FQC News


Bike Share – A Petition to keep bike stations on the PERIMETER of the French Quarter

Bike Share Program

The City of New Orleans, is developing a Bike Share Program set to kick off in autumn 2017. SoBi, an out-of-state company, has been awarded the contract and will be permitted to use public streets, free of charge, to install bike rental stations s throughout the city, including the French Quarter.  French Quarter Citizens is opposed to any Bike Share stations, advertising, kiosks or Bike Share parking in the interior of the French Quarter, from the riverside of N. Peters and Decatur to the Lakeside of N. Rampart , and from the downriver side of  Canal St. to the downriver side of Esplanade Ave. 

HELP KEEP BIKE STATIONS ON THE PERIMETER OF THE FRENCH QUARTER!

Find out more and sign the petition:


Moonlight Magic at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans

2017 FRENCH QUARTER CITIZENS GALA

Friday, November 3rd, 2017
Inline image 5

Susan Guillot, President of French Quarter Citizens and Peter Trapolin, 2017 Honoree

Inline image 1

Coleman Adler II, 2017 Honorary Chair and Rodney Villarreal, French Quarter Citizens Gala Chairman

Our annual Gala, the most important fundraiser, supports our organization’s efforts to preserve the French Quarter and protect it from the daily impact of over nine million visitors each year, graffiti, large vehicles, crime and developers.

We had a delightful evening of live music from The Y’at Pack, dancing, ample seating, fabulous food presented by some of our very best local restaurants, and fabulous  music clubs – Little Gem Saloon, BB King’s, House of Blues

and our wonderful restaurants Red Fish Grill, Tableau, Mandina’s, Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Doris Metropolitan, Koboshi ,

 and delectable pastries with  –  Maple Street Patisserie and Maurice’s Pastries,  coffee from Arrow Café, and a Pineapple Cilantro Margarita from El Gato Negro, an open bar featuring a variety of exciting specialty cocktails and premium liquor and a live and silent auction.

Sponsors and patrons enjoted an exclusive pre-party from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m., with the Gala event following from 7:30 until 11:00.

Coleman E. Adler II, President of Adler’s Jewelry, will serve as the 2017 Honorary Chair. 

Peter Trapolin, FAIA, Founding Principal of Trapolin-Peer Architects, will serve as our 2017 Honoree.

Coleman E. Adler II and Peter Trapolin play important roles as preservationists and philanthropists in our community and have made effectual contributions towards the preservation of the French Quarter.

 

French Quarter Citizens, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit neighborhood action group and every dollar goes directly to protecting The Quarter.


 


President’s Year-End Message to Members

There is a tide in the affairs of men
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
and we must take the current when it serves,
or lose our ventures.

William Shakespeare:  Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

 Dear French Quarter Citizens Members,

We close the year 2016 by looking upon the issues that we have faced together.  I thank all of you for your support as we work to protect our fragile historic neighborhood. While we have achieved spectacular success on several fronts, many serious issues threaten us, and many battles loom on the horizon. We must rally as never before to ensure that our unique French Quarter neighborhood will be here for residents and visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

Many of you may recognize the quote cited at the beginning of this letter as a passage from William Shakespeare’s play Caesar.  After victory in a battle, two characters, Brutus and Cassius, are discussing whether they should stop, enjoy the victory, and catch their breath, or, attempt to win the war by heading once more into battle before the opposition can regroup. Cassius wants to rest, while Brutus strongly advocates for going into battle while the tide is with them. Brutus’s main point to Cassius is that one should always act while the ratio of forces is most advantageous. That we should not stop to pat ourselves on the back or rest on our laurels, but instead pick up our banner and continue to fight for our cause. “There’s a tide in the affairs of men,” he insists; power is a force that ebbs and flows in time, and one must “go with the flow.” If the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), it may be lost forever. In other words, we cannot afford to become complacent as there are so many issues that need our attention in the coming year.  However, as we close out the year, we will pause for a moment to recap 2016 before picking up our banner and continuing our fight.

One of the most critical issues we faced in 2016, was short term rentals. City Council took a crucial vote on this issue in October. Neighbors from all over the city stood together on this issue in a way that they never have before, and came in numbers that they never have before, to fight for their neighborhoods and their quality of life. When FQC sent out a “Call to Action” in October asking for you to be involved, you answered the call. You wrote your Councilmembers and turned out at City Hall in record numbers, some of you staying for over seven hours on the crucial day, to let the Council Members know that the effect of short term rentals is devastating our neighborhoods and our culture. Our letters and our presence did make a difference and the French Quarter obtained a stunning victory. The Council voted to 6 to 1 to prohibit all short term rentals in the French Quarter with the exception of the entertainment district on Bourbon Street. It was truly gratifying that the Council recognizes the value of the French Quarter and its significance to the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the world. Unfortunately, however, the rest of the city did not fare as well. Although the Council appeared to ban whole house rentals city wide, in fact, they allowed them “through the back door” by refusing to require proof of homestead exemption to operate a “temporary” short term rental. This effectively allows whole house rental everywhere in the city except the French Quarter. The Council is relying on an enforcement initiative to prevent abuse of this category of rentals. Considering the history of enforcement in our City, we will be closely monitoring the proposed enforcement mechanism throughout the rest of this year and into 2017.

There is also good news this year on the French Quarter Task Force and its operations in the French Quarter.  Due to the continued involvement of Sydney Torres, the hard work of resident Bob Simms, and extra money provided by the City, the Task Force will be adding an additional officer, additional shifts, and an additional smart car to the patrol. The “blue light” of the smart cars is indeed a welcome sight in our neighborhood. Throughout this past year, French Quarter Citizens has kept you apprised of the crime statistics in the French Quarter. As we have seen, the Task force has made an enormous difference and we will continue to work closely with NOPD and French Quarter Management District to ensure that our neighborhood is protected.

On the preservation front, the law suit involving the Royal Cosmopolitan at 121 Royal could turn out to be a positive landmark decision for the French Quarter community. As you may recall, the developer of the old Royal Cosmopolitan Hotel is asking for a 90 foot waiver which City Council has approved, would add nine new floors to the current building. This will increase the height of the building from 178 feet to a whopping 268 feet, fronting onto Royal Street. The resulting skyline of the building would be grossly out of scale to the surrounding buildings.  The proposed development would have inadequate parking for guests, inadequate trash retention space, and drop off and pick up would completely eclipse Royal Street as a usable thoroughfare.  Despite the City Council’s approval, several resident groups are arguing that the waiver is counter to the Master Plan, which has the force of law.  If we are successful in the suit, we may set a precedent that will help our preservation efforts throughout the French Quarter for many years to come.

Finally, through the efforts of one of our board members, we were successful in limiting the size of trucks allowed in the French Quarter to 35 feet. This will go far in saving many galleries and balconies that were constantly being rammed, damaged, and in some cases entirely destroyed by oversized trucks attempting to negotiate and turn on our narrow streets. Again, enforcement of this ordinance is the key and remains a priority for French Quarter Citizens in 2017.

