Tulsa Zoning: September 2008 Archives

Who Owns Tulsa? is holding its "first annual jam" today (Sunday) to raise funds for their ongoing efforts regarding the Admiral and Yale "apartments." The benefit runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Sunset Grill, 5800 S. Lewis Ave., and it features the Wanda Watson Band, Stanky Brown, Salty Dogs, Sheri Booth, and more bands. Here are the details:

Admission is $5 for adults. Children are free. Great prize drawings, $1 donation per ticket. It's an excellent chance to meet your neighbors while enjoying great food and music! We'll have outdoor activities and a Jupiter Jump for the kids! Who Owns Tulsa? T-shirts and protest gear will also be available. 100% of the proceeds will benefit WOT's public awareness campaign and the legal fees necessary to support our continuing fight for neighborhood rights. Please bring a nonperishable canned food good to benefit the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

For more information visit WhoOwnsTulsa.org.

I attended the second PLANiTULSA workshop this afternoon as a participant (having been a facilitator Monday night). I found the experience exhausting, even a bit frustrating. Even having a clear idea about what to expect from Monday night's session, it was still hard to get all the ideas on the map in the allotted time. Happily, I saw a lot of good ideas that our table missed on other tables' maps.

On my Flickr account, I've posted photos of Monday night and Tuesday afternoon's PLANiTULSA sessions, including closeups of the maps from my tables.

My oldest son and I also attended tonight's speech by Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa Police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.

I took video of Pipes's speech and the Q&A, but I'm trying to get it compressed to a reasonable size before uploading it.

Great turnout tonight for the first of three citywide workshops for the PLANiTULSA comprehensive planning process. Every one of the 50 tables seemed to be at capacity.

It was a challenging task to find ways of accommodating Tulsa's share of projected job growth (42,000) and population growth (100,000) over the next 20 years. Each table was given a choice of four chip sets -- four different approaches to accommodating growth -- but from that starting point, tables could swap chips for equivalent numbers of jobs and people, or even choose to add more growth or less growth. Only about 8 tables had the chance to present their plans to the entire group, but all the maps will be digitized and posted.

Table 42 (where I served as facilitator) chose to begin with the "Neighborhood Empowerment" chipset, a moderately dense approach, but got frustrated trying to place all the low-density housing. They chose to trade some of the low-density residential and office development for more dense options, like transit-oriented development and urban districts.

A few lessons learned:

It would have been nice to have more examples of equivalent trades than the few provided. We managed to come up with some new combinations, but doing the math slowed us down a bit. It was easy to figure equivalences for jobs only or population only, but balancing chips that provided both was tricky. (Algebra was involved.)

Several tables designated areas for medical development. There wasn't a chip for that, but our table wanted a medical corridor near the future intersection of the Gilcrease and Tisdale expressways. Another table identified the same need in east Tulsa.

As soon as I can upload photos to Flickr, I'll link to them, so you can see the map Table 42 came up with, as well as action shots of Steven Roemerman presenting his table's map.

Tonight's session is full, but PLANiTULSA has added a second evening workshop on Oct. 28th to accommodate those who want to participate but aren't available during the workday.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I address some of the concerns raised by members of OK-SAFE (Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise) about PLANiTULSA, the process for developing Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years, and New Urbanism in a column with the title, "Comprehensive Plan or Commie Plot." I also suggest ways that the City Planning Department and the Fregonese Associates team could allay the reasonable concerns that have been expressed about process and transparency.

In the column, I point out two fundamental fallacies at the root of the fears being expressed by groups like OK-SAFE about New Urbanism and about PLANiTULSA. The first is the idea that using the same terminology as an organization (e.g., the United Nations) makes one a minion or a dupe of the organization, totally in line with that group's agenda. That's like the liberal accusation that because we conservatives support states' rights and the 10th Amendment, we are therefore in full agreement with the segregationists who used states' rights to enable racial discrimination.

On OK-SAFE's page about PLANiTULSA and sustainable development, an excerpt from one of my columns about the streets package is headed, "Michael Bates argues Sustainable Development Concepts." Here's the excerpt they published, with their emphasis added:

But taking care of what we have is a more pressing need than building more to take care of. Street widening ought to be considered in connection with matters of urban design and public transit which could reduce the need for wider streets. South Tulsa traffic isn't snarled just because the roads are narrow. Zoning segregates retail from residential, so that every shopping trip requires several miles of driving.

The development patterns so beloved of suburbanites -- cul-de-sacs, residential collector streets, gated communities -- funnels traffic into bottlenecks. The lack of through-residential streets forces local traffic onto arterials. Midtown's
grid disperses traffic efficiently across multiple paths.

