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  • September 03, 2019 7:44 AM | Anonymous

    The Dallas Morning News
    By Robert Wilonsky

    "Residents want it to stay like it was when they moved in in 1970," said council member Jennifer Staubach Gates.

    In the shadow of Preston Tower, this burned-out husk of a concrete parking garage is all that remains of the Preston Place condo building that still hasn't been removed or replaced since the fire of March 2017.

    In the shadow of Preston Tower, this burned-out husk of a concrete parking garage is all that remains of the Preston Place condo building that still hasn't been removed or replaced since the fire of March 2017.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

    Around 7:30 Labor Day morning, just as the sun began its ascent over the treetops, some 30 men and women gathered in front of a garden apartment complex for orange juice, cereal bars and pastry. There was to be a march along Northwest Highway, but some residents feared treading along the roadway despite the absence of traffic on a holiday. This is how a Preston Hollow protest became a Preston Hollow block party.

    Breakfast was served by Citizens Advocating Responsible Development — a new group with a familiar story if you've spent the last three years following the tussle over 14.2 acres of prime Preston Hollow real estate behind a pink wall that's no longer pink and barely even a wall in some spots.

    "We're called 'the no people,'" said Carla Percival-Young, who lives in the Athena high-rise on Northwest Highway. "And that was done purposefully by the other side," said Steve Dawson, a University Park resident who owns a condo complex on a corner of this neighborhood.

    They shrug off the moniker, say they're just protecting the neighborhood, their investments, their people. They say they're all for new things as long as they're not too high or too close to the garden apartments planted in the 1950s and the high-rises that came after.

    "We're very concerned by that label," Percival-Young said as we walked the neighborhood filled with residents who've lived there since the Johnson administration. But, Dawson added, "we've always been mischaracterized that way."

    Residents at a Preston Hollow block party on Labor Day. Don't mince words. How do y'all really feel?Residents at a Preston Hollow block party on Labor Day. Don't mince words. How do y'all really feel?(Robert Wilonsky / Staff writer)


    Mischaracterized, they say, by staffers and officials at City Hall, where in June the plan commission endorsed adding more density to that slice of Preston Hollow. And by developers ready to build new things behind the falling-down pinkish wall. And by their increasingly anxious neighbors who actually do want tall towers and public parks weaved into an aging neighborhood still traumatized by the fire that claimed the Preston Place complex and one of its residents in the spring of 2017.

    I walked up Monday morning to a giant banner draped over the exterior of the Gas Light Manor on Bandera Avenue. It read "STOP OVER-DEVELOPMENT!" with a red "no" circle stamped over a sketch of the downtown skyline. Two smaller signs stapled to a wooden stake were planted in the front garden apartment's yard. "NO MORE TOWERS!!" said one; the other, "HELP SAVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD FROM DENSE URBANIZATION." Throughout the neighborhood, plenty of yards are decorated with "No More Towers In Preston Center, Fix the Traffic First" signs.

    I mean, you must admit, that's a lot of no, people.

    In a week's time, the Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on a plan that would rezone this small area called Planned Development District 15. The new PD15 would essentially allow for twice the number of condos than currently allowed. And it would let developers build high-rises here, five decades after Preston Tower and the Athena, which bracketed the late Preston Place, were constructed to great fanfare — and not a peep of opposition.

    This Lego model of PD15 was on display at Monday's block party/protest. The red is as high as some residents say they're willing to go.This Lego model of PD15 was on display at Monday's block party/protest. The red is as high as some residents say they're willing to go.(Robert Wilonsky / Staff photographer)

    Next week's vote, if not deferred, comes four years after residents began fighting development along Preston Road and Northwest Highway — shrinking or scuttling altogether proposals for the 27-story Highland House, the Laurel apartment complex, the sky bridge and parking garage in Preston Center. There have been task forces and town halls and area plans. Laura Miller even came out of political retirement to run against development, only to get run over at the polls.

    PD15 is a zoning document, not a developer's plan. But the mere possibility of more — more stories, more people, more cars on Northwest Highway and the area's wide and quiet streets — panics some residents, among them high-rise dwellers who have lived here for decades along a stretch of Northwest Highway that resembles Miami Beach. C.A.R.D. members say they foresee a future in which they're surrounded by more tall towers and the greige boxes that have consumed so many other neighborhoods in this city.

    "Residents want it to stay like it was when they moved in in 1970," said council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who has spent most of her six years on the council trying to find a path forward for this well-off neighborhood encased in amber.

    I've been to so many meetings on the subject, including one called by Miller in the Athena lobby on a snowy Sunday, I lost interest about three years ago. Except now, the neighborhood shows obvious signs of slow-creeping rot. A unit at the Royal Orleans, one of the six parcels making up this 14.2-acre area, was recently boarded up. Owners of the condos inside the PD, including the Diplomat, are doing what they can to keep the decades-old building just standing and sound.

    If the council ultimately decides against the PD rewrite, it's possible if not likely that decay will only return. Developers will not want to sink more and more money into land where they will not find a return on their investment.

    "I just want to do what's right," Gates said Monday. "I want to do what's right for the progress needed there."

    Residents have chosen this new moniker — Citizens Advocating Responsible Development — because they insist they're not aginners. But that depends on your perspective: On what remains of Preston Place's charred parking garage, the PD15 redo could allow a building as high as 310 feet, if developers offer green space or affordable housing or other good things. CARD's pamphlet wants to stunt its growth at a mere 90 feet.

    "We all agree there needs to be development," Athena resident Barbara Dewberry emailed me after Monday's meeting. "But it needs to be responsible, not too dense and not too tall."

    In the shadow of Preston Tower, this burned-out husk of a concrete parking garage is all that remains of the Preston Place condo building that still hasn't been removed or replaced since the fire of March 2017.In the shadow of Preston Tower, this burned-out husk of a concrete parking garage is all that remains of the Preston Place condo building that still hasn't been removed or replaced since the fire of March 2017. (Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)


    Dewberry and other pink-wallers began writing a couple of weeks ago, insisting their concerns have been unheeded at City Hall, their compromises unwelcomed. Dewberry reiterated what a dozen others told me Monday morning: Theirs is "one of the most affordable, best situated neighborhoods in Dallas. We need unique neighborhoods like this in our city, and they are worth protecting and retaining."

    And that is a point worth listening to, because this is a unique and lovely neighborhood; its ruination would be shameful. Averill Way and Bandera, behind the high-rises, look like New Orleans and Colonial Williamsburg had a fling with Miami Beach in the 1950s. The buildings have names that sound like something out of a film noir or retirement community brochure: Gas Light Manor, Royal Arms, Park Fontaine, Prestwick Manor, Fountainbleu.

    Some have pools out front. They were empty Monday morning, though my whole life I can't remember seeing anyone using them. Some of the places look mid-century modern; a few, like the front of a Benihana. "Eclectic," Dawson says of this area.

    "These are transitional properties," Dawson said as we walked down Bandera, meaning they "give you that single-family feel" without the upkeep that comes with having your own lawn and pool.

    This is what the residents want to protect. Well, that and their views from the Athena and Preston Tower. As we stood on the street Monday, they kept insisting they don't want their neighborhood turned into Manhattan ... or the next West Village. Or Uptown. Or Bishop Arts.

    "It's all throughout the city — develop, develop, develop," said Bill Kritzer, a Preston Tower resident serving as C.A.R.D.'s president. "And the city needs to respect the homeowners' view."

    But this fight is nothing new. In July 1973 there were plans to construct a 22-story apartment building called Chateau du Monde between the Athena and Preston Tower. Residents found several reasons to oppose the construction, among them "snarled traffic" — plus ça change. The City Council ultimately approved the tower's construction.

    Except it was never built. Because the developer ran out of money. So instead this area wound up with the far shorter Preston Place, whose destruction led to this new fight.

    Man. In this town history doesn't just repeat itself. It doubles down.

    View article online

  • August 08, 2019 2:09 PM | Anonymous

    by Jon Anderson
    CandysDirt.com

    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.

