What Does Gates’ District 13 Win Say About The Future of PD-15 and Preston Center?

The Dallas Morning News called the District 13 election results a “trounce” by incumbent Jennifer Gates against former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. And at a commanding 66 percent to 34 percent, who am I to argue?

Delving into the precinct-level numbers, an interesting picture appears. Miller was a one-trick candidate, focusing her campaign on anti-development messaging surrounding Preston Center and the Pink Wall. As you can see in the map above, District 13 is a lot more than Preston Center. The myopathy of Miller’s message wasn’t lost on voters outside the Preston Center orbit. Oh, and constituents really like Gates. By contrast, Miller didn’t even win her own precinct, where neighbors voted for her opponent, two-to-one.

In total, Miller carried just three precincts within District 13 – essentially the Pink Wall and Preston Center along with a tiny precinct out by Marsh Lane and Walnut Hill (although not as tiny as the 16-vote precinct to its right that was one of two reporting a tie).

The Pink Wall

I would hazard a guess that the precinct containing the Pink Wall between Preston and Edgemere Roads was one of the most heavily politicked in the district. In addition to rampant signage, meetings, flyers, door-to-door canvassing, and cold-calling, residents could sign up for transportation to take them to the polls.

We can all agree that Miller made this city council race a referendum on development – particularly within the areas surrounding Northwest Highway and Preston Road, specifically behind the Pink Wall and neighboring Preston Center. But with all that focus, Miller only carried the precinct in a 60/40 split. This is a far cry from Miller’s routine assertions that 90 percent of residents opposed Jennifer Gates and the process she’s enabled to bring PD-15 up to date. The tables turned back to Gates east of Edgemere, with Gates besting Miller by 56/44 percent in that precinct.

Sadly, it says something more. As I pointed out from the beginning, Laura Miller’s ownership of an Athena condo within PD-15 would create a big conflict of interest surrounding any area action.  While Miller repeatedly denied any conflict, ethics experts from SMU to City Hall all said it was an obvious violation. Even for those distrusting of experts, the front page of the city’s plain English ethics statute says, “For example, you cannot approve a city project that would affect the value of real estate that you own.” I’m not sure how much more plainly obvious it can be.

And yet, in order to get their way, some 60 percent of precinct residents were OK with their candidate proudly denying/violating city ethics rules so long as it benefitted them. Even sadder is the fact that the age of Pink Wall residents means they were voting in the 1980s when Gary Hart’s second presidential run was scuttled by an affair with Donna Rice on the yacht Monkey Business off Bimini Island. Younger versions of today’s voters acted on questionable ethics by politicians like Hart. They knew if they acted poorly before being elected, there was no telling what they would do in office.  Today’s older, “wiser” versions of those voters now weigh their own personal gains above a candidate’s ethics. Sad indeed.

Preston Center

The same can be said of the 80 voters in the Preston Center precinct who similarly voted 61/39 percent for Miller. The bulk of those voters came from 8181 Douglas and The Shelton. Billionaire Darwin Deason, the father of Miller’s campaign finance manager, lives on the top two floors of 8181 Douglas and vehemently opposes the proposed development of Saint Michael and All Angels’ Frederick Square lot (as does Miller). Deason’s reasoning is all too common – view protection. Long before Miller decided to run, Deason met with Gates to offer $10 million to help fund a park on top of the Preston Center garage. Miller has held up the unsecured donation as a failure by Gates. But according to Gates, “When I met with the donor (Deason) to discuss the idea, it was clear that the gift was conditioned upon opposing an upcoming zoning case on property owned by Saint Michael. The offer was, at the very least, unethical and did not move forward.” Forty-nine of the 80 total voters who supported Miller were A-OK with that series of relationships.

Early voting or Election Day: at no point was Miller ahead with voters.

Looking Forward For PD-15

I think the election handed Gates the tools she needs to quiet the concerns of those in City Hall. Many were curious as to whether Miller’s frequent claims of 90 percent of Pink Wall residents’ opposition to PD-15 changes were anywhere near accurate. I think Gates has air to continue the process of updating PD-15. I think it gives her a solid foundation to address the concerns about Saint Michael and All Angels’ plans and stay the course on the Preston Center garage. What I don’t foresee is a sudden attempt to capitalize on her win by radically expanding her goals or initiating a developer free-for-all.

The election also showed how vicious, and frankly unprincipled, the opposition can be. And maybe – just maybe – the drubbing of Miller and her antiquated way of doing business signals Dallas is moving beyond such politics (I know, huge hope). Love Gates or hate her, everything is out in the open – at least judging from the sheer number of meetings I’ve attended and documents I’ve read.


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

10 Comment

  • Laura Miller needs to go back under her rock and stay there! District 13 voters have sent a very clear message to Laura and the entire city – they don’t like her personally, her tactics, lies and her politics. Very telling, Laura’s closest neighbors even voted for Jennifer Gates. Goodbye and good riddance!!!!!

  • A couple of days before election day, channel four did a short segment where both candidates spoke on camera about the issues. Miller used her minute or so to spread another falsehood. She said the three story condo that burned was going to be replaced by two twenty four story towers.

    • Laura Miller has proven over and over again – If her lips are moving, she’s lying.

    • The likeliest possibility to pass is very close to what you quoted; however, they reference it in feet, not stories. Estimate 10 feet per story.
      The plans shown at the last five or so meetings to replace the Preston Place building would be 240 feet for the building running the same direction as Athena and Preston Towers, and a 200 foot building behind it.

      • mm

        Using feet is more accurate because as you see, it depends how many feet between floors. The Athena has 9′ ceilings but 10.5′ between floors. Today’s standard for lux buildings is 10′ ceilings which may equate to 11-12′ per floor.
        .
        However, the draft PD would potentially see 240′ on the southern end of Preston Place with 96′ on the northern half. But mixed-in is the call for only 90 units per acre. Unless the units are HUGE, I don’t see 240′ ever being reached.

  • I am thankful for Jennifer Gate’s win – she will continue to collaborate both in her district and in City Hall.

  • I’m glad the good citizens of District 13 acknowledged the fraud candidacy of Laura Miller. Laura, please disappear and save yourself the embarrassment of another public humiliation.

  • mm

    Jennifer Gates has her faults — she votes too much with the Mayor (but that will all end come June 4 yipee!) and I am disappointed she hasn’t been more forceful with the taxpayer rip-off that is VisitDallas. But she has always, always been forthright, fair, and listened to constituents in the meetings I have been to concerning the Pink Wall, or Preston Center. And while I have not been to as many as Jon, I’ve been to a lot. I once heard her say she was not afraid to tell Mark Cuban he could not build commercial properties on his Preston Hollow lots. (Mark had no signs out for either candidate, but the honeypot did have more JSG signs than LM.) Having been a losing candidate myself, I think it was most vicious of the DMN to say Gates “trounced” Miller… just further evidence of their editorializing. Norman Isaacs, my journalism professor at Columbia (the one who laughed when I told him I had been an English major), would have said a more clear, simple verb would have sufficed: beat.

  • Mr. Anderson, is it not a conflict of interest that Transwestern has a majority interest in most of the construction projects in the Preston Center area both completed and projected while Ms. Gates husband is a high ranking executive? Also, the Staubach company , who was purchased by Jones, Lang, LaSalle (JLL), who is also a large tenant and representative of a large number of tenants of the Preston Center market? If my facts are incorrect, please let me know.

    • mm

      There are conflicts when you’re in a financial position to benefit (owner, not tenant or management company). In the Transwestern/Laurel case, Gates recused herself (as she has on a few occasions).