In Midtown, you can use neighborhood streets to avoid making a left-hand turn onto or off of an arterial. That's not possible in most of south Tulsa, and nasty old left-turners are a prime cause of traffic delays down south.

Homeowners in south Tulsa have chosen the area's amenities over convenience and ease of travel. Before all of us spend hundreds of millions on street widening in their part of town, south Tulsans should be willing to accept some adjustments to their lifestyle, which may include putting public streets through their gated communities, building mid mile minor arterials (think 15th or Utica in midtown), and allowing neighborhood-scale retail development to connect directly to residential areas.

Fixing what's wrong with south Tulsa is a complex issue, and what to fund ought to be addressed as part of the new Comprehensive Plan.

Note that I don't refer to sustainability anywhere in what I wrote. I'm not saying anything about global warming (and I don't believe in anthropogenic climate change) or even about energy conservation. I'm writing about the impact of development patterns (largely dictated by our zoning code and subdivision regulations) on the carrying capacity of our street network. My observations on the effect of development patterns on street capacity are common sense, and I'd ask the OK-SAFE folks to tell me where those observations are incorrect. It's a simple matter of traffic engineering. The dense grid of streets and half-mile grid of arterials and collector streets in Tulsa's older neighborhoods are far more efficient at dispersing traffic than the tree-like street systems of south Tulsa subdivisions.

Surely fiscal conservatives shouldn't support the idea of developers shifting the cost of their preferred development style onto the rest of us. South Tulsans have decided that the advantages of their chosen place to live outweigh the disadvantages. Why should they expect the other 90% of the city to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to ease their self-selected traffic problems?

(Of course, in the eyes of some of the OK-SAFE leaders, even though I'm largely in agreement with them on their core issues -- as I note in my column -- I'm already suspect because I think we ought to be in Iraq and ought to win in Iraq, I think we ought to destroy Islamist terror organizations wherever they are, I support whatever Israel wants to do to stop Palestinian terrorists from blowing up my friends' children, and I don't want to see the Republican Party taken over by those who disagree with me on those points.)

The second fallacy is the apparent belief of PLANiTULSA critics that "we currently enjoy untrammeled, unregulated property rights, that our development pattern is the purely the result of market forces, and that this new comprehensive plan is an unprecedented threat to our God-given right to develop our property as we see fit." In the column, I review the roots of the comprehensive plan and zoning code under which we currently live and list some of the governmental regulations and financial incentives that have shaped development patterns over the last half-century.

Some supplemental links:

Bill Kumpe, an attorney who lives near the site of the planned homeless facility at Admiral and Yale, has posted a long and eloquent exposition of the point of view of homeowners in the nearby neighborhoods.

(It's worth reminding: The White City neighborhood gets its name from the White City Dairy farm that preceded the subdivision on that site.)

The older, usually well built and well maintained homes in White City are one of the few places in Tulsa where blue collar, gray collar, white collar and professionals can live in an economically diverse neighborhood and all still stay within the economic goal of paying no more than a third of their total household income for housing including maintenance, utilities, necessary upgrades, etc. It is an old fashioned mixed class, mixed income neighborhood that should be the model for future developments instead of the dumping ground for city problems....

At its most basic, the proposed Admiral and Yale homeless shelter appears to be a giant rip off to the average White City resident. Joe Sixpack, Susan Secretary and Ernie Engineer see nothing more than an attempt to handle a downtown problem by exporting it to their neighborhood. Combine that with the fact that the proposed downtown "baseball" trust is aggressively trying to control the property values and development around THEIR investment and the whole deal appears profoundly hypocritical. The downtown elites are using all of their political and legal power to prevent the very type of development risk that THEY THEMSELVES are forcing down the throats of the White City residents. Taken at its most basic they are saying that their for-profit investment in a ball park deserves the city's protection while the White City residents investment in their homes does not....

Taking the homeless from a place where they were within walking distance of all their needed services and placing them in another where they are miles away on an infrequently served bus route doesn't make much sense at all. As a matter of fact, to Joe and Susan and Ernie it seems like a formula for having a lot of people walking through their neighborhoods and hanging around the neighborhood bus stops and parks....

We've been told that this facility is intended to help mainstream the mentally ill into normal society. Bill's neighborhood, bordering White City, has seen the impact of "mainstreaming" firsthand:

After several years, the "mainstreamed" neighbor is still there. But, the previously occupied homes on both sides of his are boarded up as is the previously occupied home one house down on one side. The home next to the boarded up home on the other side sold at one point on a contract for deed but the buyer cancelled after a few weeks because of the problems with the "mainstreamed" neighbor. It became a Section 8 rental unit. One of the houses across the street went vacant after the young couple who lived there couldn't take it anymore. They tried for months to sell their home with no luck. It is now a rental unit. That's five homes whose values have been severely degraded due to one property. The character of the whole neighborhood changed. And, it's not as though the homeowners were passive. Far from it. Over the years, there were at least fifty calls to the police. Many of them went unanswered. There were petitions to the police department and DA which resulted in no determinative action. The fire department answered dozens of calls about trash fires and made arrests for illegal burning more than once....