    It’s also unfortunate that there isn’t a basic understanding of what can and can’t be done with a PD (Planned Development District) and what’s up to the neighborhood to negotiate. Things like synchronization of construction, loading and unloading, construction traffic, private roadway repairs, and worker rules aren’t part of a PD. They are part of a Good Neighbor document negotiated between a neighborhood and developers – something the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) doesn’t appear to have broached, largely because they’re still holding out hope nothing (or very little) will be developed.

    The neighborhood’s attitude reminds me of a saying, “Pray to God, but row away from the rocks.” PD-15 has yet to pick up an oar, and once they do, they’ll be sweeping up after the elephants at the end of a long parade.

    Tulane Blvd. and Northwest Highway

    The subject of opening Tulane Blvd. to Northwest Highway came up. The city’s answer was enlightening. They said that the city wouldn’t (not couldn’t) add language to the PD documents requiring Tulane to be opened to Northwest Highway, because if TXDoT said “no” development would cease.

    After the meeting, I was told by a city staffer that TXDoT wouldn’t feel pressured by what was written (which I’d assumed). I countered that if it were the only way for development to happen, perhaps the developers would take up the charge with TXDoT and be more successful. But as I’ve said before, if the neighborhood wants Tulane opened at Northwest Highway, they need to fight that fight with the help of developers – however engaging that fight would be an admission that development is foregone, which is a pill they’re not ready to swallow if last night is any indication.

    The traffic study was also brought up, if only to discredit it. Conspiracy theorists ate up the fact that Preston Place paid for it (where was the complainers’ money?) and that Preston Place chose the company (umm, they paid). Council Member Gates’ reply was that the city never pays for traffic studies, the applicant usually pays and that he who pays, picks the company who does it. But, the city tells the company what needs to be measured.  An audience for whom lies are facts you don’t agree with.

    The Point System

    Ditto the reaction to the point system inserted into the June Plan Commission meeting. Heavy murmuring resulted from the admission that a developer had suggested it. And they did. But again, council member Gates pointed out that many PDs use point systems as inducements to do more. They’re just barter systems where developers can earn points for doing some costly things that can be traded in for relief on other requirements. Ultimately they’re supposed to make a project better.

    Things like underground parking – which caused one attendee to shout that should be required. But underground parking does cost more, and if you want a costly add-on, you have to give more. As I’m finding out in my coming renovation, if I want Gaggenau refrigerators, I have to give more (money).

    Only ONE high-rise along Northwest Highway

    CARD: Team Compromise Reborn

    Gates brought up the “new” CARD group’s activities. CARD is an acronym for Citizens Advocating Responsible Development, but seems to be the same faces as “team compromise” who brought the unworkable 10-6-4 plan to light. Their website has the same hyperbole. “The two buildings fronting on Northwest Highway could be as high as 310 feet or 29 stories (the same height as the Preston Tower). The two towers on the north side of PD-15, (south of the alley between PD-15 and Bandera Ave.) could be eight stories tall.” 

    For clarification, with all the setbacks required, a 310-foot high-rise would only work for one building. The one-acre Royal Orleans doesn’t have the land on its own. The Provident plan showed a tower on that lot because it was tied into the two-acre Preston Place lot. Preston Place could also do it alone. But even with all the points and incentives, there’s no way for two 310-foot high-rises on Northwest Highway.

    A second, minor point, is that an eight-story building is hardly a “tower” unless you’re 6 years old lying on your back looking up.  Also, their eight-story “towers” would be located between the alley and Diamond Head Circle, not Bandera, which is outside PD-15 — something you’d think they’d know since they pilfered my map of the area on their website.

    Their goal is even less than 10-6-4, with just eight stories along Northwest Highway and four stories in the back. In other words, the car trying to catch the city’s attention is locked in reverse.

    Gates’ Thoughts

    One thing that Gates was fairly clear on was her support for Residential Proximity Slope (RPS), which translates to her not supporting the 310-foot plan passed by Plan Commission. I think this is a mistake. No one will notice the difference in height unless they are far away – at which point it doesn’t matter. However, on the ground, residents will notice the free space and better pedestrian experience every day – even if it’s just to drive by while shouting at strangers to get off the lawn.

    Nothing was solved last night. The needle wasn’t moved. No one left with an opinion a scintilla different than the one they arrived with.

    In many ways, it was just like every other PD-15 meeting of the last two years. Hopefully, this will mercifully end one way or another at Dallas City Council’s September 11 meeting – an interesting date, no?

  • August 07, 2019 2:15 PM | Anonymous

    by Jon Anderson
    CandysDirt.com

    Will the city stop playing politics and do what’s right to help the Pink Wall’s PD-15 get the update it deserves? 

    Beginning in April 2018, city staff ran the Authorized Hearing process working with the Pink Wall’s PD-15 committee. The Authorized Hearing process, whereby the city oversees a community response to zoning changes, was kicked off because the original 2017 neighborhood committee stalemated. That stalemate can be blamed on the intractable NIMBYism of the Athena and Preston Tower (catch-up on last meeting here). The Authorized Hearing ended in a similar stalemate. At that point, November 2018, city staff was asked by council member Jennifer Gates to write the changes they’d propose to make to update the decades-old PD-15.

    Of course, the “N” in NIMBY stands for “Not” and that pretty much summed up the towers’ response.

    But at least a semblance of a plan was on paper, something two committees had failed to get anywhere near in two years.  While I had my own beefs with it (various spacing and setback tweaks), at least there was something to work with – a far cry from the towers’ fantasyland that reached its zenith in a nasty city council race, pitting incumbent Jennifer Staubach Gates against former Mayor Laura Miller, who was backed by activists at Preston Tower and The Athena.

    It was city staff’s recommendations that made it to City Plan Commission in a two-part session in April and June. While city staff and city plan commissioners were pre-briefed, the public’s applecart was upset by a last-minute plan put forth by Provident Residential for the Preston Place and Royal Orleans lots at the June Plan Commission meeting. It called for blowing the 240-foot height limit on Northwest Highway in exchange for lower lot coverage, which would transform the neighborhood with green space.

    PD-15 Map

    Provident’s push for a single 310-foot third tower along Northwest Highway ticked-off plenty of folks on both sides of the debate – but it succeeded in garnering support from all but Commissioner Michael Jung. That support came with increased mixed-income housing requirements. The last crazy half hour of the hearing was spent lassoing the additional things a developer would have to do to get to 310 feet. The City Plan Commission was smart enough to realize that it couldn’t just be the originally proposed 240 feet with proportional add-ons. It had to give more.

    That baffling half hour saddled 310 feet with enough added requirements for affordable housing that sat on a razor-thin margin for even being constructed, or so I heard. It certainly pushed the grapevine to posit whether the building would go condo (a thought I had immediately) or whether Provident would drop/sell their hard-earned envelope and walk away.

    In addition to 310 feet, commissioners also layered a new points-based system that included fully underground parking for gaining density bonuses and setback relief to push a great ground-level experience. Meeting attendees from the public were confused. However, plan commissioners had been briefed on the points and 310-foot height – an offer refused by city staff (which may explain their later changes).

    Tower Spacing Ignores an Actual Tower

    Before I hit the changes, there’s a big, fat omission on tower spacing (added setbacks between tall buildings). Everyone is so worried about the three parcels in play, they ignored potential redevelopment of Diamond Head Condos directly across Diamond Head Circle from the Athena. The point system allows a developer to “point” their way out of tower spacing on north/south faces. Diamond Head and Athena share an east/west property line … so whew? Not really.

    Even before the “points,” the proposed ordinance states

    Tower spacing. Along Pickwick Lane, Baltimore Drive, and the interior property lines that run north/south an additional setback of one foot for each two feet in height above 45 feet is required for that portion of a structure over 45 feet in height, up to a total setback of 30 feet.

    No mention of the east/west Diamond Head Circle.  So the only location where new construction will abut the main face of an existing tower and there’s no tower spacing?  WTF?

    And this tower spacing isn’t the only setback that forgets the Athena. Within the points system, a developer can “spend” two points to reduce east/west setbacks by 10 feet – pushing a redeveloped Diamond Head even closer to Athena. If the document actually means between Diplomat and Royal Orleans, say it.

