Front Yard Initiative

The Front Yard Initiative, the UC's response to excessive yard paving, is a project working to improve New Orleans’ safety, storm water management, and beauty.

The Front Yard Initiative

The Front Yard Initiative is  UC’s response to excessive yard paving. Rampant front yard paving is a community issue that has broad and significant effects on the city of New Orleans from stormwater to safety.

On the surface, excessive paving may look bad, but the effects it has underground are even worse, as you can see from the graphic below. Unfortunately, an unhealthy block is the norm in New Orleans. The UC is trying to change that.


What is excessive yard paving and why is it a problem?

Paving in excess of 40% of your front yard (and side yard on corner lots) is illegal in most New Orleans neighborhoods under the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. Since no permit issuance is required to pave a front yard area, the practice is widespread. Property owners replace their green spaces in favor of concrete and other impermeable surfaces in an effort to provide additional parking and/or reduce yard maintenance. These hard surfaces affect more than the single lot on which they sit.

Rampant front yard paving is a community issue that has broad and significant effects on the city of New Orleans from stormwater to safety.

Concerned citizens are encouraged to report excessive yard paving violations to the Department of Safety and Permits One Stop Shop call line @ 504-658-7100.
The detrimental effects of over-paving:

It’s Ugly

New Orleans Front Yard Parking Lot
New Orleans Front Yard Parking Lot

Attractive and environmentally friendly green space is lost as front yards are converted into off-street parking areas. Some cities have seen significant drops in property values as yard paving spreads.

It’s Unsafe

Cars parked on the front yard area of residential lots often obstruct the “public right-of-way” (sidewalks) and pedestrians are forced into the street as a result. They also eliminate on-street public parking spaces.

It Leads to Flooding

Car driving through flooded streets of New Orleans
An all too familiar sight

Paved yards do not allow rainwater to soak into soil. Instead, the water runs off into the street and storm sewer systems, which then leads to more street flooding and sewer backups, increased pressure on infrastructure, more runoff pollutants entering waterways, and increased subsidence.

It’s Illegal

Most cases of excessive front yard paving and front yard parking spaces are illegal in New Orleans under the current Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. However, no permit issuance is required to pave a front yard area, so the practice is widespread and relies on complaint-based, after-the-fact enforcement.

It’s Expensive

Excessive paving leads to more standing water, more pumping, more subsidence, and more frequent street repairs, all at taxpayers’ expense.

Ready to Go from Gray to Green?

Our Front Yard Initiative (FYI) connects homeowners interested in replacing unwanted concrete and asphalt with plants and soil to local professionals, volunteers, and other resources.

The program aims to further the sustainability and resilience goals spelled out in the GNO Urban Water Plan, Article 23 of the new CZO, the New Orleans Master Plan, in addition to complementing the Complete Streets policy.

Front Yard Initiative’s Pilot Project

Success! After months of hard work, two properties on Valmont St. have been transformed. The homes of the Depauw’s and the Henry’s now are visual examples of smart and beautiful alternatives to concrete in New Orleans’ neighborhoods.

Ms. Lois and Kia with their new yard

Thanks to our partners at Evans + Lighter Landscape Architects, Bayou Land, Grounds to Ground, and Groundwork New Orleans. Thanks to our funders at Councilmember Stacy Head‘s office and the RosaMary Foundation. And especially thanks to the homeowners. We are excited to have the pilot completed and can’t wait to expand FYI around the city!

The Back Story on UC’s Involvement: Fighting the Good Fight

Since late 2013, the Urban Conservancy has been working to curb the excessive use of impervious surfaces on residential lots around the city:
In January of 2014, Travis Martin of the Urban Conservancy wrote an article for The Lens about the negative impact on aesthetics, public safety, and stormwater management of excessive yard paving. The article received positive public feedback and sparked further debate.
In February of 2014, UC Executive Director Dana Eness hosted “All Things Local” on WGSO 990 AM to get the word out further on the issue of excessive yard paving in New Orleans. Dana was joined on the air by Rami Diaz of Waggoner and Ball Architects, realtor Kimberly Hunicke of Urban Vision Properties and the UC’s Travis Martin.

