Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oklahoma is out of land?

From The Teardown Post, Tulsa Oklahoma:

What’s Wrong With the Current Trend
in New Residential Infill Development?

So, if there are buyers for these new and bigger homes on smaller lots, what’s wrong with this trend? Isn’t this just the free market at work? Many Tulsa residents say there is plenty wrong with it and the National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees with them. Indeed, in 2002, the National Trust designated “Teardowns in Historic Neighborhoods” to its list of 11 Most Endangered Places.

What are the costs of this unrestrained glut of oversized McMansions in Midtown Tulsa? Here are a few:

The fabric, character, and beauty of one of Tulsa’s greatest resources — midtown neighborhoods — are being eroded like a rapidly spreading cancer.

Some – but sadly, not all — of the oversized McMansions being built in Midtown neighborhoods may be otherwise beautiful homes in a more open setting. But crammed onto lots that are far too small to accommodate their bulk, they become unsightly and overwhelming. A good example of this phenomenon is on East 26th Street from Yorktown to Zunis.

The teardown/McMansion craze is destroying cultural and social diversity in Midtown by demolishing affordable middle class and even upper middle class homes in favor of McMansions that only the rich and near rich can afford. Take a drive through the area between East 22nd and 26th Streets and Lewis and Harvard Avenues.

The building of enormous homes on small lots cuts off air circulation and light to their more diminutive neighbors, destroys trees in the urban forest, and creates storm water run-off problems for neighboring homes.
The City loses historic housing stock that is a fundamental part of Tulsa’s history and development. Once gone….it is gone forever.

The oversized homes being built consume excessive amounts of dwindling natural resources to heat, cool, and light them, Teardowns put toxic materials like asbestos, chlordane, and lead paint into the urban air, soil, and sewer system. Teardowns and McMansions are definitely not “green.”

Those who argue that the current trend of residential infill redevelopment increases urban density and supports a more walkable, livable urban environment are ignoring the reality of the redevelopment taking place and oversimplifying what is needed to create their vision of the 21st century urban center. Replacing a more modest home with an oversized home does nothing to increase urban density, promote less use of the automobile, or add to urban livability. Houses that are built to accommodate 3 or 4 motor vehicles are merely adding to the glut of urban automobiles.

It takes infrastructure to create the 21st century walkable city, and this includes improved public transportation and the development of nearby town centers like Brookside and Cherry Street where an array of services and goods are available within walking or biking distance of neighborhoods (Form-based Codes, anyone?).

Likewise, those who assert that private property rights trump everything else still have one foot in the nineteenth century. The concept of land use zoning is itself recognition that the regulation of urban land use is necessary for orderly development. The time has come for neighborhoods to be an integral part of the land use planning that charts their own destiny – a process from which they have too long been excluded in favor of developer interests.


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