[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.]

While Thursday’s meeting fell short of the usual fireworks PD-15 brings about, the City Plan Commission asked some great questions regarding city staff’s proposed changes to PD-15.

In the lead-up to City Plan Commission’s public hearing on staff’s proposal for updating PD-15, staff briefed plan commissioners Thursday morning at Vital. Groups. Knee. Senior Planner Andrew Ruegg, who’s led the process so far, presented essentially the same slides as were shown to the community two weeks ago.

What the few who went to the meeting were most interested in were the questions and comments from the other commissioners. I give a “Hallelujah!” to CPC chair Gloria Tarpley for commenting that the 3-D images shown of the proposed changes would have been welcome at other cases. How the city can be devising “words on paper” documents reflecting 3-D realities without 3-D models has always been a mystery. It should be ante to the game.

The first questions were from District 11 appointee Janie Schultz. First, she was curious whether the requirement for a street lamp every 50-feet was adequate. While boilerplate, staff said they’d look into it. Schultz’ second question concerned the affordable housing sweeteners and whether anyone would use them. The suspicion is that along the northern side they will be unlikely to be used, while on the Northwest Highway side they may if the developer wants to get near tapping any height. It kind of goes to what I’ve been saying that if the buildable envelope doesn’t grow, it’s just cannibalizing market-rate units for affordable units.

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Fifty years after last school bell rang for attendees, front rows are still last to fill

[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com who lives in District 13. His opinions are his own.]

The community gathered last night to discuss PD-15, and honestly, I expected this to be a “bottle of rotgut and a bullet to bite on” kind of meeting. But it wasn’t. To be sure, when the public comment section came around there was no shortage of strong words on every side of this issue. Former Dallas mayor and District 13 city council candidate Laura Miller gave her 2-cents when everyone else had gotten one. (More later)

In a bizarre coincidence, earlier in the day I’d read about the jet stream’s current velocity pushing eastbound airplanes as fast as 801 miles per hour — which is about how fast city planner Andrew Ruegg zipped through 96 slides in about 40 minutes at last night’s second PD-15 community meeting. While some of the city’s all-important graphics could have benefitted from a few more seconds on the screen, it was a comprehensive overview of the draft proposal being delivered to city plan commission on March 21.

Note to city: Graphics of exactly what’s on the table are critical to comprehension. They should be there at the get-go, not batting clean-up.

But just as the Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan didn’t take economics into consideration, the city’s PD document really didn’t either. It would have been helpful to have had a “likely outcome” section.

You see, while the land bordering Northwest Highway is proposed to allow 240-foot heights, It’s not probable that’s what will be built. Let me explain …

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Last night I broke the story on D Magazine of former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller’s apparent last-minute run for District 13’s council seat against incumbent Jennifer Gates. To review, I received an email inviting Athena condo residents to stop by HOA president Georgia Sue Black’s home to sign Miller’s petition. Candidates need 25 signatures to register as a candidate.

We checked at 3:30 p.m., and Miller had indeed filed the preliminary paperwork to be a candidate.

One reason (and perhaps the only) Miller seems to be running is her staunch opposition to any redevelopment in the area. Certainly, she’s been against every zoning case I’ve been aware of – outside area mansion add-ons – Highland House, sky bridge, Laurel apartments, St. Michael’s and all Angels, Pink Wall’s PD-15, etc..

The photo above was snapped in front of the 21-story Athena condos on Northwest Highway. Originally, these signs were near the St. Michael’s Frederick Square project. Coincidentally, Miller’s Campaign Treasurer is Doug Deason, the son of Darwin Deason who owns an 18,000 square foot condo on Douglas Avenue in back of the church’s proposed development.

Behind the Pink Wall, the irony of high-rise residents opposing any others is missed by a mile by residents. It smacks of a 2017 case where Toll Brothers sought approval for a high-rise in a high-rise-zoned area of Oak Lawn.  In that case, residents of The Plaza I & II high rises were bitterly opposed and equally oblivious to their own hypocrisy.

Now that Miller has filed, one imagines she can slap “Vote Laura Miller” on the “No More Towers” signs pockmarking the neighborhood.

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Incorrect and highly misleading graphic used to represent city’s draft proposal

When I first heard about Preston Tower and Athena owners meeting to discuss PD-15, I nicknamed it a “witch burning” and it did not disappoint. Bill Kritzer, the main speaker from Preston Tower, accusingly called out Council Member Jennifer Gates’ name so many times that if she had a dollar for each utterance, she could fund the Preston Center garage out of petty cash.

