Thanks to Planetizen for asking me to participate in "Planetizen Interchange" with such a distinguished group. This is my first entry so to let you know a bit about me, I live in New Orleans, LA. I was displaced for 10 months to Houston, TX after Katrina destroyed my house, but I am back in New Orleans where I am a planning, zoning and land use consultant. I am also Chairman of the New Orleans City Planning Commission. To say the least, this is an interesting time to be a planner in New Orleans.
The big planning issue, maybe the only planning issue, in metro New Orleans these days is recovery after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. After 18 months, much of the City is still devastated – devastation that pictures and television news stories can't begin to accurately portray. By most estimates, less than half of the City's pre-Katrina population has returned. The recovery planning process has been extremely long and is a multi-headed beast. A "Citywide" or "Unified" plan, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and others, is before the City Planning Commission for public hearings and a recommendation to the Council. That plan was to put together the goals, recommendations and recovery projects of several other processes and studies into one "unified" plan. A giant, maybe impossible, task. The plan has been criticized by some as fluff, praised by others because of the extraordinarily extensive public participation process.
There are many issues being debated here. Just to pick one for discussion, what is the balance between what the public wants and what professional planning analysis recommends, especially when the two are at odds? Is there a way to find a middle ground?