Clear As Mud:
Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans

Untangling the recovery and rebuilding process

Clear As MudClear As Mud provides readers with an objective and intimate look at the people, events, and actions that defined the first 22 months of New Orleans's recovery.

Planning the rebuilding of New Orleans has been among the greatest urban planning challenges of our time. As witnesses and participants, Olshansky and Johnson bring unparalleled detail and insight to the seemingly incomprehensible.

New Orleans had to rebuild its structures and institutions, but it also had to create an equitable and effective community planning structure while addressing the concerns of state, federal, nonprofit, and private-sector stakeholders. In documenting this unprecedented process, the authors spent years in New Orleans, interviewing leaders and citizens and abetting the design and execution of the Unified New Orleans Plan. Their insights will help cities worldwide face the challenges of rebuilding and recovering after disaster strikes.

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Hear authors Rob Olshansky and Laurie Johnson discuss their new release Clear As Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans. Olshansky and Johnson discuss how Hurricane Katrina differed from other international disasters and their experience in tracking the rebuilding of New Orleans.


"Olshansky and Johnson gamely dive into the muddy waters of post-Katrina planning to bring us the real story of New Orleans's patched-together recovery. They are uniquely qualified to untangle the puzzling web of competing plans generated through massive neighborhood participation, Big Easy politics, and a frantic quest for federal funds."
David R. Godschalk, FAICP, professor emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Clear As Mud is a masterful work that gives an insider's perspective into the complications and intricacies of planning in a postdisaster context. The book holds lessons for planners, policy makers, and citizens concerned with redevelopment, regeneration, and renewal anywhere in the world. The author's understanding and grasp of macro planning issues and micro community issues gives this book power and authenticity that is often missing from academic publications."
—Darren Walker, Vice President, Foundation Initiatives, the Rockefeller Foundation

"This invaluable book deftly clarifies the complexity of the multiple planning processes in post-Katrina New Orleans. Sorting out the chronology of contested planning is itself a significant achievement, but Olshansky and Johnson have also produced an account of the design politics that is reflective rather than scolding. This book is an affirmation of the need and possibility for deliberative planning in highly contentious settings. For practicing planers and scholars alike, this is the best account yet available on post-Katrina planning, and it is a significant addition t the literature on disaster resilience."
—Lawrence J. Vale, Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning, MIT; coeditor, The Resilient City

About the Authors

Robert B. Olshansky, AICP Robert B. Olshansky, AICP
Olshansky is professor and associate head of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois. He has published on postdisaster recovery planning, planning and policy for earthquake risks and environmental impact assessment.

Laurie A. Johnson, AICPLaurie A. Johnson, AICP
Johnson is principal of Laurie Johnson Consulting and Research. She has more than 20 years of experience in urban planning, risk management, and disaster recovery research and consulting. She has written about the economics of catastrophes, land use and risk, and urban disaster recovery and reconstruction.

New Orleans Resources

American Planning Association Hurricane Katrina Work

Rockefeller Foundation

Unified New Orleans Plan

Louisiana Recovery Authority

New Orleans Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance

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Greater New Orleans Foundation

Federal Emergency Management Association