“And that’s my fear. A city that is more lenient than the neighborhood, resulting in even more being built. Many think of the towers as being an aberration in the neighborhood. They’re not — they’re a harbinger.”

I wrote those words in December 2017 after having resigned from the first PD-15 task force. The quote was near the end of two columns on what I thought would be the best solution for PD-15. With the issue unanimously passing Dallas City Council last week, let’s revisit those columns.

Residential Proximity Slope

The first part outlined the rationale of my thinking. Rereading it, it still holds water. I said the rest of the Pink Wall outside PD-15 was unlikely to redevelop due to ancient deed restrictions and the height limitations brought about by the Residential Proximity Slope (RPS).

The deed restrictions are particularly tricky.

Pink Wall Neighborhood – Preston Road on left, Northwest Highway on bottom

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Back in June when the results of the PD-15 traffic study were presented, Winstead attorney Tommy Mann noted that if the neighborhood wanted Tulane Blvd. opened to Northwest Highway, they needed to seize “lightning in a bottle.”

Mann represents Preston Place owners, which paid for the traffic study.

What Mann was saying was that with all the focus on rewriting the antiquated PD, there would be no better time to get the right people in the room to figure this out. Those people finally got into a room last Thursday led by Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association city liaison Claire Stanard.

The meeting included council member Jennifer Gates, Michael Morris of North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG), Mo Bur of TxDOT and two of his colleagues, plus David Nevarez, senior traffic engineer for the City of Dallas.

Stanard’s overarching point was that given that the parcels within PD-15 would likely be developed by multiple developers, there needed to be a master plan for how traffic would function as a whole. Otherwise, the developers might not come together for the heavy lifting of opening Tulane Blvd. to flush traffic directly on/off Northwest Highway instead of circuitous routes through the neighborhood.

It’s an idea I floated a year ago and have continuously supported. Stanard took the “lightening in a bottle” and ran with it.

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Armed with scant facts and heavy hyperbole, hired hand Brett Shipp held a “press conference” next to Preston Tower Wednesday morning to bemoan the PD-15 zoning case that will finally land in the hands of the Dallas City Council (for better or worse) on September 11.

Around 50 to 60 people attended. As Robert Wilonsky dubbed them, “the party of no,” consisted of the same handful of people including Bill Kritzer, Carla Percival-Young, and Steve Dawson — all of whom you will see featured in any other press coverage. But not all were there to protest development. I stood with a dozen who supported the city’s recommendations.

Those against the restructuring of PD-15, which includes much of the neighborhoods behind the Pink Wall at Preston Road and Northwest Highway, also continued their upwards march on how opposed the area is to the city’s plan. We’ve seen 60 percent, then 70, now we’re up to 80 percent opposition. The funny thing is, their numbers aren’t swelling. With that much opposition, “the party of no” this morning would have swelled to hundreds, but it hasn’t.

And of course, this press conference was choreographed …

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PD-15 Map

At Wednesday’s Dallas City Council hearing, the same arguments surrounding the planned development district behind the Pink Wall were shouted, but nothing changed.

If I could sum up the bizarre and illogical nature of the PD-15 opposition to development, it would be when the Athena’s Barbara Dewberry stood up and (again) shouted that the neighborhood doesn’t want green space that will attract outsiders. Making it more worthy of eye-rolling were those who clapped in support (although a few seated in back of me said they welcomed green space in PD-15’s concrete jungle).

Not to be outdone, about a quarter to a third of the audience clapped when council member Jennifer Gates said that if nothing comes from the Authorized Hearing, nothing would be built because what could be built isn’t economically viable.

Of course, before we got to the more brouhaha-y part of the meeting, we listened to an overview of Plan Commission’s approved document and city staff’s rewrite of their rewrite. Even as much as I’ve studied these documents — it was a rough half-hour — I can imagine it sounded like a foreign film without subtitles for most attendees.

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At last night’s meeting regarding PD-15 at Preston Road and Northwest Highway, it appeared that those opposed to redevelopment of the area are also opposed to facts.

When the author of a recent traffic study showed how the PD-15 traffic study was conducted and its conclusions, his reward was being peppered by non-believers in return. Color me shocked.

Last night, Steve Stoner, Director of Traffic Engineering with Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers, presented his findings on traffic in and around PD-15 to 30-40 residents. Stoner holds a master’s degree in civil engineering and is an accredited Texas Professional Engineer (P.E.) and Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (P.T.O.E). He has been in the field for 25 years. Suffice it to say this ain’t his first traffic rodeo.

And yet, as predicted, the group of unqualified attendees (likely reading any traffic study for the first time) who disagree with redevelopment in PD-15, questioned his “veracity,” methods, and conclusions. We live in an age where facts are only facts if they support your worldview. Contradictory facts must be questioned to revalidate preconceptions – as happened last night.

There were also insinuations that his conclusions were beholden to those who paid his fee. Of course, those doing the insinuating have yet to fund their own traffic study. It’s easier and less risky to dump on someone else’s work.

Some were surprised that the traffic study wasn’t the all-encompassing, baton-twirling report with a cherry on top they’d thought it would be. That’s fair, if you’ve not seen a traffic study, you have no frame of reference on what they deliver.

The results reviewed by Stoner mirrored what I wrote previously (unsurprising since I was giving a book report on his findings). You can read them here.

But there was more to this meeting than a book report.

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If traffic is the major argument against redevelopment in PD-15, a new study could render it moot.

The traffic study, conducted by Pacheco Koch and funded by the Preston Place condos, was posted online Tuesday and makes for interesting reading. The map above shows the study area bounded by Preston Road, Northwest Highway, Walnut Hill, and Hillcrest Road. It goes well beyond just PD-15 which should be good news for the surrounding Pink Wall and Preston Hollow neighborhoods.

The report itself is 120 pages long with two 15-page sub-reports on the potential of adding traffic signals to either Edgemere Road or Tulane Boulevard at Northwest Highway. Skimpy it ain’t (so I’ll excuse you to read the first 19 pages).

What makes this report different from other traffic studies I’ve read is that it includes extensive thought and recommendations on how things currently work and could work in the future. While I’m open to nearly all its findings, I have an issue with their thoughts on opening Tulane Boulevard. But I get ahead of myself, let’s start with the traffic numbers before we visit how to shuffle it around.

Looking back to the comments from an April 24 column I wrote, a reader asked what I thought the traffic impact would be.  I answered my best armchair estimation saying we needed to wait until the professionals delivered their goods.

How’d I do?

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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).

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If traffic and density are supposedly the issues most feared by PD-15 development, we need an accurate measuring stick to insert reality into the discussion. The coming traffic study will do that, but …

In the fullness of time, I started to think about one of the tidbits from last week’s PD-15 meeting with City Plan Commission. As I reported, the chief opposition speaker was Carla Percival-Young, an architect with Alabama-based GMC and an Athena resident. She was asked if a coming traffic study revealed negligible effects on the neighborhood, would the opposition have a re-think.  The answer was no because they disagreed with every aspect of the proposed updated PD-15 draft. Later she was asked what she thought was a fair number of units per acre. After hesitation, she replied 60 units per acre compared to the draft’s recommendation of 90 units per acre – 30 units less per acre.

Some things began to gnaw at me.

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