Tulsa District 4: Blake Ewing on historic preservation and infill

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I'm sad to say that Democrat voters in Tulsa's District 4 made my choice in the general election an easy one. Friends and supporters of incumbent Councilor Maria Barnes appreciate her commitment to defending neighborhoods against inappropriate encroachment, a problem in District 4 where modern-day commercial development (and its accompanying parking) demands much more space than traditional, walkable neighborhood commercial districts like Cherry Street. From her many years as a leader of the Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood Association and the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, Maria understands how the zoning code works and how it affects the integrity of our neighborhoods.

With Maria's loss, her supporters are now wondering how to vote in the general election. This is particularly true of homeowners concerned about the integrity of their neighborhoods. In response to those concerns, Blake Ewing, the Republican nominee, has set out his position on historic preservation and infill development, republished here with Ewing's permission. (Click the link to read the thread on The Tulsa Forum, in context.)


I'm glad to post my thoughts regarding preservation. I'm perfectly fine with going on the record with these statements.

I'm a preservationist. I'm a developer. In midtown, those things have been mutually exclusive for some time, especially in our representatives. I'm excited about working to bridge that gap.

I'm confident that there are creative solutions to some of those problems that will allow developers to do the much appreciated work of infilling and creating the density in midtown and downtown that PlaniTulsa has called for, while also protecting our historic neighborhoods.

Developers and new home builders should not be allowed to destroy historic homes. Also, preservationists should understand that the commercial corridors and the hospitals that they appreciate require some understanding and cooperation. Find me the midtown preservationist who never eats on Cherry St. or who travels to St. Francis Hospital out of protest. They don't exist. We like Cherry St. We like St. Johns and Hillcrest. We just want those things to all play ball with each other. This has been made a black and white issue for so long and all that's done is cause developers to try to break (circumvent) the rules and preservationists to buckle down while pulling out their hair.

The historic neighborhoods are creating the value that the developers are attempting to cash in on. It's not appropriate for a developer to parasite off of the value creators and give minimal or no value back.

I had a conversation about this very thing last night and I came up with an analogy. I don't feel like the government should have the right to tell me what to do with my fists. They're mine. It's not their business, right? I do, however, understand them having a law that prohibits me from using them to hurt someone. The government does have a purpose to protect us from hurting each other, physically or financially.

In midtown's historic neighborhoods, the home values come from a few different places - their location, their history, their architecture, and their relationship to other similarly valuable homes. The midtown homeowners have bought into that value. They then work to maintain that value by keeping up their homes, forming strong home-owners associations, etc. In effect, these homes do a great deal to make midtown developments so financially valuable. From a financial standpoint, it's easy to understand why a developer would want to bulldoze existing structures to make room for new ones. These new structures benefit from their location and relationship to this large number of existing valuable homes. Over time, the neighborhoods lose value as the history is destroyed and replaced by modern day mediocrity.

To take advantage of the value those homes create, but provide no value in return is not acceptable. It's something the government should protect. A developer may be able to purchase that property and call it his own, but if he uses that property to damage the integrity of the very thing that helped make it valuable, an inequity is created that shouldn't be allowed. Simply, it should not be permitted to destroy homes in our historic midtown neighborhoods for the sake of the new development. I will say that I'm not a preservationist to the degree that I want arbitrary boards of opinionated "experts" legislating aesthetics. That's over the top.

Anyway, it is not okay that a home-builder is allowed to demolish a 90 year old home in the middle of Maple Ridge to build multiple new homes on the same lot. It's offensive to the residents of Maple Ridge and our money hungry developers should realize what they're slowly doing to Tulsa's history.

When developers were choosing to destroy our classic downtown theaters one at a time, I'm sure they had some great reasons. Now we'd love to have them back. We need a code that protects our historic neighborhoods while making development easy and accessible.

I think I'm the best candidate District 4 has had regarding preservation, because I'm a preservationist who actually has credibility with the developers. Also, I think I'm the best candidate District 4 has had regarding development, because I understand what's broken at city hall and will work to make development in Tulsa, and especially District 4, a more smooth, appealing and navigable process. I know it doesn't seem likely, but I'm confident that we can have a "win-win" district, despite the unique challenges. They should both support me. I understand development better than my opponent and I will not compromise on my commitment to protect historic homes.

The developers may have to stomach the reality that they can't go into a historic neighborhood and bulldoze homes in the night and build new smaller crappier homes on those lots. Preservationists may have to get comfortable with the idea of a couple of well designed and appropriately placed parking garages around Cherry St. :-)

Please call if you have any questions. 918.991.8252.