    Prioritizing Mixed-Income

    There are a bunch of after-the-fact, city staff-driven changes, but two impact the viability of redevelopment.  The first revolves around mixed-income housing. Both city staff’s original recommendation and the ordinance passed by City Plan Commission essentially allowed developers to pick and choose their poison to increase density above the base 90 units per acre. City staff’s rewrite after City Plan Commission’s approval prioritizes mixed-income housing.

    You might be thinking that since a developer would likely max out density bonuses to reach the maximum of 125 units per acre, it doesn’t matter. But it does. Double.

    Assuming 125 units per acre regardless, staff’s prioritizing of mixed-income housing between 91 and 115 units per acre results in projects with 20 percent mixed-income. Compare that to Plan Commission’s 8 percent when requiring mixed-income units only between 115 and 125 units per acre.

    I recall council members flabbergasted when Lincoln Katy Trail offered an unprecedented 15 percent mixed-income – 20 percent is 5 percent beyond a flabbergast.

    City staff is pushing excessive mixed-income on the back of underground parking, diminished building footprints, and perhaps even height (aboveground parking pushes buildings up). Given the near-universal concrete coverage within PD-15, better buildings and streetscapes benefit all.

    Too Much Green Space?

    The second big problem might be excessive green space. Yes, I said it – too much. The bare minimum required is 5 percent, with both plans incenting another 5 percent for five added units per acre.

    Plan Commission added room for another 7.5 percent to the 5 percent minimum if Residential Proximity Slope (RPS) was breached, for a total of 12.5 percent connected open space. City staff added the two together to get 17.5 percent open space. Think about a one-acre lot, part of which is eaten up by private roads, sidewalks, and setbacks … now reduce that by 17.5 percent. Not a lot left to build on.

    I think city staff pushing such high numbers for open space and mixed-income housing takes enough money out of the equation to put redevelopment in jeopardy.

    I can hear the towers cheering, but they shouldn’t. I’ve said all along that mutual agreement gets the best outcome. And every time the towers have gone to the mat promoting their NIMBYism, they’ve lost big. Two years ago, there were no Trump tariffs, more/cheaper labor, and a Dallas unconcerned about mixed-income housing. Now all those things are biting into profits. The towers’ unending tantrums have made everything larger. If this set of deals craters, the next set will need even more.

    There are other bad insertions by city staff that should be concerning. They advocate for less landscaping because City Plan Commissions’ approved plan would “cause clutter, and provide limited benefits.” Yup, the concrete jungle of PD-15 is in danger of being cluttered in trees.

    City staff also wants typical boring Dallas architecture. The City Plan Commission wanted ground-floor units to have fences and stoops, multiple façade materials, and building articulation to make it more interesting than a flat stucco wall. City staff axed it all saying it was covered elsewhere – but it’s not as detailed.

    One bite only …

    Why is City Staff Taking a Second Bite, Usurping Plan Commission?

    My day job requires me to understand complex information and repackage it so that it’s easily understandable and digestible by other groups. My first thought at seeing the latest version was that city staff was repackaging for simplicity. Nope. City staff is changing intent.

    It’s a political “we said,” “they said,” “we’re saying again” situation where the intended goal seems to be to sap power from the City Plan Commission and Dallas City Council in favor of the Planning and Zoning department getting the last word.

    It’s bureaucrats seeking to supersede elected officials’ will on a high-profile case at a time when there will be seven new members on the Dallas City Council that aren’t sure who to trust. It’s precedent-setting and will have long-felt implications.

    As council members consider the final outcome for PD-15, they need to remind themselves that the process has always been that city staff recommends and plan commissioners approve. There are generally no backsies.

    I’m reminded of Lincoln Katy Trail, who managed to convince one City Plan Commissioner to ask to reopen their case after failure. The City Plan Commission’s response was a resounding, “what’s done is done,” and that to reopen Pandora’s Box once, opened it to every case they heard.

    The Dallas City Council needs to heed that history and thank city staff for their concern and move forward with the PD-15 version approved by the City Plan Commission. There are seven fresh faces at the horseshoe who must work with plan commissioners appointed by their predecessors. To them I say, “Just because you didn’t pick them, doesn’t mean they didn’t do their job.”  To believe otherwise weakens the institution of the Dallas City Plan Commission, including for the new members you will soon appoint.

  • July 15, 2019 9:15 AM | Anonymous

    by Candy Evans
    CandysDirt.com

    More than 80 neighborhoods across Dallas pay for off-duty police patrols in a bid to keep their respective crime rates down. As proposed changes to that system have been leaked and the rumor mill activated, 80 neighborhoods are now feeling some angst about the fate of the popular — and effective — program.

    ENP is short for Expanded Neighborhood Patrol, a citizen-paid police patrol system utilizing DPD officers that has worked to lower crime in many North Dallas neighborhoods since 1991, when the Dallas City Council first established the program.

    There are more than 80 across Dallas, from Midway Hollow to a nascent patrol in Lower Greenville, Oak Cliff to Preston Trails. More ENPs are developing to combat crime and guarantee rapid response times given the current slow response DPD response rates. The ENPs are paid and administered by private citizens through homeowner associations.

    In fact, even newly-elected mayor Eric Johnson enjoys an ENP in Forest Hills. Full disclosure: my husband started the first ENP in Preston Hollow, the Preston Hollow North Patrol, in 1991,  and I am a past board member of our Northlake/Hillcrest Estates patrol. For many reasons, I have great respect for and strongly support the private neighborhood patrols.

    The private neighborhood patrols also enhance property values, especially during periods of high Dallas crime. And they indisputably help lower crime, as this Dallas Morning News story from 2015 attests: 

    In North Oak Cliff, crime is down by about 60 percent across several neighborhoods that have paid for off-duty officers to patrol since 2007, said Russ Aikman, president of the North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol.

    “It works because they are proactive rather than reactive,” Aikman said. On-duty officers, he said, are “typically so busy responding to one 911 call after another that they don’t have a whole lot of time just to be driving around looking for suspicious characters, suspicious vehicles.”

    That effectiveness is why ENPs make a home and its neighborhood more attractive to buyers.


    Melshire Estates HOA

    “ENPs absolutely enhance property values,” says Pam Freeman, who is marketing a home in Hillcrest Estates and has been on the police patrol board since its inception. “Numerous owners have bought in this neighborhood over gated communities because of the well-functioning patrol. And if people are having concerns about the rise in Dallas crime, the ENP puts their mind at ease completely.”

    In Lochwood, property values have shot up. Median home prices from June 2004 to now are up 123 percent, from $168,000 to $375,000.

    “Lots of other factors have added to that, but I think the fact that we prioritize community safety and our patrol has definitely helped foment these values,” says John Jones, an agent with Dave Perry-Miller and VP of the Lochwood Neighborhood Association. A vast majority of the LNA budget goes towards ENP, he says.

    “We have had cases where the ENP officer has arrested criminals right in the neighborhood,” says Jones, “We fear adding an additional level of bureaucracy and higher cost for that bureaucracy could potentially discourage officers from wanting to work more hours — homeowners may be paying a lot more money for fewer hours.”

    And the North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol turned ten last year. In that period, the patrols answered more than 10,000 calls for service.

    Off-duty police pay ranges from $32 to $50 an hour. Each police division has an administrative coordinator who ensures officers don’t work too many hours off-duty, currently 72 after a 40-hour work week. (The limit was 40 under Chief David Kunkle, but Chief David Brown expanded to 72, according to officers.) Homeowners also like knowing the regular crew working in their ‘hood — they often become friends with the officers.

    “Prior to establishing an ENP in Midway Hollow, the crime rate was concerning,” said our Director of Audience Engagement, Bethany Erickson. “But once it was established more than a decade ago, the rate has stayed in the low double digits at the highest, and generally it’s those nuisance-but-not-dangerous crimes, and the occasional burglary and crime of opportunity.”

    She adds: “We established such a close relationship with our patrol that we actually hired one of the officers to fulfill our requirement for an off-duty officer when we had our wedding at the Farmer’s Market.”

    When ENPs were first created, taxpayers complained it was double-taxation — paying tax dollars for policing, then paying for private police on top of it. There is less of that sentiment today, as homeowners understand how stretched and understaffed the department has become. While some used to complain the ENPs promote unequal policing —  richer, safer neighborhoods get better police services — middle-class neighborhoods are now scrambling to add ENPs to help curb car thefts and petty crime.

