Dallas City Council chambers were not as packed as expected on Sept. 11, 2019, as PD-15 came up on the agenda.

  • Dallas City Council unanimously passed city staff’s plan for PD-15, which compromised on height, topping out at 240 feet.
  • Some small changes were made to the plan.

The general wisdom is that any city council vote requiring a supermajority due to opposition will be a nail-biter. And while certainly many a nail was chewed to the quick, it was all for naught. After blissfully little speech-a-fying on both sides, Dallas City Council voted unanimously to pass city staff’s sorta plan for 240-foot heights on Northwest Highway – instead of the full cherry-on-top 310-foot heights Plan Commission had passed one vote shy of unanimously.

Will this result in affordable housing? Unlikely. And that’s a pity.

Councilmember Jennifer Gates listed a slew of minor tinkers to the staff recommendation that I’ll have to get to later (I can’t write as fast as she can rattle off). But generally, it’s 240-feet across Northwest Highway and 96-feet behind. Assuming a 10-foot ceiling height, that’s essentially 21-stories and eight-stories.

While some in the neighborhood might say it’s too much, I will say it’s a heck of a lot less than was proposed decades ago. And it’s a bit sad to live in a future that’s less bold than yesterday.

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I’ve written about new developments in the Oak Lawn and Preston Hollow areas for a few years. Many of you have read about the PD-15 antics with the same hoary relish you watch a reality show. But as Dallas grows, and development reaches into more neighborhoods, there are lessons to be learned once you cut through the caustic tomfoolery.

By-Right vs. Zoning Cases

There are two kinds of developments – by-right and those requiring a zoning case. In a by-right situation, there’s not a lot you can do, it’s as it says on the tin, by right. A building permit is filed and they’re off to the races.

Construction requiring a zoning case is where the action is at. Whether large or small, any variance to a property’s underlying zoning requires the approval of that exception. Those cases are filed at City Hall and are then publicized in the immediate neighborhood – typically within 500 feet of the edges of the property filing the case. Those cases are taken up by and require approval from the City Plan Commission and the City Council. Between all that is the community wooing.

And if you’re going to be wooed by developers, there are some things you should know.

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bribe

Royal Crest Apartments, as shown on AmeriSouth’s website.

Jeremy “Jay” Scroggins pleaded guilty Tuesday to funneling alleged bribes from real estate developer Ruel Hamilton to the late former city council person Carolyn Davis.

Hamilton, the AmeriSouth Realty Group founder and CEO, was indicted in March on two counts of bribery. Davis pleaded guilty to taking bribes from him that same month.

Davis admitted to taking bribes while she was Housing Committee chair, sometime between November 2013 and June 2015. Her plea agrees that she took $40,000 from a developer for her assistance in getting an affordable housing project passed. (more…)

Dallas

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

With a mayoral and city council election still rather close in the rearview mirror, a recent WalletHub study into the best and worst run cities in the country — and where Dallas falls on that list — highlights some of the issues that drove at least a few people to the polls twice.

The study, which was released earlier this month, sought to measure the effectiveness of local leadership by focusing on how efficiently a city was run.

“In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget,” the report explained.

WalletHub compared 150 of the largest U.S. cities, constructing a “quality of services” score comprised of 37 benchmarks grouped into six service categories, which were then measured against the city’s per-capita budget.

Source: WalletHub

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Yesterday, the results of the PD-15 authorized hearing had their first airing with City Plan Commission. Those expecting a knock-down, drag-out were disappointed. Those relishing hypocrisy, dipped in pretension, were not disappointed.

It was explained that because the opposition to the city’s PD-15 draft had paid the fee to postpone the meeting originally scheduled on March 21, the meeting had to take place that day because a postponement sets a clock ticking. Because of that, and the unavailability of the much-awaited traffic study, the CPC hearing was ultimately split into two parts. Traffic issues and more discussion will take place at the June 6 CPC meeting.

