While the Gnomes of NOLAscape (new recruits to the cause) are mulling over the exact text to review last week’s shifty, complex and subtle NOLA Patrol council meeting, which they say requires philosophical appreciation through a cracked Hegelian lens (they are still deciding who to piss off most, and first) I sidled into Friday’s special CZO meeting. And it was good for some fun and surprises, too.
No surprises about the outcome. A unanimous Yea on first reading was a done deal. The Council believes – or at least President Head does – that the best way to deal with a flawed ordinance is to adopt it. Then you can tinker with it better. Maybe you can even collect some fines while you you fine-tune it. Some of the commenters were unconvinced. They seemed to think this is something like saying the way to repair a flat tire is to drive around on it some more.
It was a lovely autumn day. I just wanted to stay mellow and watch the show.
But the comments – they just inspire wonder. Some were virulently against 75 foot high buildings, and a few in favor of them. I am with the pro faction, mostly a Ms Hamnet of Bywater Neighborhood Association. I don’t get the height phobia myself. I like different heights and an interesting skyline, but I am sure most are sincere, and they live there, so I guess they will work it out.
I don’t think all the comments are sincere, though. Carol Gniady, FQC’s new hit lady, had a list of heights for the riverfront, including 40 feet for Holy Cross. What does Holy Cross have to do with FQC? When is the last time any of them have been there? Can they find it on a map? Is there a sub-rosa Hoodie network brewing? The Five Families of downtown, hawking each other’s rotten fish? Holy Cross may be obliged to reciprocate by banning music.
The outstanding comment was on urban farming, factual, informative, grounded in science and experience. And the Council appreciated it, especially Ms Stacy Head! So you see, no matter what I say, she ain’t all bad.
One guy was amusingly smug. He told the council members to hold neighborhood meetings. I guess they had never thought of that. Then he told us that he had two buildings at 2700 Royal that were very nice, so he was a very fine fellow, while the 24 hour Mardi Gras Zone market next door was “inappropriate.” I think he just wanted us to know that this popular store was not as virtuous as he is.
But then – inevitable, isn’t it? – there came the Hoodie Platoon, like Colonel Hathi’s March through the Perdido Jungle, trunk to tail with loud bleats on big honks.
Neighborhood clubs should be a great idea. Citizen democracy. Local action for positive change. Somehow the most intrusive, probably most influential ones got infected with a virus of negativity in an ethical web of some of the worst of destructive classism. As Lisa Suarez of Faubourg Marigny Improvement said in this session, “Citizens Against Everything.”
Possibly inspired by some of the intense anti-virus work going on right now, the Gnomes of NOLA are working on a cure. They say some Hoodies may be returned to the community one day.
There were signs that one neighborhood association must be okay. A woman speaking for Neighbors First for Bywater explained that it was started by breakaways from Bywater Neighborhood Association. Explaining why they left, she trotted out some Republican-sounding stuff, so genuinely awful that we got a clear message that BNA must be pretty good. They had the good sense not to join VCPORA’s “7 Essentials” scam.
It was not all Hood and gloom, though. In a brief, rational presentation, Ethan Ellestad of MaCCNO pointed out that the CZO draft will prevent live music in traditional music areas, notably Rampart Street.
Editor’s note: New Orleans is being shafted on Rampart by the usual suspects, the Dementors of Downtown. There is an entity called North Rampart Main Street, Inc. A public interest corporation or some such – the details don’t matter. The mission is supposed to be to regenerate North Rampart, a commercial corridor and entertainment zone before there was zoning. So why are there no entertainment bars there now, in a traditional entertainment zone? Just read the list of directors, advisors, trustees and worthies: the same crowd of life-extinguishers that is making the French Quarter increasingly boring. The bores have seized North Rampart as a tribute subsidiary of the residential FQ, which it should not be. North Rampart is a commercial corridor and should serve everybody, not just the local nabobs working the One True Religion, permanently increasing house prices, and subjecting all of New Orleans life to the deathly code of garden party respectability. They call themselves Preservationists, while waging a relentless war of attrition on real tradition.
So boring are they making the French Quarter, while the rest of the city pays no attention and Council Members line up at the Kool Aid stand, that the permanent floating rowdy party of Bourbon Street looks better every day. I can’t get under the hood of North Rampart, Inc. yet but look it over yourself, and then look at the businesses on this urban commercial corridor. Shops. Local services. Quiet businesses. Why has North Rampart been allowed into the stranglehold of the same people that as members of VCPORA and FQC are sucking the oxygen out of the FQ’s air?