    Police cars, gas, and salaries are all paid for by private neighborhood associations. In fact, the program brings revenue to the city — the associations pay to rent a patrol car at about $13.50 per hour. In 2015, the city collected more than $1.3 million for patrol car rentals, according to Dallas Morning News reports.

    But now, based on an audit in November, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall is considering a take-over of the ENPs. Rank and file officers are not happy. According to an email we obtained that was written by Michael Igo, Major of Police, City Manager’s Office Liason:

    For the August 12th PSJC meeting, the Department will be presenting a briefing on off-duty employment performed by Dallas Police officers. The Department will be moving towards procuring a 3rd party vendor to have complete managerial oversight of the program. The oversight is necessary to maintain compliance and decrease liability for the City and the Department. There will be a nominal fee charged to the off-duty employer by the vendor. Additionally, new policy will be released limiting the number of hours worked from 72 to 40 hours a week.  Officers and coordinators working ENPs now will not lose their assignments.

    Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, told me that officers have no beef with the limiting of hours — he thinks 50 would be better, but can live with 40. It’s the sudden intervention of the third-party administrator that will add extra cost to the program for citizens and could open the door to future DPD controls of the program. An officer who did not wish to be named told us that this move would discourage police from participating in ENP programs due to the added level of bureaucracy and having to deal with a third party. Another said the Department may be doing this in an effort to steer officer overtime to the department, not the ENPs, because of the city’s tremendous officer shortage. 

    “I look forward to understanding why staff believes we need to utilize a 3rd party and what the cost to the off-duty program will be,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates. “It is my understanding the recommended changes will be briefed to the public safety committee in August.”

    Gates responded to my queries Sunday about the changes, and explained DPD management’s concerns — compliance with issues and risks highlighted in the November audit, and possibly an earlier audit from 2005.

    I encourage crime watch leaders to review and understand the risks and recommendations contained in the report. It describes the benefits of having an off-duty program as well as the necessity to having internal controls in place to assure any risks are mitigated.  DPD management agreed to making the management changes necessary to comply with the issues and risks highlighted in the audit.

    The chief, says Gates, is in the process of drafting the new policy regarding Off Duty Employment (ODE), with the final draft 30 to 45 days away, for briefing at the August 12 public safety committee.

    There will be changes to the policy, but they are all not determined at this point.  The Chief did share in an email to me this week that some of the changes to the policy would include reducing the number of overtime hours officers can work. Currently they can work 72 hours of off duty work and management is proposing 40 hours. The new policy will require all off duty employment to be registered. DPD is currently going through a procurement process for a 3rd party vendor to help manage ODE. Currently DPD does not have staff to monitor and audit ODE to the level it is required. Management has determined a 3rd party manager is necessary to maintain compliance and decrease liability for both the city and the police department. The Chief has communicated there will be a nominal fee for oversight management and this could impact the cost of ENP. It is unclear what that cost will be and who will be incurring the increase.  Better understanding of the changes and impact will be understood when all policy changes are made public and in the briefing to the public safety committee.

    Gates says the chief has assured her no officers, or their coordinators, will lose their ENP assignments.

    “I will continue to advocate for ENP and neighborhood control of the program as well as keeping management costs at a minimum. It is my belief ENP benefits the entire city. I also support the Chief complying with the audit recommendations and believe that can be done without harming the ENP program,” Gates wrote.

    We have reached out to Igo and Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune, currently out-of-office, for answers to several questions, including:

    • How could a program that began in 2001 suddenly be “putting the Department at risk with compliance issues” in 2019?
    • Why were these concerns not voiced first to the 80-odd ENP leaders across the city as a heads-up?
    • Will the ENP be run by a third-party vendor, and if so, any idea who?
    • Will the administrative costs be passed on to the neighborhoods using the ENPs currently, and if so, do you have a roundabout figure for what that cost would be?
    • Will the State Fair staffing fall under this same scrutiny, and if so, what will that look like? And if not, why not?
    • Does the department have a plan to address the backlash that is already happening as the ENP neighborhoods begin hearing about the changes? What will the chief do to reassure them?

    We’ve also heard from officers who question changing a popular program wholesale when it gives them a steady secondary stream of income, especially as the department grapples with manpower shortages and morale problems.

    “It’s costing the department nothing, and is, in fact, enriching it,” says Officer Roy Watkins. “And it allows DPD officers to budget for extras for their families.”

    To be continued…

    View article online

     
  • June 07, 2019 11:04 AM | Anonymous
    Dallas News
    David Tarrant and Hayat Norimine


    A new high-rise could come to the affluent Preston Hollow neighborhood in North Dallas under a plan tentatively approved Thursday.

    Over the objections of some neighbors who believe traffic will worsen on and around Northwest Highway, the City Plan Commission overwhelmingly approved a zoning plan that would effectively double the number of condominium units allowed on the 14-acre parcel, where a three-story condo building burned down two years ago.

    The rezoning plan still needs full council approval.

    The case has been one of the most contentious in the city in recent years. The parcel is part of Planned Development District 15, known as PD-15 — an area next to some of the most expensive homes in Dallas.

    The zoning battle had also prompted former Mayor Laura Miller to challenge incumbent three-term City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates this spring. Miller carried precincts around PD-15, but lost to Gates by a 2-to-1 margin. She did not attend the hearing Thursday and did not respond to a request for comment.

    Before the vote, commissioners said the rezoning plan was right for the area.

    “Clearly, change is hard,” said Margot Murphy, Gates’ appointee to the plan commission. “The goal is maintaining a great neighborhood.”

    The prime real estate in question serves as a buffer zone of sorts between the Preston Center shopping complex to the south and Preston Hollow single-family homes. The city’s proposal capped the height of new buildings at 240 feet along Northwest Highway and restricted the slope down to 96 feet adjacent to the single-family neighborhood to the north.

    But a friendly amendment from Murphy, which commissioners supported, would allow for a height of up to 310 feet in exchange for a percentage of mixed-income units.


    A concrete slab, all that remains of Preston Place Condominiums, which was destroyed by a fire, is seen in at 6225 West Northwest Highway on Friday, March 8, 2019, in Dallas. (Ryan Michalesko/Staff Photographer)

    The extra height could also come in exchange for added amenities, including an underground parking requirement and more green space.

    "I support this because I think it's going to make this area beautiful," Commissioner Pete Schulte said.

    City staff had recommended increasing the density in the area to make the site, where Preston Place Condominiums burned down in March 2017, more economically viable for developers.

    The case had previously come to the commission April 18, but commissioners decided they needed more time for staff and interested parties to review a traffic study.


    City councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, left, and Laura Miller, who were candidates for City Council District 13, participated in a debate at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Monday, April 22, 2019. (Brandon Wade/Special Contributor)

    On May 20, the city received that traffic study, which was commissioned by the Preston Place Condominium Association — a group made up of the condo owners whose units burned down two years ago. That group has supported the city rezoning plan.

    The study indicated that traffic in the PD-15 area would rise more than 70 percent if the zoning was 90 units per acre. And traffic would double if the zoning was 125 units per acre.

    Opponents to the city proposal said the traffic study wasn’t comprehensive enough and believed traffic would be even worse than the document described, particularly on cut-through streets.

    David Nevarez, the city’s senior transportation engineer, said he saw no reason to challenge the veracity and scope of the report. He added that the city will require another more detailed traffic study once a developer offers a specific proposed project.

    “I certainly understand their concerns,” Nevarez said of opponents. “I gotta say, this is the first traffic study that I see as part of an authorized hearing. ... It is a comprehensive study.”

    The opponents to the city's proposal had pushed instead to hold fast to an “area plan” approved by the council two years ago — weeks before the fire — that called for keeping redevelopment projects to a maximum of four stories to restrict density and traffic.

    Steve Dawson told commissioners they ought to reject the rezoning because neighbors overwhelmingly opposed it.

    Commissioner Michael Jung said he respects area plans but said he did not believe such plans are “holy writ.” The urban design elements, particularly the incentives for more open space, are important improvements, Jung said.

