Housing Update

We’ve had a lot of people come through our house, be it via Open House or scheduled appointments. But it’s a tough time of year to sell a house. That means you might see it disappear off the market for a little while this winter. Still targeting Edmond and a house we like… but we’ll see what happens.

The End, and a Beginning


In July of 2012, we embarked on a journey of blood, sweat, tears, and joy. We acquired a magnificent historic home which had been empty and neglected for nearly 5 years. Our aim was to bring it back to life; not necessarily in the same state as before, but to breathe into it a new era of growing a family and being neighborly.

As Christa noted to me, this is the house where we truly learned to be adults. Addison was just shy of 1.5 when we bought it, and will be over 5.5 when we sell it (hopefully); Kate has spent the first 21 months of her life in this house. We learned how to make good connections with our neighbors, something we shied away from in Mesta Park when we lived there (other than our immediate neighbors on our block).

We learned that, working as a team, can really accomplish hard work when we try. And I also learned that I am not cut out for certain activities, and it’s best to leave things to experts when possible (tiling the master shower is one big item that comes to mind).

We took our 3,250 square foot home from dilapidated to beautiful, externally and internally. Through Christa’s skills, we achieved a beautiful interior and have only begun to decorate and fill it out. Some of the most drastic change is what we now cannot see: we replaced the plumbing and electrical systems, we installed a new HVAC system, and insulated the roof and walls. Our energy bills remained constant from our previous 1,290 square foot home to our new one, a fete of which I am quite proud.

We love being near downtown Oklahoma City; close to everything in a walkable area with non-auto connections to so much vibrant life. However, we also have chosen to spend much of our time in Edmond. We have made our church home at Edmond Church of Christ. We now send Addison to Oklahoma Christian Academy (next door to our church), and Addison plays YMCA soccer with her church friends in Edmond as well. Because of church, many of our closest friends also live in Edmond.

All of this sums up to equal spending far too much time in our car, driving to and from Edmond essentially 6 days a week, sometimes all 7. I love a good road trip, but I hate extraneous city driving. Driving is likely the most dangerous activity most Americans subject themselves to daily, and the less I do it with our kids in the car, the better I’ll feel. If we have to drive somewhere daily, I’d rather it be to work, with the kids in the car as little as possible and only one trip, instead of a massive triangle twice a day, like we do now.

This Friday morning, our friend and real estate agent, Gary, will be listing our home for sale. We have a home in mind in Edmond, but we’re also open to options should that not work out. Being the urbanists that we are, finding a place in Edmond is not easy… but I think we’re on a path to a place that fills most needs: close to school, close to church, close to friends, closer to Spring Creek and downtown. It will also enable us to be more stable financially; you might say we’re house rich, cash poor right now. Having a huge, amazing home isn’t worth making other ends of your life suffer because paying the mortgage and home equity loan suck most of your salary away each month. We were able to take an empty, suffering house and make it into a home, and now we’ll be able to sell that home (Lord willing) and use our proceeds to downsize our mortgage, and increase our giving, saving, and moment-making (travel).

We’ve loved our time in Lincoln Terrace. We’ve made new friends, and in particular we had incredible neighbors right across the street that we will miss dearly. We will miss being close to downtown, but look forward to being able to be closer to friends, church, school, and the businesses that we like but do not frequent as much as we’d like (particularly Evoke, for instance).

In the end, a house is only a temporary, physical place that we don’t take with us when we pass. Our lives are made of the moments we make; and we want to make more moments outside of a car.

Sunday Evening Stroll

Christa and the girls are in Texas for the week visiting family. This means that I can catch up on sleep and do some things that I might not have time to do.

Sunday evening, I parked the car in Automobile Alley just after sunset and took an evening stroll through Midtown/Auto Alley. Now, I know Sunday nights aren’t the nights that you’d expect activity, but nowadays you’d think there would be people about, especially when the temperature was a beautiful 73.

I was wrong.

