The Saints’ Long March

For most of their history, the New Orleans Saints have actually been the worst franchise in American sports history [1] – though that didn’t stop me from becoming a die-hard fan. The Saints didn’t even have their first winning season for twenty years after joining the NFL, and didn’t win their first playoff game until 2000, 33 years after inception. With the current season offering long-suffering Saints fans their best ever shot at a Super Bowl and a championship, I thought I’d take a look back at how far today’s Saints have come, in graphs:

This graph, showing the Saints winning percentage by decade, makes the progress more obvious:

With the incredible (still going!) season that the Saints are having, we have closed out our first winning decade! This is a far cry from the 60’s and 70’s teams that typically won 3 games a season. Here’s to establishing a tradition of winning in New Orleans, starting in Miami this year!

[1] On what grounds do I, a loyal Saints fan, categorize the Saints as the worst franchise in sports for most of their history? For starters, the Saints were the last team in the NFL to win a single playoff game (exluding the Texans, whose history is only eight seasons long). When looking at other sports, consider that even the Los Angeles Clippers have been to the postseason as many times as the Saints, and they did it in fewer seasons.

All data for the graphs can be found here.

New Orleans, Build Upward

To the extent that any development in New Orleans makes sense, vertical development makes sense. New Orleans historically was a narrow sliver of a city curving along the banks of the Mississippi, where the only liveable high ground in the city was to be found. Historical neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Warehouse District, Faubourg Marigny, and Central Business District are thus densely developed areas with a majority of structures possessing multiple floors. Even Uptown New Orleans, a primarily residential area, possesses many multi-family homes and multi-floor homes built on relatively compact lots.

Why then are so many in neighborhoods across New Orleans and the metro area fighting vertical development? As developers trot out plans for high rise condominium and apartment buildings as a means to rapidly increase the housing supply, many neighborhood groups and even the city council are fighting to curtail growth. But what other options exist in a city that has an average elevation somewhere between zero and ten feet below sea level? High rise towers provide a much greater level of protection to residents and their property; many living in existing modern high rises experienced relatively little property damage even from Katrina. Since downtown New Orleans predates the automobile era, it also possesses human-sized blocks perfect for dense, pedestrian friendly redevelopment.

While the historical character of New Orleans’ architecture should be preserved in redevelopment, many projects are being sidelined due to height restrictions, minimum parking requirements, and other zoning restrictions. But if New Orleans is to accelerate the recovery and redevelopment process, its politicians and citizens will have to accept that higher density development is the only viable route forward. Vertical development can help minimize the threat posed by future storms while rapidly increasing the area’s housing stock. Let’s hope that the powers that be accept this and move projects to fruition with the expediency that true recovery dictates.