    But Jung ended up voting against the plan after Bill Kritzer, a resident of Preston Tower for 10 years, said the city broke a “golden rule” by violating the residential proximity slope — a slope from the ground used to determine height caps — with the increased height limits.

    Kritzer said he was “very disappointed” by the commissioners’ decision Thursday.

    “I believe that, for the most part, they don’t know what they just passed,” he said. “Just as a citizen, I have no idea what they’ve done.”

    Gloria Tarpley, the commission's chair, told the opponents of the proposal they “have been listened to.”

    “Much thought has gone into this,” Tarpley said. “We have really tried very hard to put ourselves in the shoes of each one of you. All of you have mattered in this process.”

  • June 06, 2019 11:13 AM | Anonymous

    Candys Dirt
    Jon Anderson

    New buildings set between the towers

    Tonight’s Dallas City Plan Commission meeting had a surprise ending for naysayers bent on limiting heights in PD-15.

    I have to give the neighbors credit for successfully coming together to put forward a plan to maximize green space in the area. Developers also upended the city’s recommended PD-15 changes with a bold plan to deliver on those neighbors’ request by offering 35 to 45 percent of open space between a combined Royal Orleans and Preston Place. The catch? A new tower on Northwest Highway would hit 310 feet in height, slightly less than Preston Tower. (I was agog when I saw this option gaining support.)

    In exchange for that height, the neighborhood will gain the aforementioned green space plus 100 percent underground parking for residents and guests (limited above ground for delivery and prospective tenants). The kicker to the height is that they want fewer units than the city’s proposed plan calls for with its affordable housing and green space sweeteners (120 units per acre versus 125 with all the sweeteners).

    The proposal that drove the Plan Commission’s decision is shown above. It will contain 360 units. Given all the cubic footage of the project, the units will have to be very large. It will be part of a semi-connected set of projects punctuated by connected greenspace. The building’s commanding views of downtown and North Dallas will be equal to the rents or selling prices charged.  Yes, selling prices. Seeing the size of the building and the number of units, the resulting oversized units almost beg for condos – if not immediately, then converted at a later date. This is something the neighborhood has long wished for.

    Contrary to the naysayers, a development such as this will resuscitate the Pink Wall in a way smaller buildings would be hard pressed to match. I believe once the dust has settled, the values and desirability of the area will quickly increase, bringing in new money to revive and restore the remaining walk-up buildings. It’s what a signature development can do. (Of course, this still has to pass Dallas City Council.)

    Proposal viewed from Northwest Highway

    And high-rise living isn’t going anywhere. This week, The New York Times noted that in 1908 just 26 percent of the city’s high-rises were residential. The last decade has brought that number to 64 percent (when accounting for those buildings currently under construction) – and New York has a lot of high-rises.

    Above is a rendering of the new central green space. Diamond Head Circle is closed from the Athena to the old Preston Place and converted to a park. Ground-floor units that once faced concrete now have patios that bleed into the green. Traffic from the new developments is cut off from impacting the existing buildings on Diamond Head Circle as I had hoped.

    Traffic-wise, the city also wrote into their changes that the redeveloped Preston Place, Royal Orleans, and Diplomat would need to shunt traffic to Northwest Parkway and (preferably) Northwest Highway via a new opening (probably Tulane). This will minimize traffic overflow to existing side streets and Preston Hollow – another win for the neighborhood.

    Of course, for many, the positives will only begrudgingly be admitted in hindsight. The Dallas City Plan Commission was treated to a monologue of the same tired, slanted tropes – this time delivered by University Park resident and Laura Miller supporter Steve Dawson.

    Nearly universal support

    It’s Not Perfect

    The city’s original draft proposal had built-ins for affordable housing. The new proposal at 310 feet along Northwest Highway needed tweaking. The proginal draft proposal had no way to break the 240-foot residential proximity slope even with the “points system” that rewards density for increased greenspace and smaller building facades (to avoid a solid wall on Northwest Highway). So to enable breakage or RPS, Plan Commission added affordable housing in a way that enables a building to go from 240-feet to 310-feet.

    There would need to be 5 percent of housing set aside for those earning between 50 and 60 percent of Average Median Family Income and another 5 percent for those earning between 61 and 80 percent of AMFI. (But my gosh, it took forever for them to tediously get the wording right.)

    Also, one of the things a developer can spend “points” on is the extinguishment of tower separation. In the case of Northwest Highway that only impacts the western edge of the Athena. It would behoove residents to meet with the developer and work out a compromise to keep a separation that’s frankly mutually beneficial.

    Also, the Northwest Highway setback retains the city’s recommendation of 70 feet instead of today’s 100-foot setback. I think there is ample documentation for a fight to brew there.

    But finally, it must be pointed out that contrary to political fudging, there will not be six 20-story high-rises, or even two. Just one.

    In The End

    Should this pass City Council, the end result will be very positive aesthetically and economically to the neighborhood. I’ve said for quite some time that it’s less about height, but what’s happening on the ground that really matters. In this case, the ground is a lot greener than expected while minimizing traffic.

    Now, if only the Preston Center garage could see such a positive, park-like outcome.

  • March 10, 2019 11:40 AM | Anonymous

    David Tarrant, Enterprise writer
    Dallasnews.com

    A rectangular concrete slab, shaded by a few live oaks, is all that remains of what once was home to about 100 residents, most of them older retirees.

    Two years ago, a fire destroyed the condominiums here, which were located within a 14-acre development on the north side of Northwest Highway between Pickwick Lane and Baltimore Avenue.

    But the blaze did more than reduce homes to rubble and devastate the residents' lives. It tore apart a neighborhood.

    This prime real estate serves as a buffer zone of sorts between the Preston Center shopping complex to the south and Preston Hollow single-family homes. But now, it's a prominent battleground — for a fight between developers and the city's most prominent and wealthy residents; between the condos' former owners and their neighbors; and between two Dallas political heavyweights.


    Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller speaks to reporters as she leaves the city secretary's office after filing the required petition signatures to secure a place on the ballot for Dallas City Council District 13 on Feb. 15, 2019, at Dallas City Hall. (Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer)


    In one corner is Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who wants to rezone the area and build anew. In the other corner, former Mayor Laura Miller, who says more density there will strangle the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.

    Miller's battles with Gates over development in this area helped draw her out of political retirement. But she said her fight is more than a neighborhood squabble in Council District 13. When she decided to run, she called the election "a referendum on development in District 13 now and in the future."

    Gates, in turn, said Miller's efforts are "not trying to get a good development." Instead, she said, the former mayor seems bent on "stopping anything from happening."

    The battle in the larger Preston Center-area war comes to a head in the midst of the election season. On March 21, the City Plan Commission is scheduled to hear recommendations from staff for zoning in Planned Development 15, or PD-15.

    “We are in a process,” Gates said, “and the community input will be included.”


    City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates during a budget discussion at Dallas City Hall earlier this year. (Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer)


    Lifestyles of the rich and famous

    The adage “location, location, location,” applies to PD-15, the largest part of an area commonly known as “behind the pink wall,” for the serpentine pink brick wall that stretches along Northwest Highway east of Preston Road. 

    The neighborhood began to develop in the early 1950s with luxury apartments and added condos over time. Later, the city approved zoning for the area known as Planned Development District No. 15, or PD-15 for short. The zoning governs six condo properties on a 14.2 acre tract of land in an area that includes the Preston Tower and Athena high-rises that flanked the three-story Preston Place.

    The area drew its prestige in part because its sits between Preston Center and the luxury homes in Preston Hollow, a neighborhood that claims among its prominent residents billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former President George W. Bush.

    In 2015, after frequent zoning fights and concerns about traffic congestion in the area, Gates appointed 14 people to come up with guidelines for future development and plans to reduce traffic congestion in the area.

    The task force included Miller, who lives in Preston Hollow west of Dallas North Tollway.  

    “We were all excited to do this plan for the area and stop all the raucous emotional zoning battles going on in the neighborhood,” Miller said.


    A look at the brick structure known as the "Pink Wall," which used to be considered a sign of status in Preston Hollow as homeowners near Preston Center in Dallas, battle high-rise expansion efforts that will affect parking, transportation and quality of life aspects in the area. (2018 File Photo/Louis DeLuca)


    The plan promoted smaller buildings and more green space. Both commercial business interests and homeowners supported the plan, Miller said. The plan also said residents wanted to “limit additional redevelopment projects to a maximum of four stories.”