The major activity nodes in Midtown and Auto Alley were bustling, but there was little to no activity elsewhere. Walking the area felt like a wasteland. It’s an eerie feeling. I passed about 4 people in my hour spent walking (7:45 – 8: 45 pm). One was leaving the Bleu Garten area with a Bible in his hand (I assume after evening at Frontline). Another was smoking a ciggarette at the OSHA housing at 9th & Robinson, and the other was a couple that appeared to be visitors (I saw them taking photos and studying the Spokies station at 9th & Broadway).

The only other people I saw were specifically headed from their activity node to their cars – leaving Bleu Garten, leaving The Garage and leaving Fassler Hall/Dust Bowl.

Maybe it’s because we’re a bit walled off in Lincoln Terrace, and I don’t get out as much as I used to, but the lack of public activity was striking to me. Midtown/Downtown still has quite a long way to go to have a truly active street life. We are still generally in a drive point-to-point mode in this area – drive from your apartment/house to a parking lot and walk as short a distance as possible. I did see a few people on bikes, but they were generally road bikes, not cruisers…

The full occupancy of the Metropolitan, the Edge and the Lift will help add population density, but when you look at map, they are generally on the outside of the district. OKC will need to improve the walk/bike infrastructure between these living areas and the activity areas to help build a true walkable experience.

Another note, certain streets in this area still need pedestrian lighting improvements. NW 8th between Broadway and Robinson in particular felt dark – this street will be a critical connection for OCU Law students to head over to Hideaway & other establishments in Auto Alley when they need a study break. N Robinson between 10th & 11th also felt extremely dark – Frontline’s decorative lanterns were on along 10th, but not along Robinson. Also, when Packard’s is closed, the corner really feels empty and dark.

All that said, OKC has come a LONG way since I moved here 10 years ago this June. It is absolutely amazing how much change we’ve seen in the core, and amazing knowing how much is coming and could come.



I Support Alternative D – My Comments to ODOT

The following text is what I submitted to ODOT et al (Mayor, Councilman, FHWA). I didn’t spent as much time on the comments as I would have liked, but hopefully my points get through.

Thank you for accepting my comments regarding the proposed Crosstown Boulevard. I fully support Alternate D, as I believe it will most adequately support future development in downtown Oklahoma City. Alternate C is a minimally acceptable option, but in its current form is extremely limiting in its development potential and in promoting or encouraging multi-modal use. Alternatives A and B should not receive any consideration from ODOT, The City of Oklahoma City or FHWA as they do not promote development or multi-modal use.

I have the following comments about the process and the methods by which ODOT appears to support Alternative C:

First, the public comment period for this Alternative analysis is too short. Two weeks is too short to garner appropriate input on such an important piece of Oklahoma City’s future.

Second, the only public meeting for the Alternative analysis was ill-timed during a Wednesday evening on which many people attend churches and the Thunder were having a playoff game. Additionally, this meeting was held as an open house, with no information provided prior to the meeting for people to become educated to ask questions.

Third, no information was provided publicly regarding traffic studies and other engineering and planning input into the final four Alternatives. People that were able to attend the open house (see point above) were able to ask such questions, but those who could not attend were not able to. The only information I’ve seen was provided via The Oklahoman.

I have the following comments about the ranking system and choice of preferred Alternative:

First, the scoring asserts that Alternative D does not meet local planning preferences but that Alternative C does fully. This is a false assumption that should have been vetted through Oklahoma City’s Planning Department and possibly the Planning Commission and City Council. The Core to Shore plan is a guiding document and is not intended to be set in stone, so to speak. It contains conceptual renderings that are intended to show the spirit of the City’s goals. Furthermore, one of the goals of the plan was to increase development potential in this area once I-40 was moved. Alternatives A, B and C do NOT meet this goal. The only Alternative that fully meets this is Alternative D, because it leaves the most developable land free.

