Dallas City Councilman Kevin Felder surrendered Tuesday to felony charges stemming from an alleged scooter accident he is accused of fleeing from — and if convicted, those charges may mean more than a felony record.

Felder, who represents District 7, has been accused of fleeing the scene of an accident where he allegedly hit someone traveling by scooter in South Dallas.

Councilman Felder and his attorney, Pete Schulte, vehemently deny the charges. (more…)

electionsThe cutoff to file to run for the Dallas city council, Dallas mayor, and Dallas ISD trustee seats open was 5 p.m. Feb. 15, and with 64 people total filing paperwork for the May elections, there are two things we can tell you for certain: Some races will likely resemble the Thunderdome, and you’ll be needing to head to the polls twice, because some of these races will undoubtedly land in a runoff.

So who’s running? We’re providing a list below. Bear in mind this list is in alphabetical order, not the order they will appear on the ballot, because that is done by drawing and will happen in a few days.

The mayoral race has drawn 12 candidates — real estate developer Mike Ablon, Oak Cliff businessman Albert Black, Dallas city council member Scott Griggs, State Rep. Eric Johnson, former Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy, philanthropist Lynn McBee, civic leader Regina Montoya, Dallas resident, Heriberto Ortiz, Dallas resident Miguel Patino, environmentalist Stephen Smith, Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, and former state representative Jason Villalba. Ortiz, Patino, and Smith’s petition signatures have not been qualified at press time.

And Jon gave us a sneak preview of the surprise filing of Laura Miller, who will challenge incumbent Jennifer Staubach Gates for the District 13 seat, we now know who the rest of the names on area ballots will be, too. Ready? Let’s jump. (more…)

By Cynthia Weatherall
Special Contributor

I attended Wednesday’s City Council meeting when the council was briefed on proposed homeless strategies by Monica Hardman, the managing director of the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions. This was the fiery meeting where the “Track 2” proposal to transport the homeless across the city stirred citizens to action as few topics can do — unless it comes to protecting your home. Thankfully, the proposed strategy, which would have established temporary “roving” shelters for homeless people at recreation centers, was roundly dismissed, not only by most city council members, but by the directors of current shelters.

That was a relief. But I attended the briefing and the Q and A, and I’m concerned by what hasn’t been widely reported about various OTHER proposals.

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Rehabilitation of the historic Knights of Pythias building in Deep Ellum is already underway, but developers are asking the City of Dallas to provide tax incentives to make the project more affordable. (Courtesy Photo)

For as long as I can remember, the Knights of Pythias building was a large painted gray mass of Beaux Arts architecture, hulking on the west end of Deep Ellum, boarded up and idle. When the historic rehabilitation began, it was wonderful to see the light gray paint give way to the gorgeous brick and stone underneath, unveiling the true character of this building. 
 
Of course, rehabilitation of historic structures isn’t cheap, and in the fight to maintain Dallas’ character, one of the best tools that cities have at their disposal are historic preservation tax exemptions and credits. While we bemoan the rash of teardowns and our city’s toothless measures to stay their razings, the key is making rehabilitation more economically viable than destroying the historic fabric of our city’s built environment. 
 
That’s why Preservation Dallas has put out the call to support tax exemption for the Knights of Pythias developers, Westdale Properties.
 

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Dallas Builders Association executive officer Phil Crone says that the Dallas ordinances on parks and trees need refinement before a final vote.

By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association

On May 16, the Dallas City Council heard separate proposals concerning a new Park Land Dedication Ordinance and revisions to Article X, which concerns tree planting and conservation in the city limits. A vote on each is expected before the council’s July recess.

My personal involvement on the tree ordinances dates back to 2009, when the Dallas Builders Association began to talk with stakeholders about possible improvements. Article X has created challenges for new development, especially in South Dallas. The premise of the ordinance is to assign fees to the removal of trees on private property. Property owners can attempt to reduce or eliminate fees by preserving the existing tree canopy, replanting desirable trees using best practice methods, and/or other sustainable development methods.