That is why we need Habana Cafe on Rampart at Esplanade: break that bony grip. Open up North Rampart. It belongs to the city, not the old crows of the lower Quarter. I want to see North Rampart live. I am going to find out the possibility of having North Rampart Main disenfranchised. Maybe I can engage SmithStag to sue it for me. $32 million might be about the right number.
Ethan said that the CZO must do more to protect neighborhood music venues from vigilante lawsuits by individuals exploiting loopholes in clumsily written old ordinances. Sounds right. Responsible zoning would prevent the malicious lawsuits run by the two FQ neighborhood abnormalities and their Dementor in Chief.
Later on came a doozie from the dark side, if you can call it a side rather than a spinning dingbat act.
Coco Garrett, President of French Quarter Citizens, comes to the lectern. She announces what an important person she is, then, as a NOLA Patrolman might say, proceeds to tell us that live music should not be allowed in the French Quarter, because it disturbs the residential Quality of Life – amen! Praised be its name – and even the tourist experience, says M’lady Garrett. There is too much music and not enough residents, and what visitors remember of New Orleans is not how many times they threw up on Bourbon Street, but the wonderful architecture and the great experience of being invited in to people’s homes, like hers.
I love it! This is what we go to council sessions for! Ms Garrett is a hardcore Hoodie, but a bit . . . guileless. This throwing-up thing is one of their dumber mantras. An article in the catechism of the Hood cult is that young people up to 25 or 30 and possibly all Bourbon Street visitors throw up all the time. SS himself wrote that if tourism expands because of the hotel levy’s contribution to visitor marketing, drunken 18 to 25 year olds will invade the residential areas, throwing up everywhere.
But President Garrett gives us a new stanza to the hymn: she sets her house against vomiting as a memorable experience. She thinks her house is better than throwing up. She came to City Council to tell us that.
People don’t really visit New Orleans for music and Bourbon Street and the Big Easy mythology, or Saints’ games, or the great Uptown palazzi or the Lower Garden mansions and Magazine Street, Creole or Cajun food, or great restaurants or po’boys or cemeteries or voodoo or beignets, Ms Garrett implies. They come to see her friends’ houses. I guess the 20,000 or 25,000 people who end up in Bourbon every day wandered in accidentally, while they were trying to find French Quarter Citizens.
So that’s our essential FQC takeaway for today. The President’s gracious home is more memorable than vomiting.
Are the FQers getting crazier, more dishonest, more shameless? Is Hoodism a degenerative ailment?
Am I the only one that gets a bit fed up of French Quarter nuts bleating about its fragile beauty? Why not just take care of it right, instead of that annoying whine all the time? One house fell down on the residential end of Royal Street this week. Just collapsed. Not where the music and entertainment are. Not where the bars are, and the chicken shops and daiquiris and T-shirts. They take care of their properties. Out on precious Royal, where the Old Dears and the Auntie Loops play. They incorporated to defend the built environment in 1938, when business boosters wanted to rip the place down for a rat’s nest, and they stopped it. Good work. And now they would have a whole traditional building more to look after if they dealt with that, instead of devoting their lives to cranky causes like finding sneaky ways to suppress music. Like zoning.
Let’s have a dream. A transformation happens, a Perdido Putney Swope. A council is elected that cares for actual tradition, not rose-tinted Hoodie reproductions of it, And they really listen to the musicians and artists, and historians, and people who know what the streets were like, and give their voices suitable weight in matters CZO and BZA. And they work out little regions – “overlays” – where the reactionary respectability mafias may preach their garden party morality, and have anti-music soirees, and ban things, especially live music and living culture. Hoodie reservations may be no more than two blocks square, and there must be at least one mile between each reservation. No parades will go through them. The only street noises allowed are fire engines and ambulances to remove the moribund and make room for the merely geriatric. Reproduction is not permitted. No schools, no playgrounds. No children’s voices must disturb the scowling quiet of the Killjoy Zones. They may launch $32 million lawsuits against anybody within their enclaves, but not outside, where real people live.
