[StBernard] Smart Code

Westley Annis westley at devacaps.com
Sun Jul 15 22:28:11 EDT 2007

Smart Code doesn't use the Euclidian model of giving each parcel of land a
single specified use-such as single family residential, or commercial, or
industrial. Instead, it creates transect zones that a community defines
based on what it has now and wants in the future. The zone can be one piece
of property or several adjacent properties. The zones have names like T-1,
T-2, T-3....

So a T-3 zone is St. Bernard doesn't necessarily look like a T-3 zone in
New Orleans, or any other community. Everything existing is grandfathered
in. So unless you are creating a new town, it stays the way it is until the
property is re-development. Obviously, we are ripe for redevelopment.

The zones specify what the property looks like but looks correspond to many
ways it could be used. For example, just go to any traditional neighborhood
built before the 1960s. Take Mid-City or the 9th Ward for example. Usually,
you'll find on the corners between the residences some sort of business.
Maybe it's a business on the first floor such as a florist, or a barber, or
a small grocery or coffee shop, while the second floor is residential, and
maybe its a single family or a few apartments. In between the corners which
would be one type of T zone, may be single houses, double houses, etc. The
type of zone it is will specify the building's height limit, lot size,
distance from the street, parking requirements, and it could even specify
the building materials, and architectural features, if that is important to
the character of the neighborhood.

Also, Smart Code can allow an area that is purely residential to remain that
way by giving it a zone that standardizes the neighborhood just like the
subdivisions that have Covenants and Restrictions. For example, Corinne
Estates has a set of rules that are part of the purchase of the land. It
says the house has to be a min. size, the house has to be a certain percent
brick, the fences can't be solid metal, boats can't be parked in the front
of the house or front driveway, the house has to be set back from the street
more than 20 feet, etc. But these are not laws and a violated has to be sued
to comply. But if the Smart Code says that Corinne Avenue's zone has to be
this way, then it's the law, plain and simple. It maintains the standards
the original home buyers agreed to.

An example of not using Smart Code is Old Metairie. All those cute, quaint
wood siding cottages north of Old Metaire which are small homes on large
lots, are being bought up and torn down. The neighborhood's charm is
vanishing. Why? Because the new homes are 4,000 sq. ft, three story mansions
that nearly touch each other with hardly any back yard to fit such a huge
home on a lot that really belongs on an acre or more. Then the style that is
popular is Country French which towers over the little cottages and is out
of scale for the small streets and sidewalks. But mansions in Old Metairie
are in demand and they are not violating any land use, it's still
residential. That's because the current land use codes are about how the
building is used. Period. And with homes that are not in the hands of the
original homeowners, but their heirs, they want to be able to sell the old
houses as tear downs. Ditto for Lakeview. My great-aunts cottage was one of
the first to be built in Lakeview. After she died at a very old age, her
brother sold the house as a tear down. May as well have, because that had
happened to nearly every house on her street by 2003.

There will be plenty of public meeting opportunities to explain Smart Code
to the public which the Planning Commission intends to do as soon as our
mapping of zones and specifying the zones is in good enough draft form for
public input. It was hard for me to catch on to Smart Code until I had the
chance to attend a workshop held in Bywater where the neighborhood was our
classroom and I could understand why and how America loss it's identity when
we shifted to endless blocks of the same land use whereby we have to drive a
car to get between the land use zones.

Deborah Keller

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