New Orleans City Council

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Orleans City Council hits 'pause' on whole-home short-term rentals

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 6:30 PM

A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.
  • A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.

The New Orleans City Council has agreed to temporarily ban new whole-home short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods until new rules are drawn up at City Hall.

The motions “press pause” on one of the most prolific types of rentals — the 90-day-limit temporary STRs, which encompass half of all 4,500 STRs on platforms like Airbnb — “until we tailor regulations to meet the needs of the city of New Orleans," said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who authored the motions. Once those temporary permits expire, they can’t be renewed. Those restrictions are effective immediately for up to nine months.

Lengthy debate broke out at the first full meeting of the new City Council May 24, echoing previous debates over the rules governing STRs, which formally went into effect last year.

"This legislation is a first step towards revising and improving the STR regulations to restore and preserve the residential fabric in historic areas of the city," Palmer said in a statement.

The City Council unanimously approved three motions — one to create an interim zoning district prohibiting new STRs and license renewals for some types of rentals, another to prohibit some new commercial STRs, and another to redirect the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) to issue a broader study of the city’s STR laws within the next few months, which it already was doing with a limited scope.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Council members, business leaders call for health care, 'fairness' for hospitality workers

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 5:18 PM

From left: District B Councilmember Jay Banks, New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams, District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, New Orleans & Company senior VP of public affairs Cheryl Teamer. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • From left: District B Councilmember Jay Banks, New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams, District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, New Orleans & Company senior VP of public affairs Cheryl Teamer.

At a news conference that was thin on specifics but signaled support for rank-and-file workers in the city's most prominent industry, New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams issued a "clarion call" for health care for local hospitality workers.

Joined by New Orleans Tourism Marketing Commission (NOTMC) President Mark Romig, Cheryl Teamer of New Orleans & Company and Districts B and C Councilmembers Jay Banks and Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Williams pledged to work with stakeholders to develop a plan to provide cost-accessible health care services for industry workers and to help them better share in the bounty of the profitable New Orleans tourism industry.

"For the first 300 years of this city's history, hospitality has looked one way. ... It has to look different for our next 300 years," Williams said. He called workers the "backbone" of the tourism industry, saying they're "the person [tourists] see first, last and in the middle" of visits to New Orleans.

"Tourism dollars that come to this city have to be shared with the folks who give so much of themselves. ... [To workers], I hear you, I see you and we will do our part to take care of you," Williams said.

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New Orleans City Council to consider new restrictions on short-term rentals, will direct City Planning Commission to further study impacts

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2018 at 3:50 PM

PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD

The New Orleans City Council will consider a new interim zoning district that prohibits new commercial and temporary short-term rentals in many neighborhoods for listings on platforms like Airbnb.

The City Council also will consider rescinding a motion directing the City Planning Commission (CPC) to study the impacts of the year-old STR laws established by the previous administration, but it will request a new, broader study building on what the CPC already has reviewed. The new study will also direct the CPC to look at New Orleans' laws and STR presence compared to similarly sized cities like Austin, Charleston, Nashville and Savannah, and whether those cities' laws could work in New Orleans. It also will review STRs' contributions to the city's affordable housing funds.

A new "Short Term Rental Interim Zoning District" will end new licenses as well as renewals for temporary STRs and ends renewals for commercial STRs in historic core and historic urban zoning districts, "neighborhoods feeling the greatest impact," says District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. That interim zoning district remains in effect for one year.

Palmer, who filed both motions, stresses that the legislation passed by the City Council last year was, in their words, "a first step."

"Now it's been over a year," Palmer told Gambit. "The reason why you have the study is so the individual that feels the way the neighborhood looks now has actual information to determine whether that feeling is correct. Housing, places, neighborhoods you have an emotive connection to. We want to make sure it's based in fact when we start legislating."

The City Council will vote on those motions Thursday, May 24.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

New Orleans City Council to open Entergy investigation into 'astroturfing' campaign

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 11:45 AM

Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction.

In the wake of Entergy’s admission of an astroturfing campaign leading up to the approval of a power plant in New Orleans East, the New Orleans City Council will change public comment cards and introduce legislation to require lobbying groups register with City Hall.

The City Council will undertake its own investigation of Entergy’s hiring of a firm that enlisted a company to bring paid actors into City Council hearings on construction of the plant — an investigation from The Lens uncovered the depth of that campaign, and Entergy admitted it had hired a company to generate “grassroots support” for the project.

“This body has deemed it necessary and appropriate that we do a formal and complete investigation of the use of paid actors,” said Council President Jason Williams. “It is an act that can affect every single thing we do, from development and land use issues and on and on and on. It was a perversion of our public process. The use of paid actors was clearly an attempt to pervert the true process of public comment on matters before the council.”

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

City Council president Jason Williams to address Entergy 'astroturf' campaign tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 3:34 PM

Demonstrators in March at the New Orleans City Council decrying Entergy's plans to build a power plant in New Orleans East. Last month, The Lens reported that some pro-plant demonstrators were actually paid actors. Entergy claims it had nothing to do with hiring them, and that the "astroturfing" was done by a subcontractor. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Demonstrators in March at the New Orleans City Council decrying Entergy's plans to build a power plant in New Orleans East. Last month, The Lens reported that some pro-plant demonstrators were actually paid actors. Entergy claims it had nothing to do with hiring them, and that the "astroturfing" was done by a subcontractor.

