Frequently Asked Questions  

What is "Louisiana Speaks"?
Louisiana is facing the largest recovery, redevelopment and planning effort in American history.

With support from the LRA Support Foundation, Louisiana Speaks is working with a team of top national and local experts through a longterm community planning initiative.

Planning has been broken into four interlocking tracks: building planning, neighborhood planning, parish planning and regional planning.

To address building level safety and design, Louisiana Speaks has developed the Pattern Book and is underway with the Tool Kit. Over the coming years, thousands of homes and businesses will be rebuilt in South Louisiana. The architectural "Pattern Book" and planning "Took Kit" are resources for homeowners, builders and developers which include storm-safe techniques, sustainable design, and other innovative building technologies. Urban Design Associates worked with local developers, architects and planners to develop the Pattern Book, which is now available in hardware stores throughout the state and online at

To support neighborhood planning efforts, the LRA worked with Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) Architects and Town Planners, to host a series of neighborhood design charrettes which engaged three diverse communities in the development of exemplary plans. From February through April, charrettes were held in downtown Lake Charles, South Acadian area, Arabi, and other parts of St. Bernard parish. As more and more neighborhoods rebuild, they will serve as the "building blocks" for the parish and regional plans.

At the parish level, Long-Term Community Recovery Teams (LTCR) began working in cooperation with local city and parish governments to develop long-term community recovery plans in the 19 most severely impacted parishes of South Louisiana last November. Through these LTCR planning teams, which were coordinated through the LRA and FEMA, parishes identified key projects of high recovery value that will serve as catalysts for jumpstarting their community's long-term recovery. These projects and plans are available online through the Parish Recovery Planning Tool, a dynamic and interactive tool that will help to facilitate ongoing planning efforts.

As all these other planning initiatives begin to take shape, the regional planning initiative will bring it all together. South Louisiana is more than just a collection of towns and cities. We are all connected, and our futures are intertwined through our wetlands, highways and regional economies. Through this regional planning initiative, Louisiana Speaks is working with a team of top national and local experts, led by Calthorpe Associates and Fregonese Calthorpe Associates to help create plans for future growth that balance our region's history, natural environment, social fabric and economy.

What is the process for developing the regional plan?
The process is based on the creation and selection of different future scenarios. The first step was to collect a massive amount of data, which allowed the planners to build a baseline, known as the "virtual present."

This virtual present was projected forward, following current trends and assuming little or no proactive planning or investments - a sort of "do nothing" future. This scenario was ground-checked for accuracy with local experts.

Then, a large number of stakeholders from all walks of life were brought together as part of the process of creating future scenarios that are substantively different and better from the trend-based, do-nothing future, but that are also different from each other.

Currently, the Calthorpe team is crafting the stakeholders work into alternative futures that vary - for example - in land use, infrastructure investment, economic development priorities, and coastal restoration/levee strategies. In January the general public will then select the elements it likes best from the alternatives. Finally, the public response is refined by the planners, in consultation with local experts and community leaders, into a preferred alternative that becomes the regional plan framework.

What is the timeline for developing the regional plan?
The virtual present and the trend-based "do-nothing" scenario are already complete. Stakeholder workshops took place this summer in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma/Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The alternatives are currently being refined, and the public will determine a preferred scenario in January 2007.

The final plan should be assembled by March 2007.

What will the regional plan look like?
The regional planning framework will map out a vision that describes desired future growth patterns and major infrastructure investments at the regional level. It will also include a phased strategic plan for getting from the present to the final vision. And it will set up a monitoring system to track progress, including powerful GIS modeling tools to assist parishes in evaluating the impact of current decisions and how they may play out over time.

The regional plan will not be a land-use plan or a comprehensive plan in the conventional sense, nor will it dictate specific land uses or zoning codes to parishes or municipalities.

How does the Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan work together with existing local planning efforts, including ongoing neighborhood planning efforts in New Orleans?
Regional planning and local planning are designed to accomplish different goals, but they support one another. The goal of neighborhood planning is to decide how homes, businesses, schools, streets and parks can be connected to build a strong community. The goal of this regional planning initiative to decide how communities connect to one another to build a strong region.

Regional planning is conducted at a level beyond individual homes, businesses, streets and parks. It looks at local community pieces collectively, from a regional perspective, in an effort to address issues that cross political boundaries, such as storm protection, coastal restoration, traffic and regional economies.

