New Orleans, U.S.A. has had the unique experience of dealing with and recovering from major urban emergencies. From Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to the city’s frequent “boil-water” advisories, New Orleans has learned important lessons about what it takes to become a vibrant, resilient city that serves all its residents—particularly its most vulnerable.
One of the first cities to release a holistic resilience strategy, New Orleans developed a vision and plan for the future on topics ranging from equity to energy, from education to emergency planning.
Their strategy, Resilient New Orleans, demonstrated the truly holistic nature of urban resilience, bringing together a vision and plan for topics ranging from equity to energy, from education to emergency planning. Specifically, the strategy articulated three key goals:
Mayor Mitchell Landrieu quickly recognized that implementing this bold vision would require intense coordination across the city. To empower CRO Jeff Hebert to lead this work from the highest levels, he promoted the CRO to be First Deputy Mayor and consolidated the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability under the Chief Administrative Office, uniting resilience planning with key existing sectors such as water management, energy, transportation, coastal protection, and climate change.
Indeed, under the leadership of Mayor Landrieu and First Deputy Mayor and CRO Hebert, the city of New Orleans is mainstreaming its resilience goals into how the city designs, budgets, and engages for all of its citizens.
A key challenge of implementing resilience projects is that, by their very nature, they cross silos and sectors. This means that their implementation requires collaboration and buy-in from multiple agencies, which often lack a track record of cooperation or of leveraging each other’s investments. New Orleans has begun tackling this challenge by creating a Resilience Design Review Committee—an interdepartmental committee that reviews all capital projects that are meant to enhance resilience in order to ensure consistency, quality, coordination, and public transparency. These agency leaders meet once a month to review project designs (from pre-design through project development), and have already identified ways to streamline delivery and leverage single investments for additional benefit.
A further sign of New Orleans’ progress toward embedding resilience thinking into urban design: the city is developing and implementing new resilience design standards for public works and infrastructure, including re-examining its design standards for its streets to incorporate storm water management, multi-modal transit, and recreational amenities (which were identified as resilience challenges in the city’s strategy) as standard design components, rather than special features as they had been treated in the past.
Finally, the city updated its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance—the regulation that governs how new development must be built—to require most new development projects to submit comprehensive landscape and storm water management plans that articulate how the design of the project will manage storm water runoff. By holding individual developments to a higher standard, the city has diffused the responsibility for managing water risk and achieved a more inclusive and widespread water management solution than would have been possible through a single, top-down infrastructure solution. Additional benefits of such parcel-level efforts to manage storm water include reducing the urban heat island effect, decreasing the incidence and severity of flooding, reducing strains on the drainage and pumping system, improving water conservation, and protecting public health, safety, and welfare.
Essentially, the institutionalization of resilience-building practices is helping New Orleans transform their public regulations and design in such a way that they will be much better equipped to meet their resilience challenges.
As New Orleans’ CRO Hebert assumes the role of Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, one of his key priorities is integrating a resilience lens into the public budgeting process, in order to advance the goals of the 2015 strategy. Toward that end, New Orleans recently adopted a policy of embedding resilience outcomes – specifically, the pursuit of multiple long-term benefits, cross-departmental collaboration, and advancing the specific goals of Resilient New Orleans – within the city’s budgeting process.
The city’s resilience priorities, as outlined in the strategy, have been incorporated into the city’s Strategic Framework, which serves as the foundation of the annual public budgeting process. By integrating strategic resilience-building principles across city functions, it begins to encourage city departments to consider the following questions when submitting budget requests:
This budgeting policy represents a significant step towards institutionalizing resilience, by connecting the normal operations of city government agencies and departments to the pillars of Resilient New Orleans.
Explore another recent 100RC report: Catalyzing the Urban Resilience Market which details how the private sector and cities are innovating to create new solutions and services to address urban challenges.