The troubles of the world were heaped on her shoulders, every real or imagined slight (OK, they were all imagined) dumped on her doorstep. Meanwhile praise was reserved for the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) and its work for the neighborhood. I find that praise comical. It was PHSNA leadership that gave residents the Laurel apartments – that are universally reviled. So the talk track was that the Laurel process was better because the developer met with PHSNA leadership – but the neighborhood wound up with a building they hate. Somehow that irony was lost on the packed house at the Athena.

The Laurel: hated by a neighborhood that wants more just like it

Also lost on the group was the understanding that the Laurel building they hate is three and four stories – the same height they cheered for. While the biggest example, it was hardly the last piece of incoherent thinking observed. Had their been Kool-Aid, there’d have been a fight for the pitcher.

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This just in…

Recommendation carves Preston Tower separated to maintain existing commercial office space

The original, decades-old PD-15 documentation is faulted for its lack of clarity. Unfortunately, the new document reflecting city staff’s recommendations has its own issues with clarity (Draft PD and Presentation).  You will recall that last November, Council Member Jennifer Gates sent the second neighborhood committee home after being bogged down a second time by non-negotiable towers’ representatives. During the two ensuing months, city staff were to have created their own recommendations based on their research and experience. Unfortunately, given the output, I suspect work only began after the Christmas wrapping paper was cleared.

First, the document doesn’t stand on its own as an obviously understandable document. Instead, questions abound, requiring significant explanation by city staff at last night’s meeting. Hopefully as the draft tightens, these ambiguities are made clear to future readers.

For those who enjoy spoilers, the city’s recommendations call for the area between northwest Highway and Diamond Head Circle to support 240-foot heights, while from Diamond Head Circle northward to the alley could build to 96 feet in height. Overall, the PD would equalize density at 90 units per acre. The rough result would be 540-750 total units (405-615 new). Why the spread? You’ll have to read to the end.

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Sunday may be a day of rest, but it seems that journalists, politicians, and Twitter never really rest, and that was borne out yesterday when Dallas city councilmember Jennifer Gates took to Twitter to air her feelings about a recent op-ed about Preston Center traffic woes that former Mayor and Preston Hollow resident Laura Miller wrote for the Dallas Morning News.

We were, of course, sitting up for this super straight. Because over at CandysDirt.com, we’ve been writing about Pink Wall/Preston Center shenanigans for years now, and our own Jon Anderson has been doggedly covering the issues Miller wrote about — to a different conclusion, natch — for years now as he covers PD-15. And before he picked up the baton, Candy was writing about it as well. Candy has also been transparent about owning property there, as does Miller (through her husband, Steve Wolens, who inherited an Athena unit) except she was not so transparent. And we were the first media outlet to report the terrible Preston Place condo fire in which a woman lost her life.

Miller wrote in the Dallas Morning News about the prospects for the Pink Wall and Preston Center (and that interchange), and then said this:

“On the other side of Preston Center, council member Jennifer Gates and Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy have been pushing for 18 months to up-zone the 12 acres in and around the Athena and Preston Tower so developers can demolish four low-rise condo complexes and replace them with rental-apartment towers as high as 25 stories. Hal Anderson, who designed and developed the iconic Pink Wall community 60 years ago — one of the last fully owner-occupied, tree-lined, condo communities in Dallas — would be heartbroken.”

And that was news to a lot of people, including Jon (more on that in a minute), who not only lives at The Athena but has been faithfully covering the meetings surrounding the issue for years, and, apparently, to Gates, who took to Twitter to insist she hadn’t taken a position, and in fact had been seeking neighborhood input

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Pink Wall “accountants” using the latest technology

Attention developers! Forget LinkedIn — if you’re looking for accountants and financial analysts anxious to help you avoid monetary missteps, look no further than the PD-15 authorized hearing steering committee. Sure, they’re (very) long in the tooth, but last night’s meeting showcased a half hour of endless financial advice and “deep” research into how precisely PD-15 should be developed to avoid catastrophe.  After decades of unending failure, their assistance would be a comfort, no?

To reiterate, it is not the purview of the committee to make amateur stabs in the dark as to what product a developer should build (except that the buildable envelope is capable of supporting a project of reasonable profitability). It’s not up to the committee to decide the appropriate level of risk, the market timing or whether Dallas is overbuilding. The same way you don’t waltz into an operating room and bump the surgeon out of the way.

So the first half hour and untold amounts of oxygen were essentially wasted. Where was the city’s guiding hand of the last meeting?

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