While meeting three didn’t see anything hurled through the air, that doesn’t mean all’s been quiet in the neighborhood. But you know me, I’ve saved the best juice for last. The meeting opened with a review of the second meeting, specifically reviewing people’s thoughts on the various types of multi-family buildings presented in an exercise (here if you missed it). The meeting also had a special guest star in David Cossum, Director of Sustainable Development and Construction for the city. Before the meat of the meeting a few (important) stray questions were asked.
Kevin Griffeth from Gas Light Manor asked about seeing developer examples and plans. This has been a key grumble from the small group opposed to the authorized hearing process. They claim only by disbanding the authorized hearing and forcing developers to open a zoning case will the neighborhood have any input. The city stanched that claim by answering “yes” the committee will see and question the developers.
It was asked whether the Plan Commission could override any agreement by the neighborhood for development. The scary answer was “yes” they could make different recommendations to city council. However, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates has repeatedly said she will not support any plan that isn’t supported by the neighborhood. I take that as a stalemate that defaults to the committee’s decisions.
Ken Newberry from Royal Orleans asked about the committee’s ability to take economic data into account when creating their recommendations. The answer was a bit more nebulous. The committee can be informed by economic data as they deliberate, but the economics aren’t part of the city’s decision making purview. Newberry summed it up best, “a development plan without economics is just a hallucination.”
Finally, the question was asked about physically combining lots into larger parcels. I’ll admit not liking the loosey answer from the city and dug in more after the meeting with Cossum, who’d been adding good detail and color in answering the committee’s questions.
Because the roads separating many of the PD-15 parcels are privately owned by their respective condo buildings, Cossum said they could reach agreement to close the streets to enable parcels to combine. Fine. But I said, what about fire lanes and right of ways? Would the city allow streets to be closed that blocked fire lanes. He said the city would evaluate any combination should parcels decide to combine. I responded, why should the committee waste time exploring lot combinations if it will always be a dead end for the city? Just tell them from the get-go and save everyone time. We’ll see.
From there city staff continued to slog through the parameters that make up area zoning.
You’ll recall lot coverage, setbacks, density, height have all been covered in prior meetings. This time the group spent time understanding the nuances (yes, there are nuances) of parking, loading areas, landscaping and the like.
Parking Requires Thought
Believe it or not, the discussion around parking encouraged me. You see, when people question and discuss anything, it means they haven’t made up their minds. In PD-15, parking is dictated at a minimum of 1.22 spaces per unit (regardless of unit size – studio or penthouse). The Preston Tower representative noted that they were under-parked probably in the same way Athena is (same developer). I’m going to guess the low parking ratio in the towers dates back to the buildings having valet parking, which requires less overall parking. Valet, like unassigned parking, requires fewer spaces than assigned parking. For example someone with one car and two assigned spaces means one space is always vacant.
Several committee members wanted to understand what would be considered the right amount of parking. In the underlying MF-3 zoning category the PD is in, it was one space per 500 square feet of unit floor area (which the PD ignored – because they could). Today, MF-3(A) specifies one space per bedroom plus a quarter of a space per unit for guest parking.
A small discussion began trying to understand what’s appropriate today and more importantly tomorrow. Are services like Uber and Lyft going to create a long-term shift away from personal ownership of cars? Will self-driving cars result in the same car needs? The city said they would provide some case examples and research to help the group understand the trends.
Loading and Freight Zones
Following on from parking came loading zone-type parking needs. This is anything from UPS trucks to moving vans to garbage collection and contractor parking requirements. There’s another whole new set of questions. The Oak Lawn Committee wants to see loading zones contained within the footprint of the building to minimize roadway obstruction. But there’s placement to minimize neighborhood disturbance.
Finally, there were some interesting plumbing questions. The graphic above is no surprise to area residents. The Pink Wall floods during 100-year floods, which seem to happen three times a year. Fixing it is not in the latest bond package. Its seriousness is rated at 87 out of 100 but no dinero for a fix.
Jim Panipinto asked Cossum if the city would approve a new project that overtaxed storm water sewers, tap water supplies, or sanitary sewage lines. He said, “no.” Should a project exceed current capacity, the excess would have to be taken care of with new pipe or the like. If it wasn’t, regardless of the PD-15 recommendations, the project wouldn’t go forward until capacity was increased. Excellent news for the neighborhood.
The Opposition (You Can’t Make This Stuff Up)
I’ve largely stayed silent on the small band of naysayers bullying their opinions and demands around the neighborhood. Back in May, former Mayor Laura Miller sent a letter to Council Member Gates claiming a “significant majority” didn’t want increased density and other nonsense. Then came July. On July 8 and 9, John Pritchett (president of the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association and Preston Tower resident) and Carla Young, Athena HOA president, distributed a petition to halt the authorized hearing, claiming it “opens the neighborhood to unrestricted development” and so neighbors must “stop the authorized hearing.”
On July 20, University Park resident and Pink Wall apartment building part-owner Steve Dawson sent his four pages. He claims that Gates selecting only committee members who didn’t want to kill the process was stacking the deck. I look at it as a parent not giving a child a second toy when they broke the first one and swear to do it again. Dawson, member of the first PD-15 group, laments, “… the Working Group never received any thanks for the months of effort.” While he denies his statements are not the result of “sour grapes” or a “bruised ego,” I am unconvinced.
Then on July 24 came the straw that broke this camel’s back, again from John Pritchett. Essentially it appears to claim every fact about, and reporting of, the process is false. He also patronizes committee members telling them they’re “not the A-Team in terms of zoning matters,” ending his three pages by telling them, “no doubt that you are all well-intentioned.”
Who are these people? With the exception of Laura Miller (chief architect of the Preston Center Plan), all were members of the ill-fated stalemate of the first PD-15 task force (which, I guess was A-OK because they were on it). Their Bible is the financially faulty Preston Center Plan. They see some great conspiracy by the city when the truth is much simpler.
The fire at Preston Place, and its residents’ ongoing struggle to reclaim their lives, has revealed significant holes in the Preston Center Plan that make it unworkable (here, here, here). It’s hubris and ego to think a city as large as Dallas has an elaborate plan to wrench these few acres into some personal trophy or that these people are the only ones capable of crafting a successful outcome for the neighborhood.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) 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. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.