CPC chair Gloria Tarpley set out the game plan from the beginning so everyone understood what was being accomplished that day. Zoning cases usually have an applicant (someone wanting to do something) but the authorized hearing didn’t. So the meeting disposed of the usual presentation of whizzy graphs and ambitious drawings. Instead, Tarpley opened it up to public comment for those in support of the city’s recommendation and those opposed.

First up were those in support (myself included – I’m a PD-15 resident). I’m going to call it 10 people who spoke. Their comments can be bucketed into:

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Vital. Groups. Knee. That’s the three-word address of Dallas City Hall – no number, no street, no zip code.

It’s how you would find 1500 Marilla using What 3 Words. The company has covered the world in a 3-meter square grid (10 feet) and assigned each one a unique three-word code. What appears to be a party game at first glance is a lot more (click here to explore your address).

The operation was founded in 2013 because addresses were imprecise for deliveries – which loading dock, which section of the park, etc.? Beyond that, over 75 percent of the globe has poor or non-existent addresses – and then there’s the oceans and seas.

Precision of location is the name of the game and investors have taken note with millions invested in the technology. For consumers and real estate agents, there are great uses for the free app available for both Android and Apple users. First is the location pinpointing. If you’re in a rural area, the accuracy is unlike what you’re used to. Using What 3 Words for selling property with considerable acreage definitely makes meeting a buyer or Realtor on-property a snap (no more arm waving, horn honking, and light flashing). The location is within a 10-foot-by-10-foot square.

You can also tag photos with What 3 Word addresses so not only can a buyer find the property, but they know precisely where the agent snapped pictures. For the digital egotist, you can add the What 3 Word designation to photos of your lunch or the sunset you just enjoyed. The apps also support speech recognition so you can tell it to remember or find a precise location without typing.

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U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox (center) announces the guilty plea of former Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Davis, and the indictment of Dallas developer Ruel Hamilton.

Former Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a local developer, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Friday.

AmeriSouth Realty Group founder and CEO Ruel Hamilton was indicted on two counts of bribery as well, officials said. Documents for both Davis’ plea and Hamilton’s indictments were unsealed Friday.

US Attorney Erin Nealy Cox told reporters Friday that her office has “relentlessly” addressed public corruption cases in the last 14 months.

“And today, the reckoning continues,” she said.

Carolyn Davis

Davis admits to taking bribes while she was Housing Committee chair, sometime between November 2013 and June 2015. Her plea agrees that she took $40,000 from a developer for her assistance in getting an affordable housing project passed.

While Davis’ charges do not name Hamilton directly (he is called Person A), Hamilton is charged with two counts of bribery regarding local government receiving federal benefits.

Davis’ official charge is conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs using federal funds.

“In return for the money — plus the offer of a consulting contract once her tenure at the City Council concluded — Council Member Davis admits she lobbied and voted for the authorization of a $2.5 million development loan to fund the Royal Crest housing project, along with a City of Dallas resolution supporting 9 percent tax credits for Royal Crest, which was competing with another project,” the DOJ’s press release said.

On its website, AmeriSouth touts 14 projects in six Texas cities, including Royal Crest. (more…)

Windmass Capital’s Vision for Colorado Blvd at Marsalis Ave in North Oak Cliff

After over a year of meeting with neighbors, stakeholders, and City of Dallas staff, the WindMass Capital development team has thrown in the towel just before this Wednesday’s City Council meeting where they would have been on the agenda to move forward on a very complicated deal.

WindMass owns the Founders Square Apartments. Over the decades the building became surrounded on three sides by Oak Cliff‘s Founders Park. Long story short, they hoped to swap their 1.37 acres for the adjacent 1.37 acres on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Marsalis Ave., build a new mixed-use apartment building with retail on the ground floor, then demolish their old building, give it to the city all cleaned up like park land should be, and give a half million dollars to the city for additional park improvements. Sounds pretty crazy amazing, doesn’t it?

As Willis Winters, Director of the Park Department, said at the last Park Board meeting, the city has tried to purchase this property for years to make Founders Park more contiguous, but hasn’t been able to afford it.  This project would essentially accomplish that goal for the Parks Department.

Even neighbors and stakeholders were in support, a rare feat in itself!

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