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The Oklahoma City Council took up new resolutions that could result in high fines for parking violations, money for affordable housing, and millions for the Myriad Gardens Crystal Bridge downtown.

Fines for blocking streetcar

Jason Ferbrache of COTPA gave the Council a presentation on an ordinance introduced regarding cars parking along the streetcar route. The new ordinance proposal comes after over a year of streetcar service.

When a car is parallel parked along the route without being fully within the designated parking space, the streetcar may be blocked, requiring a stoppage of the entire streetcar system of twenty minutes or more.

Oklahoma City Streetcar
Two streetcars at their public showing in March 2018. (file, Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

The new ordinance names cars parked in the streetcar route a hazard or obstruction, making it easier to tow a car or issue a citation of up to $130.

Ferbrache repeatedly said that this issue is for the purpose of encouraging residents to be more aware of where and how they park, rather than being a punitive effort.

“The goal,” said City Manager Craig Freeman, “is not to write more citations.”

Ferbrache suggested that the size of the fine was commensurate because the disruption caused by this illegal parking is much greater than illegally parking in most other street parking.

JoBeth Hamon*, the Councilwoman representing Ward 6 where most of the streetcar route lies, asked if it was a necessary municipal step to create this ordinance. She stated that she was concerned that it would sour people’s experience of the area to receive such a hefty fine in addition to having to pay to get their vehicle from impound. She suggested that the whole problem could be solved by simply doing away with parking in the streetcar route.

Harmony School

A resolution heard and set for final hearing March 17 concerned the allocation of $200,000 to a development company doing business as One Red Oak, LLC. The proposed development will receive tax increment finance (TIF) funds as they become available for the renovation and repurposing of the former Marcus Garvey School.

The plan is to use the existing historical building to create twenty new single or two-bedroom apartments and to create row-houses with twenty more multi-bedroom units.

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The housing is intended to be affordable housing for seniors. Unlike most senior housing developments, this project will recognize that many families live in multi-generational households. Only one household member will be required to be 50 years of age or older in order to qualify for the housing at the new project.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice expressed concern about gentrification and recognized that there have been a number of community meetings about this project.

The project will require federal and state funds from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency in order to be completed, as the total cost of the project is estimated at over $9 million.

Nice said she was glad the conversation about the development is being had in an open manner, but that it comes with the potential for disappointment in the community if the project doesn’t come together in a positive way. “We’re all fearful of gentrification,” she said, “Instead of a coffee shop or a sandwich shop [in the development], a pharmacy would be ideal.”

Crystal Bridge

A representative of the Myriad Gardens gave a presentation to the Council for a resolution to be introduced for final hearing on March 17.

The Myriad Gardens Foundation, a nonprofit, runs the park that was built with and is maintained by public money.

The resolution would allocate $5,958,750 for affordable housing. Just kidding, it’s to renovate the Crystal Bridge in the Myriad Gardens Park.

The Crystal Bridge opened in March of 1988. Since then, the natural wear of a high humidity environment has caused the deterioration of some wood bridges and walkways in the attraction, as well as causing some stairs to be unsightly and at times not entirely sure-footed.

Additionally, the foundation would like to make many improvements to the site to make it a “world-class” attraction in downtown Oklahoma City without raising admission fees.

Of the $8,617,160 that the planned renovations will cost, approximately $2.7 million will come from private sources.

No mention was made of how much money the Foundation currently has at its disposal.

5G Fears

Several residents signed up to speak at the end of the Council meeting to address their fears about 5g cellular towers being placed near their properties or schools.

According to those who addressed the Council, moratoriums have been declared in many locations at the urging of doctors around the world.

Currently, the placement of cell towers is largely an issue the City Council has very little control over.

Mattress Claim

A man petitioned the Council to have his claim reconsidered. He explained that the OKCPD executed a warrant in his home and destroyed his mattress in the process.

It was the opinion of the municipal counselor’s office that the man had entered his claim outside the time limit of one year from destruction of his property. Additionally, the counselor’s office explained that the city would not be liable for this damage as it was incurred in the execution of a legal search warrant.

The council ultimately denied the man’s claim, though several expressed regret about it.

The next meeting of the Council will be on March 17 at 8:30 a.m.


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*Disclosure: Hamon is the wife of this reporter.