It was contentious, a lot. In fact, at one point almost anyone remotely affiliated with a Scott Griggs supporter was blocked by mayoral candidate Eric Johnson on social media. But in the end, he not only unblocked everyone, according to his campaign, but he also won a fairly combative race to become Dallas’ next mayor.

Johnson beat Griggs 55 percent to 44 percent.

Click on map to see larger version.

The tone Johnson took Saturday night was much lighter as he spoke to supporters after Griggs conceded. 

After making his way to the stage and hugging his wife, Johnson took a deep breath.

“This is one of those moments that you think you’re prepared for, but you’re just never prepared for something like this,” he said, going on to thank Griggs for his years of service to the city. (more…)

Who stands to benefit if District 14’s Philip Kingston is ousted?

I used the above graphic when reporting Lincoln Property’s Katy Trail project failed to pass Dallas City Council in January (after failing City Plan Commission). It was a portend that I thought the arrogance shown by the developer throughout the process hadn’t ended. I’d heard the contract between Lincoln and the Turtle Creek Terrace condos had expired and not been renewed. I’d also heard that it hadn’t been canceled either and that the property was still actively looking to sell.

Just as District 13’s election revolved around development, it appears the District 14 runoff may have some of that same razzle-dazzle.

(more…)

candidates

Whether it’s city or school board candidates, politics play a big part in the health of Dallas — and therefore the health of the real estate market.

After the May 4 election, there were six races (five city and one Dallas ISD school board race) where none of the candidates reached the 50 percent threshold required to win outright, kicking off an extended election season that will culminate with a runoff election on June 8.

One such race was in District 14 race, where David Blewett blew past incumbent Philip Kingston in early voting and ended up with 47.63 percent of the vote to Kingston’s 40.38 percent by the end of the night.

We solicited questions from readers and voters to craft a comprehensive questionnaire for each individual race. Both Kingston and Blewett have answered our questionnaire, and some of their responses follow. Their full responses are at the end of this story. (more…)

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of our series of Dallas City Council candidate questionnaires. You can see the first here. We attempted to contact each candidate in every contested race (10 races total), and those who responded with a working email address received the same eight questions. We gave them until April 5 to respond. Below you’ll find the answers to our questions, which we did not edit or abridge.

We chose District 14 candidates Bobby Abtahi, Judy Liimatainen, and Jim Rogers to be our second group of questionnaires posted here on CandysDirt.com. District 14, a seat vacated by the popular Angela Hunt, has a wide field of candidates and is considered one of the biggest races to watch. While we sent questionnaires to all seven District 14 candidates, only three responded to our brief questionnaire. Find out more about these candidates and their views on hot-button Dallas real estate news and issues below.

RobertAbtahi

Bobby Abtahi

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

The Brookings Institution recently named Dallas among just three U.S. cities that are experiencing a full economic recovery in the aftermath of the recession. There is something for everyone in Dallas – our comparative affordability and a great diversity of product make Dallas a great place to live. In District 14 buyers can choose from Tudor-style cottages in Hollywood Heights and turn of the century mansions on Swiss Avenue to contemporary townhomes in Oak Lawn and high rises along Turtle Creek. I understand that District 14 needs a councilmember that will represent every neighborhood in the District and am proud to have the endorsements of both The Real Estate Council and MetroTex Association of Realtors.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high-volume growth?

Over the last decade District 14 grew by more than any other council district and I believe that trend will continue. The district includes some Dallas’ most dynamic communities: Oak Lawn, Turtle Creek, Uptown, Downtown, Arts District and the historic neighborhoods of East Dallas. In the last year we have begun to see revitalization along Ross Avenue, building on the established, original new urbanism neighborhood of Bryan Place, this trend will continue, including more townhome development.

A strong focus by the city on quality of life including safety, walkability and connectivity in our urban core will result in continued growth in many of center city neighborhoods. Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, Cedars, Oak Cliff and now West Dallas will continue to see growth spurred by a close proximity to Downtown, easier commutes, unique cultural experiences and a diversity of housing options.