Since The Lens revealed that some of the people at City Council chambers at last year's hearing over a proposed Entergy power plant were actually paid to speak in favor of the power station, the new New Orleans City Council has been debating how to address the practice, known as "astroturfing."

Now City Council President Jason Williams will hold a press conference tomorrow outlining the council's options and next steps.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Editorial: A newly energized New Orleans City Council

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 2:48 PM

The new New Orleans City Council held a meet-and-greet last week at New Orleans City Park. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • The new New Orleans City Council held a meet-and-greet last week at New Orleans City Park.

At the end of their first week in office, the members of the new New Orleans City Council held an informal meet-and-greet for their constituents at New Orleans City Park. It was a chance for citizens not only to meet their council representatives in a relaxed setting, but also to collect names and telephone numbers of their aides.

Much has been made of the fact this is the most diverse council ever, with the city’s first Hispanic and Vietnamese-American council members, but less has been written about the unity and comity that was on display that evening. A report in The New Orleans Advocate described how the seven members had been meeting regularly at a coffee shop since the election so they could hit the ground running on Inauguration Day.

And they did. The new council’s first move was a letter to the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) — penned by District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso III and signed by the entire council — putting the S&WB on notice that the troubled agency will be expected to provide transparency, and soon. They demanded S&WB leadership appear before the council next month to give specific answers to questions ranging from the handling of billing complaints to the amount of water wasted by the S&WB each month, as well as staffing shortages.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Entergy, Sewerage & Water Board in New Orleans City Council crosshairs

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

While the New Orleans City Council moves furniture into its offices after its swearing-in ceremonies this week, an astroturfing campaign to mimic "grassroots support" for Entergy's new gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East has prompted one of the first assignments from the new lineup at City Hall.

A report from investigative news outlet The Lens and Entergy's subsequent responses and admissions revealed a public relations firm hired by the utility had contracted with a company called Crowds on Demand that hired actors to fill seats to support the plant — which faced strong opposition from New Orleans East residents and civil rights and environmental groups.

The vote approving the power plant was among the last controversial measures adopted by the outgoing City Council.

But with five new members sworn into office this week, the new group is likely to bring Entergy back to City Hall to determine the depths of the campaign and whether it impacted the public hearing process.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Entergy: power plant 'grassroots support' actors were paid without company's 'knowledge or approval'

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

Entergy claims that paid actors who appeared at public hearings to support construction of a gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East were hired "without Entergy’s knowledge or approval."

A report from investigative news outlet The Lens found that dozens of orange shirt-wearing supporters who appeared at New Orleans City Council hearings concerning Entergy's construction of the $210 million plant were paid through Crowds on Demand, which does what it sounds like.

According to a statement from Entergy, Crowds on Demand was hired by the public relations firm that Entergy hired to organize "local grassroots support" for the plant. That firm, The Hawthorn Group, was contracted to mobilize "up to 75 grassroots supporters, 10 of whom would speak, for the October 16, 2017 public meeting and up to 30 grassroots supporters, including 10 speakers, for the February 21, 2018, public meeting," but "the contract with Hawthorn did not contemplate or authorize that any of these supporters would be paid for their attendance."

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Assessing Mitch Landrieu's legacy

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 1:32 PM

Mitch Landrieu. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Mitch Landrieu.

Like mayors before him, Mitch Landrieu worries about his legacy. It’s understandable. Mayors spend much of their time saying “no,” either because there’s never enough money to do all that’s asked or because some things are just bad ideas. Then, at the end of their tenures, they get criticized for all they couldn’t or didn’t do — and for things that didn’t go very well.

Perhaps hoping to get in front of the inevitable evaluations, Hizzoner made the rounds of local media in recent weeks asking for “exit interviews.” He passed out slick reports touting his accomplishments. Fair enough. It’s beyond dispute that Landrieu left the city in far better shape than he found it — on many levels — and he has every right to crow about that.

On the other hand, Landrieu cannot deny that he could (and should) have done some things better — though, like most politicians, he offers a ready litany of excuses and explanations.

Herewith my “performance review” of his tenure.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

As final act, New Orleans City Council denies zoning change for Bywater hotel

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 5:15 PM

Sun Yard opponents applaud the denial of a zoning change that would open the door for the hotel's development on St. Claude Avenue.
  • Sun Yard opponents applaud the denial of a zoning change that would open the door for the hotel's development on St. Claude Avenue.

In the final votes cast among this version of the New Orleans City Council before its newly elected members enter City Hall next week, a hotel planned for St. Claude Avenue in Bywater failed to get enough support for a required zoning change that would open the door for commercial development.

The zoning change covers part of a block that formerly housed events space The Truck Farm and several residences, which would make room for the Sun Yard, a 37-room hotel with adjoining restaurant.

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