New Orleans City Council

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

New Orleans City Planning Commission votes to ban whole home short-term rentals

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2016 at 10:15 PM

Whole home rentals in residential neighborhoods are off the table in the short-term rental debate — for now — following the New Orleans City Planning Commission's (CPC) vote unanimously agreeing they should remain illegal. Following months of debate and years of discussion, the CPC approved a framework for short-term rental listings like Airbnb on Aug. 9. The recommendations from the CPC's staff now head to the New Orleans City Council, which could change up the new rules before a final vote — those recommendations are just that.

Following five hours of public comment and an hour of discussion among commissioners, the CPC approved its staff recommendations for three types of short-term rentals and voted to ban the controversial practice of renting out entire homes in residential areas. The CPC rejected those types of rentals earlier this year, but they were put back in play by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.

Several New Orleans City Council members have been critical of whole home rentals — District A Councilmember Susan Guidry told Gambit last month they pose "the biggest threat to the quality of life of our long-term residents." Councilmembers Jared Brossett and Stacy Head also expressed concerns about homes used as short-term rentals year-round in residential neighborhoods.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mayor Landrieu unveils five-year affordable housing plan

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 7:30 PM


Mayor Mitch Landrieu's annual "State of the City" speeches chart the city's post-Hurricane Katrina gains and, more importantly, glimpse where his administration is headed to address its shortcomings. Crime, poverty and a crumbling infrastructure always are at the top of that list. In his 2016 address, delivered on the roof of the Broad Street Whole Foods on June 21, Landrieu unveiled two reports: a progress report on the criminal justice program NOLA for Life, and — amid contentious debates over the future of Airbnb, the increasing creep of property developers, gentrification fast tracks, rising rents and deplorable housing conditions, all wrapped in stagnant wages and dwindling jobs — Landrieu teased a five-year plan for more affordable housing in New Orleans.

According to the plan, the city will "build or preserve" 7,500 affordable housing units by 2021 — with 4,000 units available by 2018, followed by an additional 3,500 units.

"People are flocking here, but rising demand and job growth means that housing costs have risen by 50 percent since 2000," Landrieu said in a statement. "Now, due to a broader loss of income-affordable rental units along with low-wage jobs and inadequate public transit, many New Orleanians pay more than 50 percent of their income just on housing costs. That is unacceptable and unsustainable. ... We must ensure that working people do not get priced out of New Orleans — they are the backbone of our City."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The "hotelization" of New Orleans: city planners question Airbnb

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 7:45 PM

Caroline Thomas' Coney Island-style satirical signs in 2015. - PHOTO COURTESY CAROLINE THOMAS
  • Caroline Thomas' Coney Island-style satirical signs in 2015.

Sometime this year, New Orleans will likely begin legalizing short-term rentals, creating some kind of framework for permitting and taxing properties on websites like Airbnb. It's been a long, drawn-out debate among residents feeling the squeeze from increasingly tourist-filled neighborhoods, Airbnb operators trying to make a buck, indecisive city officials and departments, and now hotel operators, who fear not only losing business but the hospitality industry itself, pushed further from the heart of the city, unable to afford it.

And despite continued objections from many residents, the City Planning Commission (CPC) and members of the New Orleans City Council, the city planning staff keeps floating the legalization of renting out entire homes — "principal" residential short-term rentals — per the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration. The CPC's June 14 meeting was set to vote on those staff recommendations for changes to the city's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, but the Landrieu administration requested moving the vote. The CPC agreed to move it to Aug. 9, which could mean a vote could come from the City Council, who has the final say on policy, as early as Aug. 11.

A packed crowd inside City Council Chambers on June 14 stuck through several hours of comments, mostly coming from residents from the Garden District and French Quarter and representatives from the city's hotel and tourism industry. Commissioners largely agreed Airbnb's creep could deal a crushing blow to the city if not legislated, enforced or regulated properly. "This is an emotional and complicated issue," said CPC Chair Kyle Wedberg, "This is a hyper-local issue. It happens house by house, block by block, neighbor by neighbor. ... An issue that's not only vital for us to solve but vital for us to get right."

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Louisiana students rally in Baton Rouge for the "Raise the Age Louisiana Act"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 5:49 PM

Carlos Wilson and Jasmine Jeff were two of the students who traveled to the state capitol today in support of state Sen. J.P. Morrell's "Raise the Age Louisiana Act," which would stop the prosecution of 17-year-olds as adults. - DELLA HASSELLE
  • Carlos Wilson and Jasmine Jeff were two of the students who traveled to the state capitol today in support of state Sen. J.P. Morrell's "Raise the Age Louisiana Act," which would stop the prosecution of 17-year-olds as adults.

In many ways, 17-year-old Carlos Wilson is trying hard to mature into a responsible adult. He has a job, he says, and a one-year old son whom he calls “his pride and joy.”

But he’s constantly reminded that he’s not yet of age to do some adult things. He pays taxes, for instance, but cannot vote to help determine how that money will be spent. And last year, he was unable to sign his own son’s birth certificate, because he was too young.

He also can’t serve on a jury, join the army or buy beer or cigarettes.

Yet if Wilson were to get arrested, he would be sent to an adult lockup, even if charged with a minor offense. That’s because Louisiana is only one of nine states in the country that prosecutes 17-year-olds as if they are adults.

“We as 17-year-olds deserve clarity,” said Wilson, a senior at the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy. “Are we adults, or are we still children?”

