Stateside

Flash: FMIA was going to host an NPP for a Hampton Inn at 501 Elysian, but they changed it to discussing a Neighborhood Benefit Agreement for The Red Haus. That tells us a couple of things. Looks like the deal has changed for 501. It may not be the good Elisio building or the blockhouse Monaghan building, just a chain hotel with a formula design. Hamptons are usually okay to stay in, but their outsides are usually gray boxes..

More interesting is that the Council or somebody is again trusting Marigny’s little nest of crumbummery with a racist edge to say they can take responsibility for an NBA, and the owners of The Red Haus, having seen how their prospective counter-party handled its contracted duties with Café Istanbul, is ready to sign with them. A mad little minuet.

Stateside

Boring. From concept to execution, the project for the half block bordered by Chartres, Mazant and Royal was uninspiring. The building designs were as boring as a brick shoebox. The developer was a poor communicator unable to project a clear positive vision of what he wanted to do. One of the soundest reasons for opposition was that he gave the impression that he didn’t know what he was doing, presaging weak management.

The residential opponents were spitting angry, expressing their antipathy in embarrassing rudeness and witless insult. Like so many of our self-righteous residentialists, they inflated their antagonism into fake social rubbish about preserving the neighborhood, which required (as we so often see) inventing a false history of the immediate area.

The antis based their opposition on land use, even though it was permitted in the zoning, eventually focusing on noise as the big disqualifier. Both pro- and opponents said next to nothing about building design, despite the obvious and very good chance that the structure would outlive the business. The developer engaged David Woolworth, an extremely well qualified sound consultant with decades of experience, to deal with sound issues. He had come in late. By the City Planning hearing, he had had enough time to say that he could fix it, but not enough to have a complete sound design. Instead of respecting that, not only the objecting neighbors but the Commissioners seemed to believe a local amateur pretender to acoustic expertise, a guy with zero professional experience, who showed some charts to try to contradict Woolworth. “I’m not a scientist but . . . “

At some point it took on a name, Stateside, but the affair increasingly looked like some six year olds squabbling in a schoolyard. What was I doing here? The project looked like it deserved to fall over from incompetence.

Now I think we should take a side. Stateside’s. Kelso’s, the developer’s.

A big reason: he changed architects. StudioWTA took it on. I understand that Tracie Ashe took charge. Ms Ashe can communicate and design. The new look is not a great work of art, but that is probably the right decision. New Orleans residents are afraid of great design in building. The architects probably decided not to scare the fish. But Ms Ashe has ingeniously used pitched roofs and vertical lines so the masses and variation resonate with the surrounding traditional residential forms.

The developer could have gone for the MJL6 option, upgrade the design even more, launch the Riverfront Overlay. But this is probably not the developer for that investment (even though savvy builders suggest his cost estimates seem very high). But let’s not be greedy. The new design is good. Excellent. Well done, Tracie Ashe.

Another big reason: the opponents have doubled down on mendacity and ridiculous lines of non-reasoning meant to give some kind of sentence structure to their instinctive antagonism.

I have a message headed as from Julie Jones of NFB. Doctor Julie Jones. I generally expect anything from Ms Jones to be at least faintly ridiculous, but even in that environment, the first short sentence, “Time is ticking,” put me on high alert. To be fair, I have been told this language is not Ms Jones’s alone, so this piece of rhetorical kitsch may be the product of a team effort. We can imagine a meeting of the Indignati, fanning each other’s flames until a state of mutual high dudgeon is achieved. “Time is ticking.”

They are in synch with the American Zeitgeist. In politics and religion, most Americans base their decisions and actions on reinforcement not facts or real information. Why should downtown New Orleans be different?

Have a read first. Then we can pick it apart.

From: jjones1@uno.edu
To: julienola@gmail.com
Sent: 5/9/2016 8:44:45 A.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: NFB: Developers’ presentation tonight 6-8 at the site of the proposed hostel/party patio, 4019 Chartres
NFB
NEIGHBORS FIRST FOR BYWATER

 

Time is ticking. Come to the developer’s presentation tonight (Monday), 6-8pm, on site (4019 Chartres) to voice your concerns before the conditional use appeal to build out the Stateside entertainment complex/hostel is heard before City Council on May 19th.

