrew Sullivan. {It took us a minute to get the sound to work} Julie began asking questions that were submitted by NFB members in advance. 

Q: There are rumors that flights to New Orleans have been filling up, especially from Texas and Florida where bars are closed due to record numbers of COVID-19 infections. What are your thoughts about having bars open in the French Quarter that are likely vectors for COVID-19?

Councilmember Palmer responded that she doesn’t feel confident all the bars are being compliant with current rules, and has been communicating with the mayor about the issue. There is a task force that is actively out checking for compliance. She encourages residents to call 311 if they see bars that are not being safe. 

City Council and the mayor have conference calls at least once a week. The recent increase in COVID-19 cases seem to be the result of community spread. There is no evidence to suggest any increase in spread from recent Black Lives Matter protests, as most participants wore masks. Mr. Sullivan noted that while the number of infections in Louisiana is going up, New Orleans has not seen the same increase. Councilmember Palmer is encouraging hotels to provide masks to guests.

City Council is still meeting via video conference, and land use issues are starting to get attention once again. 

Q: Some studies link high density environments to the spread of viruses, including COVID-19. Since residents in the HANO/ITEX development may be at higher risk would you now rethink your support for this high density plan over the older low density version? 

Councilmember Palmer said the plans for the HANO/ITEX development were mostly a “done deal” before she came into office. She and her staff worked to get the project designated a “planned development” so that neighbors would continue to have input as the plans are finalized. She is not aware of studies suggesting increased spread in apartment buildings. Nursing homes have been problematic because they share many common spaces.

Q: Would you support a study by the New Orleans Inspector General or Tulane University regarding the CPC staff and their decision making process regarding all zoning changes and conditional use requests in this area? 

If people feel there is a trend or an issue that warrants a third party investigation Councilmember Palmer would be open to it. All neighborhoods should be treated fairly and equitably. The city should be responsive to its constituents. She is open to a third-party investigation, but is not sure which body (I.G., Tulane or ??) is the most appropriate. 

Q: During the Phase II re-opening are all businesses in the Bywater allowed to expand their commerce outdoors into parking areas and green spaces,  even if they do not have a food certificate?


It is supposed to only be food service establishments, but the administration is being a lot more liberal and allowing businesses to do more to try and make up for lost business during the pandemic. As soon as the emergency orders are lifted the normal rules will be enforced again. Expanding into the public right-of-way still requires a special permit, especially due to ADA requirements. “Parklets” (small seating areas in parking spots) are an option being explored. Frenchman Street is an example of an area where this might be beneficial, and in Bywater where sidewalks are narrow. It is complicated when public space is being dedicated to private uses.

Q: Our sanitation workers are essential workers. Their work is dangerous. Why can’t the City demand a contract  for them with decent wages and protective gear?

City Council has asked for a copy of the contract to see what can be changed. Councilmember Palmer agrees it is a big issue and will keep us updated as they find out more. 

Q: When people leave bars and restaurants they will often loiter on the sidewalks in front of neighbors’ houses and they are not wearing masks. What can be done about this? Whom do we call when we see groups of people not physically distancing and not wearing masks? Also whom do we call when we suspect a neighborhood establishment is not adhering to guidelines?

As discussed earlier, calling 311 is encouraged as they are linked directly to the newly formed task force. 

Q: Is there any update on the Naval Support Facility?

No update yet. The food pantry Councilmember Palmer organized has been operating on the Holy Angels property, which is owned by the same developers. She has been in regular contact so will seek an update when they next speak. Last she heard was that HUD had approved the proposal to build workforce housing on the property, and they are now waiting to work out financial details.

Q: Markey Park is a wreck. 

The council member’s office has contacted Parks and Parkways and NORD and they will follow up. The plastic over the water fountain is probably for safety reasons due to the pandemic. Julie pointed out that the children’s side of the fountain was broken before the pandemic.

Q: New Orleans is one of the most deforested cities in the US. There are many documented benefits of urban tree cover, from water management to alleviating the heat island effect to mental well-being. Bywater is about to lose 10 mature sycamores and live oaks in the 800 block of Montegut and another 10 mature oaks and magnolias at 4100 Royal. The local tree planting nonprofit, SOUL (Sustaining Our Urban Landscape) is proposing a change to the CZO to protect heritage trees on private property and to create a ‘no net loss of tree canopy’ strategy. Would you support such a change to the CZO?

They are working on draft legislation right now. If somebody cuts down a tree there has to be recourse, and the trees should be replaced “caliper for caliper”. Old growth trees really can’t be replaced, and there needs to be a way to prevent losing them. We should hear a lot more on this new legislation as it develops over the next few months. 

Brian Luckett asked that we be kept informed if there are ways NFB can support the new ordinance. He then commended Council member Palmer for her efforts with the food pantry, which has been very successful. She noted how helpful and generous Bywater volunteers and businesses have been. 

Q: Zoning docket 41/20 essentially makes converting a building that has been reduced in the number of units back to a higher number of units by right. Currently this would require a conditional use. There are concerns about it proliferating STRs. What is the purpose of the change? What would the rules regarding the ability to increase the footprint of a building be?

Councilmember Palmer didn’t know about the proposal until a week ago and heard similar concerns from other neighborhood groups. Her office has asked the motion to be deferred so it can be studied more and there can be more robust community engagement. The assumption is that it is an effort to increase housing, but she is not aware of any studies that have been done regarding potential impacts the change may have. The building would need to have been been the larger number of units previously to be eligible. There are still a lot of questions. It will be deferred until at least July 16th.

Any housing unit you are able to put on the market helps with the affordable housing issue by driving down cost in general. Getting vacant or blighted housing back into commerce should be encouraged, and less complicated to negotiate with the City. Regulating the amount of STRs in newly renovated multi-family units is worth discussing, but given the current economic impact of the pandemic Councilmember Palmer is hesitant to crack down on STR regulation. She doesn’t want people to lose their homes. She theorizes the proliferation of STRs will slow “post-COVID” as the economy of the city changes. An over reliance on hospitality has proven unstable for the local economy, and the city will need to adjust priorities. HMR-3 already requires a conditional use for STRs, and limits the number of allowed STRs, but enforcement is an issue. 

Councilmember Palmer and Mr. Sullivan were thanked for their time, patience, and assistance with our technical difficulties.


The meeting ended at about 6:50PM.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, secretary 

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