In 2017, we will also continue the fight against graffiti on our buildings as well as increased city taxes for sidewalk encroachments. We will need to be vigilant on short term rental enforcement issues and we must closely monitor proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance that propose spot zoning that could severely impact the make-up of our neighborhoods and diminish the residential quality of life in the French Quarter. Noise issues remain a severe problem disrupting our ability to live and work in the French Quarter. We will again need to make our voices heard.  Indeed, we have much to do.

Despite these intense preservation activities, we’ve had some great fun as well. Our Quarterly meetings and Pot Luck Dinners were blessed with great weather and these events are always a wonderful way to see our neighbors and to catch up on the preservation activities in the French Quarter. This year, we were fortunate to have many entertaining and informative speakers at each meeting.  Additionally, our 20th annual Progressive Dinner was a fabulous success once again.  Attendees were able to explore three exquisite apartments in the Pontalba and enjoy mouth-water dishes prepared by our local restaurants at each home and at the beautiful Bourbon Orleans. Priscilla Lawrence honored us by serving as the event Honoree. Her commitment to preservation is legendary. Additionally, we recognized Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizarro along with Joseph Zolfo, Producer of N.C.I.S. New Orleans, for their contributions to the French Quarter and our quality of life. A great time was had by all.

We are also pleased to have a wonderful new addition to our FQC staff.  Louise Saenz joined us in August as our Office Manager and Event Coordinator. Louise has valuable experience in managing websites, social media and press as well as experience managing the day to day operations of non-profit organizations.  She is also experienced at coordinating fundraising events. Although she joined FQC only a few months before our Progressive Dining fundraiser, she energetically jumped right in, proving herself to be a formidable office manager and event planner, by exercising her exceptional organizational skills in working with the 2016 Fundraising Committee and making this year’s event a spectacular success. We are delighted that she has chosen to work with us, and if you have not met her yet, please take some time to do so at the next quarterly meeting.

We hope all of you will continue to support French Quarter Citizens and the 2017 Board of Directors.  Although we have successfully addressed many critical issues this year, many remain that could have a lasting negative effect on our quality of life as we head into 2017.  Our success or failure will determine whether or not we, as residents, “will take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” I ask all of you to become involved and stay involved so we may protect the unique and fragile place we call home.

A safe and Happy New Year to you all!!

Sincerely,

Susan Guillot, President


Short Term Rental – Report a Violation

On December 1, 2016, the City Council passed an ordinance that is intended to regulate Short Term Rentals.  The Ordinance went into effect on April 1.   The purpose of the ordinance is to limit and reign in the expansive growth of the STRs citywide, to eliminated full-time, whole home rentals in residential neighborhoods, create equitable regulations for the hospitality industry, generate revenue for the City and minimize nuisances and prioritize enforcement.

     As of April 1, ANY Short Term Rental operating in the French Quarter, 

                        Outside of the entertainment district on Bourbon Street

is operating illegally!!!!

Although the Ordinance prohibits short term rentals in the French Quarter except for the 200-700 block of Bourbon, it must be enforced to be meaningful.  Additionally, under the new ordinance, STRs ARE allowed in the rest of the City, on a limited basis.  Therefore, enforcement is necessary to protect not only the French Quarter from all attempts to operate an STR but also to ensure that our sister neighborhoods are protected from potential bad operators that do not follow the rules.   

The enforcement plan will include penalties for all violations. Residents of the French Quarter should be well informed on the procedure for reporting violations and the penalties attached to those violations.

The City is planning for a technology-driven research staff to collect data from the web and process that against the City’s licensing data.  Airb&b has agreed to sign a collection agreement with the City to collect taxes and fees and will provide information on the operator of the short term rental property. The platform will also provide the number of STRs operating during a given period and anonymous information on the number of nights each listing was rented. If the an operator is violating the 90 day/5 times per year limit,  the City can then contact the platform and obtain the specific identification of a suspected violator listing including

  • Name
  • Listing address
  • Tax address
  • Contact information (email address, phone number)
  • Type A, Type T, and Commercial
  • Proof of attestation

The following violations are subject to penalties and will apply to the parts of the City where limited STRs are allowed:

  • To advertise without a license
  • To fail to post license number in the listing,
  • To advertise beyond the scope of the license

As mentioned above, these violations would only apply to the 200-700 block of Bourbon Street.  STRs are prohibited everywhere else in the French Quarter and an attempt to operate one is an automatic violation of the law.

Penalties, which will apply to ALL illegal short terms rentals will include:

  • Daily fines
  • Property liens
  • Revocation of permit
  • Discontinuation of electric service

Complaint based enforcement

Whenever the French Quarter prohibition is violated, or an operator exceeds the allowable operating time in other parts of the City, a complaint must be made.  A violation can be reported by a phone hot line, or by filling out a form on the web.

A complaint can be submitted by calling 311 or using the online form. The complaint will then be entered into a data base and assigned to an inspector.  The inspection is performed and the complaint will be classified as founded or unfounded.  If the complaint is deemed to be founded, the owner will be noticed and an Administrative adjudication Hearing will be set.  If the hearing reveals a violation, fines will be assessed and they are not paid, a lien will be placed on the property, and the license may be revoked.

     Web-based enforcement

Additionally, IT specialists hired by the City will be checking data on the platforms for potential excessive usage. They will also long in the data provided by Airb&b.  If a violation is found, the operator will be investigated.  If valid, fines will be assessed and/or liens placed on the property. In some cases, the electric service will be shut off. 

 

 


Suit filed to help protect French Quarter from out of scale development

121 Royal

(rendering by Harry Baker Smith Architects)

Save the French Quarter: Protect the Master Plan

 

DONATE TO OUR CAUSE

VISIT THE LOUISIANA LANDMARKS SOCIETY WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION

French Quarter Citizens Inc., the Louisiana Landmarks Society, Smart Growth for Louisiana, the Preservation Resource Center, the Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents and Associates, (VCPORA) along with three individual French Quarter residents and/or business owners filed for a preliminary injunction in Civil District Court today to stop the New Orleans City Council from further action in approving the development of a high-rise hotel, known as the Royal Cosmopolitan, located at 121 Royal Street.

The City Council approved a conditional use and waiver of height restrictions for the project, which the litigants claim is in violation of City Charter Sections 5-404(3)(c), 5-406 (i.e. the Master Plan), and the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) 16.6.4. and 16.6.5.

Pending trial, the named plaintiffs, including residents, business owners, preservation organizations and neighborhood advocacy groups will also ask the Court for a declaratory judgment that, as a matter of law, the Council’s recent approval of this project is in violation of the Master Plan and therefore null and void.  Such an order from the Court would prevent the Royal Cosmopolitan zoning proposal from going forward in its current state.

