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Author Topic: River Design Overlay - A big step in the right direction  (Read 4694 times)
PonderInc
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« on: April 20, 2016, 03:08:45 pm »

Just wanted to share some info about the proposed River Design Overlay which will be heading to the TMAPC on May 18.

Draft Ordinance: http://tmapc.org/Documents/RDOverlayDRAFT040616.pdf
Map: http://tmapc.org/Documents/RDO_Zoning.pdf
Presentation: http://tmapc.org/Documents/RDO%20Presentation%20with%20videos.pptx

The ability to develop design character overlays for important areas in town was enabled by the recent zoning code update.  The overlay does not replace existing zoning, but it does add supplemental standards to properties within the defined boundaries of the overlay.  In this case, the goal was to "maintain and promote the river as a valuable asset in terms of economic development and quality of life."  

It identifies 3 different districts along the river corridor, each with its own goals and standards.  

Here are the 3 districts:

(Note: Single-family residential, historic neighborhoods, Creek Nation land, and unincorporated land along the river are NOT included in any of these districts. The RDO will not apply to them.)

RDO-1 - parks and open space
RDO-2 - parcels with direct access to the river (land that abuts the river/river trails)
RDO-3 - parcels that do not directly abut the river, but are visible from the river trails.  Essentially, land on the east side of Riverside Drive.

In RDO-1, the goal is to preserve and protect park space.  This is the most restrictive district. Any development that is allowed within park land will be an accessory to the park, like a coffee shop, restaurant, etc. Any development is intended to enhance the park as a park amenity, while being respectful of the primary goal to protect the greenspace.

RDO-2 and RDO-3 are similar, but RDO-3 is slightly less restrictive.

In all cases, the proposed RDO prohibits several uses that would otherwise be allowed under current zoning, such as drive-thrus, gas stations, banks, etc.  The goal is to promote the river as a pedestrian-oriented space, so the RDO prevents development that is geared primarily to cars.

Among the cool stuff included:

Buildings must be oriented to face the river and abutting streets. The overlay includes a Build-To Zone from the river trail and major streets. In areas where the trail doesn't yet exist, a deeper BTZ is calculated from the top of the river bank.  In addition, parking must be set back from the trail/street, which essentially places parking behind buildings (which is critical for supporting pedestrian activity).  Dumpsters and loading dock must be set back even further from the trail/street.

Other highlights:
  • - River and street facing buildings must have 40% transparency, while facades that face parking areas must have 20% transparency.
  • - Buildings must have at least one entrance facing the trail/street.
  • - Landscaping must be at least 20% of the lot, and existing landscaping along the river trails cannot be included in the calculation.
  • - Minimum parking may be reduced from normal zoning requirements by 50%.  
  • - Bicycle parking must be increased from normal zoning by 150%.  
  • - Surface lots must be broken up into smaller areas, not to exceed 50 spaces. These parking areas must be separated by landscaped areas with a minimum width of 12 feet.
  • - Parking must be screened from the trail/street by either buildings or additional landscaping, berms, low walls, etc.
  • - Structured parking must be designed to visually conceal ground-floor level parking through the use of architectural detailing or liner buildings.
  • - No more than one driveway is allowed per 300' of public ROW in RDO-1 and RDO-2.  All access points must be shared by multiple tenants and park users.
  • - Pedestrian connectivity is required.
  • - Sidewalks must be 5' wide along the entire street frontage on any lot abutting a major street.
  • - Lighting must be "pedestrian scale" (might want to clarify that).
  • - Pole signs are prohibited, freestanding signs must be ground/monument signs no more than 6' tall and not to exceed 50 SF.
- Major amendments to existing PUDs will force the developer to comply with the RDO requirements for any new construction. (Minor amendments will NOT require compliance.)

The above is not an all-inclusive list.  See the draft ordinance for more detailed info.

In general, my main comment is: "can we apply this overlay to the entire city?!"  It's a huge step forward for Tulsa and will ensure MUCH higher quality design than current zoning allows.  

Take a look at the links above and send feedback to the TMAPC.  

TMAPC public hearing: May 18 – 1:30 pm
City Council: June 9th, 16th, 30th
« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 03:12:19 pm by PonderInc » Logged
Tulsasaurus Rex
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2016, 03:21:42 pm »

Slide 4 of that presentation. Those buildings. That bridge. Is this a joke?
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PonderInc
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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2016, 03:28:41 pm »

Obviously, graphics are used to convey concepts, not to indicate current design plans.

However, from that rendering, it looks like it could represent the west side of the river--perhaps where the concrete plant currently is?  That location has long been identified as a place where high-density development would be welcomed.  