MORE: Here's some infill development by one of Democrat nominee Ken Brune's political allies. The portable storage container is a lovely touch:



Here's the "before" for the photos above -- some of the homes and urban forest destroyed by Ken Brune's political ally in order to create a big lawn for his portable storage container (photos from the Tulsa County Assessor website and from Google Maps):







CLARIFIED 2011/09/27: I referred to the property at 14th and Utica as owned by Ken Brune's political contributor. In fact, John Bumgarner was not listed as a contributor on Brune's pre-primary C-1 form, which means he had not contributed more than $200 prior to the end of the pre-primary reporting period 14 days prior to the election. Prior to the primary, however, Bumgarner's property did display signs advocating for the defeat of incumbent Councilor Maria Barnes, Brune's primary opponent, so I think it is fair to describe Bumgarner as Brune's political ally, and I have corrected the entry accordingly.

For more background, here is a link to the minutes of the July 23, 2008, TMAPC debate on the rezoning of this property from residential/low intensity office to high-intensity office.

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The American Planning Association has named Tulsa's historic Swan Lake neighborhood one of ten Great Neighborhoods for 2011, part of the APA's annual recognition of "Great Places In America." (Hat tip to KRMG News for the story.) From the APA's citatio... Read More

Blake Ewing, Joe Bates, and Rocky Frisco, September 9, 2011. Photo by Trish Molina. Copyright 2011 Aithne Studios. Used by permission. Of the seven City Council races on today's ballot, the District 4 race, the only one in which I'm allowed to vote, i... Read More


Bob said:

The developer "After" and "Before" pictures look like the area just west of Hillcrest Hospital.

The 14th and Troost address would be about right.

All the major local hospitals have been on a radical physical plant expansion for the past number of years.

Hillcrest and St. Johns hospitals, being landlocked, their expansion has come at the expense of adjacent residential neighborhoods.

I wonder if eminent domain was used by the hospitals to force those homeowners to sell, based on City of Tulsa "Master Plan", using a city of Tulsa development authority as the hammer on the homeowners?

The A Team said:

Sounds like more Blake the Fake sidestepping and fence stradling to me.

Let's get down to brass tacks here:

Does he support the moratorium on PUD's in HP Districts?

Will he vote to extend it if no small area plans are in place to protect HP District boundaries when it is set to expire in December?

If you can get him to publicly give straight yes or no answers to these questions on record, I'll give him some credit, maybe even my vote if he answers right.

Otherwise, this is just more B.S. doublespeak from both sides of every issue Blake the Fake.

Blake Ewing said:

A Team,

First, did you get my message on Tulsa World?

Second, I'm glad to answer any of your questions, either in public or private. I don't care and I have nothing to hide.

Does he support the moratorium on PUD's in HP Districts?

Will he vote to extend it if no small area plans are in place to protect HP District boundaries when it is set to expire in December?
Yes, though I really want to see us get to work on those small area plans.

I don't fully understand what has caused you to come at me the way you do. I'm confident that you've come to some erroneous conclusions, and I'd enjoy the opportunity to provide some clarity. I'm glad to discuss the issues you have with me at any time, be it publicly or privately. I don't feel like I've double-spoken at all. When a broad question is asked, a broad answer is only appropriate. If you ask yes or no questions and give specific details, specific answers are very easy to give.

Please feel free to ask me anything. I'm glad to accommodate.

cfitz said:

Was in agreement until I read that last line.

More parking lots? Are you serious? Tulsa has more parking than just about anywhere on the planet. And adding more parking only adds more traffic.

Try this sometime: Around 4:00pm, walk from St. John's and cross Utica at Swan Lake Drive. Now walk from Swan Lake to Woodward park, crossing at St. Louis. Now, go back toward 15th St down Peoria and try using one of those Cherry St. crosswalks. Do this without getting hit or having to break into a run-for-your-life sprint, and you win. Extra points, do it with a stroller.

We need to focus on making walkable livable neighborhood, not yuppie destination zones that attract DUI'ing weekenders driving in from Owasso.

Blake Ewing said:


I couldn't agree with you more. Please note that I said "parking garages." Parking garages actually serve to make our current parking lots more valuable as infill sites. Furthermore, their presence (especially when paired with adequate public transit) means new development projects won't have to have as much (if any) new site specific parking. I'm calling for no more new parking lots. Stack the parking, fill in the old lots, protect homes.

Sorry if I wasn't clear before.


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 18, 2011 1:26 AM.

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