“The project is not consistent with its land use designation in the Master Plan, which has the force of law. Nor is it consistent with the Master Plan’s historic preservation chapter,” said Sandra Stokes, Chair of Advocacy for Louisiana Landmarks Society. “The variances required are extraordinary. There are no special circumstances that are particular to the property to justify this kind of exceptionality. Moving forward with this project despite it being in direct and clear violation of the Master Plan is not only illegal, but would set a precedent that would render the Master Plan and recently adopted CZO effectively obsolete.”

According to the lawsuit, protection and preservation of the Historic Vieux Carré is mandated by the State Constitution, and even the Louisiana Supreme Court has noted the importance of preserving the quaint and historic character of New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods as the foundation of the City’s economic engine. The New Orleans City Planning Commission recommended the Royal Cosmopolitan project be denied for many of these same reasons, and last year, the Louisiana Landmarks Society put the New Orleans Master Plan on its “Nine Most Endangered List”.

“The City Council acted arbitrarily and capriciously, ignoring the law and the recommendations of its own planning body to approve a development which, according to the city’s own City Planning Commission, would have a negative impact on adjacent land uses and would substantially alter the character of this portion of the French Quarter, which is essentially the entrance to the Historic Vieux Carré,” the lawsuit states.

The Council majority acted on Nov. 5, 2015 to approve the out-of-scale 190-foot hotel, with only At Large Member Stacy Head and District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry opposing. The project is located in Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey’s District, which includes the French Quarter.

“This is a high rise in the middle of a block – in a National Register Historic District,” said Peter Trapolin, architect. “It will be disastrous during the construction period, blocking Royal Street traffic and businesses for close to two years. There is no access to even get material to the site.  You will have to either hoist it over the existing buildings – or drag it through the front door of the historic hotel.   And once built, every bar of soap, every piece of laundry, every delivery and service truck will have to stop on Royal Street– since there is no parking and no loading.”

Litigants claim the City Council must respect the city’s Master Plan’s force-of-law provisions regarding existing height, scale, density, and character of a neighborhood. According to the City Charter, the City Council’s approval is null and void because “[any zoning ordinance or amendment adopted by the Council must be consistent with the Master Plan. Inconsistent ordinances and amendments shall be null and void as provided by Section 5-404(3)(c).”

“Although there are examples of a few tower hotels within the district, these hotels are exceptions to the norm, built in the 1970s and 80s, and do not reflect the current context in which the goals of the Master Plan were established. The development proposal is inconsistent with the site’s Mixed Use Downtown future land use designation, which requires new development to be sensitive and appropriate when situated near or within historic districts,” said Carol Gniady, French Quarter Citizens.

Furthermore, the approval of the conditional use and waiver of the height restriction exceeds the authority granted to the City Council under the CZO because the City Council waiver failed to address and meet the required benchmarks in the law required to grant the conditional use and the waiver of the height restrictions, argues the suit. The City Planning Commission noted such in its Reasons for Recommendation for Denial:

  1. The proposed tower is excessive, out-of-scale, and fundamentally incompatible with its surroundings. The site is located in a portion of Canal Street where building height is limited to 70 feet in order to ensure that new construction respects the scale and character of this historic commercial corridor comprised predominantly of four (4) to six (6) story buildings.
  1. The waiver of the Central Business District Height and Floor Area Ratio Interim Zoning District’s height limit cannot be justified. The request does not fulfill any of the three (3) standards for waivers of Interim Zoning Districts, as contained in Article 16, Section 16.4.5 of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. The proposal is inconsistent with the general intent of the IZD.
  1. The proposal is inconsistent with the Master Plan. The tower addition does not relate to the predominant development form of the area nor is it even at all sensitive to the architectural aesthetic of the Canal Street and Vieux Carré districts. The proposal is also not consistent with the Master Plan’s historic preservation chapter, which emphasizes the importance of historic structures in giving the city its character and linking its identity with its cultural heritage.

“The purpose of the Master Plan was to eliminate the kind of ad hoc, special-interest-driven decision making that we are seeing with this development,” said attorney William Borah, President of Smart Growth for Louisiana. “The citizens of New Orleans spent years amending the City Charter and creating a Master Plan to provide predictability, with a clear set of rules that everyone was required to follow.

“Yet here we are, only three months since the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance was implemented – a zoning ordinance required to be consistent with the Master Plan — and already the City Council is breaking its own set of rules to appease a particular developer. Simply put, the Royal Cosmopolitan proposal is not consistent with the Master Plan and is in clear violation of the new zoning ordinance. The Master Plan, which has the force of law, was voted in by citizens to prevent just this type of egregious behavior. Thus, we now turn to the court,” said Mr. Borah.

Added Architect Trapolin, “There is nothing unique about this property that warrants the type of variances required. And there is no going backwards from this mistake.  This project will irreparably harm the French Quarter for the rest of eternity.  It is simply the wrong project in the wrong place.”

DONATE TO OUR CAUSE

Contact Justin Winch (504) 593-9600 or Devin Johnson (504) 897-6110


2015 Progressive Dining Experience for the Heart of the Vieux Carré

The “Progressive Dining Experience” is French Quarter Citizens’ signature event, and on Friday, November 6 we presented our 19th annual Progressive Dinner held in support of French Quarter preservation. This year’s event celebrated the Heart of the Vieux Carré – our culture, lifestyle, cuisine, art, and music. Our members and guests explored and enjoyed a night in the French Quarter by visiting the three featured private homes serving cocktails and appetizers from some of New Orleans’ best restaurants before gathering to fete our special guests at the Grand Finale at the renowned Bourbon Orleans Hotel Grand Ballroom.

We began the evening with cocktails, appetizers and music as three very generous French Quarter neighbors invited our guests into their private residences, each one evocative of gracious living in the historic Vieux Carré, and each home exquisite and unique with such features as French doors that opened onto lush gardens and brick courtyard settings lit with gas lanterns, one with a carriage way entrance and balcony views. Guests sipped drinks and enjoyed chef inspired hors d’oeuvres while listening to local soloists – pianist Colin Provensal, harpist Sarah E. Burke, and guitarist Michael Desmond were featured entertainers at the “Appetizer Houses.”

The three French Quarter home owners who opened their homes to us were: Bev and John Muraglia, Stephanie and Joe Bruno, and Juliet and Tim Laughlin. Participating restaurants at the Appetizer Houses were Salon by Sucre by Joel, which featured chef inspired appetizers made with Spicy Cajun Caviar from Louisiana Caviar Company, Mandina’s served their famous Shrimp Remoulade, and Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar and Restaurant served Honey Lime marinated Gulf Shrimp over Poblano Grits.

At the appointed hour our guests were escorted to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel for the “Grand Finale,” featuring more fine dining experiences, presentations to our honored guests, live and silent auctions, and dancing to Phillip Manuel’s jazz ensemble.

