Smart Growth calls for action

The following is a critical letter from Jack Davis and Bill Borah of Smart Growth for Louisiana:

Next Wednesday’s District B public hearing on the proposed Master Plan is particularly important because the district includes the area where Louisiana State University and the Department of Veterans Affairs propose to build their two new hospitals.  The location and design of these important hospitals were excluded from the Master Plan planning process. So was the possible reuse of the old Charity Hospital building as the site of a state-of-the art teaching hospital.

The Master Plan’s land-use map includes the LSU/VA hospitals just where LSU, the VA and Mayor Ray Nagin wanted them – without any challenge, question or better idea from any citizen. If the hospitals are built as planned, streets will be closed, superblocks formed, traditional street grid patterns extinguished, a 70-acre neighborhood occupying 25 city blocks will be wiped clean for construction, more than 160 historic buildings will be demolished or moved, a National Register Historic District will be devastated, and our city’s struggling Central Business District will be abandoned by the two hospitals.

Because the LSU/VA hospitals represent the most significant health/economic decision that New Orleans will make in the next decade, the exclusion on the hospitals from the Master Plan process calls into question the validity, if not the legal justification for the plan. How can citizens be expected to follow a plan to direct the development of their city when they have been excluded from the process of selecting the site as well as the design of these two badly needed hospitals?

Citizens outraged by the exclusion of the LSU and VA hospitals from the Master Plan process should attend and express their views at the District B public hearing. In the post-Katrina era, with all the hope that so many citizens have of reforming the city’s discredited planning process, we ask: Has New Orleans really changed its dysfunctional planning habits, or do we remain the victim of arbitrary, closed-door, top-down planning of the kind that has produced the objectionable LSU/VA hospital  proposal.

The hearing is one of a series to be held by the New Orleans City Council in each council district to help the council decide whether to approve the Master Plan and give it the force of law. This hearing for District B, represented by Councilperson Stacy Head, will be held at the campus of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, in the building at 4301 St. Charles Avenue, just below Napoleon, on Wednesday, March 24th, at 6 pm.