And NOLAscape could say: Clarkson’s bumptious failed circus has finally been sent to Perdition (not Perdido) by a Council without fear.
Scuttering back to reality, we have to admit that a lot of FQ and Frenchmen music now is just imitation. NOLA tribute bands. But even musicians have to make a living, and if the oppressive philistinism afflicting both downtown and neighborhoods would just shut up for a couple of decades, creativity might creep back into that rough garden. Green shoots and all that. And live entertainment might take root in the neighborhoods, and kids might grow up with creative native music around their streets.
FQ crackpottery is not the surprise, though. Lunatic statements are what I expect from the noble Citizens.
The surprise is, I agreed deeply with LaToya Cantrell. CM Cantrell has been under suspicion since she turned against the sound ordinance improvement at Clarkson’s Last Stand. Since then, she has not done herself any good by taking up causes restricting individual choice and freedom for petty and unnecessary reasons. like a jaywalking ordinance, and now she has a smoking ban simmering in her cauldron.
But this afternoon CM Cantrell said, and said well, that this CZO has to fulfill objectives set out by the Master Plan, and it looks like it is not. Go, Cantrell! (at least for this).
“As we evaluate the CZO we must not forget the Master Plan and its promise of sustainability, opportunity and livability.” Then she underlined affordability, so I will too. She contrasted the steep rises in rents and the almost nonexistent salary increases for most people, so that the percentage of income spent on housing had hugely increased for most families, leaving less disposable income for other necessities and . . . I think we are bumping up against real quality of life here, not the T-shirt and mule dropping concerns that the spoiled sisterhoods of the FQ say destroy theirs. Here is quality of life that like the problem of just staying alive here for some people would in a sane world take precedence over the petty, personal and class issues of the upscale neighborhood clubbers who always manage to dominate these meetings. Then Ms Cantrell brought in flood danger, house elevation, flood mitigation. That sounds like Quality of Life to me! Having a life is the prerequisite to enhancing its quality.
This was one of Ms. Cantrell’s finest hours. She was speaking for the two hundred thousand or so citizens who do not come to City Hall to seek to have their particular interests valued over others’, who probably have no idea such a meeting is happening – whom the City Council’s first job should be to serve.
I would suggest listening to the original on the video – it is right at the end. It was so good, NOLAscape is going to give her a break, or even a prize, as soon as those unnecessary personal restriction ordinances are defeated. Imagine – real QoL in our very own City Council. A proud moment.
Some of the worst things in the CZO are truly stupid, shortsighted, pandering rules against music. “Non-amplified.” What are they thinking of? Have you heard a keyboard without amplification? No sound. Banning amplification limits content, which the Supreme Court, even the mad Roberts court, says is unconstitutional. Banning music in courtyards is demented, just throwing a little blue blankie to Peter Yokum and Stuart Smith, cranks who would not be given the time of day by a strong council.
Why are they doing it anyway? How much nagging from the Smith-driven Old Squares minuet troupe did it take? LaToya Cantrell is looking like the hope of the city. Pay attention to her. Support her input, on behalf of real Quality of Life, meaning the ability to eat and have shelter, and the ability to make and consume art. Protect her from the Dementors, who may see her statement as heresy, and who knows what more mischief their voodoo can do.
(On condition she dumps those silly, unnecessary restrictions of personal liberty.)
And support any Council Member who has the courage to discard the whole of the VCPORA/FQC agenda. All of it. Every self-serving, death-serving word, banning and suppressing and limiting and undermining. Get rid of it all. Tell them they should have saved the building that collapsed, not spent their years sniping at what they don’t even understand.
And here is a project if somebody can get some politicians together with the courage for systemic inquiry, not just tinkering. The CZO is chipping away at the Master Plan, but before the Master Plan was a city that grew up without zoning. The effect of zoning for residential advocates is segregation of various kinds, and protection of rising house prices. That shouldd not be the driving force of a city.
Put a big question mark over the whole concept of zoning. You will find that you are not the only one who thinks that the whole agenda of segregational zoning, overlays, plot sizes, banning this and forbidding that, is fundamentally flawed and damaging American cities everywhere. Except Houston. The lone holdout. Houston repeatedly rejects the notion of a zoning code, and somehow gets by.
New Orleans got a couple of hundred years under its belt without exclusionary zoning. It could blow off the CZO and do another couple of centuries.
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