1. Short-term rental vote deferred (again)
Following years of debate and several studies, the New Orleans City Council was set to vote on a framework for regulating short-term rentals advertised through platforms like Airbnb. The vote was scheduled for Oct. 6, but the City Council announced it's deferring the matter to Oct. 20.
If the Council misses that deadline, the delay could scuttle the issue for good — at least until the next administration steps in.
The City Council is looking at a lengthy report and recommendations from the City Planning Commission (CPC) outlining four potential types of short-term rentals, a practice that currently is illegal but rarely enforced. The CPC voted to prohibit whole-home rentals in residential areas, which account for nearly three-quarters of all short-term rentals in New Orleans and 2 percent of the city's entire housing stock.
Only a few council members have spoken out against whole-home rentals — District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry told Gambit in July that they're "the biggest threat to the quality of life of our long-term residents." District D Councilman Jared Brossett said he's concerned about the "commercialization of residential neighborhoods as a result of whole-house short-term rentals." At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head said they likely would be "heavily regulated" if they're approved.
2. Quote of the week
"Last summer, I was old enough to know better — but I guess I was still young enough to do something stupid." — Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, 40, in a prerecorded commercial provided to WWL-TV Oct. 6, which the station treated as news. Yenni reportedly is under investigation by the FBI on charges of 'sexting' a young man who was 17 at the time. All seven Parish Council members and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand have called on Yenni to resign.
City officials unveiled plans last week for a low-barrier homeless shelter in Central City, another step in Mayor Mitch Landrieu's 10-year plan, unveiled in 2011, to end homelessness in the city.
"It's exactly what it sounds like: There is no barrier for entry," Landrieu said Oct. 3. The shelter will have 75 to 100 beds, 24-hour security and will accept men and women. People entering the shelter are not required to be sober, which prevents some from seeking shelter. People at the shelter will have access to health care and transportation.
The building at 3101 Erato St. was chosen for its proximity to people living under or near the Claiborne overpass, and it's near other service providers. The city first will target elderly and homeless people under the expressway.
Officials from nearby schools expressed concern for student safety. Landrieu said the shelter opening will serve as a "lesson to see the homeless and not be afraid of them."
The shelter's $1 million allocation from the Landrieu administration and the City Council is matched with another $1 million from the Downtown Development District (DDD). Operational funding — $500,000-$750,000 a year — will be split between the city and the DDD.
The Landrieu administration will host six stakeholder roundtable meetings on the shelter through Nov. 20.
4. A chain hotel in the Marigny?
Developers plan to build a Hilton Hampton Inn hotel in the Faubourg Marigny at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street. A Sept. 29 letter sent to neighbors outlines plans for a four-story hotel with 119 rooms, front pedestrian entrances on Elysian Fields and onsite parking accessed by driveways opening on Decatur Street, with landscaping to provide a "visual barrier." Francisco Alecha of Francisco Alecha Architecture writes that it would take about 18 months to construct after plans are approved.
Developers will host a community meeting at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17 at St. Paul Lutheran Church (2624 Burgundy St.), where residents "are invited to ask questions or pose concerns about our project," according to the letter. The building requires a conditional use permit for construction, which must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the New Orleans City Council.
Amit Patel — through his group 501 EFA Hotel, which has developed several hotels in the New Orleans area — bought the building last month for $3.5 million. The building previously was held by developer Sean Cummings, who bought it for $1.1 million in 2007 with plans for the "Elisio Lofts," a $20 million, six-story condo project. In 2012, the City Council effectively killed Cummings' plans.
5. Xavier holds 'Black Lives Matter' symposium
Xavier University hosts its second annual Black Lives Matter symposium, with the theme "Urban Education Matters," Oct. 21-22. The symposium includes workshops and panel discussions addressing poverty, violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, racism on college campuses and racial reconciliation through the lens of education in black communities. Registration is $65; visit www.xulablacklivesmatter.com for more information or to register.
6. Hurricane Matthew, JBE and Cuba
Powerful Hurricane Matthew's path through the Caribbean was catastrophic for Baracoa, the easternmost city in Cuba — but didn't derail Gov. John Bel Edwards' trade mission to Havana last week, where he and several dozen other state leaders met to discuss possible port deals once the decades-long embargo of Cuba is lifted.
7. Nix, Mid-City libraries to close temporarily
Two New Orleans library branches will close tempo- rarily this month — one for renovation, the other for relocation, according to a memo last week from library director Charles Brown. The Nix branch library on South Carrollton Avenue will close Oct. 15 for painting, electrical, plastering, plumbing and other major maintenance work. No specific date is set for the reopening, but library staff was told it would be in "early 2017."
The Mid-City branch will move from the American Can Company on Orleans Avenue to the 1963 Automobile Life Insurance building at 4140 Canal St. That building was designed by Curtis & Davis Architects, and was designated a city historic landmark in 2010 by the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission.
The American Can location will close Oct. 22, and the new Canal Street branch is set to open at the end of November.
8. Boustany sues
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany — a frontrunner in the heated U.S. Senate race — last week sued New Orleans investigative reporter Ethan Brown, author of the new book Murder in the Bayou, and Brown's publisher Simon & Schuster.
Brown's book, about the still-unsolved killings of eight sex workers in Jefferson Davis Parish, included the detail that many of the women plied their trade at the Boudreaux Inn in Jennings, which was run by former Boustany aide Martin Guillory (who left Boustany's employ after the book came out). Brown also quotes three unnamed sources who said Boustany patronized several prostitutes, though Brown does not claim the congressman had anything to do with any of the deaths.
Boustany has sued for de- famation. Brown stands by his story and declined to comment when contacted by Gambit.
9. JBE gets REAL
Gov. John Bel Edwards was the first to get a state REAL ID Oct. 3, when the enhanced security drivers' licenses were made available. Louisianans now will have their choice of a traditional license or a REAL ID, which will allow the bearer to board domestic flights and access federal buildings by the year 2020. Some have objected to REAL ID over privacy concerns; they have the option of showing a passport. (See "Commentary," p. 9.)
10. A public defenders' second line
A "Second Line for Equal Justice" in support of "a fully funded Public Defenders' Office" in New Orleans will step off at noon Oct. 22 from Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge (1500 N. Claiborne Ave.) The office long has claimed underfunding; its budget in 2015 was $6.2 million, a sum Orleans Public Defender Derwyn Bunton claims is millions short. The second line group says "over 80 percent" of New Orleans arrestees cannot afford a lawyer.