UC Executive Director Dana Eness and the UC's Travis Martin on air with "All Things Local" host Kevin Fitzwilliam on Feb. 15.
UC Executive Director Dana Eness and the UC’s Travis Martin on air with “All Things Local” host Kevin Fitzwilliam on Feb. 15.

In March of 2014, we held a public forum on the issue. Special thanks to our presenters Rami Diaz, Travis Martin, Dale Thayer, Karen Gadbois, and Jeff Supak for sharing their wisdom on this topic and helping to move us forward on seeking some long-term solutions to the problems with the existing system of addressing excessive yard paving.

In April of 2014, Dana Eness, Travis Martin, and Rami Diaz presented to the Public Works committee (Stacy Head and Latoya Cantrell were present). We proposed a two pronged approach to deter future paving and to incentivize the removal of existing paving:
1) In order to deter future paving and to minimize after-the-fact confusion and
adjudication, we proposed that the city require a permit for yard paving.
2) And to incentivize the removal of existing unwanted paving, we proposed a program similar to San Francisco’s Front Yard Ambassadors Program that encourages and assists homeowners to reduce the impervious surface on their lots.

In June of 2014, we had a great meeting with Councilmember-At-Large Stacy Head, City Planning Commission, Dept. of Public Works, and GNO Inc. Councilmember Head convened the meeting to discuss the Front Yard Initiative (FYI) and efforts to require a permit for front/side yard paving. We presented to Councilmember Head a sign-on letter with over 150 signatures representing citizens from all 5 council districts and a couple dozen neighborhood associations in support of requiring a permit for paving. Results include a funding commitment from Councilmember Head’s office and widespread support for reducing the excessive use of impervious surfaces in our neighborhoods. Councilmember Head is committed and so is the Urban Conservancy.

In July 2014, The Times-Picayune reported on one of the many neighborhood meetings we have been speaking at over the last few months. Read the story here. The UC has been visiting neighborhood organizations all over town to spread the word on the problems related to excessive yard paving and to introduce the Front Yard Initiative (FYI). Public outreach and education is a critical element of our work to curb this troubling trend.

UC and University of Toronto students out and about

We were delighted to host a group of planning students from the University of Toronto for an afternoon walk-and-learn in the Lower Garden District. The afternoon was focused on the small and large-scale interpretations of what it means to live with water in New Orleans. Rami Diaz was kind enough to share the green infrastructure solutions that he has applied to his own property. Check out more on the amazing system designed by Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture firm.

In November 2014, we were thrilled to be selected to participate in Propeller’s Water Challenge 2015. The challenge consisted of a 12-week peer mentorship program focused on solving the region’s critical water challenges. We have benefitted from the opportunity to work with local water innovators and experts to grow FYI into a sustainable and measurable model for paving less in New Orleans. A big thanks to Mike Eckert and Propeller for the great opportunity!


Organizations that would like us to present or concerned citizens that are interested in learning more about our work can reach us by phone at 504-717-6187 or by email at

Update 8

Jul 2016

The UC gets a mention in this article about 2015 Urban Hero, Jay Nix.

Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune

House Tour: Parkway Bakery owners’ waterfront home above Bayou Sauvage

Update 7

The Urban Conservancy’s Front Yard Initiative gets a great mention! Removing excessive paving decreases street flooding by capturing water where it falls and increasing onsite permeability.

Image by Dana Eness, Urban Conservancy

6 ways New Orleans residents can help fight street flooding

Update 6

Jun 2016


June 7, 2016



Andreas Hoffmann, Executive Director

Green Light New Orleans

Tel. 504-342-4966


Dana Eness, Executive Director

Urban Conservancy

Tel. 504-232-7821




NEW ORLEANS, LA — Green Light New Orleans and the Urban Conservancy received a total of $250,000 in grant money from the Allianz Katrina Fund to promote sustainable living in Orleans and Jefferson Parish by implementing programs which address energy consumption, water mitigation and fresh food access.

Allianz is a global financial services company working primarily in insurance and asset management in more than 70 countries around the world. The Allianz grant is administered through the Allianz Foundation for North America (AZFNA). AZFNA Executive Director Christopher Worthley stated of the grant: “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Allianz made a $1 million, long-­term commitment to support people and communities impacted by Katrina. We are honored to fulfill this pledge now with two grants to Green Light New Orleans and the Urban Conservancy in order to promote the use of money­saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs, healthy urban gardening and hard surface reduction for improved water management.”