Read the ordinance for regulations, don't get hung up on the pictures.

For those who will look at every graphic and take it literally, be forewarned that some of the graphics in the presentation were used to show the bad/mediocre developments that are allowed under current zoning (without the overlay).  These are used to contrast with the much improved developments that would be expected with the overlay. (eg: slide 17 is an example of what would be allowed under current zoning, slide 18 demonstrates the RDO alternative)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 03:30:13 pm by PonderInc » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2016, 06:10:38 pm »

I would be absolutely shocked if this passed.  There are a lot of folk out there who will be against this because it will "set a precedence" and be a foot in the door for this kind of thing to possibly sneak into another part of the city.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2016, 06:29:25 pm »

I bet you dinner at the downtown restaurant of your choice that it will pass.

Remember, this was initiated and shepherded by the City Council.  GT and Blake especially have a lot of skin in the game.  Also, don't underestimate the number of people who are totally pi$$ed about the REI project. (Which, if it had been subject to this overlay, would have been significantly better.)  Those folks should come out in support of the overlay.  The RDO steering committee included City Councilors, developers, architects, one member of the TMAPC, etc, etc.  I think it's pretty solid.

At the public meeting I attended, the only concerns seemed to be people who wanted MORE protections for their neighborhoods along the river, not less.  At the TMAPC work meeting, the commissioners seemed most interested in clarifying certain points in the RDO, but I didn't hear anyone say anything that was in opposition to it.  (Of course, they haven't contacted their development buddies to find out what to think, yet.)

This is one of those cases where it doesn't really matter what the TMAPC thinks, b/c the council will decide.  I think there are enough councilors who care about the river and want to see attractive, high quality design that maximizes ROI for the city that this will pass.

Fingers crossed.
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2016, 07:31:46 am »

Slide 4 of that presentation. Those buildings. That bridge. Is this a joke?

The graphic you're talking about is a rendering of a park in Philadelphia. It's just there to show a concept. (PlanPhilly)

I think the RDO is a huge win that will both prevent bad things (like the current REI debacle) and give us a high quality riverfront. Kudos to all involved in the process. I think it will pass the Council unanimously.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 07:34:38 am by dsjeffries » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2016, 07:58:15 am »

The planned overlay seems well intentioned and well designed and it seems like it will pass.

The Small Area Plan and Formed Based Codes for the Pearl District seemed well intentioned and well designed.

PlanItTulsa seemed well intentioned and well designed.

The Small Area Plan for Cherry Street was well intentioned and well designed.

Of course, those things have had little impact on what actually happens when QuikTrip wants to block a street and do as they please. Or when a facility that already fits the code wants to be exempted from it because at some point in the future they might want to violate it. Or when a national retailer wants to make minimum adjustments to its cookie cutter plan. Or when we define "mixed use" as selling both meat and potatoes on the same block.

This is the best possible outcome for the area. But my confidence in enforcing any code and demanding quality development is low. I think we are moving in the right direction, I have faith in Ewing and think Bynum is a straight forward guy... but Tulsa's history on this issue isn't kind. Really hope we hit a turning point.

I'm just skeptical. Or cynical. Or Blake would probably call me flat out negative.

Again, best possible outcome is this type of zoning overlay. So I will shut up and slink away now.
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Conan71
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2016, 08:37:14 am »

I bet you dinner at the downtown restaurant of your choice that it will pass.

Remember, this was initiated and shepherded by the City Council.  GT and Blake especially have a lot of skin in the game.  Also, don't underestimate the number of people who are totally pi$$ed about the REI project. (Which, if it had been subject to this overlay, would have been significantly better.)  Those folks should come out in support of the overlay.  The RDO steering committee included City Councilors, developers, architects, one member of the TMAPC, etc, etc.  I think it's pretty solid.

At the public meeting I attended, the only concerns seemed to be people who wanted MORE protections for their neighborhoods along the river, not less.  At the TMAPC work meeting, the commissioners seemed most interested in clarifying certain points in the RDO, but I didn't hear anyone say anything that was in opposition to it.  (Of course, they haven't contacted their development buddies to find out what to think, yet.)

This is one of those cases where it doesn't really matter what the TMAPC thinks, b/c the council will decide.  I think there are enough councilors who care about the river and want to see attractive, high quality design that maximizes ROI for the city that this will pass.

Fingers crossed.

There are two things about this which give me pause, I have emboldened them in your comments.  I could not make it to Monday night’s meeting and I was at another meeting Tuesday night where, ironically, the Riverside RDO was on the agenda for discussion so I could not make it to the Riverside RDO roll out on that night either.

Developers and architects writing design overlays is pretty much the same process which has given us our tortured planning and development strategy for years, yes?

