Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

 

The Regional Visioning Process


Precursor to the Regional Vision

Under the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI), discussions around resilience predate the Regional Visioning process. Through a series of public discussions and workshops held during the summer of 2020, Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) facilitated a Regional Steering Committee that developed the Region Seven Guiding Principles Framework with stakeholders across the region through a public visioning workshop. This Framework outlined shared values and a vision for the LWI work in Region Seven — all of which is aligned with the guiding principles in the Regional Vision.

The stated long-term goal of the Framework is to realize “a future with less flood risk, healthier natural environments, and resilience practices that are responsive to the needs of our communities and to our evolving environment.” To support that goal, the Framework further described a series of principles and aspirations for their communities and for the watershed. Examples include: 

  • Communities and sectors converge to collaborate around managing water, like the tributaries to rivers do.
  • Solutions are developed for access to safe, low-risk housing that is also affordable.
  • The environment and economy go together and one does not exist at the expense of the other.
  • Projects, programs, policies, and planning efforts support a future with less flood risk, cleaner water, and opportunities to create more equitable outcomes.
  • Floodplain management, land-use, and development decisions across the region incentivize sustainable growth, minimize competition, and are consistent.
  • Water quality in surface water bodies is improved, creating healthier environments for all.
  • Flood risk (hydrology) and water quality go together. One does not gain at the expense of the other.

The efforts of the public visioning workshop and the Regional Steering Committee that culminated in Region Seven Guiding Principles Framework are distinct from the process that produced the Regional Vision. However, the guiding principles served as a foundation on which the Regional Vision was built. As such, the two products reinforce one another. Each of the Region Seven Guiding Principles is either directly or indirectly supported by the Regional Vision. In turn, the Regional Vision provides a focused look at resilience through the discrete lens of housing and flooding in the context of population changes and transitions and represents an additional opportunity to expand engagement around resilience in Region Seven. 


The Collaborative Efforts and Partnerships Informing the Regional Vision 

Capital Regional Planning Commission and Georgetown Climate Center

During the 2020 hurricane season, Louisiana experienced the landfall of five named tropical storms; three of those storms were hurricanes, and two of those hurricanes were major hurricanes (with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour). For Louisiana communities already in the midst of a pandemic and a long-standing housing crisis, these storms added insult to injury. All of these factors made discussions around affordable housing as they relate to climate change impacts and resilience especially relevant for Louisiana in general, and for Region Seven in particular.

CRPC was familiar with the work of Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) on topics related to flood risk and community resilience. The two connected to explore opportunities for collaboration related to the LWI. Through these discussions, CRPC and GCC agreed to work together on two shared goals that align with the LWI:

  • Mitigate flood risks across areas in Louisiana (through strategies like expanding green space and nature-based solutions); and 
  • Encourage housing that is affordable and available to people across all income levels in locations becoming or expected to become receiving areas increasing or changing in population as flood risk increases.

Since beginning this work, the landfall of Hurricane Ida and recent research analyzing plans across Region Seven have further emphasized the need for more strategic programmatic- and project-level conversations that thread the needle between housing, the environment, and equity.See footnote 1 In spring of 2021, the two organizations launched a partnership to support Louisiana’s Region Seven communities in protecting people from flooding risks and promoting resilient, affordable housing. GCC’s nationally recognized expertise in climate adaptation law, policy, and planning, and CRPC’s expertise in watershed resilience work positioned them well to facilitate the process that supported the development of this Regional Vision for local decisionmakers by local community leaders  

The PROWL Work Group

While the ever growing urgency of addressing land-use and environmental changes loom over Louisianans in the forms of increasing flooding, extreme weather, housing shortages, population changes, and other impacts, it is important to recognize that big challenges call for big teams to transform our challenges into opportunities to increase regional and local resilience. 

Throughout this work, a team of individuals outside of CRPC and GCC with expertise on Louisiana’s local challenges and the increasing impacts of flood risk to housing and the environment have been guiding this work.  This group of directors of departments in local parishes, leaders of regional non-governmental organizations, academic researchers, and others identify as members of the Protecting Our Resilient Waters of Louisiana or “PROWL” Work Group.See footnote 2 Members include: 

  • Bridget Bailey
    Director of the Office of Community Development with Tangipahoa Parish
  • Dr. Angela Chalk
    Founder and Executive Director of Healthy Community Services
  • Dr. Thomas Douthat
    Associate Professor with Louisiana State University, College of the Coast and Environment
  • Dr. Monica Farris
    Director of UNO-CHART (University of New Orleans-Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology)
  • Jerome Fournier
    Director of Planning and Development with Ascension Parish
  • Devin Foil
    Planner with HNTB
  • Dr. Robert Habans
    Economist with the Data Center
  • Lyneisha Jackson
    Community Planner with the Center for Planning Excellence
  • Dr. Tara Lambeth
    Director of Planning and Zoning with St. John the Baptist Parish 
  • Ross Liner
    Director of Planning and Development with St. Tammany Parish
  • Andreanecia Morris
    Executive Director of Housing New Orleans/Housing Louisiana
  • René C. Pastorek
    Formerly Director of Planning and Development with Saint. John the Baptist Parish
  • David Summers
    Chief Operating Officer of Partners Southeast
  • Nichelle Taylor
    Program Director for Policy Development and Implementation with Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
  • Karen Zito
    Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Homebuilders Association of Greater Baton Rouge

It is important to note that PROWL Work Group members served in their personal and unofficial capacities. As such, their participation on the work group should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Regional Vision in whole or part by their organizational affiliations or employers.

Visioning Sessions

In addition to leveraging the expertise of the PROWL Work Group, in November 2021, CRPC and GCC co-hosted two virtual visioning sessions to further inform the Regional Vision. The project team hosted Region Seven parish and municipal staff for the first session, and nongovernmental innovators for the second. The goal of the visioning sessions was to ensure the Regional Vision incorporated the experience and perspectives of a wide variety of policymakers, experts, and community leaders. 

The sessions were led by local facilitators who ensured that each session was a brave space for participants to share their thoughts and feedback with CRPC and GCC. The two facilitators were Dr. Angela Chalk, Executive Director of Healthy Community Services in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Dr. Lucas Diaz, a Doctoral Fellow of the City, Culture, and Community Program at Tulane University. During both sessions, CRPC and GCC enabled connections, introduced participants to the partnership effort and ongoing work, engaged in discussion, and received feedback on early drafts of parts of the Regional Vision

The visioning sessions provided CRPC and GCC with valuable insights into how different people perceive the importance of supporting holistic ideas around resilience, and how they interpret the terminology used throughout the Regional Vision. The discussions also highlighted the unique issues each community faces when it comes to resilience and how solutions to challenges like housing, resilience, and equity must be interdisciplinary and collaborative.

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