Jackson Square Task Force Report

VCPORA was honored to chair a task force, put together by Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, to study ways in which Jackson Square and its environs could be enhanced and protected for the benefit of residents, businesses, and visitors.  Our task force consisted of representatives from the residential, business, governmental and cultural communities.  We will be presenting our findings at a meeting of the Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday, February 7 at 10 a.m. in City Council chambers, but you may read a copy of the report now by clicking on the link below. You can also read the Times-Picayune's story from Sunday, January 23 by clicking here.

Jackson Square Task Force

 

September – November 2010

 

Convened by

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer

 

Members

 


Jeniece Black, Parks and Parkways

Mary Cunningham, CM Kristin Gisleson Palmer's office

Daniel Dilberger, Scott Boswell Enterprises

Brian Furness, French Quarter Citizens

Allison Gavrell, New Orleans Cultural Economy Office

Katie Gunnell, Mayor’s Office of Film and Video

Frances Hegenberger, French Quarter Citizens

Lary Hesdorffer, Vieux Carré Commission

Roger Jones, Quality of Life officer, 8th District

Monsignor Crosby Kern, St. Louis Cathedral

Mary Lanasa, Louisiana State Museum

Anne E. Macdonald, Director, Parks and Parkways

Carroll Morton, New Orleans Cultural Economy Office

Lisa T. Nguyen, CM Jackie Clarkson’s office

CoCo Paddison, French Quarter Citizens

Jan Ramsey, Offbeat Magazine

Joe Rochelle, CM Jackie Clarkson’s office

Sam Rykles, Louisiana State Museum

Louis Sahuc, Jackson Square resident/business owner

Trevor Theunissen, CM Kristin Gisleson Palmer's office

Lee Tucker, Jackson Square Artists Association

Nicole Webre, CM Kristin Gisleson Palmer's office

 

Chair

Meg Lousteau, Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents & Assoc.



INTRODUCTION

 

Jackson Square is, undeniably, the city’s heart.  It’s the most photographed, most iconic, and most recognizable spot in New Orleans.  And that’s not just because of its location, but because of the harmonious urban space created by the Pontalba buildings, the Cathedral, the Cabildo and Presbytere, the pedestrian malls, and the Square itself. 

 

But Jackson Square is not a frozen piece of history.  Instead, it’s a vibrant residential, commercial and tourist hub that is under increasing pressure because of its popularity.  As citizens of New Orleans, we have an obligation to act as stewards of our urban and architectural heritage, particularly those of great significance.  It was in this spirit that Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer convened representatives of the area’s residential, business, institutional, municipal, and religious communities, so that we could come together to discuss ways to protect and preserve this space.

 

(It is important to note that although the term “Jackson Square” is frequently used to describe the entire area  bounded by the Upper and Lower Pontalba Buildings , Decatur Street, and the Cathedral/Presbytere/Cabildo collection of buildings, only the area within the iron fence is technically Jackson Square.  See diagram.)

 

The members of the Jackson Square Task Force met three times:  on September 14, September 28, and October 12.  Our purpose was to discuss the various challenges faced by the Square and pedestrian malls; to determine topics and ideas that needed research and conduct that research; and to report the findings and use that information to generate recommendations on ways to improve the area.  We believe that the careful implementation of these recommendations would be of benefit to the entire area. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

Map of Jackson Square and Pedestrian Malls

 

Recommendations

 

San Francisco Ordinance

 

Atlanta Ordinance

 

Gambit editorial

 

Photographs

 


 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Special Events Point Person – for large events, whether they be in Jackson Square or elsewhere in the city, there should be one main point of contact for the producers, whose job it is to help navigate the permitting process and to ensure that any affected parties – residents, businesses, neighborhood groups, etc. – be kept informed and consulted as needed.  While there is an ad hoc system in place right now, it is not permanent, nor is it apparent to producers or citizens.  As it is now, permit seekers must consult a wide variety of departments and there is no clear road map of how to go about getting such a permit. This person could have a standard form that producers must fill out so that neighbors get accurately and timely notice. 

NOTE:  “Special Events” needs to be defined.

NOTE:  this person’s responsibilities could be carried out in conjunction with the Film Office in terms of notifications, and in situations where there is an event that involves both filming and a special event.

 

Notice to Neighbors – related to the above suggestion, there is not currently an adequate system in place to keep residents, businesses and institutions aware and involved in events that are to take place.  This needs to be a primary responsibility of the Special Events Point Person. 

 

Artists – Jackson Square is an officially-designated artists’ colony, and as such only original works of art are allowed to be sold there.  However, some artists sell prints in spite of the law.  The ban on prints should be rigorously enforced to protect the integrity of the colony.

 

Fees for use – although there was much discussion about the fees charged for major events in Jackson Square, the committee could not come to a specific recommendation on what an appropriate fee should be, and decided to recommend leaving this up to the managing agency, Parks and Parkways.

