MARSALA: New Orleans’ West End Is A Train Wreck in Slow Motion

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina came through New Orleans West End destroying what restaurants remained over the water in Jefferson Parish, the pedestrian bridge, and the damaging the heritage oak trees in the 1.3 acres of West End Lake Shore Park in Jefferson Parish surrounding the 1.8-acre parking lot of West End Lake Shore Park. The total size to the area between West Roadway and the seawall is 4.3 acres with 1.3 acres in Jefferson Parish. Rezoning now allows 65’ high commercial buildings in the area.

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Jefferson Parish lost a massive sales tax revenue generating site with the storm.  The new pumping station prohibits the return of restaurants that were once the water.  Jefferson Parish now has a 1.3-acre park needing revenue allocated for its care and maintenance. After 17 years nothing has been done and the question of what happened to the Hurricane Katrina FEMA money for repairs remains unanswered.

By 2015 former City Council Member Susan Guidry had rezoned the 4.2 acres of the Park to Commercial. This may be a violation of State Law 378 which requires 70% of residents living within 300 feet of a park to give written approval to convert park land.

The City Council of New Orleans in January 2019 passed a motion to increase the buildable height in 70124 zip code to 65’ to allow a 4-story building to be built on top of the 17’ high height requirement needed for Flood Protection in the marina.  The change was opposed by Lakeshore residents but needed to make the 1.8-acre West End Lake Shore Park parking lot able to accommodate a mid-rise building with retail, housing, and bars.

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In May of 2021, the State of Louisiana, City of New Orleans, and Jefferson Parish entered into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement or CEA to work out a financial split on developing the 4.3 acres of West End Lake Shore Park. The agreement calls for “residences and other improvements” but does state the development must comply with state law.  Since 1906, ACT 209 has restricted use of West End Lake Shore Park to that of a “Public Park or Amusement Park.”

The attorney for Jay Dardenne, the Director of Administration, in the Governor’s office recently responded that ACT 209 of 1906 is still in effect. State Representative Stephanie Hilferty who authored ACT 152 in 2021 to form the CEA, agreed that ACT 209 of 1906 is still in effect.   Hilferty did not to respond to emails asking if she planned to put forth a bill to repeal ACT 209 of 1906.

On September 20, 2022, the Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Commission held a special meeting to hear resident concerns on the proposed housing and retail development by New Orleans and Jefferson Parish Councils. None of the 40-50 residents attending supported the development. Residents asked what the Yacht Harbor Board members thought.

Commission Chair Tim McConnell and some other board members expressed that their responsibility was to do what is best for the citizens of New Orleans and that objective could be in conflict with what is best for residents of the marina.

Suggested was the option to Keep the Open Space in the park and seek grants to promote Conservation and care for the Lake Pontchartrain. Other questions going unanswered are:

  1. Will the 25 Heritage Oakes be removed for the proposed development?
  2. If the parking lot is removed for the proposed development, where do people going to park, park?
  3. Access is limited to one road, is there enough visibility for restaurant to cover the costs of building 17’ in the air?
  4. Are there any concerns about the Pelicans and other birds that use the park?
  5. Should other Parks in New Orleans be re-zoned to allow housing?
  6. With New Orleans high crime rate and shortage of Police Officers, what is the negative impact to the residents of New Orleans by creating a new site requiring Police staffing?
  7. Consider a Hurricane, Dead Zone, Coastal Restoration, and Maritime / Submarine Museum for the site that works with Conservation Non-Profits. Jefferson Parish is focused on environmental playsets for kids. West End of New Orleans can focus on education for teenagers, tourists, and adults. Would a better educated community benefits all of New Orleans?

MARSALA: New Orleans Pols’ West End Plan Ignores Science, Math, And Wildlife (thehayride.com)

From 1830 to 1930, Smokey Mary was the train that served Milneburg. Today people can watch the slow moving train wreck of twenty years of blight being converting a park to a parking garage.

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