Transwestern’s Pink Wall Proposal Passes Planning Commission Hurdle, FINALLY

New-Transwestern-rendering-Preston-Rd

As predicted, we are all two-weeks older since the Planning Commission fobbed-off the vote on the proposed Transwestern development at the northeast corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway. What, if any, votes changed in those two weeks is unknown, but I suspect few. Certainly attendees were not treated to German band Texas Lightening popping out of a cake as I’d hoped.

In those two weeks Transwestern held a meeting largely for angry single-family homeowners upset that the proposal had moved on without them paying attention and seemingly their neighborhood association not informing them. Thankfully I was busy elsewhere that evening. However, I invited Candy over after the fireworks to spill the beans while I plied her with wine.

Also in those two weeks the opposition became a bit more organized and vocal, certainly putting up more of a show at today’s Planning Commission meeting.

And a show it was… hours of tedium and speechifying. It was like church without the wine and crackers.

The same tired rubrics about density, traffic and parking ultimately found no purchase with the Commission. Especially after both the Transwestern-hired traffic engineering representative and the City traffic planning representative spoke. Those arguments were shot, gutted, stuffed and mounted on the rumpus room wall.

Transwestern Landscape-site-plan-Preston-and-Northwest-Highway-575x337Traffic? What Traffic?
This wailing and teeth gnashing about traffic was proven wholly false. According to the City traffic engineer, current traffic traversing Bandera and Averill Way at rush hour is a single car every 40 seconds. When I guestimated two weeks ago that the new development would add another 10-20 cars per half hour, I was pretty effing close. The city traffic engineer said the expectation at the peak of rush would be 15-23 per half hour (30-45 per hour). He continued that instead of a car every 40 seconds, maybe it was a car every 30-35 seconds … or in other words, no impact.

Personally, if I’m trying to get to Preston Road from Averill Way and there’s a single car waiting I’m surprised. If there are two, I assume there’s a rave going on in the ‘hood.

The other argument that grandchildren playing in the street would now be mowed down by bat-outta-hell commuters cutting through the single-family streets was similarly proven false. The traffic engineer visited Del Norte Lane during a typical rush hour, he counted virtually zero traffic on the street now and estimated that the impact from the proposed development would again have no impact.

And what about Candy’s roundabouts? (j/k)

Preston Road and Northwest Highway Traffic DECREASING?
The imagined current state of traffic on side streets wasn’t the only figment. Turns out much to everyone’s surprise (certainly mine), actual traffic on Preston Road and Northwest Highway has been decreasing … since 2001! There was a big dip during the recession, but it’s pretty much returned to pre-recession levels which are lower than 2001. In fact, according to Patrick Kennedy, a partner at the urban design and planning firm Space.Between.Design.Studio, when comparing traffic on Northwest Highway just west of the Tollway from 2004 to 2013 traffic decreased by 17 percent! Using another metric, Northwest Highway traffic at Preston Center has vacillated between 52-57,000 cars per day for eighteen years … in spite of the fact that the City of Dallas’ population has grown by hundreds of thousands of residents during this time (over 151,000, or 6.4 percent growth in Dallas County since 2010 alone).

Who’d a thunk?

Turns out that this mythology that traffic must be getting worse over time, is just that, mythology. That ought to blow a crater in Jennifer Gate’s Preston Center Task Force’s mandate and the results of the master plan.

One final coffin nail was delivered by reminding the committee that projects expected to generate fewer than 1,000 trips per day are not required to provide traffic data because it’s assumed that such a low number would have no impact. The Transwestern proposal is expected to generate between 800-1,000 trips per day.

For those keeping score. Traffic and Density zero, Transwestern two.

Next up was a Pink Wall resident positing about how no one knew what Transwestern would do if approval was given. She seemed to think the Planned Development designation was carte blanche. Later in the proceedings, Commissioner Neil Emmons shot that down by informing the speaker that a PD was above the developer and that whomever owned the property in the future was still bound by the building plans canonized in the PD.

Then came the ForwardDallas argument that the Transwestern proposal didn’t fit into the City’s overall plan to preserve neighborhoods while encouraging walkability and such. The speaker bemoaned the threat to Pink Wallers out walking and frolicking in the street (an image of 70-year-olds cavorting in the spray of an open fire hydrant leaps to mind) and that the increased traffic would make that hazardous, so it would be against the ForwardDallas goals.

First of all, just because the original developers of Preston Hollow couldn’t be bothered to put in sidewalks, doesn’t mean the area should be held hostage because of it. In fact, it’s Transwestern that will be putting in sidewalks on Preston Road that will encourage all residents to walk (or walker) more easily over to Preston Center. If the property owners want sidewalks inside the Pink Wall or any other part of Preston Hollow, they should put them in. Being able to gambol about in the street is hardly a cogent argument against development in the area.

In fact, every single McMansion without a sidewalk should have been forced to install one.

Secondly, the argument continued, the building was out of place in the area. Well, true. It’s not 50 years old and it’s not using exposed metal-roofed carports in alleyways for parking. Yes, it’s taller than most (not all) of the neighboring buildings but it’s also kitty-corner from a taller, five-story building.