    Preston Center would serve as the main area for dense development, Miller said, invoking the concept of West Village in Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood.

    The City Council signed off on the plan in January 2017. And eight weeks later, the fire broke out at Preston Place Condominiums.

    Seven-alarm fire

    The massive seven-alarm fire started the night of March 3, 2017. The blaze killed an 89-year-old woman who lived there and destroyed cars, belongings, memories. Some pets also died in the blaze.

    Those who owned the condos in the 60-unit complex — mostly older, retired residents — want to sell the property to a developer so they could recoup their investment and move on.


    Dallas Fire-Rescue personnel fight a 7-alarm fire at the Preston Place condos in the 6200 block of West Northwest Highway early Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Metro Video)


    During a public hearing last month, former Preston Place residents described how the fire disrupted their lives. Several said they still have to pay their mortgages on the non-existent condos.

    Kenny Dickson, whose parents were residents at Preston Place, said his father, Kenneth Dickson, a retired senior associate pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church, has cancer and may not live long enough to see the property sold.

    “Most of the people who lived in Preston Place were older,” Dickson said, when it was his turn to speak. “And this was their home. So what we're hoping for is that we move forward.”

    The zoning issue is more humanitarian than political, he said.

    “The longer we wait, the more risk there is that people will die before they recoup their investment,” Dickson said.

    Fight heats up

    But the stakes were high, and the politics began to heat up.

    Miller, known as a combative politician in her decade at City Hall, accused Gates of scrapping the task force’s plan after Preston Place burned down.

    The former mayor said Gates told her and others that developers could not build anything economically viable within the four-story limitations set out in the area plan.

    Gates said she hasn’t scrapped the area plan and that “Laura is sharing wrong information.” The area plan was also a vision, not zoning law, Gates said.

    She said the only way to redevelop the old Preston Place site without making a zoning change would be to rebuild the condominiums with exactly the same number of  units with the same configuration. Otherwise, all six properties covered under PD-15 have to agree to changes.

    That setup was a recipe for nothing to ever be done, Gates said, because the other properties within the PD-15 area couldn’t agree on any changes. 

    City gets involved

    After Gates’ neighborhood steering committee couldn’t reach an agreement last spring, the council member and city staff then launched a process called an authorized hearing. Under the authorized hearing process, city planners hold public hearings and make recommendations on appropriate zoning to the City Plan Commission.

    Gates’ idea was to “tackle new zoning for the whole area” rather than just Preston Place.

    But Miller opposed the authorized hearing process in a letter to Gates dated May 11, 2018, that was also signed by several supporters, including former council members Donna Blumer and Mitchell Rasansky.

    “As you know, the community of homeowners living in the vicinity of Preston Center is highly concerned about any increase in density or traffic,” Miller wrote. Developers want to “build big,” the letter stated, but “it is the surrounding neighbors who have to live with the consequences.”

    One of those developers, Provident Realty, spoke to the steering committee about Preston Place. “We’re working with Provident as the city process proceeds,” said Preston Place Homeowners Association Board president Arnold Spencer.

    Spencer declined to provide details, and Provident leaders couldn’t be reached for comment. He said Preston Place owners want to incorporate sustainable development and environment-friendly designs and respect their neighbors' positions.

    The city's plan would nearly double the allowable units per acre — up to 90 rather than the current 52 — and give developers more units if they set aside some as affordable housing. Some parts of the development could be up to about 20 stories high.


    A concrete slab, all that remains of Preston Place Condominiums, which was destroyed by a fire, is seen in at 6225 W. Northwest Highway on March 8, 2019, in Dallas.  Preston Tower is in the background. (Ryan Michalesko/Staff Photographer)


    Gates, in an interview, said the density for PD-15 "makes sense because you'll get a better quality project."

    At the end of a Feb. 19 public hearing, Miller said the community had already spoken "louder and clearer than any other neighborhood over two years" with its message.

    "And it was: Don't give us more than four stories when you redevelop behind the pink wall," Miller said.

    Asked about the city recommendations’ detractors, Gates said “some people just want nothing.”

    Several former residents of Preston Place displaced by the fire also saw the city's recommendations favorably. Spencer said the ideas “represent a reasonable compromise and an economically viable option.” And Sharon Anderson, who also lived at Preston Place, said former residents “are stuck in limbo through no fault of their own."

    "This isn't about making money,” she said. “This is about recovery.”

    Two extremes

    The coming weeks promise to be a political brouhaha.

    Miller said she has had to fight the same battle over and over in recent years. “For six years, neighborhoods have called me to help with zoning cases,” she said.

    Homeowners need an advocate, she said, and that’s why she’s running. Near Preston Center, a row of homes on Northwest Highway display large "Laura Miller for City Council" yard signs.

    Miller built her political career on that pro-neighborhood narrative. And Gates' background makes her a natural enemy. The council member’s father is Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach, who made a second career in real estate. And her husband has real estate investments, too.

    But Gates has also cast Miller, who has plenty of political baggage, as a single-issue candidate focused only on development in the Preston Center area. “Effective leadership requires ... a balanced and collaborative approach,” Gates said.

    Gates said it is “very clear” that Miller “is using this one issue to promote her political agenda, which I do not believe is in line with District 13 voters.”

    Claire Stanard — who lives on a street just behind the PD-15 and is the city liaison for Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association — said she’s not happy with the Miller-Gates battle.

    “I feel like the election has devolved into two extremes: pro-development vs. anti-development,” she said.

    “Many people see Laura Miller as against any development, and people label Jennifer Gates as pro-development simply because her father and husband are in the development business,” Stanard said. “Neither of these are true.”

    Stanard said what’s needed is a comprehensive plan for PD-15 “that takes in consideration the neighborhood, the sellers and the developers.”

    Getting the city planners involved in the process was the only way to move forward, Stanard said. “None of the sides could agree. Everything kept ending up in a stalemate,” she said.

    “But the city does need to listen to the community input,” she said.

    Stanard plans to attend the March 21 public hearing on the city’s recommendations.

    As for who will get her vote on Election Day on May 4? Right now, she said, "I’m not sure."

    View article online

  • March 08, 2019 5:11 PM | Anonymous

    by Jon Anderson
    CandysDirt.com

    [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 expected, 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.

    Commissioner Jung was next (at least I think it was, his back was to me). He wanted to know what would happen to all the non-conforming things that would result if the proposed changes were adopted. He called out the carports on the PD’s northern alley, two caretakers’ cottages-turned-condo, and the towers themselves (which would violate the proposed residential proximity slope). The answer was essentially nothing would happen until a property redeveloped.

    Commissioner Shadid followed up Schultz’ comments on the usability of the proposed affordable housing sweeteners. Ruegg wouldn’t comment specifically on their likelihood of use.

    District 14 appointee Paul Ridley focused on the burned Preston Place lot. He wanted to know if their existing footprint was grandfathered in. It appeared the current Tulane Blvd. buildable lot line would encroach on the proposed setbacks – should someone want to rebuild the old Preston Place exactly as it was. It got mildly confusing when Ridley seemed to mix the 66 surplus lots into Preston Place’s original 60 units. City staff didn’t seem to understand Ridley’s apparent misunderstanding. For clarification, Preston Place’s 60 units are not part of the 66 surplus units (which are a shared resource among the other PD-15 parcels). The surplus units are the result of PD-15 being changed to reflect the density of a never-built high-rise on Preston Place. When that planned 125-unit complex only resulted in the 60-unit Preston Place, the shared resource of today’s 66 surplus units was created because the PD was never changed to remove the unbuilt units.

    The final commissioner to ask a question I’ll leave nameless because the question was embarrassing. This commissioner wanted to know how the area would be replatted should a single-family home builder wish to develop within the PD. I call it embarrassing because no one is going to pay the land price only to plop what would he hugely expensive homes in the middle of a neighborhood that on a generous day would be called middle-class. Although, never say never. In 2006, someone built townhouses in Farmers’ Market on land zoned CA-1 providing unlimited height, 100 percent lot coverage, and 20-to-1 density.