The grant was matched by an in-kind donation­ of 3,500 LED light bulbs from Phillips to leverage the funding for light bulb implementation in Jefferson Parish. Green Light New Orleans is home to the energy efficient light bulb program and the backyard vegetable garden program as well as a rain barrel pilot program funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.  Green Light’s energy efficient light bulb exchange program has served 26,000 homes with the help of 13,000 volunteers. The backyard vegetable garden program has installed over 500 backyard gardens to date with 300 more individuals on the waiting list, contributing to a growing and vibrant community of gardeners in New Orleans.

The grant money will be distributed among all Green Light’s initiatives which promote environmental awareness and sustainability in New Orleans. Executive Director Andreas Hoffmann says, “We are excited that the Allianz Foundation supports all our initiatives with this inclusive grant and understands that the energy efficient light bulbs, backyard vegetable gardens, the teaching garden and the rain barrel program are all connected to move New Orleans residents towards a sustainable lifestyle.”

The Urban Conservancy will use funding to further efforts to remove excessive paving in neighborhoods and to reduce stormwater run-off.  Since its founding in 2001, the Urban Conservancy has catalyzed sustainable solutions to New Orleans’ distinct land use needs through community and K­12 education and neighborhood­-level engagement. Dana Eness, Executive Director of the Urban Conservancy, states: “Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath made it impossible to ignore subsidence, flooding, aging infrastructure, and coastal erosion.  We at the Urban Conservancy were compelled to take a leadership role in raising public awareness about the need to redefine our relationship with water through integrated water management strategies and systems. The Front Yard Initiative literally brings real solutions to our water challenges right to the doorsteps of New Orleans’ residents.”

Eness and Hoffmann have issued a joint statement: “We are thrilled about this opportunity to partner and bring sustainable services to the New Orleans community.”


About Green Light: Green Light New Orleans is an environmental nonprofit serving the local community through installation of free energy efficient light bulbs and backyard vegetable gardens. The energy efficient lightbulb program has been exchanging light bulbs since 2012. The backyard vegetable program has been installing gardens at the homes of individuals since 2006. Green Light is currently implementing the rain barrel pilot program. Green Light connects New Orleans residents to relevant, local opportunities and encourages individual actions so that everyone can benefit from a vibrant, resilient, and sustainable community. Green Light New Orleans is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.

About the Urban Conservancy: The Urban Conservancy catalyzes equitable practices and policies related to land use and the local economy in New Orleans.  It has been involved in numerous initiatives designed to support citywide water management goals including the Lafitte Greenway; the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative; BASIN, a water literacy and environmental stewardship program for children; and the Front Yard Initiative, which helps homeowners reduce unwanted paving and install water-smart landscaping. The Urban Conservancy is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.

About Allianz Foundation of North America: The financial services companies of the worldwide Allianz Group share a fundamental concern for safeguarding the future. In all areas of their business, Allianz Group companies find a common purpose in empowering people to manage risks and plan well for the future, and they do this in the interest of numerous stakeholders, ­ customers, employees, shareholders and society itself. The Foundation is committed to creating sustainable social value by partnering with programs that help young people develop the skills, motivation, perspectives and opportunities they need to be successful, self-­reliant and socially conscious members of society. We also seek to facilitate dialogue and networking among our diverse not-­for­-profit partners so that together we can maximize the social impact of our work.

Update 5

Jan 2016

Urban Conservancy Staff : CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPH

Urban Conservancy in St. Charles Avenue

“The UC’s Front Yard Initiative gets a great feature. “I’m really excited about our program in schools for kids, as well as the homeowners, on exciting and really fun ways that they can make their city more beautiful by paving less and planting more,” she says.

For homeowners who already have paved yards, the Front Yard Initiative can help them tackle the technical and financial challenges that are involved in removing the pavement. By providing resources and examples of other homeowners who have completed the renovation, the initiative can help make the process easier.”

Update 4

Dec 2015

Green Infrastructure in Your Future

Space is limited.  Register Today!