We’ve seen through the years that small area plans are largely ignored, modified (QT @ 11th & Utica Pearl District Form Based Code be damned), or didn’t mean what we thought it meant (i.e. the recent interpretation of “mixed use” at the corner of 15th & Utica).  I simply do not have the trust or optimism you do that this will not be full of gaps which clever developers can manipulate to their own benefit and savings.

The comment of "maximizing the ROI for the city" along the riverfront really disturbs me.  Granted, the design of Blue Rose is far preferable to layup slab construction and makes good use of the river as a backdrop with its deck, and it has relatively attractive facing on the front and back side.  Thus far, it has been a pretty good litmus test of how commercial enterprises could co-exist in a recreational setting.

What concerns me is what is the development density envisioned with this process?  Tulsa has a really rare asset in the existing river park system.  We have very well-maintained trails along both banks and split trails over a number of miles.  I truly worry about crapping this up with a bunch of similar retail developments.  This was the same issue I had with a mall on Turkey Mountain.  People go to these places to escape commercial corridors, to escape traffic and congestion, and escape the daily grind in general.

Where is the real ROI for the city with more entertainment/dining/retail development along the Arkansas River?  Are people going to regularly come from the suburbs and outside the county to spend money there or is it more urbanites moving their spending points from somewhere else in Tulsa?

I do applaud this as an attempt to prevent another debacle like the design and nature of the REI development and thank the council for taking the lead on this.  

Our awful development history and the city being broke as ever after 30 years of explosive retail growth justify my concerns, IMO.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2016, 08:38:54 am by Conan71 » Logged

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PonderInc
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« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2016, 02:51:37 pm »

Here's all that really matters: under current zoning, private property owners can develop their land in ways that negatively impact trail users and reflect the lowest possible denominator of design "standards." (None, basically.)  They could fill the commercially zoned space with nothing but asphalt and Burger Kings and big box stores... you know, sort of like most of the crap that's been built in the past 20 years. 

This proposal attempts to minimize the bad crap that developers can build, and ensure certain basic provisions are made to address the needs of trail users and pedestrians alike. Perhaps I failed to mention that Riverparks was also a key player in the development of these standards?  That's important to me.

In my perfect world, the Riverparks would be at least a half mile wide on both sides of the river and have nothing but park space and wilderness.  (With a couple opportunities for small venues serving cold beer and live music.)  However, we do not live in my perfect world. 

I have been caring about, fighting and losing urban design battles probably longer than anyone on the forum--so I come to my cynicism honestly.  But I truly believe this is a big, awesome deal.

Unlike neighborhood plans, this is not a vision statement.  This is actually a zoning ordinance that is enforceable.  Site plans and permits will not be approved unless they are in compliance.  Yes, the BOA could grant variances if they determine a "hardship" exists, but it would have to go through that process. This is yet another reason to care about who the mayor is, and who they appoint to important boards and commissions.
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Conan71
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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2016, 04:14:38 pm »

Here's all that really matters: under current zoning, private property owners can develop their land in ways that negatively impact trail users and reflect the lowest possible denominator of design "standards." (None, basically.)  They could fill the commercially zoned space with nothing but asphalt and Burger Kings and big box stores... you know, sort of like most of the crap that's been built in the past 20 years. 

This proposal attempts to minimize the bad crap that developers can build, and ensure certain basic provisions are made to address the needs of trail users and pedestrians alike. Perhaps I failed to mention that Riverparks was also a key player in the development of these standards?  That's important to me.

In my perfect world, the Riverparks would be at least a half mile wide on both sides of the river and have nothing but park space and wilderness.  (With a couple opportunities for small venues serving cold beer and live music.)  However, we do not live in my perfect world. 

I have been caring about, fighting and losing urban design battles probably longer than anyone on the forum--so I come to my cynicism honestly.  But I truly believe this is a big, awesome deal.

Unlike neighborhood plans, this is not a vision statement.  This is actually a zoning ordinance that is enforceable.  Site plans and permits will not be approved unless they are in compliance.  Yes, the BOA could grant variances if they determine a "hardship" exists, but it would have to go through that process. This is yet another reason to care about who the mayor is, and who they appoint to important boards and commissions.

Let me put this another way:  I’d feel 100 times better about this as long as the current regime is deposed in November.  However, that does not immediately revamp the TMAPC or BOA.


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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2016, 08:25:16 pm »

The planned overlay seems well intentioned and well designed and it seems like it will pass...

I agree.

...But my confidence in enforcing any code and demanding quality development is low...

As is mine...

...So I will shut up and slink away now.