Gayle Benson

We feted our honorary chairs, Mr. & Mrs. Tom Benson with Gayle Benson in attendance (Gayle Benson pictured with FQC’s President Susan Guillot and Vice President Rodney Villarreal above) to accept French Quarter Citizens’ award which recognized the Bensons “For their ongoing contributions to the historic culture of New Orleans and their passionate efforts to sustain the unique character of the Vieux Carré.”

Our distinguished guest was Dr. Norman C. Francis (pictured below with Edward Bonin and Mason Harrison), whom FQC recognized “For his contributions to education and his 47 years as President of Xavier University.” We also thanked our Progressive Dining Experience Co-Chairs René J.L. Fransen and Mason Harrison for organizing and creating this year’s hugely successful event.

Francis, Bonin and Harrison

We lavished attention on local culture and art, and many French Quarter artists were featured during our live and silent auctions. Top bidders landed exclusive New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans home game packages including facilities tours and club seats. A rare George Dureau photograph, a Freddie Guess original oil painting, a beautiful hand painted etching on handmade paper from Frances Swigart-Steg, a Harouni silk screen, a Jamie Hayes print, and a Sherry Haydel encaustic painting delighted our art lovers. In addition, Bevolo Gas and Electric Lighting, NOLA Couture, Luca Falcone Fine Clothiers, The Hotel Monteleone, Besh Restaurant Group, Mignon Faget, and others donated fantastic items for our auction to entice our guests to bid high.

New Orleans-based sculptor Hernan Caro created original “nature sculptures” in clay and metal, each one unique and made exclusively for French Quarter Citizens’ 2015 Progressive Dining Experience served as centerpieces “inspired by Mr. & Mrs. Benson, two together whose kindness and generosity make our city better” and were available for sale to our guests, with proceeds benefiting FQC.

We celebrated our local cuisine with fabulous participating restaurants serving signature dishes: Doris Metropolitan served Roast Beef rolled with Arugula and Dijon, Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar served Oyster Artichoke Soup, Red Fish Grill brought Blue Crab Cavatelli with Leek Horseradish Cream, Palace Café offered Gulf Fish Ceviche with Passion Fruit, Jalapeno, Cillantro and Mint, Galatoire’s Restaurant served their famous Turtle Soup, Restaurant R’evolution had pickled shrimp spring rolls, Chef Miles Landrem of Johnny Sanchez served up Tuna Tostadas made with locally sourced Spicy Cajun Caviar from Louisiana Caviar Company, Restaurant Stanley! provided shrimp cocktails and Cuban sliders, and an amazing array of assorted delicious desserts were served by Maple Street Patisserie.

And, TREMENDOUS thanks to our 2015 Progressive Dining Experience Committee Members who donated thousands of hours of their time, muscle when and where needed, talent, experience, smarts and resources. Our Committee Co-Chairs are René J.L. Fransen and Mason Harrison; Committee Members Extraordinaire are: Glade Bilby, Angie Bowlin, John Burke, Cathy Espenan, Carol Gniady, Susan and Albin Guillot, Torie Kranze, Sandra Pulitzer, Chad Pellerin, Joseph Burchman Rochelle, Sharon Singleton, B.B. St. Roman, Rodney Villarreal, and Gary N. Wheat.

It was an amazing night in the French Quarter that brought people together in support of French Quarter Citizens’ advocacy efforts for residential quality of life, historic preservation, and architectural integrity. Thank you, everyone, for helping to make this a truly memorable, outstanding event!

Visit our Facebook page for more


VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens Interviews with Candidates for LA State Senate District 4

ELECTION IS SATURDAY, October 24 – PLEASE VOTE!

The election for Senate District 4, which includes the French Quarter, is Saturday, October 24. Two major candidates are running to replace Sen. Ed Murray, who is term-limited out. This election is critical: the winner will represent the French Quarter our as our state senator for the next 6 years. Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA), and French Quarter Citizens (French Quarter Citizens) interviewed candidates Wesley Bishop and Erich Caulfield to discuss their views on issues important to the French Quarter. We have summarized the results of these interviews and are distributing them to our members and to others in hopes of providing deeper insight into the candidates, and enabling citizens to make more informed decisions at the polls. We have done our best to accurately convey the candidates’ responses, and have edited for length and clarity.

As nonprofit 501(c) 3 organizations, neither VCPORA nor French Quarter Citizens can or does make any endorsements in elections for office; our purpose is to share information.

Please keep in mind that our summaries may not have fully captured all the subtleties of the candidate’s positions; we encourage you to review the candidates’ campaign materials, attend forums and other presentations, and, if possible, talk to the candidates themselves.

Links:

Representative Wesley Bishop

Erich Caulfield

Tell us about your background and qualifications.

Bishop — Rep. Bishop calls himself a product of the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East, and has spent the last 5 years serving House District 99. His bachelors degree is from Southern University at New Orleans, where he was student body president. He received his Masters of Public Administration at the University of Mississippi and his law degree from Ohio State. He also attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. Speaking to his rise in public service, he said that it was a long way from the Lower 9th to Harvard. He believes that every young person should have the opportunity to live their dream and be treated with honor, dignity, and respect. The city benefitted him, and he wants to return the favor. The first in his family to graduate college, Rep. Bishop is an attorney and college professor, having held a variety of positions at Southern University.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield, who originally hailed from Baton Rouge, refers to himself as his “mother’s son.” She was a nurse for 40 years, including home health care, which had a significant impact on him as he frequently joined her on her visits to the elderly and infirm. He got his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics at Morehouse College, and went on to get his MS and PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he now serves on the board. He served as a White House Fellow and was also Chief Policy Advisor to former Newark mayor Cory Booker. He also led the 25 person New Orleans chapter of Strong Cities Strong Communities. Mr. Caulfield believes that politics is about giving people a better shot at the American dream and that everyone deserves that shot.


Are you familiar with the French Quarter? What do you believe are the French Quarter’s special problems?

Bishop — Rep. Bishop knows that crime is the biggest issue in the city, and that the voters in the French Quarter will be deciding whether to impose a tax (the Economic Development District) at the polls this Saturday. The French Quarter is the jewel of New Orleans, he says. Although he’s here only a few times a year, it’s the first place he goes when people come visit. When the city hosts large scale events like the Super Bowl, Bayou Classic, etc., it’s clear that the food, music, and culture of New Orleans are embodied in the French Quarter. As goes the French Quarter, so goes New Orleans, and we need to present these issues in a way so that people in other parts of town understand that everyone benefits. Economic development is also key and directly related to crime – 52% of young black men are unemployed. When legitimate means of making a living aren’t available, they turn to illegitimate means.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield knows that crime is a top issue everywhere, but particularly here in the French Quarter. Illegal short-term rentals have become a major issue in neighborhoods across the city but particularly here. The French Quarter also faces special pressures related to its entertainment district, including noise issues in general. He’s been a regular attendee of neighborhood meetings across Senate District 4 over the past 6 months in an effort to understand from citizens what their priorities are.