The new draft of Article X does provide property owners with more carrots, but it also adds more sticks and lacks transparency on key items such as the fees and how they are used. Another problem

Phil Crone

is that the ordinance now assigns a mitigation fee to nuisance trees such as Hackberries and thorn-ridden Mesquite trees, albeit at a lower rate than others. Hackberries are found in large numbers on property throughout Dallas, meaning that several small fees add up to one large fee when it comes time to remove them. The larger a Hackberry grows, the more brittle and dangerous it becomes. Their leaves attract aphids that drip honeydew on everything below. Eventually, black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. In other words, a Hackberry has no redeeming qualities. The Dallas Builders Association is proposing a measure that allows property owners to remove smaller, less desirable species, defined as Class 3 trees in the ordinance, without paying a fee.

Article X currently lacks the credit for new replacement trees now required by state law. House Bill 7, which became effective in December, was supported by the City of Dallas and the Dallas Builders Association in the most recent legislative session. By focusing on credit for planting replacement trees, we felt this was a better alternative to more aggressive proposals that sought to remove municipal authority from tree preservation entirely. The proposed changes to Article X outline the process that, in most cases, should achieve the result state law allows. However, inclusion of language from the statute would guarantee property owners no worse than the outcome provided for by the legislature.

Our final concerns with Article X deal with transparency. (more…)

Yesterday morning, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved its first housing policy aimed at addressing affordable housing.  It took a while, but we’ve finally put on our big boy pants.  You may recall back in January the city rolled out a Market Value Analysis that measured housing across Dallas to map the varying levels of housing and costs. There wasn’t a lot of shock on the large scale of Northern Dallas being better off than Southern Dallas. But the block-by-block analysis identified specific areas where an affordable housing policy might do some good.

Armed with that information, the city held many community meetings to discuss the findings and gain input on ways to address affordability in Dallas. Nearly 39,000 people participated on those in-person and call-in meetings.

The results of these efforts identified several issues … (download full policy here)

Despite all the building of the past few years, Dallas has a 20,000 housing unit shortfall in both purchase and rental housing. It’s not hard to see why in 2017 the median home price swelled by 9.1 percent, in part because available housing only grew 3.6 percent. Scarcity increases price.

Meanwhile, 60 percent of Dallas families, regardless of income, are cost burdened by their housing costs. This means they spend more than 30 percent of their net income on housing costs. This forces people to leave Dallas for cheaper suburbs that increase commute times and transportation costs, in effect burdening them in another way.

Adding to unaffordability are developers snatching any postage stamp of land in hot neighborhoods at exorbitant prices while leaving poorer neighborhoods begging for more housing. Cheap land and high building costs in areas with less economic power aren’t as profitable as projects in wealthy neighborhoods that generate top dollar. And so far, the glut of luxury apartment building shows little sign of abatement.

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District 14 Dallas City Council member was officially reprimanded by the council after using his office to post a video on Facebook about a fundraiser.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

Dallas City Council members engaged in a lengthy discussion on Wednesday about the so-called “Kingston ethical lapse.” The body was charged with voting on a recommendation from the Ethics Advisory Commission to reprimand Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston for using his city office to film a campaign video — a clear violation of the ethics code recently approved by Kingston and his colleagues.

I was there hoping to come away with a story about economic development and performing arts because I attended a presentation at The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth the day before. I wanted to see how this meeting would go and what outrage might ensue, especially with the bond program vote concluded, which included funding to repair several cultural and arts facilities such as the Wyly Theater.  I missed the arts item, but I did hear enough to appreciate Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze’s bathroom-wall article posed early (4 a.m.!) this morning.

Schutze referred to his weekly paper as the dish. If that is true, then I write for the dirt! Councilmember Lee Kleinman called Kingston’s lapse “going too far” and said it was “just wrong,” according to a story in The Dallas Morning News by Tristan Hallman. I missed that part of the conversation, but I sat down in time to hear Councilman Adam Medrano (a personal friend of Kingston’s) say, “Philip made a dumb mistake.” Or did he? Who knows? Who cares? This meeting was all about Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, and I heard every word from that dude. Council meetings with that guy in office are free, front-row tickets to the funny show.

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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?

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