Front Yard Initiative

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

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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.

The Front Yard Initiative is an incentive program that reimburses eligible homeowners $2.50 per square foot of paving removed- up to 500 square feet- for a max of $1,250. screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-3-00-56-pm                                             Click Here!

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Issue Details

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 (CZO). 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.

This program aims to further the sustainability and resilience goals spelled out in the GNO Urban Water Plan, and the New Orleans Master Plan, in addition to complementing the Complete Streets policy.

excessive pavingLearn more about problems caused by excessive paving.


To deter future excessive paving and to minimize after-the-fact confusion and adjudication, the Urban Conservancy proposed that the city require a permit for yard paving. We continue to advocate for this permit.

Important Links

FYI Terms + Conditions

Design Requirements 

Project Checklist


Read more about how FYI got started!

Report a violation    |    Track 311 Cases

Update 16

Feb 2018

Judges Joe Willis, left, Kevin Taylor, center, and Anna Timmerman, right, give Linda Gielec her awards in the Jazzin' Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest. Photo by Chris Granger, NOLA.com
Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest | Photo by Chris Granger, NOLA.com

When Linda Gielec bought her house in Central City in 2014, she was itching to indulge her green thumb. The house has a side yard where Gielec could envision a natural screen of foliage to create privacy and add coziness.

But first, she had to deal with the concrete. Lots of concrete.

“It was all cement about 5 feet from the side of the house,” Gielec said. “It was cracked and broken and half buried in weeds.”

So instead of checking off her list of interior renovations she’d like to do, Gielec spent her time and money on redeveloping the front yard. “I thought when I bought this house, it was so beautiful, I wanted to give it what it deserves,” she said. “I could have redone my bathroom or got central AC, but I really wanted a nice garden.”

For assistance, Gielec applied to the Front Yard Initiative, a program of the Urban Conservancy which reimburses homeowners for ripping out concrete on their property and replacing it with green space to help stormwater management. Gielec removed 500 square feet of paving and was reimbursed $1,250 by the program.

Once that was done, she had a blank slate to install a small front garden filled with Yuletide and Shi Shi camellias and blooming Society Garlic, a brick walkway, a row of Little Gem magnolias and an Alexandrina Japanese magnolia, which brightens gray winter days with its splash of pinkish blossoms.

“My favorite front yard plant so far is a tie between the Yuletide Camellia flowers and the massive, fragrant, Alexandrina Magnolia flowers,” she said.

 On a street with few trees or gardens, Gielec’s front yard is a pocket of natural beauty that brightens the entire block, and her efforts won her third place in the third annual Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood Garden Contest. Sponsored by NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune, the LSU AgCenter, and the Metro Area Horticulture Foundation, the contest, held last fall, was open to front yards throughout the New Orleans area. The judges were LSU AgCenter agents Joe Willis and Anna Timmerman; Metro Area Horticulture Foundation president Kevin Taylor of Southern Accent Landscaping & Lawn Care Inc.; and Susan Langenhennig, InsideOut editor. The five finalists’ gardens were visited in person by the judges.
Little Gem Magnolias line Gielic's side yard |Photo by Chris Granger, NOLA.com
Little Gem Magnolias line Gielic’s side yard | Photo by Chris Granger, NOLA.com

As the third-place winners, Gielec received a $100 gift certificate to Jefferson Feed; a signed copy of “The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs” by Kathryn K. Fontenot; and a copy of “The Grumpy Gardener: An A to Z Guide from the Galaxy’s Most Irritable Green Thumb,” by Steve Bender.

“My neighborhood is very humble and is unfortunately inundated with blight and rundown and overgrown vacant properties and has very few trees, let alone gardens,” Gielec wrote in her contest entry. Now, after seeing her plants bloom, a few of her neighbors have started working on their yards, too.

"Society Garlic and Angelonia pair together here beautifully," said judge Kevin Taylor. | Photo from Linda Gielec
Society Garlic and Angelonia | Photo by Linda Gielec

Beyond her front fence, which is covered in jasmine, Gielec also improved the patch of land between the sidewalk and the street, planting two large Country Red crape myrtles and illuminated them with landscaping lighting. She chose the Country Red after hours of “obsessive” research into the vast number of crape myrtles cultivars.

“I contacted Blooms Landscaping in New Orleans to find me large specimens, determine proper spacing, and to plant them properly for me,” Gielec said.

To brighten her front steps, she also planted pots with blooming annuals; the SunPatiens were still going strong until the January freezes. (Most of the photos with this story were taken before the freezes.)

Gielec, a Pennsylvania native who has lived in New Orleans for several years, has always loved plants and grew up with a father who enjoyed gardening. “He took me to the gorgeous Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania each year, often at Christmas and in the summer,” she said. “Those gardens had always absolutely mesmerized me.”

See more photos of Linda’s yard transformation and access the full article here.