Can you tell us why you feel that the voters who live in our historic neighborhoods, or who care about New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods, should vote for you?

Bishop — Rep. Bishop believes that he has a proven record of delivering for his district, which includes some of the poorest in the city, and their issues are extremely important. He cited several examples:

  • Fought to have Sidney Collier Technical College in New Orleans East reopened
  • Fought Gov. Jindal’s effort to merge public colleges in New Orleans
  • Worked to bring a hospital to New Orleans East
  • Helped get operating money for the University Medical Center
  • Helped get Wal-Mart in New Orleans East.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield , who notes that he is a proud resident of Bayou St. John, says that New Orleans, and the French Quarter, are the jewel of Louisiana. The Quarter encapsulates every culture. We have to be careful to protect and preserve our culture and our architecture, and he has the sensitivity to fight for it.

He’s been directly responsible for creating jobs in New Orleans; worked to cut time for psychiatric patients in emergency rooms; stabilized the city’s safety net for healthcare funding for the most vulnerable. He believes that the way to improve neighborhoods is to empower those living there to make them better.


People come from around the world for the historic architecture, both in the French Quarter and in other parts of the city. What commitment can you make regarding protecting our architecture in the French Quarter and our other historic neighborhoods?

Bishop — We have to preserve and maintain our unique culture. Economic development has to work hand in hand with agencies and organizations, people who have more answers than we do. When an issue came up, he’d contact those people. His ideal is to lean on residents and experts to figure out what needs to be done.

Caulfield — He appreciates the architecture of New Orleans. The flavor of the city is changed by overly commercializing it. When you change that, you change culture of a place. There needs to be balance in development, but when you go too far, you become something different than New Orleans, and that’s not why he moved back.


Tax credits have played an important role in stimulating preservation of the French Quarter’s historic buildings, but were abolished for residential properties several years ago and yet retained for commercial developers. Would you support restoration of tax credits for residents to restore historic structures?

Bishop — It was tough to deal with taxes in the last legislative session due to the enormous deficit. We’ve gone from a $1B surplus to a $1B deficit. There needs to be a give and take to reach compromise, and compromise is most evident when both sides are a little unhappy.

Caulfield — This matter goes back to the culture of the city. Getting rid of the residential tax credit doesn’t make sense to him. There is a definite shortage of affordable housing (and the definition of affordable should be expanded). It is already expensive to build in this city, so we shouldn’t be making it more so.


Did you or would you have supported the Hospitality Zone, a 2012 proposal in that would have provided funds for French Quarter infrastructure but transferred decision-making authority from elected officials to a board appointed by politicians and the tourism industry?

Bishop — He didn’t like it, noting that it’s easy to impose a tax if you’re not the one to pay for it. He used the example of Canal St. He has talked to business people here and on Bourbon St. and how that would impose a burden on them rather than on state.

Caulfield — He’s familiar with the proposal because he was working at City Hall when it came up. He remembers stiff resistance.


Describe your thinking on State legislative responsibility for public safety and police presence in the French Quarter? How would you support greater public safety in the French Quarter?

Bishop — Rep. Bishop believes that NOPD needs more officers on the street. He also liked Austin Badon’s plan from a few years ago for a permanent State Police presence in French Quarter. If Louisiana makes so much money off the French Quarter, why doesn’t the state protect it? Because this area provides a disproportionate benefit, it should get disproportionate protection. There are $7 billion in tax credits in New Orleans – we are the only city in the state that merits this kind of attention.

Caulfield — There are two ways to think about it. The vast majority of revenue raised here goes to other parts of the state. Others in the state feel that we get too much. Our sales tax and general revenue go to Baton Rouge – this is not true for any other part of any other city. We need a reinvestment to make sure there are State Troopers and safety. It makes sense that the city can’t handle it at this time. If we turned out lights in French Quarter for a week, it would have an astronomical impact on state. Those kinds of investments make sense to him.


Would you support empowering neighborhood organizations and residents to strengthen compliance with on-the-books quality-of-life and other ordinances by changing state law to (1) give neighborhood organizations standing to pursue last-resort legal action against bad actors and (2) provide residents a “private right of action” to pursue remedies against bad actors when city authorities are unwilling or unable to enforce existing statues?

Bishop — After getting clarification on these issues, Rep. Bishop said that he would find the best way would be to do it consistently throughout state and/or country. He would want a point person, or someone who knows exactly what’s going on. If the local delegation is in lockstep, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Caulfield — As a problem solver, Mr. Caulfield would look to solve this in a more immediate way than a legislative fix. There is perhaps a micro fix through class action. He recalled his neighborhood organization suing a bad actor over a liquor store, which resulted in retaliation. In concept, he’d be behind it; in a practical sense, anything that offers protection for people from these kinds of things would be a good thing. He wondered if there might be any solution in empowering a neighborhood organization through power of attorney.


Would you support legislation to allow municipalities the flexibility to increase the maximum fines for municipal offenses from $500 to $5000, which would be a meaningful deterrent?

Bishop — He would be in support, but as a practical matter, thinks that he might advise a different way of approaching this.

Caulfield — He thinks this makes sense. The cost of living/doing business in New Orleans is different than in other parts of the state. Allowing municipalities to make this kind of change would be good.


Illegal short-term rentals, facilitated by national internet rental platforms such as AirBnB, have ballooned in recent years, undercutting local and legal businesses, displacing long-term renters and residents, and diminishing the availability and affordability of housing. Would you support action at the state level to require internet platforms to share usage information with local authorities, clarify that state consumer protection laws apply to short-term rentals, and strengthen enforcement of state laws so that all those offering short-term rentals have the equivalent liability and operating requirements?

Bishop — Rep. Bishop was astonished at the high numbers of illegal STRs nightly and believes now is the perfect time to try to solve issues like this. With the legislative session beginning in March, we could start to work now on an instrument to deal with this at the state level.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield believes that STRs are businesses, so they should be subject to the same regulations as hotels. There is also the safety issue. Requiring them to report occupancy and other makes sense, as does requiring operators to pay taxes. It’s necessary to address both safety and regulation.


Describe measures you would support aimed at retaining and attracting long-term residents and families to the French Quarter.

Bishop — New Orleans needs to be an affordable place to live overall. He constantly gets calls from people trying to move back, and yet we are not in an economic position to get them back. We need more affordable housing, but how do we pay for it? If we decided this was more important than other things, we’d be able to get it. There are Road Home issues, rebuilding, HANO programs and Section 8 subsidies. He’s especially interested in getting trade skills to move forward. Getting 10% of the people who want to come back would provide a big benefit. What does it take to get individual to relocate? We need to move the school system forward.

Caulfield — This is twofold: people move to French Quarter for culture. We need to support and preserve it, especially those parts that make it attractive. We have to be smart about preservation. We must stabilize crime to reduce it, and there are certain types of crime in French Quarter. Everything that New Orleans represents to the world is something special and worth fighting for.