It was pointed out by staff that ForwardDallas also promotes a bunch of other ideals like trees (Transwestern putting in double the suggested number), sidewalks (Transwestern putting in 6-footers versus standard 4-foot width), and greenspaces (Transwestern includes a nearly ½ acre park).

To judge the whole development by one single criteria wasn’t a valid argument to the commission.

Third, the speaker continued (she had a LOT to say), the Pink Wall was all condo and that having rentals would somehow downgrade the area. Left out was the fact that it’s NOT all condos, in fact Steve Dawson owns an apartment building near the new development. And let’s not forget that Preston Tower alone probably has more rentals than the Transwestern plan.

Next up was Steve Dawson who’d retooled his easement argument from the last meeting. This time he dropped the “saw it on TV” pitch in favor of quoting city statutes. Condensing his theory, there is an internal roadway that connects the townhouses in Townhouse Row to Averill Way that is owned by the City. In order for Transwestern to proceed, they have to buy the land from the City at market rates.

In my opinion, this smacked of attempting to make the cost of the project prohibitive to Transwestern by larding on extra unforeseen costs. Well, it’s not Transwestern’s first rodeo and when asked about the roadway, they said they knew and that they were prepared to purchase it at the appropriate time (which isn’t before the City approves the project). Done and dusted.

Overlaying the opposition was their insistence that the majority didn’t want the development and that an official vote wasn’t conducted. This was handily disproven by producing the city balloting of the neighboring owners where a majority cast a vote and a majority wanted the development.

Pontificating

As I said after the last meeting, this was my first time watching the process unfold and … wow. So by this time, it’s already been hours of talking, questioning, answering, pleading and prodding, right? You’d think by then we’d be done and hold the actual vote? Nnnnnn-ope!

Commissioner Margot Murphy reads off the proposal one last time and I can almost taste the vote … then votus interruptus. Other Commissioners have to jump into the record books … “Why I do declare the Honorable Ms Murphy has done our city proud with her service in handling this matter. Many a time, I say, many a time, I’ve seen proposals like this falter but Ms Murphy steered the course of this mighty decision for the people of the great city of Dallas in these here United States. And to these fine upstanding neighbors I must say ‘thank you’ for all your time spent on this matter. Finally, I must thank my dog Mr. Squiggles for enduring our later than usual evening constitutionals.” And then another. And another. It’s like they were being paid by the word.

And then…

Commissioner Neil Emmons pops in with an eye-rolling left-field amendment. Seems he’d seen in the past two days a case in Grand Prairie where the development was dependent on the creation of a condo HOA before a certificate of occupancy would be issued. And he wanted to explore whether they could/should explore this with this proposal. Whaaaaat???

This seemed to play a bit onto the opposition’s oft-cited prejudice against rentals in favor of condos. Emmons was sternly admonished by vice-chair Robert Abtahi and others as placing a greater value on owner-occupied residential versus rentals (in contrast to other recent decisions). He also questioned entertaining a legally ambiguous condition that would take possibly years to settle in the courts. Hot potato quickly became mashed potato.

Finally the actual vote. All in favor except Paul Ridley.

Facts Won the Day
At the end, what I’ve said all along won the day. There are no actual facts to support not building the proposed development. There are only neighbors, clutching at straws, who want to freeze the area in amber.

There is no rational argument to be made that there’s a better deal out there. It’s been nearly two-years and no competing proposal has been made.

There’s no rational argument to support the opposition’s claim that they’re not anti-development if only it would be built completely within current zoning. Such a project would likely have few-to-none of the beyond-zoning amenities and concessions being given by Transwestern. In short, irrational to believe they’d support a worse project. So the only logical unspoken goal isn’t to get a building that meets zoning, it’s to scare anyone from developing anything.

There’s no rational argument that the proposed development would increase traffic within the Pink Wall, the adjacent single-family home roadways or the Preston Road and Northwest Highway intersection. The traffic engineers proved that.

And in the end, while it took waaaaay longer than it needed to, the Planning Commission understood the rational, factual case and approved the proposed development which will now be sent to the City Council for a final vote.

Living up to my official motto, “Thank god that’s over with, I need a drink,” after the meeting, I headed over to Stampede 66 for an event featuring tasty small-batch bourbons …

 

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)!

18 Comment

  • More personal attacks. Disgusting. I feel sorry for you, Jon. You must have had a tough life and be a really miserable person. I will pray for you.

  • mm

    I’m neither miserable nor afraid to have an opinion nor report on a public meeting (with few names mentioned). This is in contrast to you who sign yourself GB with a fake email address. I suppose you are one of the factless opposition who can’t evolve or lose gracefully. However as an atheist, good luck with the praying. 🙂

  • mm

    Great write up and laced with humor!

  • Thank you for the informative article
    The Transwestern development of this area will be a pleasant visual improvement !
    Mr. Cuban must be grinning from ear to ear as he typically does, thinking about possibilities for his land nearby.

