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City Council Meeting News Summary May 24, 2018

May 24, 2018

At today's first regular meeting with the newly commissioned City Council, the Council approved legislation to address concerns associated with short-term rentals, passed a motion and authorized a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to initiate an investigation into Entergy New Orleans (ENO) relative to allegations of paid actors, and adopted a resolution on Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) reporting requirements.

Additionally, the Council introduced a comprehensive sexual harassment policy ordinance, confirmed New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) appointments, and recognized the heroic actions of NOPD officer Brian Frank, who rescued a woman from her car after she tried to drive through a flooded underpass.



Council Takes Steps to Remedy Issues with Short-Term Rental Program

Today, the Council unanimously approved motions spearheaded by District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer to modify the City's short-term rental (STR) program, which was approved by the Council in December 2016 and implemented April 2017. As of May 20, 2018, there were 4,554 active STR licenses in New Orleans. These motions give the Council and the City Planning Commission (CPC) the opportunity to review and revise the existing regulations as needed. 

The approved proposal will result in the following: Directing the CPC to conduct a study on STRs within 120 days, creating a nine-month Interim Zoning District (IZD) prohibiting the issuance of some STR licenses in certain zoning districts, and no longer prohibiting the issuing new commercial STRs except on first floor of a multi-story building allowing for residential uses.

"I would like to thank members of the Council who supported our efforts today to improve the City's STR program," said Councilmember Palmer. "My colleagues and I are committed to finding a balance on how we keep the STR program but address the concerns of historic neighborhoods. We're asking the CPC to take a look at how Nashville, Austin, Savannah and other cities are regulating their STR programs. I campaigned on this issue, heard from my constituents and I am adamant about continuing open dialogue and discussions moving forward. This legislative package includes a process for a hearing to inform the public of developments of the study, gather their feedback and ultimately create a new STR law." 

"This is about achieving balance," said Councilmember Giarrusso. "We must preserve economics but first and foremost we must preserve our neighborhoods."

In regards to the CPC study, the first motion addresses unintended secondary effects of STRs relative to the residential fabric of the City, and possible amendments to regulations in response. The CPC will be required to hold a public hearing within 60 days and release study within 120 days. In regards to the IZD, the second motion prohibits the issuance of new Temporary, renewal Temporary, and new STR licenses within Mixed Use-1 and Mixed Use-2 zoning districts.

“For far too long, we’ve focused on making sure tourists are accommodated,” said District “B” Councilmember Jay H. Banks. “It’s never been more apparent that we need to switch up how we do things and accommodate our people first, which will, in turn, benefit the entire City of New Orleans. I understand that STRs are a hot-button issue, but the larger issue of affordable housing for our residents has to be addressed. STRs aren’t going to save our city, however, they aren’t going away. We have to accept the fact that they’re here while balancing the needs of our neighborhoods. My focus and purpose as a member of this Council is the residents and the citizens of this city, and that’s why I support these measures.”

"I voted in 2016 against allowing STRs because the legislation didn't go far enough, which was noted in the many issues brought up by the members of the public who spoke today," said Councilmember Brossett. "At that time, I wanted first to establish an effective regulatory framework and a proven enforcement mechanism to ensure the preservation of our neighborhoods. That did not happen. Now the Council must find a solution to STRs, which is revving up housing prices, hurting the industries that form the backbone of our economy and eroding the authenticity of our great city."

 

Measures Unanimously Approved to Initiate Council Investigation into Entergy Allegations

The Council approved two measures to initiate an investigation into ENO relative to allegations of its use of paid actors in connection with the new power station in New Orleans East. Motion M-18-196 expresses the Council's intent to investigate the matter, and Motion M-18-197 authorizes an RFQ for an independent investigator to conduct said investigation. "Because we are the regulators of Entergy, we will be requesting any and ALL communications from them to comprehensively investigate this issue and ensure transparency for the public," said Councilmember Moreno, who authored the motions. "We want residents to not only understand the process but review the process with us as we go along. You deserve to know the answers, just as much as we do. We're the regulators of this utility but you are the ratepayers, and we will get to the bottom of this issue." The first of the two motions directs ENO to produce a wide variety of documents and materials under the Council's Charter authority to conduct investigations. The second, which initiates the RFQ process, expresses the Council's intent to retain a qualified, independent investigator to spend thirty days reviewing and analyzing the materials in order to produce and compile a report for public inspection. The investigatory report will be delivered to the Council for its use to take any further action necessary in order to hold ENO accountable for the potential corruption of the public process. 

 

Council to Enforce S&WB Quarterly Reporting Requirements

The Council adopted a resolution (R-18-182) authored by District "A" Councilmember Joe Giarrusso underscoring a letter dated May 10, 2018, that the City Council sent to the S&WB relative to its compliance with statutorily required quarterly reports. "Our office has been flooded with S&WB complaints, and I want the public to know that we have heard their clarion call," said Councilmember Giarrusso. "We will act to ensure these billing, manpower, and infrastructure issues are addressed. Parts of the city have flooded three times within one year, including Mid-City neighborhoods and businesses across the street from a pumping station; clearly we need to put everything on the table. We are going to look at grey infrastructure, green infrastructure, and everything available to us to learn to live with water. We will be working with the mayor who has assured us that finding solutions is a priority of her administration." The quarterly reporting requirement for the S&WB has been in place for approximately five years, meaning the Council should have 20 reports to draw information and data from. Councilmember Giarrusso noted that to date, the Council had only received two of those reports. "Since August, decades of inaction, lack of maintenance, and mismanagement within the S&WB have been brought to our attention," said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams. "With hurricane season rapidly approaching, we do not have the time to waste on the natural order of bureaucracy that's plagued our city. I don't know that we can honestly say exactly where we are in making the improvements we set out to make after the Aug. 5 flood event, but it's my hope to get any vacant positions filled at the S&WB as soon as possible to get this work started and completed, and get a definite sense of where we're at as a city to prepare for what's ahead."

 

Appointments Confirmed for NORDC

The Council approved a series of motions to ratify and confirm Mayoral appointments for NORDC. Per these motions, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of New Orleans Gilbert Montano, Chairman of the New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation Louis Lauricella, Council President Jason Williams, and Chairman of the New Orleans Public Library Board Bill Settoon will serve as members of NORDC for terms that will expire upon expiration of the terms of their respective offices.


 

 
  
 

Council Takes Steps to Remedy Issues with Short-Term Rental Program

Measures Unanimously Approved to Initiate Council Investigation into Entergy Allegations

Council to Enforce S&WB Quarterly Reporting Requirements

Appointments Confirmed for NORDC

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Information presented by the New Orleans City CouncilDavid S. Gavlinski, Chief of StaffCouncil Information (504) 658-1000Clerk of Council (504) 658-1085
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