The fate of the proposed Toll Brothers high-rise in Oak Lawn remains stalled for another month. A bus load of Plaza residents showed up to voice their concerns without actually admitting their issue is view blockage and that the rest was just a smoke screen. Several gave themselves away in saying that a midrise would be better (but then complained about other midrises in the area). So, why exactly would a midrise with essentially the same number of units be better than a high-rise?
It certainly isn’t traffic, and yet that old saw was trotted out yet again. One Plaza resident spoke of neighbors’ children being endangered daily by cars racing through the neighborhood. Others echoed this hyperbole of an Indy 500 zooming non-stop through their side streets. They made it sound like a few well-placed cops catching these speeders and stop-sign runners would eliminate the need for a city bond.
On the upside, several, including council members, brought up the recently approved Starbucks’ larger traffic impact and the hypocrisy of neighborhood support for that while seeking to nix Toll Brothers. (Super easy to figure out. Starbucks benefits them personally and it’s one-story)
Similarly, the fear of emergency services not being able to navigate the roads was repeatedly voiced. I’ll give council member Phillip Kingston from District 14 credit, after all the whinging, he asked the fire department to give their opinion … right then and there. A Fire Department representative stepped up to give a more technical explanation than expected. Kingston asked the speaker to net it out. The fire department would recommend approval. That’s one more argument up in smoke (ha!).
Again, as I’ve said all along, when you peel it all away, this is a height issue masquerading as a traffic, fire, and safety issue. It’s trying to undo the property’s height entitlement … largely by a bunch of people living in an even higher high-rise.
And yet with these transparent arguments being knocked over, and the admission this is better than a by-right project, Kingston still asked for another month delay … and got it.
Carrying The City’s Water
But before that vote to delay came, council members opined …
Tennell Atkins asked about an affordable housing component that was then picked up by other council members.
Now if you’ve read my work at all, you know I’m waaaay in favor of mixed income neighborhoods. But I’m sorry council members, you are the representatives of the city of Dallas. It is YOUR JOB to develop affordable housing regulations that apply throughout the city. It’s NOT your job to burble up with an 11 hour and 59 minute homework assignment to arbitrarily assign to this project. You can’t use developers to do your job and take the heat from neighborhoods who (wrongly) fought hard over the last 40 years for economic redlining to keep people of lesser means from living close to them.
Kudos to council member Jennifer Gates for pointing out to her colleagues that the City of Dallas has not enacted any affordable housing guidelines and that because Toll Brothers isn’t in a TIF, it’s not required to do so. AMEN
“We can’t, say it council, out of one side of our mouths we want to attract the middle class and then drive up the price [by limiting density], ”I think we have to figure out what we’re doing, council.”
Council member Lee Kleinman’s apples and bananas logic continues to mystify me on this case. Within the affordable housing conversation, he cited Dallas Midtown as eventually having a 20 percent affordable component (a laudable goal). Then minutes later, echoing his prior meeting’s sentiment, wonders why Toll Brothers can’t just build a by-right project.
Dallas Midtown is anything but a by-right project. It took YEARS to work its way through City Hall. Part of that give and take was the creation of a TIF that required the affordable component. Without the TIF, I doubt Midtown Dallas would have a 20 percent affordable component.
Similarly, if Toll Brothers built by right, there would be over 160 more and smaller units within a taller structure sitting on an exposed parking garage … without the need for a single affordable unit … because the Dallas City Council, of which Kleinman’s a member, has not done its job in addressing affordable housing.
Philip Kingston was absolutely correct in saying that a by-right project would be worse than what’s on the table. You’d think for a neighborhood so concerned with traffic, the specter of 160-plus more units would get them with the program (if, of course, this were about traffic and not views).
My Name Isn’t Toll
All I can say is that the nay-neighbors are really lucky Toll Brothers is in charge. I can imagine any number of people, myself included, with shorter fuses who by now would have begun a by-right building. It would be so tall Southwest flights could pass out peanuts. It would have as many units as I could cram into the ugly box I wrapped them in. Parking would be above ground and unadorned — I’d even put cutouts in the perimeter so headlights could shine through. Oh, and I wouldn’t manage it either, I’d sell the POS to some POS management company or REIT. Clearly my therapist has his work cut out for him this week.
Kingston thinks another month may net more compromise, but as Masterplan said, more people hated the midrise than the high-rise. So I’m not sure what’s left to wring out of the high-rise. Certainly the <10 unit reduction since last month is purely symbolic with zero impact on the hollow traffic concerns of the naysayers.
Toll Brothers next rolls back in front of Dallas City Council the week before Halloween. (Insert acidic, holiday related remark here.)
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.