A city planner writes about what’s needed to fix New Orleans.
Maybe I’m being a bit pessmistic here, but has anyone ever stopped a major city cold dead, waited a month (or six) and restarted it?
As far as urban planning goes, this is the first test of open heart surgery on a patient in borderline health in the first place. What if they kill the city?
After all, think about what is going to happen here. Most people, even middle class people, cannot go a month without income. They are going to relocate, get new jobs (or work at relocated companies), get apartments or buy houses (Baton Rouge real estate is skyrocketing, apparently), and settle in. Are they going to want to relocate again in a few months? Even if the city is dry and clean, will there be jobs to come back to?
Jobs require employees and customers, but that requires people to move back. And if they don’t, there won’t be jobs for them to move back to. Eventually, the city will grow again, but if it’s stopped for long enough, it will not be a revival, but organic growth from some small initial base.
Also consider the groups that will move back. The poor will have some level of government support. And you can be poor anywhere. If you still have a house in New Orleans, if the government is going to rebuild it for you, why not move back?
The well off will have resources to move back, there will be plenty of cheap real estate, and their employers may well relocate their offices back into the city.
It’s the middle class, who can’t easily afford to move again, who will be missing. What will this do to the future of the city?
And if the planners and government agencies get their way, all the repair work will have to be done to very high standards, with lots of checks and paperwork. Some whole neighborhoods will probably be bulldozed. Rebuilding may run up against newer building codes (some houses could never be rebuilt on the original lots, since laws about setbacks and so on may have changed.) This is going to be a real test of red tape vs. practicality. A test they’ve been failing up to this point. Do you really think the federal government could rebuild a healthy city if given the chance?
Whatever happens, this is going to be one unique experiment in urban planning! Doesn’t anyone else think this is going to go badly?
Michael, allow me to respond to a couple of your comments.
“And if the planners and government agencies get their way, all the repair work will have to be done to very high standards, with lots of checks and paperwork.”
Certainly there will be high standards. The job of the government is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. That means, buildings that are up to code. Can’t let developers throw together crap. So yes, there will be oversight.
“Some whole neighborhoods will probably be bulldozed. Rebuilding may run up against newer building codes (some houses could never be rebuilt on the original lots, since laws about setbacks and so on may have changed.)”
Well, not really. A couple years ago, a fire swept through San Diego and destroyed entire neighborhoods. All destroyed homes, including those built on noncomforming lots, were allowed to rebuild. To newest codes, of course, but the conformance issue wasn’t an issue. I expect the same here.
“This is going to be a real test of red tape vs. practicality. A test they’ve been failing up to this point. Do you really think the federal government could rebuild a healthy city if given the chance?”
The government won’t be rebuilding a city any more than they currently extend subdivisions on greenfields or rebuild inner cities of existing cities. The government’s role will be to regulate the private sector reconstruction efforts (which will of course be boosted with fed and local funding). This is too big for the government.
The reconstruction is one part of the planning that will be involved. I wrote about the housing effort for evacuees who cannot find interim housing (up to 3 years) while the city is rebuilt. If temporary neighborhoods or cities are required for that effort, which seems at this point unavoidable, planners will be (and have been) involved.
“… all the repair work will have to be done to very high standards, with lots of checks and paperwork.”
Like the repair and upgrade that was done on the 17th Street levy before it collapsed?
I doubt the culture of corruption that defines New Orleans has learned lesson one from this.
Was the Lenin reference there intentional?
If so, what the hell’s wrong with you?
Step One is to fire that idot FEMA director. Take a look at this bullsh1t:
FEMA – Press release on advance preparations for Hurricane Frances (September 4, 2004)
About the reconstruction; is it a viable/realistic option to landfill the sub sea-level sections before rebuilding?
We can fix all the mistakes the froggies made.
And if we can’t build in certain places, well, that’s environmentally correct.