Okay!  That's precisely what QT, CVS, REI, and many others hope you will do.
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« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2016, 09:34:11 pm »

I'm just skeptical. Or cynical.

I have been caring about, fighting and losing urban design battles probably longer than anyone on the forum--so I come to my cynicism honestly.

Our skepticism and cynicism does come honestly.

What I've noticed is that we have urban design workshop after workshop, plan after plan, report after report, vision after vision, tax after tax, and very good intentions up to our eyeballs --- BUT --- when it comes to putting workshops/plans/reports/visions/taxes/intentions into action, we get:

-more glaring acorn lights
-more rough pavement in crosswalks and sidewalks that can't hold up to Tulsa's climate
-more closed streets
-stupid anti-sidewalk arguments and videos featuring Barbo [sic] Cox spiking through mud in high heels
-more ordinances which aren't enforced
-more curb ramps which aren't ADA-compliant
-more lip service to "mixed use" while lauding and approving single use developments (because selling Pepto-Bismol and selling condoms is actually selling two separate products for two entirely different uses, hence "mixed use," even if the products are sold in the same building)
-more new single-story, single-use buildings to replace existing buildings taller than one story, in neighborhoods where new buildings with functioning second stories are desired

In the realm of Tulsa's zoning and development, what matters is who you are, who your cronies are, how big you are, how much money you have, how much money you can afford to pay attorneys to argue about "mixed use" and small area plans, and who those attorneys are.  Zoning ordinances and land use regulations don't matter much at all if you're up against someone with great affluence/influence.

The City can't/doesn't/won't enforce the Zoning Code as already approved and adopted. 
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davideinstein
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« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2016, 10:07:10 pm »

Our skepticism and cynicism does come honestly.

What I've noticed is that we have urban design workshop after workshop, plan after plan, report after report, vision after vision, tax after tax, and very good intentions up to our eyeballs --- BUT --- when it comes to putting workshops/plans/reports/visions/taxes/intentions into action, we get:

-more glaring acorn lights
-more rough pavement in crosswalks and sidewalks that can't hold up to Tulsa's climate
-more closed streets
-stupid anti-sidewalk arguments and videos featuring Barbo [sic] Cox spiking through mud in high heels
-more ordinances which aren't enforced
-more curb ramps which aren't ADA-compliant
-more lip service to "mixed use" while lauding and approving single use developments (because selling Pepto-Bismol and selling condoms is actually selling two separate products for two entirely different uses, hence "mixed use," even if the products are sold in the same building)
-more new single-story, single-use buildings to replace existing buildings taller than one story, in neighborhoods where new buildings with functioning second stories are desired

In the realm of Tulsa's zoning and development, what matters is who you are, who your cronies are, how big you are, how much money you have, how much money you can afford to pay attorneys to argue about "mixed use" and small area plans, and who those attorneys are.  Zoning ordinances and land use regulations don't matter much at all if you're up against someone with great affluence/influence.

The City can't/doesn't/won't enforce the Zoning Code as already approved and adopted. 

Yep.
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Conan71
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2016, 09:49:20 am »

Our skepticism and cynicism does come honestly.

What I've noticed is that we have urban design workshop after workshop, plan after plan, report after report, vision after vision, tax after tax, and very good intentions up to our eyeballs --- BUT --- when it comes to putting workshops/plans/reports/visions/taxes/intentions into action, we get:

-more glaring acorn lights
-more rough pavement in crosswalks and sidewalks that can't hold up to Tulsa's climate
-more closed streets
-stupid anti-sidewalk arguments and videos featuring Barbo [sic] Cox spiking through mud in high heels
-more ordinances which aren't enforced
-more curb ramps which aren't ADA-compliant
-more lip service to "mixed use" while lauding and approving single use developments (because selling Pepto-Bismol and selling condoms is actually selling two separate products for two entirely different uses, hence "mixed use," even if the products are sold in the same building)
-more new single-story, single-use buildings to replace existing buildings taller than one story, in neighborhoods where new buildings with functioning second stories are desired

In the realm of Tulsa's zoning and development, what matters is who you are, who your cronies are, how big you are, how much money you have, how much money you can afford to pay attorneys to argue about "mixed use" and small area plans, and who those attorneys are.  Zoning ordinances and land use regulations don't matter much at all if you're up against someone with great affluence/influence.

The City can't/doesn't/won't enforce the Zoning Code as already approved and adopted. 

Very well put, Boo.

Codes, rules, and laws are worthless when they are not enforced or selectively enforced to the benefit of a few.
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2016, 10:32:12 am »

It's already begun. The QT at 96th & Riverside wants an opt-out.

http://www.fox23.com/news/tulsa-city-leaders-consider-new-river-development-plan/217464630
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