Land Use

You don’t like my concrete front yard? How about I Astroturf it?

4117 Orleans Avenue: City rules forbid totally paved front yards. photo: Karen Gadbois

4117 Orleans Avenue: City rules forbid totally paved front yards. photo: Karen Gadbois

The paved front yard of the Mid-City house at 4117 Orleans Ave. seems to have struck a chord with adjacent neighbors, a sour one. At a recent meeting of the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, speaker after speaker rose in opposition to the property’s 100-percent front yard paving job.

Nor did they cotton to the homeowner Angela Larrieu’s suggestion that she remedy the problem by setting down Astroturf-like fake grass on the 40 percent of the lawn that, by law, is meant to be concrete-free.

The Orleans Avenue house is one of several lawn pavings that have caught our attention here at Squandered Heritage. Unsightliness is one problem. The other is that a flood-prone city like New Orleans needs to be able to absorb as much rainwater as possible, something concrete is not good at.

Addressing the Board of Zoning adjustment, neighbor Monica Munoz had a word for Larrieu’s landscaping: “uglificent.” She said her neighbors used to call 4117 the “gravel pit,” because, prior to the concrete going down, the yard was covered in loose gravel. “Uglificent” appears to combine an esthetic reaction with awe at the sheer brazenness of the paving job.

Another neighbor, Christy Jones, asked the board to mandate that Larrieu submit a remediation plan for bringing the yard back and, once approved, comply with it.

According to Larrieu, she never saw the plans for her house when her contractor submitted them to the New Orleans City Planning Commission and was unaware that paving was unacceptable until she was cited recently by the city.

Under construction in 2007, the house did not yet have the paved front yard.

Under construction in 2007, the house did not yet have the paved front yard.

Larrieu said she wasn’t enamored of concrete; she just needs the parking, at which point she pitched the board on the fake turf idea.

Leslie Alley, a planner with the city, said maybe Larrieu could try parking in the backyard, which neighbors said is also 100-percent paved. Paved backyards may not be of much interest to the local garden club, but they are not illegal. Larrieu demurred, however, saying she didn’t want to use hers for parking.

The board voted against the property owner’s request to override code and retain the paving. She was advised to work with the City Planning Commission to jackhammer enough of the concrete to rediscover the turf that lies beneath it.

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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. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, 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.

  • Penguin

    This is a fabulous ruling. Astroturf? The eyesore that once stood on this site was replaced with this new eyesore. Makes neighbors wonder which was better and which was worse. In this case, the Concrete Queen has been reprimanded. As for her parking in the backyard, just what’s back there that she wouldn’t want to do that? That’s not still overflow parking for that mystery towing company, is it?

  • Just Wow! You have to give her credit for lateral thinking. Astroturf is green. It will cover a space. Thus green space! I’m gonna chuckle over this for days. Could someone gift her a gallon of green concrete stain?

  • Amazing! One household requires how many cars? Maybe that is the real issue at hand here.

  • Pervious concrete will let water pass through it and into the ground. The Brad Pitt neighborhood uses this stuff, and at least one block of a street (I forget which one) was poured with the stuff to see how it holds up. I think that is a good compromise for drainage?

  • TimGNO

    The applicant mentioned her upstairs tenants having four vehicles. Why landlords would pander to anyone’s expectation that they be able to park ALL their cars immediately adjacent to the property is beyond me. Parking is neither a right nor a privilege; it’s a luxury at best, and the luck of the draw most of the time.

  • Hate to throw salt water on our future wounds, but it’s 7 hours after this is posted and 57 of y’all have “liked it” with 5 comments-
    and it’s 7 days after Bob Marshall’s story (plus run on in the Advocate)-
    and I’m the first and ONLY comment!!! and only “17 Likes”….
    Come on people, lets work harder to get that concrete off her yard and on our levees.
    Best From Freret,
    Andy Brott

  • Penguin

    Craig, you’re working under the assumption that she would pay for a sophisticated product like that. She paid a minimum for a company to just dump that stuff on every inch of the yard.

  • Ezra

    A neighborhood ‘eyesore’ is in the eyes of the beholder, but a failure of the flood protection system is an objective reality that harms all of us.

  • Clay Kirby
    UNO installed the permeable paving in the Lower 9th Ward.

  • Is it also possible that preferential auto insurance rates for off-street parking are a factor in such decision making?

  • zack pierre

    what about it is her land and she should have the right to park however many cars she wants, or pave whatever she wants, it is ridiculous and I am sure that when there was loose gravel there were more complaints. It defeats the purpose of owning property if others are going to tell you when where and how to administer your property.