Bywater Neighborhood Association has submitted, formal written support for the Sun Yard development on St Claude. The full text is quoted below. The quotes from Bywater residents in the letter are not additions; they are in the original letter.
Please not especially that these people said they did not come out into open or spoken support before because they felt intimidated. The opposition has been verbally violent and occasionally almost unhinged. I experienced some of that personally in a mediated meeting with Legislative Director Maklansky and mediator David Zalkind present. Not that I felt intimidated – that hadn’t crossed my mind. It was just a meeting; my blood pressure was at about average. But the associated opponents said they did not feel “safe” with Mary Ann Hammett and me in the room. What is your state of mind when that is how you think of others in a meeting that is supposed to be a calm discussion?
This morning, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association stepped into the ring to support Neighbors First in opposition. Interesting. Perhaps NFB is feeling incompetent, which would be an honest appraisal. FMIA is crossing a border. It could be dangerous. They are giving a license for BNA to enter into Marigny matters. Maybe they should expand their area of coverage and change to BMNA. FMIA won’t really be up to speed on the project. They are just sharing in NFB’s policy of always supporting the few against the many, and despite their frequent talk of affordable housing, consistently supporting residential gentrification and house price appreciation against community benefit.
If you care about this beneficial project, please write to council. . And if you are a resident of Marigny, you might want to suggest to your NA that it gets back in its lane before the advocacy setup this side of Esplanade sees a drastic change.
April 17, 2018
Councilmember Nadine M. Ramsey
City Hall, Room 2W70
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Re: Zoning Docket 021/18
Dear Councilmember Ramsey:
The Bywater Neighborhood Association (“BNA”) supports the application of 3000-3032 St. Claude Avenue, LLC, for a zoning change and a conditional use for a hotel in excess of 10,000 sq. ft. in the above-referenced zoning docket. The BNA believe that the small hotel proposed will be good for the neighborhood as a whole and will be an asset to the community. The BNA urges the Council to reject the recommendation of the City Planning Commission, adopt the reasoning of the Commission’s staff and approve the zoning change and conditional use.
Liz Solms and Giuliano Pignataro, doing business as 3000-3032 St. Claude Avenue, LLC, dream of a small, laid-back, neighborhood-friendly hotel, nestled in a lush space at 3000-3032 St. Claude Avenue in Bywater – The Sun Yard. They are proposing a 37-room hotel with a restaurant, bar and swimming pool. They envision a quiet but lively space where visitors and neighbors alike can relax, have a drink, bring their children and swim. They have been met with resistance, however – neighbors armed, not with pitchforks, but with signs saying “Block Out The Sun Yard” and “No.” Terms like “party tourism” and “entertainment complex” have been used to inflame and create fear of bachelor parties gone wild and loud music invading the neighborhood. Indeed, some of the same people who opposed the hostel at Mazant and Royal are making some of the same specious arguments in this proceeding that were rejected in the hostel proceeding. And, it has gotten personal: members of the development team have been demonized and accused of lying to the opponents; supporters of the project have also been accused of lying to opponents and of being paid hacks.
The Zoning Change
To make their dream a reality, Solms and Pignataro need a zoning change for the back portion of three of the lots – 3014, 3020, and 3030 St. Claude Ave. These lots are split-zoned, i.e., the front portions of the lots are zoned HMC-2, commercial, and the rear portions zoned HMR-3, residential. Opponents claim that this split-zoning a) was designed to provide a buffer for the residential properties on N. Rampart and b) has been in effect since the late 1800’s.
Commissioner Wedberg, in making his motion to deny the application, opined that “[t]his lot is problematic. The zoning was laid out for a reason.” March 13 hearing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkzmsfMBPko&t=200s at 1:9:50. Yet, there is nothing in the record that indicates that the split-zoning was intentional. Rather, it appears that the split-zoning was done in error.
One of the standards that must be analyzed in connection with a proposed zoning change is the following: “The proposed amendment corrects an error or omission, adds clarification to existing requirements, or reflects a change in policy.” Staff Report, ZD 021/18, at 40. The staff, experts in such matters, found, in analyzing the requested zoning change: “This standard is met. The proposed rezoning ameliorates three split-lot conditions and creates a uniform zoning which is consistent with the Mixed-Use Historic Core FLUM designation.” Id.
