In The News › Firm picked to revise zoning laws

Dec 28, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Firm picked to revise zoning laws

Firm picked to revise zoning laws
Boston group also to finish master plan
Friday, December 28, 2007
By Bruce Eggler
Staff writer

Goody Clancy, a Boston planning and architectural firm that was deeply involved in creating several district components of the Unified New Orleans Plan for post-Katrina recovery, has been chosen to lead the effort to revise New Orleans’ comprehensive zoning ordinance and complete its half-finished master plan.

Goody Clancy was the lead firm in one of six groups of local and nationally prominent architects and planners that submitted proposals this summer to rewrite the city’s notoriously dysfunctional zoning law, redraft its zoning maps and complete the master plan.

In a letter this month to the firm, Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield said the city has chosen it to handle the job on behalf of the City Planning Commission, subject to negotiation of final contract terms. The Goody Clancy bid set a price of $2 million for the work.

However, Hatfield wrote, the city is concerned that one of Goody Clancy’s local partners, the Rev. Marshall Truehill Jr., might have an ethical conflict because he was a member of the Planning Commission until early 2006, or less than the two years that by law must elapse before he can do any work for it.

As a commission member for several years, Truehill was not paid, but he would be paid for his work for Goody Clancy, which would involve “community outreach,” or helping to arrange and promote public participation at meetings where residents will offer their views on the zoning law and other documents.

Truehill said Thursday that Goody Clancy is seeking an opinion from the state Board of Ethics, but he said there should be no problem because his resignation from the commission took effect in late February 2006, and he would not be doing any work under the Goody Clancy contract until after February 2008.

The state’s ethics law says: “No former member of a board or commission shall, for a period of two years following the termination of his public service on such board or commission, contract with, be employed in any capacity by, or be appointed to any position by that board or commission.”

Truehill resigned from the Planning Commission to run for the District B City Council seat that ultimately was won by Stacy Head. He is senior pastor of First United Baptist Church, a South Jefferson Davis Parkway church that has not reopened since Hurricane Katrina.

In recent weeks he has been an outspoken opponent of demolishing four of the city’s public housing complexes, appearing twice before the council to warn about the consequences of the demolitions, which the council last week voted unanimously to authorize.

The planning staff estimated the cost of preparing the new zoning law and master plan at $2 million, although the responding firms were asked to set their own prices, which ranged from $750,000 to $3.1 million.

6 proposals reviewed

Under city rules for awarding contracts, a committee made up of Hatfield; Yolanda Rodriguez, executive director of the Planning Commission; and “community representative” Sandra Gunner, chief executive of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, reviewed the six proposals received and made recommendations to Mayor Ray Nagin, who made the final decision.

The Goody Clancy proposal was one of three bids that the committee ranked highest.

The committee and Nagin were not bound to accept the lowest price, and they apparently concluded that the firms making lower bids had underestimated the amount of work required or did not plan to do enough to fine-tune standard zoning principles to reflect local conditions.

Goody Clancy worked on the UNOP plans for Districts 1 (the Central Business District, Warehouse District and French Quarter), 2 (the Garden District and Central City), 6 (Gentilly) and 7 (Marigny, Bywater, St. Roch, St. Claude and Desire-Florida).

Its bid to revise the zoning law said it would be working with other firms from Chicago, Atlanta and Austin, Texas, plus several local firms and individuals: Manning Architects, GCR & Associates, Truehill and local planner Steve Villavaso, who helped organize and run the UNOP process.

Competing bids

The other bids came from:

— Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., a Miami urban planning firm that was involved in creating the UNOP district plans for Districts 1 and 6. Working with it would have been local consultants Stephanie Bruno and Grover Mouton and Waggonner & Ball architects.

— Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, a Cambridge, Mass., architecture and urban design firm. One of its founders, Alex Krieger, was a leader in creating the plan for redeveloping east bank Mississippi River wharves unveiled this year by the New Orleans Building Corp. Working with it would have been the local architectural firm Eskew + Dumez + Ripple and other firms.

— H3/HC Collaborative, comprising H3 Studio, a St. Louis planning firm that worked on the Districts 2, 8 and 13 plans for UNOP, and Henry Consulting, a local firm led by Troy Henry, a leader of the UNOP process. H3/HC would have worked with Villavaso and Duncan Associates of Austin.

PMC, a California company that offers planning, financial and other services to cities and other public agencies. It would have worked with the local planning firm Urban Systems, the Innovations Group, Villavaso and the Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Committee.

— Billes Architecture, a local firm led by Gerald Billes, working with Zyscovich Inc. and Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, both of Miami, and the engineering firm URS. The Bermello firm has often worked with Miami planner Paul Lambert, who has been a consultant to the City Council on several projects, including a post-Katrina planning effort that covered most of the city’s neighborhoods and became a rival to the UNOP process.

Call for new ordinance

There has long been widespread agreement that the city needs a new comprehensive zoning ordinance.

A 2003 study by the Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent watchdog group, said the current zoning law, written more than 35 years ago and since amended hundreds of times, is “incoherent, overamended, outdated and vague,” and that “interpreting (it) is well beyond the reach of the typical developer, not to mention the average citizen.”

After getting two responses to an earlier request for proposals, the Planning Commission voted in July 2005 to hire Duncan Associates of Austin to lead a team of consultants charged with producing a new zoning ordinance. Before the contract could be signed, however, Katrina hit. By the time the commission was ready to restart the process, the city attorney’s office recommended that it issue a new request for proposals.

Meanwhile, after several years of work, the commission and various consultants have completed only eight of the anticipated 13 sections of the master plan. The latest request for proposals said the new consultants are to produce “a single plan that consolidates all 13 elements . . . into a new document.”

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Bruce Eggler can be reached at or (504) 826-3320.

Dec 28, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

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