Say No to Parkridge H1 Expansion: Preserve & Protect PEOPLE BEFORE PROPERTY

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Say No to Parkridge H1 Expansion: Preserve & Protect PEOPLE BEFORE PROPERTY

This petition had 106 supporters
Parkridge People started this petition to c/o Will Johnson, City Recorder Knoxville City Council and

The Parkridge neighborhood encompasses approximately 1,600 homes spanning an area between E. Fifth, Jefferson, Woodbine & Washington Avenues in Knoxville, Tennessee, Parkridge has a uniquely diverse social, economic and racial composition. It is a vibrant neighborhood and its demographic mix compels people to live in community instead of suffering through isolation.  

Several years ago, my husband and I bought a beautifully renovated 3-story historic George Barber Victorian in Parkridge because (not in spite) of its situation in a socioeconomically diverse neighborhood. I am a Haitian-American Catholic academic, he is a white Protestant lawyer born in Knoxville, and we want our three bi-racial, multi-cultural children to be surrounded by people of all stripes. While some misinterpret our home purchase as property investment, we see it as an investment in people making up our community.  Consistent with our initial hopes, we have found that our Parkridge neighbors come from all walks of life – professionals, artists, laborers, unemployed individuals, people on disability, young families, retirees – living in community without the usual firm markers of social, economic, and racial stratification.  It is far from perfect, but in our opinion it serves these goals better than any other part of Knoxville.   

The Parkridge Community Organization (PCO) initiated the process of expanding the existing H-1 zoning overlay.  The City Council then approved a request from the Metropolitan Planning Commission to study possible expansion.  The PCO has approximately 50 members, a small minority of Parkridge residents.  The proposed expansion would cover some 711 parcels, a 522 parcel increase over the existing H-1 zone. We, the signers of this petition, assert that the request of the PCO and position in favor of expansion are not reflective of the expressed opinions of many of the owners and residents who would be affected by expansion, and that expansion will not further the preservation of the diverse community that exists in Parkridge.  Further, many residents who would be affected are not aware of the nature and possible magnitude of consequences from an H-1 expansion. This petition is offered to collect and document the opposition to this expansion that exists among those individuals who would be affected by it.

Expansion of the H-1 historic zone would likely serve to preserve the condition of some homes of historic value, although a significant portion of the covered homes in the expanded area are not historic in nature.  It also seems likely that the expansion of the H-1 historic zone would serve, over time, to increase property values on these historic homes.  We, the signers of this petition, assert, however, that these generally-favorable outcomes are outweighed by the other, presumably unintended consequences of the expansion: the expansion would likely serve to squeeze out (through increased rent for tenants and increased maintenance costs imposed by complying with the H-1 requirements for low-income owners) the less affluent members of the community. 

This outcome is of particular concern given the reality that a substantial portion of these less affluent members are African-American, a class for whom housing issues are a pressing problem in Knoxville.  As has been documented, including in the City of Knoxville’s Consolidated Plan, “minority populations often experience a greater likelihood of having more housing problems and a greater cost burden than white residents.”  (Consolidated Plan at 47).  Further, “the data show that Black/African Americans have a housing cost burden and a disproportionately greater need for affordable housing. In fact almost 30% of Black/African American households face a severe housing cost burden (in excess of 50% of their household income).”  (Consolidated Plan at 46).

In short, we are concerned that expansion of the H-1 historic zone would serve to reduce the number of low-income residents in Parkridge; which would disproportionately affect the current African-American residents; and would further contribute to the lack of quality affordable housing for minorities in Knoxville.  For these same reasons, it is the concern of the signers of this petition that the H-1 expansion, by prioritizing the physical structures of the community over the diversity of its residents, would serve to degrade the vitality of the unique human fabric that makes Parkridge valuable.  There are many other areas in Knoxville where affluent residents have access to historically-interesting and well-maintained housing surrounded by like-minded neighbors; there is only one Parkridge. 

We, the signers of this petition, therefore find the currently-proposed expansion of the H-1 historic zone NOT to be in the best interest of the Parkridge community or of Knoxville as a whole and urge the City Council to reject it in its current form.  We believe that any government-sponsored historic preservation effort in Parkridge should include as paramount goals, both in explicit intention and through concrete mechanisms of protection, maintaining or increasing the availability of affordable housing as it impacts African-Americans in Knoxville and, most particularly, the preservation of Parkridge’s current unique demographic mix.

Petition Closed

This petition had 106 supporters

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