Finally, Downtown has the greatest potential for accelerated growth – with a great swath of vacant land (parking lots) and the greatest capacity for density given its central location, high-density employment and walkability. As we see townhomes develop in the Farmer’s Market we will see a push north to connect to other areas and the critical mass of housing will trigger more retail and the cycle will continue.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

We must stabilize the neighborhoods of Southern Dallas. Having worked in those neighborhoods I understand that it takes a disciplined, holistic approach, doing something every day and ensuring engagement of the neighbors and stakeholders. I have worked in that area, rooting out drug houses and working to create safer neighborhoods. That is the base line for revitalization – ensuring that codes are followed and the neighborhood is safe. My area of concentration was the Lancaster Corridor. I would work with the elected and appointed representatives of the area and with the city staff to make certain that GrowSouth remains a priority.

I think we also need to remember that all neighborhoods have a list of priorities and as the councilmember I would like to work each neighborhood to outline a list of priorities and objectives that we can work to address and see how they fit together with surrounding areas and with the city’s resources and priorities. Some of the most successful neighborhoods are ones who have methodically worked through their priorities. And whether it is Southern Dallas or District 14 there are opportunities to work with folks like bcWORKSHOP or others where there are opportunities to “improve livability and viability of community.”

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

We must constantly look for areas of improvement and that means seeking out new ideas and implementing evidence based solutions. I would certainly be willing to look at studies of our policies that bring a fresh eye to our issues.

5. Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

As a former City Plan Commissioner, I know the importance of getting input from all sides of any zoning matter in order to build consensus. That involves speaking with the applicant, surrounding neighbors, and city staff amongst others. I have not had the opportunity to do that in this situation but am committed to doing so should the issue come to the City Council.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

It is truly a tragedy and a solution needs to be found. From the perspective of depoliticizing, probably the best thing that could happen is for it to be sold to a new owner. I am committed to meeting with Mayor Rawlings to be briefed on the situation and work to bring the sides back to the table for find resolution. Without resolution we are negatively impacting the value of both, which has a negative impact on the city in general.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

Self-determination is very important to our neighborhoods and water conservation is extremely important for our city. In my experience, the Landmark Commission is very interested in working with homeowners to find solutions that comply with historic preservation ordinances and meet contemporary property owner needs. Unfortunately, when the property owner doesn’t make application before installation (as in this case), the process becomes more complicated.

In walking the area, knocking on doors and talking to residents, I’ve seen a number of approved landscapes that would require very minimal watering using drought tolerant native plants, drip systems, etc. – meeting both needs of water conservation and the historic context of the area. I think the homeowner and the city can work through this to find a viable solution to achieve both goals. Dallas Water Utilities has a number of programs to educate citizens on water conservation and the use of drought tolerant, native landscapes. For the future there would certainly be an opportunity to hold community meetings in historic areas with member task forces, residents and DWU to discuss neighborhood options for the future.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

Dallas needs a strong, contemporary gas drilling ordinance that protects our neighborhoods and precious natural resources, as well as addresses evolving technologies. Locating intense industrial uses close to residential areas, parks, or environmentally sensitive areas is not good policy and we need to be consistent in those decisions. I was one of three City Plan Commissioners to vote against allowing a concrete crushing operation to locate near a new children’s outdoor soccer complex, a position later supported by the City Council.

As we move forward to update ordinances based on our best knowledge and to address current concerns we also need to keep a critical eye on the Legislature to ensure that local control is not infringed upon and oversight capability is not diminished.

Judy Liimatainen

Judy Liimatainen

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

The Dallas area did not experience the job loss in the recession as much as other cities. We also did not have the run up in prices in real estate compared to some of the other areas of the city. We are lucky to have very diverse choices fairly close to the city in a wide range of prices.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high volume growth?

I think the rehabbing of the area around Knox/ Henderson will continue grow. Most of the city proper is fairly well built out and the only way is up.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

All of southern Dallas is of need of help. Until we have something to anchor stable neighborhoods around I am afraid it will be a hard sell.

