On the evening of Tuesday, January 10 the City Planning Commission (CPC) hosted a public hearing on the proposed Amendments to the Master Plan. Text Amendment #19, submitted by the Neighborhood Engagement Office (NEO), proposed to make substantial changes to the Community Participation Program Chapter (Chp 15, Vol 3) of the Master Plan. Amendment #19 would have removed any reference to District Councils, a critical component of the NOLA CPP Model and an international best practice of Citizen Participation Programs. Much to our surprise, City Planning Commission staff recommended this proposed change and recommended extending this change to Volume 2 of the Master Plan, beyond what NEO applied for.
Given the critical nature of District Councils, eight NOLA CPP supporters showed up and spoke out against this proposed Amendment. After the testimony of the opponents, Lucas Diaz, the Director of the NEO, was asked to respond to the criticism. Mr. Diaz responsed saying that he agrees with the community concerns, is aware of District Councils, just wants to clarify the process in the Master Plan, and wants to leave his process open and not mandate District Councils (please see this link for his entire response).
Craig Mitchell, the Chair of the Planning Commission, asked if his office is autonomous from the Mayor. Mr. Diaz said that his office is an additional resource to improve public participation from withing City Government. Mr. Mitchell then asked if it was essential to pass this amendment, and Mr. Diaz said it was not essential, but would help to clarify.
Next Councilmember Clarkson got up to clarify the intent of the Neighborhood Participation Plan. She gave a brief history of the Master Plan with the force of law. Then she said the point of the Neighborhood Participation Program (NPP) was to make the Councilmembers’ land use decisions less political and to give the neighborhoods more of a voice in the decision making. She stressed the need for a community component of the NPP, but said that it was up to the Mayor to implement it.
Our supporters did a good job of demonstrating the backing of the NOLA CPP Model to the Planning Commission and the need for District Councils and an external (community) component of the NPP. Thanks to Tim G for processing a video clip of this portion of the meeting which can be found at the NolaHoods website.
The City Planning Commission will accept written comments on this Amendment until February 1. You can email your comments to email@example.com, be sure to reference Master Plan Text Amendment #19.