I can’t seem to go a week these days without some wrinkle or shenanigan involving Planned Development District PD-15, located on a small patch on Northwest Highway near Preston Road behind the Pink Wall. Last week, the Athena and Preston Tower had their fact-free punch-fest, and this week it was the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association’s turn (PHENA). They’re the single-family neighborhood north of the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (go figure).
For about a week, I’d been aware of a small but vocal (ok, accusatory) group of the neighborhood’s residents who appear to have awoken from a slumber now that PD-15’s future is finally getting serious. Granted, I know the world doesn’t all read my missives about PD-15 (here, on D Magazine – here, here – or Preston Hollow People), but PHENA has also sent scads of emails, texts, Facebook posts, and updates on the neighborhood’s website. My ears are cinders from what’s been said about me on Backdoor, Sidedoor, Frontdoor Nextdoor. Personally, I leave the social media trash talk, gossip-mongering, and digital curtain twitching to those with nothing better to do.
The point being, folks six feet under at Sparkman Hillcrest have heard about the ongoing redevelopment planning for PD-15. Given that the Preston Place condos burned down weeks shy of two years ago, you’d almost have to be willfully out of touch.
And of course these folks are all in a tizzy with what’s been going on without them. Many were the same faces opposed to The Laurel on Preston Road and Northwest Highway. Accusations are flying back and forth, open records requests are being filed to get ahold of communications between PHENA president and PD-15 committee member Juli Black and city officials (below). These residents seem to want the train to stop while they get caught up. This is the point at which I hate zoning cases. Everyone does the best work they can and then back-seaters suddenly get riled up to stop the presses because they’re … them. It’s easier and more grand to upset an apple cart that someone else has grown, picked and placed in the cart.
Last night, a hastily called PHENA meeting attracted some 80 residents and interested onlookers. Here’s what went down.
The first 45 minutes of the meeting centered on walking attendees through all the communications that have gone on between PHENA and residents. Essentially it built the case laid out above that even death wouldn’t really excuse the neighborhood of not knowing what was going on.
The remainder of the meeting saw the two known developers showing their proposals. The A.G. Spanos team showed their vision for the Diplomat parcel while Provident’s Mark Miller showed an updated vision for Preston Place. Attendees queried after the meeting were pretty OK with Spanos’ project but were aghast with Provident’s ever-growing project.
One of those residents was Richard Wynne. Yesterday, he filed an open records request with the city searching for:
All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on their behalf and Juli Black relating to PD-15, the formation of a steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.
All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between City Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy, her staff, any staff members of the Dallas Plan Commission, or anyone acting on their behalf and Juli Black relating to PD-15, the formation of a steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.
All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) from Jan. 1, 2017 to the present between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on their behalf and anyone employed by or affiliated with any real-estate development company relating to PD-15, the steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.
All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) from Jan. 1, 2017 to the present between City Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy, her staff, any staff members of the Dallas Plan Commission and anyone employed by or affiliated with any real-estate development company relating to PD-15, the steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.
All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on her behalf and any person employed by or affiliated with the Dallas Observer newspaper regarding an April 22, 2014 news article entitled, “In Preston Hollow Apartment Case, Staubach Gates Takes Recusing Herself to a New Level.”
All documents, internal or external (including electronic communications) relating to an April 22, 2014 Dallas Observer news article entitled “In Preston Hollow Apartment Case, Staubach Gates Takes Recusing Herself to a New Level.” This request shall include any communications between Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy or her staff and City Council Member Jennifer S. Gates or her staff.
This is a pretty big net that seems to be attempting to make connections between The Laurel, PD-15, and its cast of city hall characters. What’s interesting is the request includes current PHENA president Juli Black while not seeking the same information for PHENA board members in The Laurel case. Hmmm.
Returning to The Laurel development for a moment, this cry of poor communication may sound familiar. Back in August 2015, I wrote about how prior PHENA president and then board member Ashley Parks managed to secure a City Plan Commission delay. She claimed she, and thus the neighborhood, had not been notified of the latest Laurel proposal that had been publicly available since the prior March. I listed emails she’d sent and received about the proposal and also noted that her husband was one of a group of homeowners negotiating on the neighborhood’s behalf with the developer Transwestern. To me, the story didn’t hang together
Is it credible for PHENA residents to again claim ignorance of communication? I can’t imagine anyone involved with the two-plus years spent on The Laurel dropping the ball so soon. Surely anyone who cared about development had signed up for any communication from both the city and PHENA? Surely at least one of this similar group knew and spread the word. In my experience, protesters don’t hide their lanterns under a bush.
It’s hard to believe an accusation of a willful obscuring of the events within PD-15 can be credible given the amount of communication. However, there may be significant disagreement about the level of redevelopment Black supported. During committee meetings, she was an indulgent counterweight to the towers’ “do nothing” approach. Not all PHENA residents will be thrilled by her generosity of vision.
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.