It's important that cities, neighborhoods and local stakeholders are engaged in the regional process, because by considering how they will be connected to the region and how all of South Louisiana is likely to grow, they will be better equipped to make good decisions about their own futures at the local level.

Regional planning brings this all together so we can all have better storm protection and coastal restoration, better schools, improved access to jobs and housing, new growth protected from natural disasters and more attainable funding options.

This regional planning initiative is designed not to interfere with local planning anywhere in the state. Regional planners will coordinate with local planners to incorporate local preferences. We're also committed to providing local planners with technical assistance.

In New Orleans, when the current neighborhood planning process is completed, the resulting comprehensive city-wide plan will be plugged into the final regional plan. These extraordinary efforts will result in a comprehensive blueprint that will guide the recovery and development of South Louisiana for many years to come.

Will the FEMA/LRA-coordinated parish plans (ESF-14) be incorporated into the Louisiana Speaks regional plan?
The regional plan engages the ESF-14 plans in two ways. First, it uses data collected and planning done during the ESF- 14 process as inputs for its baseline data. Second, the regional plan will incorporate ESF-14 projects into one or more of the future scenarios. Projects that have already been approved and funded - ESF-14 or otherwise - become part of the baseline, and are thus included in all scenarios. FEMA Public Assistance (PA) reconstruction projects also become part of the baseline.

How will other existing planning be incorporated into the regional plan?
Projects that have already been approved and funded will become part of the baseline, and will thus be included in all scenarios. This includes projects funded through post-hurricane bond issues. Projects that are in the planning phase, as well as other land-use and economic-development plans, will be incorporated into one or more scenarios. A transit driven scenario, for example, might include regional passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans - something advocated by local planners; and/ or a highway-driven scenario, which might new freeway investments around Lake Charles.

How do state and federal levee and coastal restoration plans relate to the regional plan?
Louisiana Speaks' planners and the LRA have fully coordinated the regional planning process with the levee and coastal restoration planning processes of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Public input from the regional planning process will directly inform all state and federal levee/wetland planning.

How did you select stakeholders?
Louisiana Speaks asked a lot of people, and we asked them to ask a lot more. Using one-on-one meetings, larger events, telephone calls and email, we contacted elected officials, community advocates, business leaders, and nonprofit and religious organizations across south Louisiana. We invited everyone to brainstorm a list of stakeholders who represent key sectors (environment, economic development, housing, transportation, minority leadership, arts/culture, tourism, law, policy, faith-based groups, etc). We also took many, many unsolicited recommendations. Our master stakeholder list now contains more than 2000 people. These 2000 stakeholders have been invited to participate in the workshops in July and August.

When will the general public have its say?
In January, 2007 - and theirs is the say that matters. Although the 2006 summer workshops were not open to the general public, it is important to note the stakeholders will not be making final planning decisions - instead, they framed the questions that the general public will answer. The stakeholders helped create a series of alternative scenarios - essentially, possible futures. In January, the public will select the elements of the scenarios it prefers through a broad, multi-media voting effort.

How will this plan be paid for?
The goal is for the regional planning framework to be adopted by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which will use it to guide ongoing funding and policy priorities. Additionally, future non-recovery funds, such as transportation spending, would also be guided by the regional planning framework in coordination with existing planning entities. The regional plan will not impact funds that are currently allotted for recovery projects

Who will "own" this plan?
We all will. If Louisiana Speaks does our job well and this regional planning effort generates support and consensus from citizens across South Louisiana, we will all share in the vision of how we want to grow in the future. It is also expected that the LRA, and in effect the State of Louisiana, will adopt the vision and shape policies to enact the plan. This would provide an overall framework for agencies at the state, parish and municipal level to work towards this common vision. Additionally, the Legislature and Governor will participate in approving specific priorities and projects.

Is this a recovery plan or strategic long-term plan?
This is a long-term, 25 year regional vision plan that will serve as a framework to guide land-use and economic development planning, spending priorities and government policies regarding transportation, economic development, coastal restoration and quality of community. But having a long-range plan is also important in the near term. A long-range plan will help coordinate recovery and rebuilding efforts so that they make efficient and effective use of resources.

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