Wilson has been part of a steering committee for his school that for the past year has been researching the possibility of raising the age in Louisiana for criminal infractions from 17 to 18.

On Wednesday, Wilson traveled with about 300 youth from Lafayette and New Orleans to present his findings during a rally on the steps of the state capitol, and to ask that legislators stop prosecuting 17-year-olds as adults.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fines approved for marijuana possession

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 4:20 PM

Getting caught with a joint in New Orleans is likely to result in a fine, not handcuffs, following the the passage of a citywide ordinance reducing penalties for simple possession.

A measure from District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry, who also chairs the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee, introduces fines for possessing fewer than 14 grams of pot: $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second offense, $80 for a third, and $100 for a fourth and subsequent offenses. The measure received unanimous support from councilmembers and is expected to get Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s approval; it goes into effect 90 days later.

Nearly 30 New Orleans musicians — including Kermit Ruffins and Phil Frazier of Rebirth Brass Band — endorsed the measure, which also has the support of marijuana advocacy and criminal justice reform organizations.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

New penalties for pot possession set for New Orleans City Council vote on March 17

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 2:35 PM


Smoking a joint in New Orleans could land you a fine, not an arrest, if the New Orleans City Council approves an ordinance that reduces penalties for simple pot possession.

In January, District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry introduced a measure to expand a 2010 ordinance that gives police officers more discretion in handing first-time offenders a municipal summons. Her new measure extends that discretion to all simple possession offenses, whether for a first strike or fourth (or fifth, or sixth).

Under those proposed rules, officers have the discretion to give verbal and written warnings for first and second possessions of 14 grams or less of marijuana. But today, council members approved Guidry's amendment that turns those warnings into fines. The latest draft of the ordinance includes $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second, $80 for a third and $100 for fourth and subsequent offenses.

"It has become clear to me that the provision in the original draft, the warning provisions ... are not practical or possible at this time," said Guidry, adding that police don’t have the resources to track previous warnings and subsequent offenses. Voting on the ordinance, however, "is too important to delay," she said.

Guidry stressed that officers still would have the discretion to apply state law to possession arrests. "This ordinance, especially as amended, would not limit anything about current police practices or procedures," she said. "This law would merely extend that choice to all possessions."

The council held off from voting on the newly amended ordinance — the council votes Thursday, March 17.

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Lyft launches in New Orleans area

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 9:00 AM

The app-based ride service Lyft (featuring tell-tale pink mustaches on its cars) launches in New Orleans on March 3. - COURTESY LYFT
  • The app-based ride service Lyft (featuring tell-tale pink mustaches on its cars) launches in New Orleans on March 3.

Ride-hailing app Lyft hits New Orleans streets at noon Thursday, March 3. Drivers will begin offering rides in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes. Lyft won't offer rides to or from Louis Armstrong International Airport yet, but company representatives say they're working on an arragement with MSY.

The company — which has roughly 315,000 drivers picking up 5 million passengers a year in 200 cities — now shares the road with its other app-based competitor Uber. Lyft users use a peer-to-peer service on the iOS or Android app by hailing a ride from nearby drivers (in pink mustache-equipped cars) with payment all handled through a mobile device.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Orleans parking tickets are going up

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 3:06 PM

click image New Orleans parking ticket fines are being raised from $20 to $30, then $60 after 30 days, then $90 after 60. - DEREK BRIDGES/FLICKR
  • New Orleans parking ticket fines are being raised from $20 to $30, then $60 after 30 days, then $90 after 60.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration compromised on its plan to increase downtown parking meter fees by shortening the time — the meters were originally set to expire at 10 p.m., but after debate among service workers and the New Orleans City Council, the city agreed to end enforcement at 7 p.m. But to make up for that lost time, the city proposed hiking parking ticket fees from $20 to $30.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New rules reduce penalties for pot possession

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Pot smokers might receive only verbal and written warnings instead of fines and jail time if the New Orleans City Council gets behind a proposed ordinance to reduce penalties for simple pot possession.

District A Councilmember Susan Guidry — who helped pass a 2010 ordinance giving officers more discretion in giving first-time offenders a municipal summons instead of arresting them — introduced a new measure today in the Council's Criminal Justice Committee that expands those rules for all simple possession offenses, whether a first strike or fourth. The measure aims to free up the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to focus on violent crime.

Under the new rules, officers can give a verbal warning for smokers with less than 14 grams of marijuana. A second offense carries a written warning, a third violation includes a fine of no more than $50, and a fourth offense carries a fine of no more than $100.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Judge denies request to halt Confederate monument removal

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 4:15 PM

The Jefferson Davis monument in 2004. - BART EVERSON/FLICKR
  • The Jefferson Davis monument in 2004.
The City of New Orleans is now free to begin removing four controversial Confederate landmarks. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has denied a request from several parties that filed suit after the New Orleans City Council approved Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plans to begin removing the four monuments — Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place.

Barbier's pending denial was forecasted during a Jan. 14 hearing in which he verbally swatted down nearly every argument from the plaintiffs, which include the Louisiana Landmark Society, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the Monumental Task Committee and Beauregard Camp No. 130, a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,

The suit challenged Mayor Mitch Landrieu and federal agencies by arguing that “the city intentionally discriminated against defenders of these four monuments,” among a dozen other challenges — including that moving them would damage them, and that the federally funded streetcar lines should protect the two monuments near them. The suit also alleges that the city violated due process and equal protection. Barbier dismissed all of the above.

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