Unless their aim is to drive everyone who can afford it to move to the suburbs, our city leaders need to understand the perspective of residents of neighborhoods like those around Admiral and Yale.

In addition to all the writing I did for BatesLine during the Republican National Convention, I managed to turn out three pieces for this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

The cover story about the upcoming PLANiTULSA citywide planning workshops. The folks at the City of Tulsa Planning Department and Fregonese Associates were very helpful as I put this story together. I had a copy not only of the publicity materials but the instructions for the facilitators -- the volunteers at each table who answer questions and keep the mapping process on pace to finish within the alloted time. From those instructions, I tried to put together a vivid description of what workshop participants will experience. My feeling is that the more you know about what will happen, the better prepared you'll be to participate fully and advocate effectively for your ideas for Tulsa's future.

I spoke to Theron Warlick, one of the City of Tulsa planners assigned to PLANiTULSA, and he told me that about 500 people had already signed up, with about a week and a half to go. Mayor Bill LaFortune's 2002 Vision Summit drew about 1100.

If you haven't signed up yet, visit PLANiTULSA.org and register online.

Also this week, I have a story about the the Republican National Convention as seen through the eyes of Tulsans who attended the convention.

The week before, I spoke to Jackie Tomsovic, a first-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and covered the surprising political resurrection of former Gov. David Walters, co-chairman of the Democrats' convention rules committee.

My column this week relates both to St. Paul and to planning. During my visit, I tried to learn what I could about how the city handles planning and zoning, river development, downtown, and affordable housing. I wound up with far more material than I could use on all of the above topics. I chose to focus on the way St. Paul connects citizens and neighborhoods with city government, using 19 independent, non-profit "district planning councils."

MORE: Here's a video of planner John Fregonese's presentation at the TulsaNow forum on July 15. He speaks about planning concepts, demographic trends, and the results of the planning team's survey of a thousand Tulsans.

(The embedded video was making this page load slowly, so if you want to watch it, visit the PLANiTULSA channel on blip.tv.)

This morning during the Tulsa City Council's Urban and Economic Development meeting, there was some discussion about whether the housing for the mentally ill and homeless, proposed by the Tulsa Housing Authority and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa, was correctly classified for zoning and land use purposes.

When you apply for a building permit, the City's building services department determines whether your plans comply with the setback, height, floor area, and use restrictions set out in the zoning code. If your plans aren't in compliance, you can tweak your plans, appeal to the Board of Adjustment if you believe you really are compliant, or apply for a variance if you know you aren't. (A variance can be granted for height, floor area, etc., but state law prohibits a BoA from granting a use variance.)

Land uses are categorized by the zoning code into 30 categories, called use units. A table shows which use units are allowed by right in a given zone, and which use units require a special exception from the Board of Adjustment.

Use Unit 8, Multifamily dwellings and similar uses, includes apartment, assisted living facility, and community group home.

The land in question is zoned CH -- Commercial High Intensity. By right -- no special zoning permission required -- land uses included in Use Unit 8 are allowed in CH.

So what's the issue? There is a special restriction that doesn't apply to ordinary apartments or multifamily dwellings in CH zoning, but it does apply to assisted living facilities, community group homes, and convents. The floor area ratio for those facilities can be no greater than 0.5.

Floor area ratio is a limit on how big a building you can put on a lot of a certain size. You calculate floor area by adding up the square footage on each floor of the building. If you have a four story building with 20,000 sq. ft. on each floor, the building's floor area is 80,000 sq. ft.

You calculate floor area ratio by dividing the building's floor area by the lot's area. A building with a floor area of 80,000 sq. ft. on a 100,000 sq. ft. parcel would have a floor area ratio of 80,000 / 100,000 = 0.8. That's OK for a normal apartment building in CH zoning, but it's too high for an assisted living facility or community group home in any zone.

I don't have the numbers on how big the facility will be and how big the lot is -- perhaps a reader has that information. But it may be that the building would violate the 0.5 floor area requirement. How the City classifies the use of the proposed building will determine whether the facility can be built there as a matter of right at its proposed size, or whether it will have to be scaled back.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Zoning category from September 2008.

Tulsa Zoning: August 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Zoning: October 2008 is the next archive.

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