The hostel alone, at the developers’ stated 75% occupancy goals, will overwhelm the block with 54,000 party tourists to the block each year. That’s 2,347 party tourists for each of the approximately 23 residents of adjacent homes!

Although the project has been reduced in overall footprint, the concerns of the expressed by City Planning Commissioners when they unanimously denied the conditional use are still valid.

See below.

In spite of the changes to the project
• size is still (>10,000 sq. ft.) 3 times that is allowed, in spite of the claims that it isn’t.
• 3 patios which total 5440 sq. ft and is twice the outdoor space of Bacchanal
• patios are open air which sends crowd noise, loudspeaker and live music into the air and
into the homes
• the new plans are preliminary, which can change, especially as it comes to sound attenuation
• the intensity and effect of party tourists on the historic character of the neighborhood brought on by the addition of 185 short-term bed rentals overpowering the neighborhood with 54,000 hostel guests/year plus destination bar patrons causing such a nuisance people will leave or turn their homes into short-term rentals, leaving Bywater as a neighborhood without neighbor’s.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><>

54,000 “party tourists.” What is a party tourist? Why is a guest at Stateside automatically a Spring Breaker? Don’t give this rubbish brain space. It’s just a fantasy of residential reactionaries trying to work up that satisfying state of shared outrage.

54,000 seems to be the number of beds times an optimistic occupancy factor times 365 – a fake number meant to frighten the low-info neighbor into a pleasant state of indignant anxiety, like Republican political rhetoric. The right comparison would be to count the potential occupancy of all the houses on the block, all those that will be in the HANO project across the street, and the facing houses on Royal, multiplied by 365. That would be about 52,500. But don’t worry about it – both numbers are nonsense.

An analogue of this bit of fake mathematics would be to add up all the rooms in all the hotels on and around Canal Street, throw in the Monteleone for good measure, multiply by 365 for the year, and try to give the impression that they will all be on Bourbon Street at around the same time Saturday night. Ridiculous. The human impact of a hotel is a factor of the number of people in it at any one time. The actual impact you would see is closer to, say, the Bienville Hotel, which has 83 rooms. If you watch the Bienville in action, you will see that there really is not a lot of action.

The first bullet point is just as bogus. 10,000 square feet is not the amount allowed. It is the amount allowed without running the project through the conditional use process. This sentence is not the product of ignorance. The Neighbors Firsters behind these statements understand what these words and these rules mean. They intend to mislead. They are selling you WMD.

“Three patios . . . twice the outdoor size of Bacchanal.” How irrelevant can you get? Bacchanal is not a hotel, does not have a pool, does not have walls around the music area, and does not have a sound management engineer on the case. Bacchanal is fun, but it is an acoustic muddle.

“Patios are open air.” There’s a bit of architectural news. It means “patios are patios.”

“Sends” crowd noise. Excuse me? A patio is a space. It doesn’t “send” anything. If you look at the plans, Tracie/WTA has designed buffering structure and space between them and houses. David Woolworth may have contributed to that, and has engaged to design sound technology that will work for the space. Can we be smart enough to see what that is, not to believe the constructs of anxiety disseminated by resident scolds and their amateur sound guy?

The next bullet point is the first accurate one. Yes, plans can change. That applies to all buildings. “. . . especially . . . sound attenuation.” Exactly. Engineering means sound attenuation can be designed, then incrementally improved.

The last bullet point doubles down on the introductory paragraph, adding a ludicrous speculation that everybody would move away, turning the houses into STRs. In other words, since Ms Jones and her clutch of complainers know perfectly well that absentee owner AirBnB in that area is about to become illegal, are setting up to conspire or engage in activity that really is not only questionable but illegal.

Between StudioWTA, Tracie Ashe (and possibly Wayne Troyer, but I haven’t checked) having done a bang-up upgrade on the design (I wonder whether the little NOLAscape pieces attacking bad design helped with that? I hope so.) and the descent of the opponents to the sadly familiar murky, mendacious, deceptive level we have come to expect from Neighbors First and Doctor Jones, NOLAscape is getting off the fence. Let’s support Stateside, because the alternative is supporting an increasingly fragrant bucket of poo.

Another StudioWTA building in Bywater is something to care about. Let’s help Kelso get it done..

