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Day 633: City Planning Commission Approves UNOP

Tut, tut, not so fast.  All is not that easy in the city planning arena of the real K-Ville.

nola.com: As rebuilding of N.O. continues, recovery plan OK’d

No one on the commission or its staff expressed much enthusiasm for the plan, which was created by outside planners and consultants at a cost of several million dollars, and it is unclear what practical effect approval of the plan will have … Rebuilding already is well under way in some neighborhoods, and prospects for obtaining the more than $14 billion in federal, state or private money needed to carry out the plan’s laundry list of 95 infrastructure and other recovery projects are uncertain at best.

How recovery czar Blakely’s plan fits in with this Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) is murky at best:

It also is unclear how the plan’s sweeping citywide recommendations will mesh with the list of 17 targeted recovery zones where Ed Blakely, director of the city’s Office of Recovery Management, wants to focus rebuilding efforts. Blakely’s plan calls for spending $1.1 billion in public money to spur private investment in the 17 zones, and not even the source of that $1.1 billion is assured.

Right Hand, Meet Left Hand:  According to the UNOP website, “UNOP has informed the Office of Recovery Management and been used as a tool in selecting the initial 17 geographic focus areas in New Orleans,” which is somewhat corroborated in this City of NO press release.  But, of course, it’s short on specifics.  How will the UNOP’s “clustered neighborhoods” concept, for instance, interface with the 17 recovery zones?  Does Blakely’s plan target short- to long-term economic recovery while the UNOP plan focuses on long-term residential recovery?  If Blakely’s proposed development zones and the UNOP ostensibly do not operate exclusive of one another, why the media confusion?

Show Me The Money: The UNOP requires $14 billion while Blakely wants $1.1 billion.  If Blakely is unsure of the source of 1/14th of the UNOP budget, what’s UNOP to do?  Where’s the money machine?  “Investment incentives” for private businesses and developers?

How ‘Bout That Flood Protection?: As of May 21, 2007, the Bureau of Governmental Research expresses strong reservations against the UNOP in the area of residential flood protection. (Full 8-page UNOP Revisited report here)

… the plan indicates that some areas of New Orleans will remain particularly susceptible to storm surge for the indefinite future, but does not respond with comprehensive strategies. In fact, BGR found the plan would actually encourage settlement in high-risk areas through a voluntary, incentive-based, $1 billion clustering program.

Whoa, Horse: Wasn’t the object of the UNOP to create a replacement to previous plans that were rejected by FEMA and the federal government ?  To quote Becky Houtman, “The release of billions of dollars in federal recovery funds, as well as some private grants, depends on the formation of a master plan covering everything from city-wide infrastructure issues to neighborhood-specific projects.”  Does the City Planning Commission have an opinion on whether the UNOP, as it stands, will get us promised federal funding?  Probably not, because the plan has yet to hit the Mayor’s table before it is lobbed over to the LRA’s court (which may or may not exist by the time said plan exits New Orleans) and then plummets down a one-way trip to Federal Administrative & Partisan Hell.

Related Links: People Get Ready – City Planning Commission Passes The Buck; Some Came Running – Questions 67 and 68 (in which Celcus attempts to demystify the planning process and provides his answers to the questions posed above)

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