    Now, since the public wasn’t allowed to speak, here are my two suggestions …

    Proposed setbacks outlined in red

    Northwest Highway Setbacks

    From above, it’s easy to see the structure of the four Northwest Highway-facing buildings are essentially in alignment. There’s a reason. In 1945, “Preston Tower” was called out on a city survey and notes the 100-foot setback minimum. In 1963 there’s another survey that extends the 100-foot setback across all four parcels. In 1966, a contract was signed by each of the four parcel owners that called out the 100-foot setback and the 50-foot right of way – it states changes must be unanimously approved. Each owner’s title documents list the 100-foot setback.

    Today, there are two parcels who could feasibly take advantage of a reduced setback. Preston Place has a roughly two-acre parcel and so given its size, doesn’t need it to build a good building. Royal Orleans is a small parcel with an equally small buildable envelope. Should one building be pulled out of alignment?  And for what?

    Even assuming it was legal (which seems doubtful), the proposed 70-foot setback guarantees a poor pedestrian experience. As seen in the yellow box above, the 70-foot setback is only good for the first 45 feet in height. Above 45 feet, the Northwest Highway urban form setback of 20-feet kicks in, producing a 90-foot setback above 45 feet in height. The only benefit of the 70-foot setback is to the first 45-feet of a potentially 240-foot tall building – you know, where the pedestrians are supposed to be.

    Reviewing the numbers, the proposed changes call for 10 feet of (pink) wall/green space border along Northwest Highway. There’s a 50-foot public access frontage road. A 70-foot setback is 10 feet back from the frontage road. But wait, the plan also calls for up to 15 feet of encroachment for porticos and such. Someone’s missing 5 feet.

    The result is that the neighborhood winds up with a landing strip of sidewalk and the occasional bush flanked by neighbors who, while having porticos, also have pretty good front yard landscaping. The towers also use the 100-setback for drop-off outside the active roadway. By comparison, a 70-foot setback would result in road-blocking drop-offs.

    The solution here is obvious. If the urban form setback along Northwest Highway is ditched, it results in a flat face to Northwest Highway (boo-hoo) that if pushed back to the 100-foot line results in a potential building having the same (or more) buildable square footage without messing up the very streetscape the plan is trying to engender.

    A four-story encroachment into the 100-foot setback is a poor exchange for an urban form setback that benefits no one (that would be challenged in court).

    Multi-Family Residential Proximity Slope (RPS)

    On the northern boundary is another setback that needs looking at. While I’m all for the single-family RPS being instituted, the multi-family version will cause unintended results. The goal for the “back” northern lots is to keep them lower than those on Northwest Highway – it provides a needed step-down between the existing height on Northwest Highway and the two-story developments to the north. Lower buildings also tick-off the existing towers less.

    Single-family RPS does this just fine. What multi-family does is knock off the lower floor backs of potential buildings along an alley. The existing buildings across the alley are two-story with bedroom windows facing towards the alley. The ground-floor windows of those buildings are below the corrugated steel carport roofline – their “view” is of a car hood and a white painted steel sky. If a 100-story building was built, the views from those windows are unchanged. The second-floor windows are rarely unobscured by curtains or shutters, signaling their view is already not worth viewing. Being zoned MF-1 and deed restricted on top of that, change across the alley is extremely unlikely.

    BUT, if the multi-family RPS chunks out enough of the lower floors to force a building to go higher due to less efficient geometry, that’s a poor trade-off for the neighborhood. For example, because the dimensions are known, would the currently proposed 85-foot Diplomat replacement be forced to jump up to a full 8-stories to make the geometry work? I don’t think there’d be much neighborhood support for an extra floor in exchange for the multi-family RPS. Especially when it impacts an alley and buildings whose poor views are likely to be impaired further. However, an extra story will make them darker as more sky is taken.

    There are nuances to setbacks whose cost/benefit to the resulting neighborhood should be considered more closely.

    View article online

  • February 20, 2019 10:30 AM | Anonymous

    by Jon Anderson
    CandysDirt.com

    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 …

    RPS is a secondary stop-gap to height that can’t be zoned away in future

    Royal Orleans

    The city is limiting density to 90 units per acre. They’re also limiting lot coverage based on height – under 96 feet tall requires 65 percent coverage, and from 97 to 168 feet tall,  coverage drops to 55 percent. Anything over 169 feet tall can only cover 45 percent of their lot.

    For Royal Orleans and its existing setbacks, their coverage is less than 45 percent already, so they could theoretically build the full 240 feet of height. But at 90 units per acre and an 11-foot floor height (10-foot ceiling plus 1-foot gap between floors) that’s 21 stories.

    But their lot is a pinch less than an acre and results in a buildable floor of roughly 16,000 square feet (minus setbacks, hallways, gym, office, etc.). Assume an average of 1,000 square feet per unit. That’s 16 units per floor and they can build 90. That’s six stories. If they wanted 12 stories, it’s 2,000-square-foot units on average.

    Even maxing out the city’s affordable housing and green space sweeteners, bringing the total to 125 units per acre, those additional units will likely add two floors. Most likely resulting in eight stories – remarkably similar to A.G. Spanos’ plan for the Diplomat right behind Royal Orleans on a similarly sized lot.

    And there’s another limiting factor the city can’t really address. The cost of parking a highly-dense building on a small parcel. Underground parking is really expensive. A developer would be hard-pressed to dig economically enough to provide the needed parking for a tall building assuming the 1,000-square-foot average. Of course, the larger the unit, the less parking needed, but units that size would almost have to be condo, and condo money is very hard to get from a bank.

    Preston Place

    Preston Place has two acres with half theoretically allowing 240 feet on Northwest Highway and 96 feet on the northern half of their lot. So double Royal Orleans’ math and you still don’t likely get a high-rise. Sure, they could pile all of their 180 units on the front, but no developer is going to build what would be an expensive building and leave half the lot as parkland.

    As you can see above, one city scenario (green) showed two buildings split in half. But even that I think is a generous possibility. If the back building is assumed to have 90 units there’s no way the front taller building can also have 90 units. There’s too much of a volume difference unless the units on the Northwest Highway building would be a heck of a lot larger than those on the back.

    The city did not share if any rough calculations of unit sizes went into their overall envelope calculations. I suspect not, but I don’t know for sure.

    And remember, I’m not afraid of height. I’m the one who thinks one fabulous building would be a game-changer for the neighborhood. So while I’d love to see a 240-foot-tall starchitect building, I just don’t see it.

    There were plenty of other parameters suggested for PD-15, but height always seems to be the bugaboo. If you want to see the city’s deck, you can download it here.

    10-6-4 – The 70-Degree Snowman

    The committee members behind the 10-6-4 plan that I took to the woodshed two weeks ago was presented. Many kept calling it a “compromise.” A compromise is when something rests between “bare minimum” and “overboard.”  My new analogy involves a snowman.

    The 10-6-4 draft is like offering to build a snowman on a 70-degree day. However, there is no snow to build the snowman above 32 degrees. Saying 70 degrees is a compromise from 80 degrees isn’t an actual compromise because you can’t build a snowman above the freezing point of water.

    The same is true of development. It’s not a compromise unless it’s buildable, and 10-6-4 isn’t.  It’s a collection of boxes with no volume calculated, no unit counts, not financeable, and no one saying they’d build it. It makes assumptions that sound good, but the city would be powerless to implement. It’s a 70-degree snowman.

    Public Comments

    I have to insert some irony. When the city speakers were done, they announced that commenters from the public would have one-minute to say their piece. A huge groan and grumble erupted about the city shutting off comments. However, they explained that 50 people had signed up to speak, so each additional minute given to everyone (to be fair) would be essentially adding another hour to the meeting. By the time the last person spoke, the room had lost at least a third of its audience. Had each person been given two minutes, the room likely would have been nearly empty. So much for the grumble. Anyway …

    The noisiest comments came from Preston Hollow residents who’d seen Provident Realty present to the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association last week. They and their architect showed up with a 38-story building containing 320 units that many claimed the city supported. Council member Jennifer Gates spent too much time quelling nerves. There is no effing way a 38-story building will be built in PD-15. That would be over 400 feet tall, placing it in the top 30 tallest buildings in Dallas – just slightly shorter than the Renaissance Hotel on Interstate 35E and the W Hotel in Victory Plaza. At 160 units per acre it would be 60 percent more dense than the city wants. Provident has a habit of throwing crap against a wall and seeing what sticks – unfortunately, residents have no way of knowing that. All that tone-deaf tactic did was inflame the situation.

