For the last two years, the City of Dallas has been developing a comprehensive land use plan that will guide development in our city for the next twenty to thirty years. This plan is about to be approved by the City Council either Wednesday, June 14 or June 28, and it is imperative that you know what is going on.
I am fundamentally in support of adopting a comprehensive plan for Dallas. However, I think it’s even more important that we get this plan RIGHT. I have been critical of many aspects of the plan proposed by city staff because I believe their proposal will negatively impact our neighborhoods. My main points of contention have been:
● The plan’s emphasis on multi-family housing instead of single-family.
● A comprehensive plan map that redesigns our city without substantive community input.
● A comprehensive plan map that fails to identify stable neighborhoods (so they can be protected from future development and higher densities) and areas of change and transition (where we want to grow and redevelop).
● An across-the-board reduction in parking requirements.
● Lack of coordination with DISD to ensure that our schools can handle the dramatic population growth proposed by the plan.
● Proposal for narrow sidewalk widths (despite ostensible focus on pedestrianism).
● Lack of focus on Southern Dallas development.
● District 14 neighborhoods that should be designated “Residential” not “Urban Neighborhood.”
● A focus on top-down, city staff-directed zoning decisions instead of a neighborhood/property-owner-driven process.
Despite having shared my concerns with staff, and despite the fact that the public has been giving staff very specific suggested changes for MONTHS, staff has refused to adopt most of the substantive changes requested by me and groups as diverse as the Dallas Homeowners League, The Real Estate Council, Save Open Space, Preservation Dallas, and the development community.
Luckily, the City Plan Commission recognized that staff had not been listening to the people of Dallas, who will have to live with the consequences of this plan for decades. Last Tuesday, in a true show of leadership, our City Plan Commission approved a version of the comprehensive plan that addresses many of the concerns raised by these community groups and individuals. Most significantly, the CPC revised the plan so that neighborhoods and property owners are back in the driver’s seat in crafting future changes to their area. Instead of a top-down process in which city staff present a neighborhood with a new zoning plan, the NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS and PROPERTY OWNERS will gather consensus and give their proposed new zoning recommendations to the city.
The CPC also revised the comprehensive plan map to carve out “areas of transformation” (UNT campus, South Dallas, Trinity River Corridor, and Downtown) and designate everything else “areas of stability” until area plans or neighborhood plans are developed in a community-driven process. Several other significant changes were made, a list of which can be reviewed here. View the CPC’s version of the comprehensive plan map. You can also read the CPC’s signed letter of support of their version of the comprehensive plan.
At the end of the day, 13 of the 15 members of the Plan Commission support their revised version of the comprehensive plan. In seeing the very positive changes that were proposed by the CPC, although imperfect, I was prepared to support this “middle-ground” version of the comprehensive plan. It doesn’t contain all of the changes that I thought important, but overall it will be a good plan for our city and protect the integrity of our neighborhoods. With these positive changes by the CPC, all in the right direction, you would think that staff and councilmembers would be embracing this compromise, right?
Staff is furious with what the CPC did – taking authority away from city staff and putting it back in the hands of Dallas residents. So staff is telling the Council to pass STAFF’S version of the comprehensive plan, the one that keeps them in control of future zoning changes. Staff is marginalizing the thoughtful changes crafted and approved by our Plan Commission. Staff didn’t even provide the City Council with a copy of the comprehensive plan passed by the CPC; just a chart of “CPC Recommendations” along with city staff’s version of the plan. This is unacceptable.
What can you do about it? If you would like to protect the future of your neighborhood, if you believe residents and property owners (not city staff) should be the guiding voice in future zoning changes that affect your area, then you need to do the following:
● E-mail or call your City Councilmember and the Mayor and let them know you support the CPC recommendation, “The People’s Plan.” (Get contact info)
● Attend the City Council meeting this Wednesday, June 14th at 1:30 PM at City Hall and support the City Plan Commission’s recommendations. Bring your friends and neighbors. THIS IS CRITICAL. (Map to City Hall)
● Call the City Secretary at (214) 670-3738 to put your name on the speakers’ list for Wednesday in favor of the City Plan Commission’s version of the plan.
This is about neighborhoods. This is about property rights and having a voice in the future of your community. If you don’t speak up and let your council representative know your concerns and wishes, then staff’s version of this plan will pass and the needs of your neighborhood will take a back-seat to a “staff knows best” mentality.
Dallas City Councilmember, District 14