Pete and Jenny of The Joint, across the street from Stateside, have been strong opponents of the project, and probably still will be, but I like them anyway, so I am going to tell you something about that little chunk of Bywater: the Pastrami on Rye sandwiches at their delicious restaurant available at lunch on Tuesday are absolutely the most seductive barbecue and best value in the Gulf hurricane zone. But don’t go. They might run out, and I want mine.

(c) NOLAscape May 2016

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. . . a bunch of Germans?

Is Jazz Fest really over? Can I wake up and peck out a belated piece for NOLAscape?

I am trying to write an article of earthshaking importance. It’s not going all that well. It’s still at the blank screen stage, where you think, Maybe a drink to loosen up. So I watched the discussion session on the Short Term Rental proposal by the administration, AKA Mitch Landrieu.

It was an eyebrow-raiser. What’s going on here, patty-cake? People that we have always been able to count on to say crazy things and piss us off delightfully while offering  dollops of free self-satire were actually acting sane and sensible. What has happened? Have the French Quarter Watchdoggie Squad changed their meds? Or could it be a trick? Maybe they are lurking, to catch us by surprise next time? This is stuff to warm the cockles of the serial non-offenders of the print dailies in decline, ever watchful whether somebody’s brother-in-law might be an advertiser.

Or maybe I am just getting soft, too.

It wasn’t 100%. Ms Susan Guillot of French Quarter Citizens still managed to take an Outraged of Royal Street tone, as if she had caught the head of the FBI rummaging in her underwear drawer. But for the most part, The Usual Suspects almost looked like part of the city, including Monsieur Albin, who was sometimes even funny.

If it was real: FQers – welcome to Earth.

But I ain’t counting the chickens yet.

It has taken a fairly long time for the AirBnB opposition to get some clear ideas for regulation down on paper for discussion, but what CIty Planning came up with seemed okay. Landrieu added an unwelcome clause that seems to accept whole-house absentee-landlord STR in residential areas. Most opponents at Council, and I suspect most of the CMs, seemed to strongly oppose this section, while accepting the rest. I began to wonder if it might not have been a clever ploy by the Mayor to give people something to object to, which Council could knock down, like a chess sacrifice, to pass the rest. Is he that cagey?

A woman who operates a B&B and is chairman of an organization protested unfair competition costing the hotels and B&Bs business. She has a good point. Lack of regulation means STR operators can shortcut insurance, sales and other tax and safety requirements that hotels and B&Bs must pay. I wonder whether the speaker was betraying an inkling that it is not all price. Many people now simply prefer the AirBnB experience.

But that was a secondary topic compared to the headline issue: owners, often distant absentee owner/investors, are buying property, kicking tenants out in the barbaric ways permitted in American law (a deed does not everywhere grant the right to sub-human behavior) turning the houses over to STR, essentially running little commercial hotel businesses in residential blocks. That sounds like a big step into unintended consequences territory from the original house-share idea. Even a humane libertarian should see something wrong there.  Neighbors of the tea-partyish sort, inclined to object to everything, frequently object to commercial uses in mixed-use areas that are mainly residential. But most commercial applications are local services – grocery stores, restaurants or shops. The self-standing AirBnB use doesn’t serve members of the community – it replaces them.

i wonder if rental is even the main objective. AirBnB could be the way to cover costs and interest while betting on asset appreciation.

CM Stacy Head said even more clearly what she had said a long time ago, when STR opponents were still frothing at the mouth, calling for complete bans and Draconian enforcement of laws that did not exist.

CM Head pointed out very clearly that Paris had done what the Old Objectors wanted: imposed a total ban. Result: There are thousands of AirBnB offers in Paris. There is an occasional photo-op bust for show, but so far prohibition works no better in Paris than the 18th Amendment worked in Chicago.

Is all this reasonable behavior an encouraging sign? Or is New Orleans losing its edge? If New Orleanians including normally reliable comedians of the louder NAs can discuss things rationally, arrive at workable solutions, more like a German organization solving problems and resolving issues, while most of the rest of us structure difference as conflict to duke out. What are we going to be, a bunch of Germans?

Or New Orleanians pretending to be reasonable?

Let’s not let if go to our heads. This article with statistical support can remind us what kind of strange zoo we live in.

http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/americans-are-delusional-prudish-religious-nuts-especially-when-compared-to-the-rest-of-world-study/

(c) May 2016

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