    A few concerns popped up about the city’s density-based affordable housing sweeteners. More than a few pulses raced judging from the mummers of “no” heard through the room.

    There were a few odd comments wanting to know if there were limitations on the ages of new residents. No, said the city. Two speakers were alarmed that people with children could move in next door to a retiree. (Now we know why the grandkids don’t visit). Behind me I heard someone respond to the kids concern by saying “black kids” which seemed to be combination racism when coupled with the affordable housing comment.

    In a laughable moment, a Preston Tower resident said they’d distributed a survey to everyone whose email they had. Really?  Everyone?  I didn’t get one and I’ve got the biggest mouth in the area. My email is listed on every column I write and is well-known to the “no” committee he touts. And yet both he and Laura Miller make hay with the amount of support they have. The rank and file have not been educated nor polled. The HOA boards have likely just allowed their entire building to be represented by this group – and their residents can do little to stop them. I know. They don’t represent me and my HOA won’t give me a vote.

    Example of paid consultant’s work left out of Area Plan

    Laura Miller raised the issue of her Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan and why all the money spent on research had been cast aside so quickly (cheers erupted from the audience).  It’s a simple answer. Task force members (including plan co-author Peter Kline) told me that Miller and the task force tossed the research in favor of their own self-written plan that essentially wrote down whatever task force members dictated.

    If you don’t believe me, read the plan here. You’ll note that anything to do with the hard recommendations for density and usage (that, for example, encouraged mixed-use with less focus on office space in Preston Center) are not in the report (graphic above). All the 3-D imagery and potential scenarios were left out. So aside from it having no economic backing, Miller presided over a plan with no data. (Note: I am not implying the consultant’s data was easy to digest or perfect – I gave it hell when it was happening – but it was better than the nothing that was delivered).

    Returning to the other comments, a Preston Hollow resident lamented that they’re coming very late to this party and why there wasn’t better notification. I’ve said on multiple occasions that it’s hardly been a secret for the past two years. But there’s another, deeper answer and it involves ever-shrinking newsrooms across the country. I was happy to see a Dallas Morning News reporter at last night’s meeting, but it’s a rarity. Had candidate Miller not been there and fireworks expected, I’m not sure DMN would have shown. Local news coverage is evaporating before our eyes.

    Another comment was a fearful cry about PD-15 being a first domino in remaking the entire area into West Village. Nope. First, PD-15 is unique, and in my opinion the only real chance the Pink Wall has at modernization. The rest of the properties are deed restricted to their current two-story build-out. Should the restrictions be lifted (a high bar) their underlying zoning is MF-1, allowing just three stories. There are literally no other dominos to fall. Once the four low-rises are rebuilt (most likely as mid-rises), barring catastrophe, they’re there for the next 30-plus years.

    Finally, one Preston Hollow resident said the most truthful thing of the evening. He told the packed house that when be purchased his home, the towers didn’t matter to him. He continued that when he sells, the towers and whatever is built in PD-15 will not be a concern to him either.

    View article online

  • February 19, 2019 10:27 AM | Anonymous

    by Jon Anderson
    CandysDirt.com

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

    I have to admit, had I been drinking milk, it would have squirted out of my nose when I was forwarded an email from a few Preston Hollow residents. It blared out:

    CHANGE IS COMING to District 13!!! (and I don’t mean Staubach’s supersized version) Click the links below – AND: SIGN the change.org petition – AND: GO PARTICIPATE IN DEMOCRACY FEBRUARY 19th at 6:30pm at Hyer Elementary!!!!!!!!! SPREAD THE WORD NOW!!!!!
    (three pro-Laura Miller links)
    SORRY JEN: LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY!

    Its poor grammar, bombastic language, and the accompanying misleading images reminded me of the sound of a group of seagulls hovering over a restaurant dumpster – or basically, the internet. I wonder if they’ll be yelling “LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY” if Laura Miller loses her race against council member Jennifer Gates?

    First, the campaign seems to be run by the same people who delivered the recent towers meeting. Everything is assumed to be the evil plot of council member Jennifer Gates – almost like it were politically motivated.

    Let’s assume you live in a three-story, 30-foot-tall home (most don’t) and that Preston Place was indeed 40 feet tall. “Version 1” above is the height of a building along Northwest Highway that met the residential proximity slope the city is recommending in their draft. The current zoned height limitation is infinity. So even if 240 feet was likely, it’s still quite a reduction. But they’re also recommending 90 units per acre, which would produce units starting somewhere around 1,500 square feet. No one in Dallas is building that kind of structure. A.G. Spanos’ proposal is for roughly 115 units per acre delivered in seven stories. It’s math.

    And that’s just parcels along the front of Northwest Highway. The northern parcels drop to 96 feet in height. Again, not the existing infinity – and not the 85 feet being proposed by A.G. Spanos for the Diplomat lot. On these parcels the proximity slope actually allows a taller building (~120 feet).

    “Version 2” reflects a proposal by Provident Realty that was first seen at last week’s Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association. The city had never seen it, council member Gates had never seen it, plan commissioner Margot Murphy had never seen it – I asked them – something the author of this email didn’t. It will never be built. Provident is famous to me as a developer who throws up ludicrously-sized renderings to see what they can get away with.

    “Version 3” is similarly not a real plan. No developer has presented a 19-story building. The “compromise” is simply made-up.

    Oh, haha, “diplomatic” because one of the buildings is the Diplomat.  More misleading graphics. “Spanos/Staubach” is (and always has been) 85 feet tall.  “Could be” isn’t on the table.  It’s scaremongering.

    The 240-foot tall “Staubach Place” would sit between two towers of similar height, an irony lost on residents of the 21-story Athena and 29-story Preston Tower. Council member Gates home is located in a single-family neighborhood. The Pink Wall was originally zoned commercial. When PD-15 was created in the 1960s, its base zoning was MF-3 – unlimited height. It’s not even apples and oranges, its apples and elephants.

    Will something 240 feet in height be built with the density limits?  Who knows? No one has come forward with a credible proposal.

    You read “California developers,” which this “Illinois writer” translates as misplaced Texas exceptionalism. A.G. Spanos are based in California, but their local executive lives in Preston Hollow. And it’s not their 85-foot proposal for Diplomat that should be the most worrying. The uncertainty of the other lots (with and without developers) should be of far more focus than Spanos’ known quantity – whether you support it or not, uncertainty is always worse.

    I have no idea if this is accurate, but it’s certainly misleading (shocking, right?). Which shadows are from existing buildings and which aren’t?  Preston Place is shown as a high-rise front to back (which the city isn’t recommending). Royal Orleans is also shown as a high-rise, a configuration that is nearly impossible to build on their tiny lot.

    You’ll also note this projection is based on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, but also when the sun is at its lowest and producing the most shadow. Literally the worst day of the year. Use June 21, the date of the longest sunshine of the year, and the shadows are completely within University Park.

    I saved the best for last. First, I’d hope an 88-story building wouldn’t look like such a dump.  Secondly, it’s more misdirected propaganda (of course). Preston Tower contains 85 units per acre but it’s spread over four acres. So yes, this may be what 88 stories of Preston Tower would look like, but it’s as illustrative as piling a block’s worth of single-family homes on one lot. Yes, it’s tall, but the rest of the block would be pasture. It’s simply taking a concept to absurdity. “Absurdity” has always been a great word for political campaigns.

    Yes, the neighborhood should have been paying attention to the two-year process of figuring out what to do with PD-15 since Preston Place burned. But they weren’t. Now that pen is meeting paper, the propagandists are out in full force. Their all-too-easy goal is to incite the uninformed angry mob who’re so many political pawns in a game that’s not really about them.

    View article online

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Preston Hollow East Homeowners Association
PO Box 25528
Dallas, Texas 75225

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