    • I don’t see this as having a great impact on Cuban’s plans (whatever they may be). Sure it’s a new development, but it’s been radically scaled back from its original plans after a long battle with neighbors. He’s derived no mandate from the neighborhood nor the city from this proposed development. At best it says there are some who will at least listen before prejudging and maybe that’s a start?

  • I have followed the Behind the Pink Wall controversy with fascination. Jon, your reporting has been the most clear and concise out there. When people don’t have a rational argument, they turn to personal or emotional attacks to shut people up. Its sometimes called “gaslighting.” There is such fear mongering from the NIMBY Pink Wall crowd. I wonder if owners are worried that having new construction will make their property even LESS desirable, thus lowering rents and sales prices. Bandera will be sandwiched between beautiful new complexes on the east and west side, with the older, aging condos in the middle. All you have to do now, is drive slowly down Bandera and Averill Way and look at the roofs, gutters, soffits, eaves, windows and carports to see problems.

    • Thanks! I don’t believe I’ve ever been called “concise” before! As far as property values, I think it could go two ways. Either it will attract renovation-minded buyers or developers who snap up the most poorly maintained complexes – probably a combination. I sincerely hope for more renovators like myself. I purchased my home from its original owner and gutted it. But it’s one thing to buy a dumpy unit in a well-maintained complex and quite another to buy a dump in a neglected complex with an unknown amount of work (and cost) needing to be done.

  • Quick correction- She spells her name, Margot Murphy! (Jon: Thanks! Corrected!)

  • Great write up!! Thanks for the scoop!!
    Bandera is already full of bat outta hell older drivers! Glad to hear it won’t get too much worse. Someone said speed bumps lower property values?! That doesn’t sound right. Look at Park Lane. Maybe we could get some on Bandera.

    Build Baby Build!!!!!

    • mm

      You’re welcome. For the record, I’m OK with controlled development with modest increases in density, which this project is.

  • Thank you, Candy, as always. Regarding traffic – interesting to see and read that it’s decreasing. People living at this or close to this intersection can find alternate routes perhaps? Also, hope the eyesore (sorry) on the ne corner goes away and something architecturally beautiful is built – not stucco and Italian – what about glass? And sky bridges – let’s have them!!! Build build build – and make Preston centers east and west wonderful! Thank you for reading.

  • You are not a factual writer.And you attack people personally . How dare you. I will never read your column again , You have no integrity or intelligence.

  • John, Like some of the others who have commented here, I am deeply offended by your personal attacks on our neighborhood residents ( I am dear friends with the gal you characterized as the ” aging art teacher”. That is
    neither correct or considerate). You are attacking the longtime residents of our neighborhood. And whether you agree or disagree with their viewpoint; personal character assassinations, only reflect on your own bitter personality and unprofessionalism, and lack of any merit in your literary skills. Shame on you, and shame on Candy for standing by and allowing such bullying and baseless attacks. You owe this resident a serious apology, and
    you owe yourself some serious self-reflection on why
    you think it’s amusing or acceptable to communicate in such a negative way. Save that negativity for the bad guys and leave our Pink Wall residents alone.

    • mm

      If my description is so inaccurate, how come it was so identifiable? Also, it’s pretty obvious from the timing that she asked you to write this comment on a month-old article neither of you seem to have read before. I await the rest of her friends to pile on comments that only serve to bring an old story to the top of the list.

      • Jon, it is obvious that you are use personal attacks to serve your point of view. You did not write an accurate account of the meeting. Your article was biased and self serving. I am the person you wrote about , and I am proud of my age, my profession, and that I spoke to the City Council about my concerns about where I live and own two properties. Shame on you for not reporting all the positive points I brought up. Only points you could dispute . As you did throughout the article.
        I will not read this blog again, and tell my friends not to read it as well.

        • I make no secret that I believe the proposal on the table is better than any option available – including leaving that unattractive corner alone. I am also very clear that the arguments raised by those opposing are not based in facts. Had I or any of the Councillors found merit in your opinions, the vote would have not been unanimous save one. The meeting was over two hours long, my thoughts were obviously edited. I did not purposely edit out any of your opinions that I felt had more value. If you feel there are actual facts (versus unsupported opinion) to support your views, please take Candy up on her offer…of course since you’ve stopped reading this column twice in 12-hours, this may fall on dead ears.

  • mm

    While NONE of Jon’s writing is a personal attack on ANYONE, we have amended this article to take out any reference to the way someone looks. That is simply not appropriate to the real estate discussion. In an effort to write with humor, we often add a bit of drama and color to our posts. We invite anyone who has a differing opinion to send it our way to publish without editing, just as we did Claire Stanard’s very well-written piece.
    https://candysdirt.com/2015/09/02/dallas-forward-backward-transwestern-project-behind-pink-wall/
    This is all about having an intelligent, open discussion about a very important project that will affect our lifestyles and property values. I have disclosed that I am also an owner of a condo Behind the Pink Wall. Soon, my daughter will be. If we get sidetracked in emotional sniping and snarkiness, we veer from the facts and the subject. I apologize for any sentences here that have been misconstrued as personal attacks. Come forward with your information and ideas, and we will publish them.