Second, the traffic counts, provided only through the media, indicate that initially ODOT projected 58,000 vehicles per day the day it would open, and then 94,000 vehicles per day by 2040. The Oklahoman reports that ODOT now suggests 13,000 vehicles per day the day it would open and then 27,850 vehicles per day in 2040? If these lower projections are accurate, it fully reinforces that the existing grid pattern can easily handle the vehicle load. Per FHWA and other studies, an appropriately designed three lane (1 lane of travel each direction with center turn lane) can handle upwards of 20,000 vehicles per day (some even reporting 24,000 vehicles per day works efficiently). The area around the old Crosstown (the proposed Crosstown Boulevard area) can easily absorb these vehicle counts.

Third, the assumption that Oklahoma City needs a through-boulevard is an incorrect assumption even from a traffic engineering standpoint. The point of this boulevard (Alternative D, the grid) should be the delivery of people to and from downtown, rather than that of creating a thoroughfare. Oklahoma City does not need an I-40 bypass through downtown/Core to Shore; if necessary, the grid could easily supply this need.

Finally, given whatever Alternative is chosen, it should be designed to the standards of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), not to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards (aka the Green Book). NACTO’s standards, known as the Urban Street Design Guide, have been adopted by numerous city, county and even state bodies across the United States and are the most appropriate standards for street design in an urban area.

In summary, I believe Alternative D will provide the City and State with the largest return on its investment in the long term. Alternative D will leave the most developable land and allow the streets to be built, or rebuilt, to much more multi-modal standards. The southern downtown/Core to Shore area needs to be walkable, bike-able and transit-friendly, on top of allowing vehicular access.

Thank you for taking the time to accept my public comments.

Without a permanent trust fund, Amtrak could go to the dogs | Railway Age

Without a permanent trust fund, Amtrak could go to the dogs | Railway Age.

The opening paragraph is wonderful (read the entire thing though!):

Ever present is former House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.)—now just a T&I Committee member—whose shtick is an enduring impersonation of an annoying hemorrhoid, as he perpetually interrupts Amtrak officers from running the railroad to absorb his screeches over the profit margin of a ham sandwich and glass of wine aboard Amtrak.

We need to reject calls to shift all funding for long-distance Amtrak to the states, and we need to continue support of passenger rail transportation. The amount spent on rail, even the amount request, pales in comparison to the amount thrown to roads.

Urban Chickens!

Quick update!

The urban agriculture ordinance passed Planning Commission last month and is headed to City Council soon. The tentative schedule is laid out below:

  • Introduction: December 3 (assumed date)
  • Second hearing: December 17 – a hearing intended specifically to allow for public discussion.
  • Final hearing: December 31 – generally the up or down vote on an ordinance.
The Neighborhood Alliance, a group with which I’ve been involved, and on whose Board/staff I have many friends, published the following text via email:
Public Hearing on Urban Agriculture in Oklahoma City

This ordinance addresses: Community Gardens, Composting, Home Gardens, Urban Farming, Roof Gardens, Greenhouses, Hoop Houses and Rainwater Harvesting.
The ordinance also allows backyard chickens with the following restrictions:
Parcels that are less than one acre may house up to six chickens, no roosters, a coop is required, chickens must have access to the outdoors, may be located in a fenced back or side yard only and no outdoor slaughtering is allowed.

Personally, I do not like that they pulled chickens out specifically. If there was one area where I thought people might raise too much of a stink and sink part, or all, of the ordinance, it was the chicken issue. Properly cared for chickens are not loud and will be beneficial to those urban residents that choose to have them. Roosters, yes, they are loud, and they are NOT permitted in the ordinance.

A sticking point, and one on which I agree, is that code enforcement at the City is already stretched, and generally works on a complaint-only basis. This means that, unless a code enforcement officer is in a Weed and Seed area with extra funding, they only respond to submitted complaints, and ONLY from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Many people will complain that roosters and bad conditions may not be noticeable during those times.

A workable solution, in my opinion, is to keep the ordinance as written, and look for additional funding to support code enforcement overtime to work on neighborhood-scale issues in the evenings, or some other arrangement by which we can expand code enforcement’s effectiveness.