New Orleans City Council approves sidewalk parklets, excludes them from the French Quarter

(Photo: Infrogmation | CC | Flickr)
The New Orleans City Council last week unanimously approved sidewalk extensions known as parklets, and excluded them entirely from the French Quarter, but expanded their their use beyond emergency orders that allowed them to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

Council Members approved the motion to adopt parklets 5-0 during a June 23 public meeting. Councilmemer-At-Large JP Morrell did not vote and District B Council member Lesli Harris recused herself.

The measure would allow one parklet per block face and also excludes them from a portion of Magazine Street from Washington to Louisiana streets. Restaurants are not allowed to both have designated sidewalk seating and parklets, but can have one or the other, city officials said.

Under emergency orders, city officials authorized the use of parklets during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns of local businesses as a way for restaurants to stay in business by providing additional seating.

The parklets can’t continue after the emergency orders because they are not allowed under zoning rules, requiring the city council to adopt an ordinance.

Officials from the mayor’s office said it will take many small businesses years to recover the losses due to the city-ordered closures.

The city ran a parklet pilot program starting in October 2020, with 40 businesses participating, largely without incident, according to a spokesman for the Office of Economic Development

Proponents say parklets were not only a lifesaver for businesses, but enhance walkability in the city and created safe spaces for people to congregate during the pandemic.

Residents and business owners in the French Quarter said they were opposed to parklets because they created a public safety hazard, blocked roads and obstructed the historic architecture of the neighborhood.