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

I would have to do some research on that to provide an answer to this question

5. Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

I do think that if lights were installed the current residents would have to have a lot of input on rules and regulations if it went forward. I don’t think that the property owners should suffer property value loss.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

I do not think that the Nasher should adapt. That building was developed with the light coming in, in a very diffused way and that is how the works of art are arranged and exhibited. I think the burden is on the Museum Tower to come up with a good compromise without one of the jewels in crown of the arts district. I do think that developers and architects will have to in the future be very mindful of their designs and their neighbors.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

As a former Landscaper Designer I think the time has come for the city of Dallas and perhaps the country will have to come to grips with the fact that water is a finite resource and we should plan accordingly. I think that with some creative use of native material we can create looks that will enhance our historic homes and not take away.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

Fracking is a very controversial topic that has to be decided on a case by case process. I do not think that it should be done on or near parks, residential areas. I do not support compressor stations anywhere near the public. I think if the city does engage in contracts they must be looked at carefully to make sure that the city gets the most out of the contract.

Jim Rogers

Jim Rogers

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

The strength of the Dallas real estate market is jobs and the Texas economy. These are aided by geographical location and Texas not having an income tax while having lots of oil and gas. Our central location with excellent transportation alternatives helps sell Dallas/Ft. Worth as a distribution center. Our history as a financial and technology center and the many higher education alternatives attract and keep quality jobs and highly qualified people.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high volume growth?

Within and/or adjacent to District 14, the areas of continued growth are downtown, Farmer’s Market and the hospital and design districts. The area bounded by Central, Henderson and Live Oak is an area of much potential. With 42 Realty having purchased 32 Deep Ellum properties, ready to invest in them and aggressively marketing them, I expect to see dramatic progress there.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

The Southern Dallas area needs attention and I believe the Mayor’s Grow South Plan is a good step in that direction. My one suggested enhancement of that plan would be to include a focus on elementary schools along with the middle and high schools. Studies show that reading proficiency at the third and fourth grade levels are very predictive of one’s probability of graduating from high school.

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

Yes, I would support such a study by a proven consultant.

5. Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

As a full-time council member, I would be available to listen to all sides even though the property is not in District 14. The councilperson whose district includes the property should be most familiar with all the issues and the reality of the politics at city hall today is that the position of the district’s councilperson is almost always supported by the rest of the council. These are the reasons it is so critical that District 14 have a full-time councilperson who has the time to meet with everyone, is a good listener, and has shown by his/her actions that s/he will be respectful of everyone and work diligently to protect neighborhoods. These are some of the reasons neighborhood leaders recruited me and are working hard to help me become the next District 14 councilperson. With the Planning Commission having voted in favor by14-1 on February 21, it appears the current plan is a win/win.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

First, I think it is very unfortunate that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund chose to become the “developer” of the Museum Tower. The initial building planned for that site was less than half as tall and reflectivity was a major consideration in the planning for that building. That being the case, the reflectivity issue should not have been a surprise and should have been addressed during design so the problem never happened. At this point, if the reports are true that the glare is sufficiently intense to damage the trees and other landscape in the Nasher, I fail to see how any alterations that do not reduce the glare will be effective.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

I support allowing alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials but I believe strongly in self-determination and believe it should be up to the individual districts to set their guidelines. Homeowners within each district invested thousands of hours developing and getting their district. Their efforts should be respected, not minimized, and the city should not run over them roughshod. Having talked with them, it is my impression that the new homeowners were not adequately notified of and educated about the historic district rules or they would have sought a Certificate of Appropriateness and this problem would not have occurred. This weakness should be corrected.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

I was on the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee for three years, including when the Dallas drilling ordinance was last reviewed. We were well educated about the drilling and fracking processes. The issue is not nearly as simple and many would like to argue. In addition to the obvious, there are the issues of intense trucking, dust, huge amounts of water used, contaminated water disposal, damage to roads and streets, pollution from compressor engines, etc., etc. Since no one can guarantee that there will be no drilling accidents or pipeline failures, there is no question that it poses a danger to residents and businesses not only nearby but all along the required pipelines. My primary concern was and is protecting Dallas citizens, our neighborhoods, our businesses and the environment.