Squandered Heritage

Our do-it-yourself approach to driveways: permit optional

Built without benefit of a city permit, the Bienville Street driveway straddles a catch basin. photo: Karen Gadbois

Much has been made of our resilience. We New Orleanians are so resilient that we pull up entire sections of curbstone to install a driveway where none existed. And we do it without a permit.

The owners of one Mid-City property decided to make an oak-shaded driveway big enough for four cars. No matter that it meant straddling a raised catch basin in the 4100 block of Bienville Street.

But before any of you are inspired by this example to race out and start pick-axing your front lawn, you may want to get a permit to do so. Or maybe not.

After the driveway was installed, on May 30 the city sent a letter to property owners Mario Martinez and Milton Gautreaux telling them that the driveway was in violation of city code and that they had 15 days to obtain a permit from the Department of Public Works. Fail to comply and you’ll face a fine  or jail time, the letter warned.

An administration official provided The Lens with a copy of the May 30 letter, but a request for a copy of the application for a permit, assuming one was filed at all, met with no response. Efforts to track down Martinez and Gautreaux for comment were unsuccessful.

Pave at your own risk seems to be the message.



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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • T.Gremilllion

    And watch what will happen to that oak tree now that the roots have been covered.

  • David

    this is not a driveway, it’s an illegal parking slab. they had to steal public green space and pave it over to make it work. this destructive self-serving behavior is happening all over the city, often including parking on the sidewalk to make it work- BECAUSE CITY OFFICIALS ALLOW IT. it’s a real tragedy.

  • Tim G.

    So… how much would it cost us to rent a jackhammer for one afternoon, and show these homeowners some REAL enforcement??

  • Jenel

    @ Tim; it is *public* space.
    Love that the way this works is they do it wrong, without a permit and then Safety and Permits proceeds to tell them sweetly *how* to be compliant after the fact.
    Seems like they should be FINED and then worry about IF they will be allowed to keep it.
    Perhaps they should be FINE, told they MUST remove it and THEN work the process to see IF they can get a permit.
    Anyone with kids knows that if there are no ramifications there is no change in behavoir.

    We boast, as a city, about walkable neighborhoods and enlighten Dutch Dialogue management of water and then we let everyone pave as they will.

    Shameful. Especially given every public meeting I’ve ever attended Planning, Budget… where we were asked as citizens what we wanted resulted in more appropriate and consistent code enforcement.

    Why do we bother to participate if the Mayor and his offices are not listening?

  • Jeannette Hardy

    Odds are the concrete will suffocate the roots of the oak tree, adding another level of destruction.

  • This link to google maps lets you walk through and see how it was before the driveway. There was an existing single driveway at left of the storm sewer. You can also see they are next door to a commercial space that no doubt pressures their parking. Then too, you can see the other street since it is a corner lot, and that as a percentage of frontage on both streets the double wide driveway isn’t excessive. Would a permit be approved, based on the mall next door and the long section of cross street frontage also available to be counted against driveway encroachment? That is my point, would a permit be approved.


  • David

    it’s not a driveway, let’s be clear. even if it were you are not allowed to park in the front portion of your driveway. the fact that you see it done everywhere is a testament to non-existent enforcement and the city’s fiscal stupidity. I call these driveway’s to no where. they’re really parking slots. take a look at all the big beautiful houses along state st. and nashville. these property owners have also stolen public land. here just look, there are wheel stops that indicate the intent is to have 4 car spaces that they will claim as there own, front bumpers blocking the side walk and tails hanging out over what was a curb . I wonder if the city would ticket me if I decided to park there, after all it is public property. do you think the owner’s would mind?

  • William Feagin

    Always and forever, the City That Forgot to Care – in this case, about remembering to properly enforce building restrictions laws. I can’t help thinking that, in other cities, they’d be all over this like white on rice and there would be some compliance happening in short order.

  • Drainage Deb

    I wonder if the property owners will be complaining loudly when (1) the tree dies and they lose their shade; (2) the increased amount of concrete reflects heat back to their house instead of absorbing it into soil and grass; and (3) the lace of drainage causes standing water to gather on their property or back up into their house.

    What would happen if a number of residents filed complaints against them? Many voices can have an effect.

  • Drainage Deb

    Correction: LACK of drainage.