Commissioner Wedberg also opined that the zoning-change request “attempts to unsettle the neighborhood from its residential history.” March 13 hearing at 1:14:19. But, the history of the Bywater neighborhood is one of mixed use. Indeed, two properties in the 3000 block of N. Rampart – 3041 and 3053 N. Rampart — have been granted zoning changes from residential to commercial based on the Commission’s exception to the policy of not approving spot zones under its Historic Non-Conforming Use exception, which recognizes prior commercial use of properties currently zoned residential. We note that two other properties in this same block are candidates for a similar zoning change based on prior commercial use – 1001 Montegut St. and 1000 Clouet St.
As to the assertion that the properties at issue have been split-zoned since the late 1800’s, the first time that this zoning appears was in 1970. “The 1970 city-wide rezoning shows the first indication of a rezoning which resembles the current zoning. The rear portion of the petitioned lots under this zoning change request were converted to a residential zoning district while the portions of the lots nearest St. Claude were designated as a neighborhood business zoning district.” Id. at 12, n. 3. Prior to 1970, the zoning for the properties was, in1929 – “I” Industrial District & “E” Commercial District; in1953 – “F” Heavy Commercial District. Id. So, Commissioner Wedberg’s “residential history” starts in 1970 and ignores the mixed-use development patterns of the Bywater neighborhood of prior periods.
Benefits to the Neighborhood
This small hotel project will be a catalyst for development along this portion of St. Claude Avenue and provide opportunities for musicians and other artists in keeping with the goal of the St. Claude Avenue Arts and Cultural Overlay. It will contribute to a lively street scene and encourage more people to be out and about, enhancing safety for all in the area.
Although not as vocal or as well-organized as the opponents, several supporters of the project posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, on Nextdoor Bywater, within hours of each other, some describing fear of voicing their support. Because the Council may not have received comments from these supporters, we quote them here.
From Dia Napolitano, Bywater:
I think the Sun Yard is a good proposal for the Bywater. I have attached a list of reasons why I feel this way. BTW, I am a native of NOLA and live in the Bywater. I am a Louisiana licensed Interior Designer. I have relatives that contributed to the art & architecture of NOLA. Again, these are my thoughts & my feelings…please be kind.
I agree with the Planning Commission that it will “invigorate commercial activity along St Claude”. Will create a cohesive block of restaurants with hotel. Improve safety having a well-lit hotel with security. Will revive the Historical homes without losing the character of the homes & surrounding area. Unlike the complex of 2 story homes on Burgundy between Alvar & Bartholomew where all the houses look the same, photo attached, these houses retain the original charm. This is NOT a massive project. A 37 room hotel is small in comparison to The Saxony is a 5 story complex with 75 condos, not rooms, built up to the side walk with a club like swimming pool. Will provide an alternative to STR’s & B&B’s. My aunt currently likes the amenities of a hotel and stays in the Quarter as the closest place to stay. This project is NOT taking affordable housing off the market. With property taxes around 6.5K per house, insurance, mortgage payments my guess is that out of pocket per house is around 36K….that equals 1,500.00 rent per side minimum, probably more to break even. These old homes require a lot of maintenance. If it were me & this project didn’t get approved I would consider opening a restaurant/bar something like Bayou Beer Garden & Bayou Wine Garden. They have enough space if they only use the commercially zoned land. I think that would be more intrusive to the neighbors than a hotel.
From David Peltier, Bywater:
I agree with you. This proposed development is on a major public thoroughfare, St. Claude Ave. I am in favor of any positive development along this route. I feel this development meets those ideals I have hoped for the area since I moved to my home in the 800 block of Montegut, just two blocks from this site.
- The CPC professionals that are hired by the City have approved this development with some suggestions.
- The CPC Board has been swayed by public opinion that, in my opinion, stirred up unfounded prejudices against this developer.
- I have heard only one issue that might be a concern and that is the rezoning of some residential property. Some the occupied residential properties that back up to this development, if not all, of those homes have back yards that act as a natural buffer.
- Plus, There is a planned fence that should act as an additional buffer.