What:  Stormwater Management Workshop

Where: BioInnovation Center, 1441 Canal St, New Orleans LA  70112

When:  Thursday, December 10, 2015, 8 am – 3 pm

Who:  Contractors, architects, planners and others working on commercial and residential projects in Orleans Parish will learn the basics of stormwater management, regulations, and construction, and how building stormwater management expertise can increase business and profit.  Participants will also learn about new permeable paving and other products on the market.

Approved by the LSLBC for 6 hours of CE credit for Licensed Residential Contractors.

Presented by: LCIA, Dana Brown & Associates, and the Urban Conservancy.

Lunch is $15; the course is free. Register today!

Update 3

Apr 2015

The UC, Front Yard Initiative and smart water management all got some great coverage from the Lens’ “Breakfast with the Newsmakers: A look behind the Headlines” series. Watch as Karen Gabois interviews Dana of the effects of excessive paving and what is being done to reverse this troubling trend.

Update 2

Feb 2015

Valmont home-owners meeting
The Valmont team hard at work

After several meetings with Valmont homeowners, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architects and other water professionals, we finalized design and moved closer towards construction! We were all excited to witness the transformation of Valmont Street from a flood-prone concrete corridor to a shining example of how green infrastructure can be utilized to manage stormwater sustainably in New Orleans’ neighborhoods.

Update 1

Sep 2014

Dana discusses FYI and the problems related to excessive paving
Dana discusses FYI and the problems related to excessive paving

Dana presented for Parkway Partner’s Green Keepers program on the effects of excessive paving and the exciting alternatives proposed by FYI. The Green Keepers program focuses on green infrastructure and how it can drastically improve how we live with stormwater in New Orleans.


Here are some resources we’ve assembled to get you on your way to a greener yard and less flood-prone city. The Urban Conservancy is providing this on an informational basis only.

Property owners should engage in the necessary due diligence before entering into any contractual relationship with vendors or service providers. If you ever have any questions, run into difficulties, or need help finding a service provider, call us at 504-717-6187 or email and we will be happy to help.

1. Conditions Assessment

For $100, hire a licensed landscape architecture firm that specializes in storm water management to recommend features to install and where based on current soil and drainage conditions on your lot.
Dana Brown & Associates, Check out her great bookUsing Plants for Stormwater Management


Other Assessment opportunities:
DesignJones LLC

Groundwork New Orleans:  A nonprofit available to businesses, residents, and neighborhoods for consultation and installation services, providing site specific advice; advice plus project management; advice and an installation kit; or total installation of raingardens. Contact:

2. Engineering Firms

Building & Earth– Scott Smith, P.E. – Branch Manager

“Our goal is to provide a one stop shop for your storm water detention needs.  We provide quality work at an affordable price and strive to get your storm water detention requirements performed correctly the first time in a timely and affordable manor.” (504)-471-9994

3. Concrete Demo & Removal

You’ve got your assessment and you feel ready to tackle the landscaping yourself, but want to outsource the concrete demo and removal. There are a number of licensed contractors who will remove your concrete for a per square foot rate, which will vary on the amount and type of impermeable surfacing you wish to remove. Ask the company what they do with the concrete that is removed; it’s best if they have plans to recycle it. As we identify affordable providers we will add them here.

Rue Contractors (Mike Richard): 504-723-9072

Concrete Doctor:(985) 718-6797,

When You Remove Concrete

You or your contractor will dial LA One Call to identify underground utilities before you dig. The Urban Conservancy strongly advises you to also get information from the S&WB Engineering Department about underground waterlines on your property. If you have trouble getting that information from the S&WB, contact the UC and we will assist.

4. Landscaping

Doing your own landscaping? Make sure the plants you pick are built to thrive in our climate and have high tolerance for both wet and dry conditions. Louisiana Iris, Cypress, Sweet Olive, Dwarf Yaupon, Agapanthus, Lantana Bandana, Stoke’s Aster, and Blue Phlox are good examples.

If you hire a landscaping firm make sure they understand that diverting water from your property to the street is NOT the solution you seek. “Living with water” and “detaining onsite” are fairly new concepts.

