Blog Post

Recovery Planning in New Orleans

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?



A simple common sense solution

I found this blog today and one thing has frustrated me for a year now.

I have been very upset to find that little has been said about a very common but very ancient solution - to build all the living space up upon concrete stilts/columns above the maximum floodline - where water and moisture will not effect the living environment. It would be a permanent solution for relatively little investment, and does not rely on the dependability of outside factors, and flood control.

I wish someone can tell me why this idea is not being propagated with great hope and optimism for New Orleans.

Why are not the insurance companies and/or the government, or anyone else saying or doing something to promote this kind of architectural foundation?

Thank You for reading - Fred Caruso, Ashland, OR

New Orleans rebuilding

Mr. Caruso

Sorry I have not responded to your question sooner. Simply put, there is quite a bit of the rebuilding using the techniques you described. In Lakeview, my old neighborhood, many new houses are being built on piers so that the first floor elevation is 10-12 feet above the ground elevation. The bottom part is being used for garage or storage or just open. Not all new construction is doing this. FEMA's Advisory Base Flood Elevations are requiring homes to be elevated three feet higher than the old BFE's. Not sure of the rationale there. If I did that and the same thing happens as with Katrina, I would have 5 feet of water instead of the 8 feet I had for Katrina. It is a complicated issue and elevating is more expensive than what you seem to think, especially in N.O. where construction costs have sky rocketed.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.

Get the "Green Bible" of educational planning books

Understand the complexities of planning at the local level while preparing for the AICP* exam. Find out why this edition is included in the APA's recommended reading list.