Describe your relationship with our elected and appoint officials, including the Mayor, the City Council, and other members of the New Orleans legislative delegation, and discuss how you would manage this relationship? How would you work with your constituents and with neighborhood associations?

Bishop — Rep. Bishop’s relationship with the mayor is “pretty good.” He agrees with the mayor when it serves his constituency, and disagrees when it doesn’t .

This relationship works because two months before the legislative session, the mayor sits with the entire New Orleans delegation, so they move forward on matters already agreed upon. Issues are vetted with staff before they make it forward. He has the endorsements of all five district City Council Members. Because he’s been in office for 5 years, he’s worked with many neighborhood organizations in his district, including the NPN. As a legislator, he knows that he needs to just listen and let the people tell him what they think. Bywater and Marigny are in his district now; most districts have similar concerns. He is proud of the Lower 9th ward Redevelopment Act.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield’s relationship with the mayor is cordial, and he believes that Mayor Landrieu has a favorable opinion of him and his work.   The City Council unanimously voted for him as their representative in the New Orleans Business Alliance. He is on the board of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association. He’s been going to meetings in Marigny, Bywater, Lakeview, and New Orleans East meetings for several months to learn about the issues in District 4.


The French Quarter Management District is a state-created entity that has some residential representation and a majority business representation. What role do you believe they should play in speaking for the French Quarter? (This question may require some elaboration based on candidate’s prior knowledge of FQMD and its mission.)

Bishop — He asked for an education, and listened to the group’s description and concerns.

Caulfield — He had little awareness of it, and asked us to elaborate.


Closing remarks and questions for the panel

Bishop — Last week, he met with Bourbon Street bar owners and representatives, and understands that there is division on many issues. He has seen this before in other areas of his district and tries to mediate. He asked for the top five issues that we would agree with the Bourbon Street bars upon. He asked our feelings on the proposed EDD tax, and we let him know that both VCPORA and FQC were in support. He believes it will pass; everyone he’s talked to supports it.

For the past twenty-four years, Sen. Murray has represented this area. When it became time for him to retire, he talked to Rep. Bishop and said that he would be the best person to continue to advocate and champion for those he represents. He likes to work in small groups with those who have the best information. He wants to champion those issues and would like to visit with us more regularly. When people are trying to get things done, they don’t care if he’s state rep, they call to get something done and he has to bring that strength.

Caulfield — Mr. Caulfield wanted to know what our issues were.   From what he understood, they are crime, preservation, development, short-term rentals, and protecting the French Quarter as a neighborhood. After hearing that the hardest part is finding balance between residents and development, he asked what the difference is now from earlier. After the group explained the increases in tourism, increased out-of-town ownership and management of many businesses, he asked, “Would it be fair to say that what we’re guarding against is becoming Las Vegas with gumbo?” He understands that the French Quarter is first and foremost a neighborhood.


FQC Endorses the EDD for Public Safety

French Quarter Citizens Members

Crime is the worst problem facing us in the French Quarter today. October 24th will be a VERY IMPORTANT DAY! It is the day registered voters who reside and vote in the French Quarter are being asked to cast their vote on the creation of an Economic Development District (EDD) that will create funds for hiring State Police to patrol the French Quarter. Here are the most important things to know about the EDD:

  • The funds will be created by a sales tax levied on goods sold in the French Quarter, NOT a property tax.
  • The funds generated from the sales tax will be used to form a French Quarter Economic Development District in order to fund full-time Louisiana State Police trooper patrols in the French Quarter for the next five years.
  • The sales tax equates to .2495% of 1 penny (¼ of 1¢). This means that for every $100 spent in the French Quarter, visitors and residents will be taxed only an additional 25¢.
  • Nine million tourists spend money in the French Quarter each year which is calculated to generate $2,000,000 each year for public safety.
  • If voters pass the EDD, the hospitality industry will contribute matching funds of $2,000,000 per year, along with the City of New Orleans which will contribute $500,000 per year. This equates to a total of $4.5 million dollars which will support a minimum of 30 full time State Troopers. Without all of these funds, the State Troopers presence will not be possible.

The EDD will be governed by a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement which has been signed by the City and the Office of the State Troopers: The CEA contains the following agreements:

  • The money generated by the sales will stay in the District and be used in the District which includes the French Quarter, Armstrong Park and one row of properties in the Marigny on the Lake Side of Esplanade. This is consistent with the French Quarter Management District boundaries.
  • No supplanting. NOPD officers will not be taken out of the French Quarter and replaced with State Troopers. The State Troopers will be in addition to the current NOPD officers.
  • Sunset Provision. The EDD sales tax will expire in 5 years on January 1, 2021, at which time, another vote of the FQ residents is required to renew the sales tax.

FRENCH QUARTER CITIZENS SUPPORTS THE EDD.

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON OCTOBER 24th!!! EARLY VOTING IS OCTOBER 10-17.

PLEASE JOIN US AND BE THERE FOR THE FRENCH QUARTER.


Analysis of CM Ramsey’s amendments to the recently passed CZO

As many of you know, CM Nadine Ramsey introduced a package of amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance the same day (May 14th) that the CZO itself was up for a vote by the City Council. The last-minute timing of the introduction did not allow the public the chance to read and digest, or make fully-informed comments on the proposed amendments.

Now, however, we, along with many other citizens, organizations and land use and zoning experts, have had a chance to carefully review, research and analyze these technically-worded amendments. Below is that plain-language analysis, along with the implications not just for the French Quarter, but for the entire city.

To reiterate, these changes are not limited to the Quarter, but would change the land use rules for bars, restaurants and nightclubs citywide.

City Council action on these amendments has now been deferred twice, so the likely date for a vote is Thursday, August 20. We will keep you informed as the date draws near.

 

ANALYSIS OF PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE COMPREHENSIVE ZONING ORDINANCE

A series of amendments proposed by District C Council member Nadine Ramsey would have profound effects not just on the French Quarter, but all neighborhoods of the city.

In the French Quarter, these amendments would:

Allow entertainment outdoors in courtyards

Allow the creation of numerous new entertainment venues and of a new de facto entertainment zone along the riverfront

CITYWIDE, these amendments would:

Remove requirements for alcoholic beverage outlet (ABO) applicants to provide noise, security and operations plans

Remove requirements for ABO applicants to disclose proximity of churches, schools and playgrounds

Lift limitations on “holding bars” which would make it easier for restaurants to morph into bars

Remove the requirement that entertainment venues keep their doors and windows closed during performances to contain noise overflow

Allow all standard restaurants to become package liquor stores

A cursory read of these amendments reveals several individual problems. But when taken together, it is clear that the cumulative effect would drastically alter the delicate balance of businesses coexisting within New Orleans neighborhoods by allowing the proliferation and expansion of alcoholic beverage outlets and entertainment venues without adequate public input or review.