Update 15

Feb 2018

Facts & Figures 3.8.18

Facts & Figures

Update 14

Jan 2018

UC takes home the Stormwater Award for Leadership | Photo by Michael Wong
LifeCity’s 2018 Love Your City Awards Photo by Michael Wong

By: Sara Sneath
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
See the article here.

LifeCity announced the winners of its “Love Your City Awards” on Thursday night (Jan. 26) at the Sheraton New Orleans. Local businesses were recognized for environmental and social justice achievements.

“The Love Your City Awards are important for two reasons. First, they celebrate the incredible impact of often untold stories and unsung heroes already succeeding in this work,” said Liz Shephard, the founder and CEO of LifeCity. “And secondly, they inspire us to dig deeper and innovate new ways of growing our economy while strengthening our community and environment.

The “best all around” awards went to Green Coast Enterprises and Folgers Coffee. Green Coast Enterprises also took home the leadership award for clean energy for their work in building affordable, energy efficient housing in New Orleans. Folgers Coffee was recognized for its commitment to achieving zero waste, a practice aimed at eliminating unused byproducts. The New Orleans roasting location hopes to reach its goal by 2020.

Sugar Roots Farm, a working farm in Orleans Parish, won the people’s choice award. The farm collects New Orleans food waste to feed their livestock and to make compost, reducing what goes to the landfill, according to their website.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Stormwater Award

Achievement: Landrieu Concrete and Cement Industries

Leadership: Urban Conservancy

Buy Local Award

Achievement: Empire Services

Leadership: Natural Awakenings Magazine

Healthy Fresh Food Award

Achievement: Carmo

Leadership: Compost NOW

Employee Wellness Award

Achievement: New Orleans City Park

Leadership: Solar Alternatives

Clean Energy Award

Achievement: The Green Project

Leadership: Green Coast Enterprises

Equitable Hiring Award

Achievement: Walgreens

Leadership: The Ruby Slipper

Clean Transportation Award

Achievement: Insurance Design & Placement

Leadership: Friends of the Lafitte Greenway

Inclusive Workplace Award

Achievement: Dancing Grounds

Leadership: Lighthouse for the Blind – Louisiana

Zero Waste Award

Achievement: GoodWood

Leadership: Republic Services

Collaboration Award

Achievement: Recirculating Farms Coalition

Leadership: Water Collaborative

Love Your City Award

Green Coast Enterprises

Folgers Coffee

People’s Choice Award

Sugar Roots Farm

Update 13

Jan 2018


By: Emily Bahr, AICP | 
Read the full article from Planning Magazine here.

FYI in Planning Magazine
FYI in Planning Magazine

Rain poses a more regular threat than hurricanes in New Orleans – but it’s also an untapped asset.

Pumping Alone is Insufficient

Officials overseeing New Orleans’s drainage system initially said of this summer’s flood that the system had simply been overwhelmed by the intensity of the storm. They later admitted it had not been working properly, and several members of the city’s top brass resigned. As of October, when this article was being written, stabilization efforts and an investigation into the causes of the system’s malfunction continued.

The drainage system has long been in need of a major overhaul to replace decaying equipment, but insufficient funding and other challenges have hampered repair prospects. A citizen-led task force in 2012 outlined numerous deficiencies afflicting the system, noting that it was barely capable of handling a heavy rain of the sort expected to occur annually. Its report noted that even relatively high parts of the city are susceptible to flooding from routine storms thanks to inadequate infrastructure, clogged catch basins, bureaucratic oversight, and related problems.

Most agree that a fundamentally different approach is needed to manage the city’s stormwater. For a decade, New Orleans architect David Waggonner has advocated that water is an asset and should be a prominent feature of the urban landscape, rather than a nuisance hidden away by pipes and covered canals. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, his firm, Waggonner & Ball Architects, along with APA, helped to convene a series of sessions called the Dutch Dialogues. That process brought together Dutch planners, architects, and engineers alongside their American counterparts to strategize how to improve New Orleans’s urban water management by employing natural systems.

The result was the 2013 Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, developed by Waggonner & Ball and a team of water management experts. The plan, which received a National Planning Award from APA in 2015 outlines a 50-year roadmap of projects and principles to reintroduce water to the landscape. In 2014, the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative, a multi-sector coalition, was formed to work toward implementation.

The water plan envisions a dramatically different-looking city. Flood walls lining unsightly drainage canals are torn down, blights on the cityscape transformed into urban waterways; abandoned lots become rain gardens and bioswales, neighborhood parks that retain water and prevent flooding in storms; cratered streets and medians along the city’s many boulevards are reconfigured with permeability in mind. It’s an approach, advocates say, that would reduce reliance on the city’s overtaxed and resource-intensive drainage system while helping to recharge the water table, shoring up subsiding soils.

