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CZO Text Amendment to Allow Increase in Units per Dwelling

26 Oct 2020 11:22 AM | Donna Wakeman

Zoning Docket 083/20

Dear City Planning Commissioners,

On October 27, you will be asked to consider a Staff Report from the City Planning Commission Staff regarding a Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment.  The Council Motion that initiated this study does not state what problem or circumstance this motion is trying to correct in the Historic Core, so we are unable to speak to its goals. However, we do recognize what could be unforeseen negative consequences. This text amendment would only allow a property to be converted to the same number of units as previously existed, however it is unclear from this Motion how many properties could be changed by this motion, and what effect this would have on a neighborhood that has seen massive changes (dramatically raised prices, gentrification, the expansion of the tourism footprint and STR’s).  Additionally, it doesn’t specify in which form those units be built, allowing many configurations that would be centered around profit making, and not neighborhood character, in a neighborhood that has seen massive changes in the last few years.

 This text amendment would affect “Dwelling, Established Multi-Family”, where the use is currently classified as Conditional Use, and would apply to only 4 Articles of the CZO, including Article 9, which covers the Marigny, Treme, Bywater and portions of surrounding neighborhoods, and would allow HMR-3 properties to be altered to include up to 4 units as a Permitted Use. Currently, this change can only occur after being granted a Conditional Use approval, which requires consideration of three factors:

"a. the extent to which the physical character of the structure is indicative of a legal history of two- or multi-family residential use, respectively;

b. The documentation of a legal history of two- or multi-family residential use, respectively;

 c. The duration of past use as a legal two- or multi-family residential use respectively.”

We believe that this text amendment would make altering the housing stock of the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans an unfettered Permitted Use.  We  have seen many changes  to our Historic Neighborhood in the last decade, and believe this proposed text amendment could do further harm to the Residential character of our neighborhood, for the following reasons:

1)   History in the French Quarter- Years ago, large houses in the French Quarter were divided into apartments and condominiums.  The hope was that these smaller units would bring more residents to the French Quarter, thus buoying a neighborhood that was losing its residential character to the growing tourism industry.  Instead, the opposite occurred, as these units were sold and rented to people outside of New Orleans that used them as pied a terres, and drove up the rents in the French Quarter. These units sold at such prices that it was irresistible to property owners, who followed the trend and, before you knew it, a trend that was hoped would repopulate the French Quarter was blamed for damaging the Residential character of the neighborhood.  Let’s try to learn from our history, and not inflict the same damage on the Marigny, Treme and Bywater.  We need to find a way to bring people back to these neighborhoods, not push more people out for pied a terres.
2)   Short Term Rental Expansion- The recently passed STR rules were a great improvement to the previous rules, however, they still have a profound impact on the character of our neighborhood. Without density limitations or caps, it is unknown how many Short Term Rentals will eventually be opened in our neighborhood, but it is safe to say that we will be one of the top two or three neighborhoods for STR licenses.  We fear this new text amendment would allow properties that are not currently multi-family to be altered to house a maximum of four units, which is the maximum amount of units that are allowed in the new STR rules for a Residential- Small (RSTR-Small) license. 
3) While only one STR unit would be allowed, that would be dependent upon strict enforcement, which no one can reasonably suggest we’ve seen since STR’s have been legalized.  This would also allow for one STR unit of up to 5 bedrooms  to be created in a double shotgun, with the “owner’s unit” of a size small enough to maximize the profits from the STR.  I doubt I can find anyone that thinks that is appropriate for a historic neighborhood with neighbors in such close proximity that they can’t sleep due to the bachelor party next door.

In a neighborhood that has seen residents pushed out due to higher prices and a proliferation of STR’s, we fear that this amendment will be used to maximize our housing stock for STR’s, not New Orleanians.  We believe that before any changes are made to our neighborhood, we should wait a reasonable time to judge the effect of the current STR rules.

  • 3)   Major Implications-  Almost the entirety of the housing stock in the Marigny Rectangle is zoned HMR-3, so this would have a great effect on our neighborhood.  We believe that the Historic Core neighborhoods should be removed from this text amendment until the impact of STR’s on our neighborhood can be examined.  We also ask that you consider the precedent this would set.  Before this step is made, please consider what would happen when these policies go to other neighborhoods, or other zoning classifications.

In conclusion, we ask you to vote against this text amendment, or at least remove the Historic Core for further study, or at least until the effects of the new STR rules can be evaluated on a neighborhood that has seen nothing but change in recent years.


Jeffrey J. Seymour

Land Use Committee Chairman

Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association

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