Landfilling the sub-sea level sections is of course possible, but prohibitively expensive. The volume of fill needed (considering the depth of fill x the area to be filled) would dwarf that required to raise the appropriate earth levees above a Cat 5 storm surge elevation. In addition, ALL of the utility and transportation infrastructure would be buried underneath the fill. So they’d be starting at less than zero, versus a ‘replacement-in-kind’ option where the existing infrastructure (roads, underground and overhead utilities) can be reused/rehabbed, with possibly only the buildings requiring demolition/rebuilding. And of course all that fill would simply accelerate the sinking/consolidation of the underlying silt.
Whether raising the levees to Cat 5 protection level, considering they’re also sinking, is another debate.
Perhaps a mix of the two…rebuilding housing at a higher density on filled land, coupled with Cat 4 levees, may be the chosen solution. Of course, we all know how well low income high-rises worked out for us in the past.
Considering the projections of the time required for NO to become inhabitable again, many won’t move back under any circumstances…time will tell if the reduced demand allows abandonment of the below-sea level areas, or conversion to parks/parking/whatever isn’t residential. Perhaps sanitary landfill…now that might be sensible.
For whatever it’s worth, a bunch of cities were thoroughly destroyed in WW2. I would expect recover on a similar, probably somewhat accelerated schedule. (Accelerated because the rest of the US isn’t likely to want to absorb so many refuges.)
Maybe they could just say screw the levies and rebuild it to be like Venice….
You know, we could do it like in the classical era. When cities were destroyed, a new city was built on top of the rubble, raising the elevation. If NOLA were flattened and then re-graded, it might be above sea level when all is said and done!
By all means fix new orleans dont let the eco-freaks turn it into a wildlife preserve for the leavee borrowing fuzzy wuzzy mouse enough of the eco-BS
You know, we could do it like in the classical era. When cities were destroyed, a new city was built on top of the rubble, raising the elevation.
That’s what we did in Seattle after the fire…. the old stuff is still down there, we just built on top of it. Now the old city is a tourist attraction.
Bill Arnold, a lot of those refugees are being absorbed into the rest of the US. Results will be … interesting.
Here in Houston, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that a good portion of the dispossed have no real desire to go back. I can imagine a poor black person wouldn’t see it as an ideal situation to return to.
You can be both of those anywhere. Might as well do it somewhere else, especially if your experience with NO isn’t that great.
I wonder what NO would be like without 100,000 of its citizens. The place was already losing people before Katrina, which is completely opposite of most Sun Belt metropolises (metropoli?).
I think it’s a very positive American thing that a lot of the displaced citizens are planning on a new start in new states. This hurricane may have broken a cycle of poverty for thousands of people. New Orleans can rebuild and be better. I see great opportunities for renewal and rebirth from this disaster.
The real story, the B-I-G story here is the overwhelming generosity of the American people for their own. We will give a helping hand and then bootstrap thousands into a better life.
This is a watershed [literally and figuratively]. This great rebirth by Americans will also signal the end of some very negative forces:
1. The race card industry
Al Sharpton was down here in the Dome whining to the cameras about how this was all a racial thing.
Behind him, you could see white white-collar guys, elderly people, black teenagers, Indian doctors, Hispanic ministers and pastors, Macy Gray and others running around with great purpose and alacrity. They served food, they carried bags, moved pallettes of goods, took out the garbage, cleaned out the restrooms and showers, sorted through clothes, worked to locate missing family members, set up wireless centers and phone banks and a fully functional medical center, play areas, job fairs. Even a barbershop. It was probably the most attention these people had gotten in a long time, maybe ever.
I don’t think it’s bragging to suggest that Houstonians, Texans, Americans and volunteers from all over the world have so far pulled off one of the greatest feats in modern logistical and planning history, all pretty much on the fly. I fully believe it will serve as a template for future disaster and refugee planning.
None of which was even remotely commented upon by Al or Jesse or any of the other race baiters.