NOTE: The amendments are titled according to their author’s initials; hence, CM Ramsey’s amendments are NMR followed by a number.

NMR-14

French Quarter-only

Would allow live entertainment in all restaurants in the French Quarter.

In the new CZO, “musical accompaniment” is allowed in restaurants citywide with the exception of the French Quarter. The rationale for that exemption was the fact that the Quarter already has the highest concentration of entertainment venues in the entire city. Combined with the fact that there are many other uses in the French Quarter neighborhood, business and well as residential, the CZO’s new regulations are an acknowledgement that further expansion of entertainment venues could harm the delicate balance that is part of the value and appeal of the Vieux Carré. As the City Planning staff noted in their report, “Given the amount of existing live entertainment in the French Quarter and the potential conflict with nearby residents, the staff does not support permitting musical accompaniment at restaurants in all Vieux Carré districts.”

NMR 17 (Section VII)

French Quarter-only

Would allow live and recorded entertainment in French Quarter courtyards

Currently, entertainment is prohibited in Quarter courtyards. The reason is simple: these open-air areas by their nature offer no means of containing sound. Given the built environment of the French Quarter, with buildings sharing walls and commercial and residential uses often abutting each other, allowing sound in courtyards would mean adjoining uses would receive that sound, whether they liked it or not. It could also lead to “sound wars” between neighboring venues who are trying to drown out the entertainment from the courtyard next door. No studies have been done to assess the impact of this proposed change, or to the potential detrimental impact to neighboring owners and occupants, who must often share multiple common walls. Furthermore, the wording of the amendment would allow entertainment venues to pop up in nearly every zoning district in the Quarter, whereas entertainment is currently allowed only in the VCE districts (parts of Bourbon Street and the area around House of Blues). Allowing entertainment in courtyards would be disastrous for the French Quarter, harming the viability not just of residences but of many businesses as well. The economic impacts would be felt across the city.

French Quarter sound map

Graphic showing potential sonic footprints of French Quarter bars, restaurants and nightclubs with open doors and windows and/or entertainment in courtyards if NMR-17 is passed. The circles have radii of 200’, reflecting the distance that acoustician David Woolworth estimates sound travels before attenuating 20 dBs. (Bass sounds only attenuate 13 dBs in the same distance.) In other words, if the decibel level at the source is 90 dBs, at 200 feet away, it will be 70 dBs.

NMR-16

CITYWIDE

Would change the definition of “restaurant, standard”

Currently, sales of alcohol at all New Orleans restaurants must be incidental to sales of food. That means an establishment has to be selling food while it is offering alcohol. The proposed amendment would do away with this language and use only the standard of 50% +1 of sales coming from food. That may sound like a minor distinction, but imagine a restaurant that does a bustling lunch business, and then closes the kitchen in the evening and operates as a bar. Without the “incidental” language, there would be nothing to prevent that from happening.

NMR-17 Part- VII Art. 20, Sec. 20.3G 1

CITYWIDE

Would delete requirements for ABO applicants to provide noise, security and operations plans

Would delete requirements for ABO applicants to disclose proximity of churches, schools and playgrounds

Two of the most common complaints about ABOs have to do with noise and safety. Recognizing these potential negative impacts on surrounding land uses, the new CZO seeks to head off problems by requiring such establishments to provide written plans for security and operations, as well as noise abatement. Part of NMR-17 would delete these reasonable and neighborhood-friendly requirements.

Another portion of NMR-17 would delete the following language: “Bars shall submit a summary of the number and location of places of worship, educational facilities, and parks and playgrounds within three hundred feet of the proposed locations.” The impact of that deletion would be far-reaching. The language in the new CZO is written to preempt or mitigate the possible detrimental effect and impact of alcoholic beverage outlets (bars, package liquor stores, entertainment venues) on churches, schools, parks and playgrounds. As has been the rule in the previous CZO, the new CZO makes it the responsibility of the applicant to supply information on such uses within 300’ of the proposed ABO. NMR-17 would shift that burden to city staffers, which would stretch CPC staff further, and more importantly, shift the liability for errors from the applicant to the city.

NMR-17 Part 6 (VII 20.3.ZZ .6)

CITYWIDE

Would remove the maximum square footage requirement for holding bars

Currently, there are two means of ensuring that restaurants don’t morph into bars. The first is that over 50%+1 of the revenue must come from food. The second puts a square footage limit on the size of holding bars (small bars in restaurants that “hold” patrons waiting to be seated), and allows their operation only when the kitchen is open. The size of holding bars under the old and new CZO are capped at 15% of the floor area of the public seating area, and an overall limit of 300 sq. ft. NMR-17 would delete the size limit on holding bars entirely. The City Planning Commission staff, in its analysis, calls this a “loophole” and says, “The staff believes that without a concrete standard in which to differentiate bars and restaurants, a loophole exists for restaurants to morph into bars.”

In conjunction with NMR-16, which changes the definition of restaurants so that liquor service is not tied to food service, this amendment would greatly increase the potential for restaurants to operate as bars.

NMR -17 20.3.ZZ.4

CITYWIDE

Would allow entertainment venues to leave doors and windows open during performances

There are many examples of entertainment venues coexisting peacefully with neighbors. In almost every case, these venues ensure that sound stays inside. The CZO codifies this “good neighbor” policy by requiring that any venue offering entertainment must have its doors and windows closed during performances. This is particularly important considering that under the new CZO, restaurants citywide* will be able to offer “musical accompaniment.” The rule now becomes important not just for existing live entertainment venues, but for many restaurants as well. NMR-17 would delete the closed-door-and-window policy, which would remove an important protection for the balance of residential and commercial use in New Orleans neighborhoods. City Planning staff objected, noting that “deleting this requirement would allow for any live entertainment venue to have its doors and windows open to the street which could impact adjacent uses.”

*with the exception of the French Quarter, although that exception would be deleted if NMR-14 is passed.

NMR-12 Art. 20.3ZZ.5

CITYWIDE

Would allow standard restaurants to sell package liquor

Currently, package liquor sales are limited to certain zoning districts and are highly regulated because of the often-negative impacts that these outlets can have on surrounding areas. This amendment would allow every standard restaurant in New Orleans to become a package liquor outlet.

The wording is as follows: “restaurant, standard, which may sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises or which may sell alcoholic beverages for consumption off-premises when sold in conjunction with meals to go.” However, there is no definition or standards for “in conjunction with meals to go.” In the past, the city and the courts have interpreted the zoning code broadly, which could allow any restaurant that offers take-out food to sell packaged liquor to anyone. The lack of clarity in this amendment extends to the question of enforcement, which already bedevils neighbors, neighborhood groups, and governmental agencies seeking to reign in problem ABOs.

The City Planning Commission staff recommended against this amendment, saying that “the sale of alcoholic beverages at restaurants in conjunction with meals to go is regulated by Chapter 10 of the City Code. The Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance should not imply that something is allowed that might be in conflict with City Code.