The concept of living with water rather than fighting against it is “becoming part of the common language,” says Dana Eness, executive director of the Urban Conservancy, a local nonprofit that has been involved in various educational efforts around stormwater management.

There have been successes. In 2014 Jeff Hebert was hired as the city’s first resilience officer—with funding and support from the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program—and was charged with focusing on mitigating the effects of sea-level rise and flooding. In 2015, the city enacted new regulations as part of its comprehensive zoning ordinance requiring commercial developments of at least 5,000 square feet to manage the first 1.25 inches of stormwater on-site.

Also that year, Landrieu’s office unveiled its Resilient New Orleans strategy, which included actions on stormwater management such as implementing water plan projects and developing a program to encourage property owners to reduce flood risk by taking steps like elevating their homes and installing water-mitigation features. (That strategy received a National Planning Award, too.)

In 2016, the mayor made the Office of Resilience and Sustainability permanent, keeping Hebert at the helm. The 12-person office is now responsible for many of the city’s green infrastructure initiatives and features a new job: urban water program manager, Antrup’s official title.

Momentum is also building outside the corridors of City Hall. Eness says her organization can’t keep up with demand for its Front Yard Initiative, a program administered with philanthropic support that pays homeowners to rip up concrete in their front yards and install water-loving plants and permeable materials in its place. (She notes that the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments is also stricter than it used to be about holding property owners accountable for violating city code prohibiting paving over yards in the name of parking or reduced maintenance.)

Read the rest of the article from Planning Magazine here.

Update 12

Aug 2017

Not-so-fun fact: Paving front yards in excess of 40% is illegal in most neighborhoods.

“The more pavement we have, the less water the ground absorbs. The less water the ground absorbs, the faster the water pours into the storm drains. The faster the water pours into those drains, the more likely it is that the system will become overwhelmed and that the water will back up.” Read this great opinion piece by Jarvis DeBerry published on nola.com on August 12, 2017.

Update 11

Apr 2017

Infiltration Test

We shot this video March 13, 2017, after a rainy weekend on a residential lot in Broadmoor that participated in the Front Yard Initiative. We tested the permeable  Truegrid driveway with help from Anthony Kendrick of Construction EcoServices. According to the results of the ASTM C1781 Test Calculator, the infiltration rate is over 800 inches per hour, with 5 gallons of water infiltrating within a sealed 12″ area in 42 seconds.  The permeable driveway was installed over a year ago.

The TrueGrid was sourced from Quality Sitework Materials and installed by Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture.

Update 10

Dec 2016

  • Our next FYI workshop is January 26th at 6pm.  This workshop is the required first step in the Front Yard Initiative. Free and open to the public.
  • Front Porch Party

fyi-porch-party

Update 9

Sep 2016

Urban Conservancy’s Front Yard Initiative got some great press recently!

Check us out in MidCity Messenger and in Curbed Nola!

excessive paving

Update 8

Jul 2016

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

Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | 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

Quick Links

FYI Terms and ConditionsFYI Project Checklist

Design Requirements |  FYI Workshop Presentation  Homeowner Toolkit

Other questions? Check out the Water Collaborative’s Ask a Pro feature.

FAQs

Who is eligible for FYI?

Any homeowner in Orleans Parish is eligible to participate!

Renters may also be eligible with a signed letter from their landlord. Additional pre-approval may be needed from the FYI Team. Please email felice@urbanconservancy.org for details.

How much does it cost to remove paving?

Concrete removal costs will vary, but $2.50 a square foot seems to be average. Do your best to see how many inches deep your concrete is. We've seen yards with layer after layer get poured as the land subsides underneath. The more layers, the higher the cost.

Where do I report a paving violation?

The city has an online form where you can report anonymously.

http://nola.gov/safety-and-permits/report-a-violation/

Who can I contact from the city with questions about stormwater management?

Email stormwater@nola.gov

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

Glossary of Terms

Green Infrastructure

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

Bioswale

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.

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

Infiltration Trenches

Long, narrow, gravel-filled areas. They are located in small drainage areas and are used to direct and store stormwater. They have the added benefit of reducing stormwater pollution before it enters local bodies of water. They work effectively when positioned at building downspouts and around building foundations.

Subsidence

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).

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

Groundwater

Water present beneath the Earth's surface

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

Flow-through Planter Boxes

Planter boxes can be filled with plants that absorb large amounts of water and can be placed directly below the edge of the roof to catch runoff. These planter boxes can help absorb some of the water during rain events and prevent damage to building foundations.

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Interested in going gray to green?

Please fill out the form below to be notified when the next round of FYI opens.

The next FYI Design Workshop will be on Saturday, July 14 from 10 AM – 11 AM.

Read the FYI Terms and Conditions and review the FYI Project Checklist and Design Requirements!


 
Call: 504-717-6187 or email felice@urbanconservancy.org