Planning, Plans, and People: Professional Expertise, Local Knowledge, and Governmental Action in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans
This article reflects the views of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In rebuilding after the largest disaster in our nation’s history—Hurricane Katrina—New Orleans has faced two key challenges: (1) how to enable all residents, including those with the fewest resources, to return to the city without recreating pre-Hurricane Katrina vulnerabilities and the inequities they represent; and (2) how to prioritize limited redevelopment resources. A citywide recovery strategy was necessary to address these challenges.
The purpose of this article is to examine the planning processes and the difficulties the city has faced in developing its recovery blueprint. Two interrelated, yet distinct, tensions played out through these processes: (1) tension between the need for “speed and deliberation”
(Olshansky, 2006) in formulating a recovery blueprint and (2) tension between the relative weight afforded professional and resident assessments and priorities in setting recovery agendas. These tensions, accompanied by unanticipated resident distrust of government and professionals and the failure of city officials to designate quickly a single agency with the authority to guide a comprehensive recovery planning process, slowed the development of a citywide rebuilding strategy.