Message from the President – 2015 – Susan Guillot

It is with honor and excitement that I address you as the incoming President of French Quarter Citizens for 2015. However, I accept this honor with great humility, knowing that I have very big shoes to fill. Our outgoing President, CoCo Garrett has worked tirelessly with our organization for nearly ten years, four of which she served as our Board President. We appreciate the enormous time and effort she has put towards furthering the goals of our organization, while steering us through some rough waters, and bringing us out on the other side, stronger than ever. She will indeed be a hard act to follow. Please join me in wishing her all the best.

As many of you know, French Quarter Citizens hired Carol Gniady, as our new Executive Director last fall. Those of you who have not met her yet will have an opportunity to meet her at the French Quarter Citizens pot luck in March. Please make a point to introduce yourself. Carol has already proven herself to be a great addition to our organization and her presence allows us to expand our efforts to preserve the quality of life in the Vieux Carré, and preserve its historical character as never before. The entire Board of Directors and I look forward to working with her this year.

Many of the issues and challenges we faced in 2014 are following us into 2015. As you are aware, the number of violent crimes perpetrated against our residents and visitors has reached epidemic proportions. For that reason, crime continues to be our number one priority and we continue to work with the Office of the Mayor, the City Council, various commercial entities, and other FQ organizations to find a workable plan that will put more police officers on the streets. And that means not only on Bourbon Street, but in the residential areas of the French Quarter as well. NOLA Patrol, one of the City’s initiatives to put more trained eyes and ears in our residential areas is scheduled to begin in March. Other options are being discussed as well and we will keep you informed as details become available.

As you may know, the Proposed Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance will be voted on in the coming months. The proposed ordinance represents the culmination of over five years and thousands of hours of collaborative work on the part of residents, neighborhood organizations and our elected representatives to overhaul the city’s zoning. However, along with many regulations that will protect and enhance our neighborhoods, the proposed ordinance also contains several issues which will have negative effects. We are working to correct this by advocating to 1) reinstate language into the CZO which gives the Vieux Carré Commission the authority to protect the historic character of the French Quarter, 2) Remove language which allows greater height and density in new building construction in historic areas, and 3) remove language which allows any restaurants to have expanded hours, and live music. A “Fix the CZO” Public Meeting will be held on these and other issues in the CZO this Thursday, January 29, 6 p.m., at Holy Angels, 3500 St. Claude Avenue, and I encourage you to attend and make your voice heard.

Short Term Rentals is another issue that is severely impacting the quality of life in the French Quarter. Although renting property out to visitors for a weekend or a festival seems innocent enough on the surface, many property owners who engage in short term rentals do not reside on site, and there is no accountability when short term renters become rowdy and destructive. Furthermore, many owners have decided to make their properties available as a short term rental on a full time basis, rather than on the rare occasion. We’re not talking about someone renting out their spare room every now and then. Apartments and condos stay empty during the week, contributing to a ghost town effect, bereft of residents and neighbors, while simultaneously raising rents and creating a shortage of affordable housing. The negative impact is causing many residents and small businesses alike to leave the quarter. FQC is part of a Short Term Rental Committee that is working with the City Council to find a plan that allows for enforcement of existing laws and careful creation of new legislation that will preserve our neighborhoods.

In conjunction with these quality of life issues French Quarter Citizens continues to fight to preserve the historic character of our neighborhood. We continue to oppose the Habana Café project that is proposed for the corner of Esplanade and Rampart Street. Despite the quaint and cozy name, in reality the project plans depict an event venue that has standing room for approximately 400 people. This event venue will dwarf and overwhelm the corner of the last mostly residential street in the French Quarter. Although the project has been approved by the Vieux Carré Commission to move forward, we were recently successful in convincing the City Planning Commission to defer approval of the re-subdivision of lots until more details are made available for review. A vote is forthcoming next month!

Meanwhile, our fundraising committee will soon be gearing up for our 2015 Progressive Dinner! The tireless efforts of our fundraising committee and their results enable us to advocate effectively for our members and our neighborhood. I hope you will be responsive when you are called on to volunteer your time to making this year’s Dinner a smashing success!

So, there we are. As we go into this New Year, we have many serious issues confronting us, but we are better equipped than ever before to achieve positive outcomes. We also have a great deal of fun to look forward to as well. I look forward to seeing you during the year, and encourage you to become active by joining a committee and working towards our goals. Margaret Mead said it so well. We are indeed a group of thoughtful, committed citizens and together, we can change the world!

Most sincerely,

Susan Guillot


Congratulations to our 2015 Board of Directors and Officers!

The following slate of Officers for 2015 was voted on and approved at the regularly scheduled French Quarter Citizens, Inc. Board of Directors Meeting on Monday, January 12, 2015.

President: Susan Guillot

Vice President: Rodney Villarreal

Secretary: Angela Bowlin

Treasurer: Gary Wheat

The 2015 French Quarter Citizens Board of Directors follows, including Committee chairs.

  • Glade Bilby, Communications
  • Angela Bowlin, Co-chair, Fund Raising
  • Gail Cavett, Planning and Historic Preservation
  • René Fransen, Membership
  • Susan Guillot
  • Chad Pellerin, Legislative Affairs
  • Rodney Villarreal, Co-chair, Fund Raising
  • Gary Wheat, Budget and Fiscal Affairs
  • Rob White, Legal

View bios


CZO Public Meeting Announcement: Once in a generation, we get this right, or we blow it.

Right now, literally once-in-a-generation decisions are being made at City Hall – yet too many citizens are tuned out. Because they think it’s, uh, well, boring.

I refer to the “CZO” – the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, part of New Orleans’ broader master planning process.

What is the CZO? Think of it like the DNA of our city. What activities should be permitted on YOUR block? How darn-big should buildings in YOUR neighborhood be? You think you know what a restaurant is, but it’s not always obvious: Can it be a neighborhood joint that mostly sells liquor and has live entertainment late into the night? Just as your DNA dictates most of what you will look like and important aspects of your future , it’s the same for the CZO for our beloved city.

I’ve lived in New Orleans over 30 years. The last time we re-wrote New Orleans’ CZO was before I was here. This is a rare occurrence. We dare not get this wrong. Yet, multiple neighborhood leaders fear we are indeed on the verge of getting it wrong. Perhaps, dreadfully wrong. If we do, there’s a good chance you won’t like how New Orleans will change.

But, it’s not too late. Please come to this presentation & public meeting to learn more. Bring your neighbors. I promise you: It will NOT be boring…

Multi-Neighborhood Public Meeting: featuring 4 ways we must FIX THE CZO

7 p.m., this Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Holy Angles Convent, 3500 St. Claude Avenue (at Gallier Street)
Ample free parking available
Hosted by the Riverfront Alliance, a coalition of six New Orleans neighborhood organizations