Preston Hollow Activists Offer Misinformation on Zoning, City Council Elections

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[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for who lives in District 13. His opinions are his own.]

I have to admit, had I been drinking milk, it would have squirted out of my nose when I was forwarded an email from a few Preston Hollow residents. It blared out:

CHANGE IS COMING to District 13!!! (and I don’t mean Staubach’s supersized version) Click the links below – AND: SIGN the petition – AND: GO PARTICIPATE IN DEMOCRACY FEBRUARY 19th at 6:30pm at Hyer Elementary!!!!!!!!! SPREAD THE WORD NOW!!!!!
(three pro-Laura Miller links)

Its poor grammar, bombastic language, and the accompanying misleading images reminded me of the sound of a group of seagulls hovering over a restaurant dumpster – or basically, the internet. I wonder if they’ll be yelling “LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY” if Laura Miller loses her race against council member Jennifer Gates?

First, the campaign seems to be run by the same people who delivered the recent towers meeting. Everything is assumed to be the evil plot of council member Jennifer Gates – almost like it were politically motivated.

Let’s assume you live in a three-story, 30-foot-tall home (most don’t) and that Preston Place was indeed 40 feet tall. “Version 1” above is the height of a building along Northwest Highway that met the residential proximity slope the city is recommending in their draft. The current zoned height limitation is infinity. So even if 240 feet was likely, it’s still quite a reduction. But they’re also recommending 90 units per acre, which would produce units starting somewhere around 1,500 square feet. No one in Dallas is building that kind of structure. A.G. Spanos’ proposal is for roughly 115 units per acre delivered in seven stories. It’s math.

And that’s just parcels along the front of Northwest Highway. The northern parcels drop to 96 feet in height. Again, not the existing infinity – and not the 85 feet being proposed by A.G. Spanos for the Diplomat lot. On these parcels the proximity slope actually allows a taller building (~120 feet).

“Version 2” reflects a proposal by Provident Realty that was first seen at last week’s Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association. The city had never seen it, council member Gates had never seen it, plan commissioner Margot Murphy had never seen it – I asked them – something the author of this email didn’t. It will never be built. Provident is famous to me as a developer who throws up ludicrously-sized renderings to see what they can get away with.

“Version 3” is similarly not a real plan. No developer has presented a 19-story building. The “compromise” is simply made-up.

Oh, haha, “diplomatic” because one of the buildings is the Diplomat.  More misleading graphics. “Spanos/Staubach” is (and always has been) 85 feet tall.  “Could be” isn’t on the table.  It’s scaremongering.

The 240-foot tall “Staubach Place” would sit between two towers of similar height, an irony lost on residents of the 21-story Athena and 29-story Preston Tower. Council member Gates home is located in a single-family neighborhood. The Pink Wall was originally zoned commercial. When PD-15 was created in the 1960s, its base zoning was MF-3 – unlimited height. It’s not even apples and oranges, its apples and elephants.

Will something 240 feet in height be built with the density limits?  Who knows? No one has come forward with a credible proposal.

You read “California developers,” which this “Illinois writer” translates as misplaced Texas exceptionalism. A.G. Spanos are based in California, but their local executive lives in Preston Hollow. And it’s not their 85-foot proposal for Diplomat that should be the most worrying. The uncertainty of the other lots (with and without developers) should be of far more focus than Spanos’ known quantity – whether you support it or not, uncertainty is always worse.

I have no idea if this is accurate, but it’s certainly misleading (shocking, right?). Which shadows are from existing buildings and which aren’t?  Preston Place is shown as a high-rise front to back (which the city isn’t recommending). Royal Orleans is also shown as a high-rise, a configuration that is nearly impossible to build on their tiny lot.

You’ll also note this projection is based on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, but also when the sun is at its lowest and producing the most shadow. Literally the worst day of the year. Use June 21, the date of the longest sunshine of the year, and the shadows are completely within University Park.

I saved the best for last. First, I’d hope an 88-story building wouldn’t look like such a dump.  Secondly, it’s more misdirected propaganda (of course). Preston Tower contains 85 units per acre but it’s spread over four acres. So yes, this may be what 88 stories of Preston Tower would look like, but it’s as illustrative as piling a block’s worth of single-family homes on one lot. Yes, it’s tall, but the rest of the block would be pasture. It’s simply taking a concept to absurdity. “Absurdity” has always been a great word for political campaigns.

Yes, the neighborhood should have been paying attention to the two-year process of figuring out what to do with PD-15 since Preston Place burned. But they weren’t. Now that pen is meeting paper, the propagandists are out in full force. Their all-too-easy goal is to incite the uninformed angry mob who’re so many political pawns in a game that’s not really about them.

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 Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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