- These developers have answered each question/complaint and have even altered the design of the development to the wishes of the neighbors. 6. Every City changes, every neighborhood changes and Bywater is no exception. I’ve been on Montegut St. since 1984 in this neighborhood and no one in their right mind ventured down St. Claude at night at that time. Now it has become a destination because of the efforts the neighborhood associations have contributed. I’m proud to say I was part of that effort.
- There are three developments, hotels, that are in existence or are planned inside the residential boundaries of Bywater and Marigny. Two I agree with one I do not. Never the less they are all approved or in existence.
- The Sun Yard’s proposed hotel is located not inside a residential neighborhood but on the edge of a fantastic neighborhood on a busy commercial avenue where a hotel should be developed.
From Richard Fumosa, Bywater:
I’ve seen a lot of work first-hand by the architectural firm who is based in NOLA and if any other firm was handling this project I would be worried. They are the most green and historically respectful firm in the city who work in the city that I am aware of, and the Bywater is lucky to have such a sensitive firm to work in the area. Granted there should be an open dialogue with the community but please study the work of this firm (see the CAC’s newer renovations for example in the CBD).
From Dia Napolitano, Bywater:
I was at one of the first meetings at the Bywater Bakery and due to the level of animosity I have been afraid to say anything. But as this 5 story impersonal building the Saxony has been going up (again, don’t mean to insult anyone – it is somebodies design and the interiors look like they will be beautiful, trying to be positive) I keep wondering why everyone is so harsh with the Sun Yard project. As a designer their plan is so much more aesthetically pleasing than some of the other projects that have been proposed. I really think this will be an asset to the neighborhood.
From Jay Clark, Bywater:
To answer Michelle’s question, yes I would buy next to a commercial hotel. They have licenses and many reasons to work things out with neighbors that normal folk don’t. When we moved in we had a heavy metal band practicing 3 feet away 3x a week for a year. They didn’t care a bit about us. They were artists. They finally moved on and now we have six apartments. So it goes. There is nothing about commercial businesses that make them inherently untrustworthy. We have no reason to assume that the Sunyard will be consistently more annoying than your typical Bywater neighbors. Give ‘em a break.
From Lillian Gahagan, Bywater:
I’m glad to read comments in support of what seems to me to be a positive proposal along St. Claude that I think will improve that area. One day to investigate the place, we walked from the Healing Center area up on St. Claude to where the cottages are and I gotta say, what the Sunyard people are proposing seems like a mighty improvement. Hey, we neighborly Bywaterites might even be drawn to a new place to have a cocktail and listen to music, or see visual art by locals adorn the walls. What really has swung me to be a supporter is the vitriol of the anti-Sunyard lobbyists. I have hesitated to speak out in support before now because of the nastiness of the conversation and the implicit censorship of any voices that did not completely agree with shutting off the light of day for the project. As a relative newcomer (3 years almost) I felt silenced, like only people who have lived here forever deserved to have an opinion. Plus, there are other projects that are going up all over Bywater that I think would deserve the same scrutiny. Well, that’s my two cents on the subject. If you hate me for my opinion, I’ve decided I just don’t care.
From Lynn Hochradel, Bywater:
The question is “would I really be so supportive if my house were as close?” … yes, I would. I bought our home in 2011 and across the street from me is a warehouse … I know it will not stay a warehouse forever. Shaun is planning on condos with retail on the ground floor … at least that is is current thinking, I’m told. I also back up to what is now the Warehouse shared office space and soon to be restaurant. I knew that building wasn’t going to always be an abandoned building … I will deal with the problems both will cause … or I won’t and will move. That’s the beauty of it … so, yes, I would be supportive of the Sun Yard because I do believe the owners are trying to incorporate into the neighborhood and keep the historic features the current properties have. Much more so than when the properties on St. Claude all go commercial and there isn’t any history left to be preserved.
For all of the forgoing reasons, the Bywater Neighborhood Association requests that the Council approve the requested zoning change and the conditional use.
Mary Ann Hammett
Chair, Board of Directors
cc: Councilmember Stacy Head
Councilmember Jason Williams
Councilmember Susan Guidry
Councilmember LaToya Cantrell
Councilmember Jared Brossett
Councilmember James Gray II