Here are a couple companies that understand that landscaping in New Orleans should work to manage rainfall onsite and will work with you to make that happen:
Greenman Dan
DesignJones LLC

5. Permeable Pavement

An alternative to traditional concrete that lets water soak through it and back into the ground. TRUEGRID Pavers

Quality Sitework Materials– certified TRUEGRID distributor
TJ Truxillo, Business Development ​
W:855-469-2015 C:985-859-9681

Check out the parking lot at Parkway Bakery and Tavern for a local example of implementation!

6. Soil Conditioning

A couple of local companies can provide you with composted and other materials that will provide you with optimal planting conditions. Check out these innovative local businesses:
Grounds to Ground is a New Orleans start-up that rcreates a natural pest repellent and soil conditioner made from recycled coffee waste.
Laughing Buddha Nursery has bulk soil, mulch, compost, and so much more to keep your yard happy.

7. Catch Basin Cleanup

While you’re beautifying your yard, you may as well take care of some of the other problems contributing to street flooding on your block. Check your drains and see if they are blocked with leaves and other debris. Go ahead and clean them out yourself, or gather your neighbors or Neighborhood Association to set up a storm drain cleaning  event. You’d be surprised how easy it is, and how much cleaning out one drain helps!

8. Maintenance

Your new landscaping is installed and looking beautiful. Keep it that way and help grow our skilled landscape maintenance workforce by hiring nonprofit Groundwork New Orleans, a nonprofit that provides training in water-wise landscape installation and maintenance to high school students. Hire Groundwork to provide semi-monthly maintenance and by doing so, know you’re creating jobs for young New Orleanians.

9. Spread the Word

Call us at 617-6618 or email to request door hangers with information about FYI to share with your friends and neighbors.


Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan
Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative
Article 23
Article 23 Compliance 
Front Yard Ambassadors Program – San Francisco, CA
Depave – Portland, OR
EPA – Stormwater Management
EPA – Green Infrastructure


Managing Water in New Orleans- from Dana Brown & Associates
The Bowl- How New Orleans Became a “Bowl”



How much will it cost?

Concrete removal costs will vary, but $2.50 a square foot seems to be average.

Who can I contact from the city with questions?


Or visit One Stop Shop (7th floor of City Hall) on Wednesdays to speak to a City Planner familiar with stormwater techniques.

Where do I report a leak or other construction site problems?

To report water leaks, sewer leaks or any other related field problems please fill out this Report a Field Problem online form.

Glossary of Terms

Article 23

Article 23 of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (effective August 12, 2015) provides requirements for landscape, stormwater management and screening.
The intent of the stormwater regulations is to encourage sustainable development practices in new development or redevelopment projects, reduce urban runoff into the existing drainage system, diminish subsidence rates, and to comply with federal, state, and local regulations for urban stormwater management. This can be accomplished by slowing the surface flow of stormwater runoff and promoting filtration, plant uptake, absorption, and infiltration into sub-soils.


A channeled depression or trench that receives and holds rainwater runoff (as from a parking lot) and has vegetation (such as grasses, flowering plants) that rids the water of pollutants. These slow water entering the drainage system during storms.

Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO)

The Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) is the law that governs land use throughout the City of New Orleans. The CZO includes lists of permitted land uses for each of the City’s zoning districts, in addition to height limits, setback requirements, urban design standards, operational rules, and other regulations.

Green Infrastructure

A design element for a property that uses landscaped systems or engineered systems that mimic natural systems


Water present beneath the Earth's surface

Impervious (non-permeable)

Does not allow water to be absorbed into or through surface, as in concrete, asphalt, roofs

Permeable (pervious)

Allows water to be absorbed into or through the surface, as in permeable paving

Rain Garden

A planted depression that allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas to be absorbed into the earth

Recharged Groundwater

A hydrologic process where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater.

Stormwater Runoff

Rainwater that does not soak into the ground but flows over impervious areas or areas already saturated with water


The lowering of a portion of the Earth's crust

Subsidence occurs when large amounts of groundwater have been withdrawn from certain types of soil, such as fine-grained sediments like we have in New Orleans. The soil compacts because the water is partly responsible for holding the ground up. When the water is withdrawn, the soil falls in on itself, causing damage to property and streets (think foundation issues and potholes).

Take Action

Ready to apply for FYI? Fill out the form below, BUT FIRST read the FYI Terms & Conditions + Guidelines and review the FYI Project Checklist.

Call: 504-717-6187 or email