 

Outdoor music - amplification of music on the pedestrian malls should be prohibited.  The committee felt that this prohibition should extend to all streets, sidewalks and other public places in the French Quarter.  There should, however, be exceptions for permitted special events, including French Quarter Festival.

 

Buggy Tours – several committee members voiced concern over the management of the horse and mule buggies that line up on Decatur Street in front of the Square.  Some of the regulations that are supposed to ensure the welfare of the animals as well as quality of life for residents and visitors are not being followed.  Buggies are not being taken from the front, which gives the animals a chance to rest and get watered.  Instead, drivers at all points in the line are hustling customers (aka “barking,” which is prohibited by ordinance on its own.)  Additionally, the diapers are not being emptied, resulting in piles of manure along Decatur and at turns at Chartres and St. Ann/St. Peter.  The front of the line for buggy tours, and the only place that buggies should be allowed to accept riders, is at the water trough at the head of the Decatur Street “inlet” for the buggies.  And the city should consider imposing an additional fee on buggy licenses to pay for a third party to keep the streets free of manure, since the buggy operators do not seem able to meet this requirement.

 

Maintenance – the flagstones on the pedestrian malls are in deplorable condition, with many of them broken or missing entirely.  The result is not only a shabby appearance, but actual physical hazards to the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians who walk through these spaces.  Replacing and repairing these flagstones, and preventing future damage, should be a top priority.


Sanitation - charge one entity with the responsibility to keep the Square and pedestrian malls not just free of debris, but also clean.  The piecemeal approach being taken now has resulted in piles of garbage and other debris being left in and around the area for days at a time, and we cannot afford to have the most visible site in the entire city riddled with garbage.  

NOTE:  Parks and Parkways cleans the Square itself, and sets out the bagged trash for another company to pick up.  We are not suggesting that another entity take over P&P’s role; merely that a single entity should be responsible for everything else.

 

Security – there should be dedicated security to patrol the Square at all hours. Such a person(s) could ensure that cars are not illegally parked; that vagrants are not causing health problems; that tarot card readers are abiding by existing or proposed rules; that any music is not amplified; that garbage is being addressed; that mules are being properly managed; and that all other regulations are being enforced. Such a person would not only be an enforcement mechanism, but would also serve as a deterrent to other illegal or nuisance activities.


Tarot Card Readers – classify their operations as businesses, and require them to get licenses from the city as per Atlanta’s and San Francisco’s models.  In those cities, the requirements include licenses, posted menus of services and prices, grievance and complaint procedures, and background checks.


Performers – whether the tarot card readers are reclassified as businesses, all performers need to stay out of the fire lanes and artists zone; leave their tables/equipment for no more than 15 minutes at a time (no “saving spots”); be prohibited from verbally soliciting customers (“barking” is the term); and signage must be approved by the Vieux Carre Commission.  Also, there should be a prohibition on tents and other structures being erected on the pedestrian malls, and an appropriate size limit (6’ dimension or less) on tables and umbrellas.

 

Vehicular use – cars and trucks are routine sights on the pedestrian malls, despite signage saying that they are only allowed between 8 and 10 a.m., and 6 and 8 p.m., and even then only with the permission of a police officer.  The use of the malls as driveways is undoubtedly a major factor in the deterioration of the flagstones.  We recommend some type of removable barrier (barricade, quick release chain, etc.) to prevent vehicles from easily accessing the malls, and strict enforcement of the vehicle ban.  We do, however, realize that merchants, residents and artists have legitimate needs to deliver and pick up items.  Therefore, the no-parking and delivery zones at the intersections of Chartres and St. Peter/St. Ann need to be vigorously enforced. 
NOTE: the Cathedral has frequent and legitimate needs to allow vehicles to drive on the malls, such as funerals and weddings, and should be exempted from regulation. 

 

Dedication of fees:  ensure that all fees generated from the rental or use (by artists, events, filming, etc.) of Jackson Square and the pedestrian malls go towards the maintenance and management of these spaces. 

 

Combined management – Parks and Parkways does an excellent job of maintaining the Square itself, but there are concerns over the Department of Public Works management of the pedestrian malls.  And when there are events or issues that involve the Square and the malls, confusion arises because of this divided jurisdiction.  It was somewhat natural that a suggestion arose to put Parks and Parkways in charge of both areas.  However, Parks and Parkways is already stretched thin, and even with a promise of additional resources, would be reluctant to take on this expanded role.  The committee did not have an opportunity to fully investigate whether other city agencies, namely, the French Market Corporation, might be able to assume management control, or how another agency would interact with Parks and Parkways.

 

Jackson Square Foundation – it would involve long-term planning and management, but the establishment of a foundation to manage the Square, generate revenue, and ensure the viability and maintenance of the entire area could be considered.  There would be far-reaching implications to existing city and state agencies, so this would have to be thoroughly discussed with Parks and Parkways, Department of Public Works, the French Market Corporation and the Louisiana State Museum.