Response to DMN Editorial on Comp Plan

In a bold move, the Dallas Morning News proclaimed the staff’s version of the forwardDallas! comprehensive land use plan to be the best thing for Dallas since a toll-road through the middle of the Trinity river.

I know I shouldn’t be sarcastic in my blogs, but it’s hard not to. Three things about this editorial really got my goat:

(1) “Transit corridors disappeared….[S]tripping out transit corridors, which designate where DART stations and denser developments will be built, leaves a gaping hole. “

You know what a transit corridor is? Let’s start with what it’s not. It’s NOT a “Transit Center,” which is what Mockingbird Station and West Village are. That’s a mixed-use development with retail and residential at or near a light rail stop. Those make a lot of sense, and they remain in the CPC’s version of the comp plan.

I would point you to a transit corridor in Dallas, but we don’t have one, so you’ll have to settle for a definition from the staff’s proposed comp plan. It’s a long section of street that’s supposed to become a corridor of dense mixed-use development (imagine Mockingbird Station or West Village stretched out along miles of road). It is “focused around bus rapid transit corridors” according to staff’s plan. The mass transit component of the corridors makes sense, because otherwise, you’d just have an insane traffic jam from all the residents of the dense developments along the corridor. Sounds neat, right? Well, it would IF THERE WERE ANY PLANS FOR RAPID BUS TRANSIT ALONG ANY OF THE 135 MILES OF TRANSIT CORRIDORS PROPOSED BY THE PLAN.

I talked to DART, and guess what? There are NO bus rapid transit routes in our city today. According to DART’s long-range plan, over the next 24 years, there may be a total of TWO roads in Dallas with “BRTs.” There are no plans for such service on the other 130 miles of staff’s proposed transit corridors. Oh, and don’t even think about what transit corridors might mean to the residential neighborhoods along the route to have dense multi-family and mixed-use development encroaching on them. The “Transit Corridors” can go anywhere from a block to a half mile into surrounding neighborhoods (but will somehow supposedly “mitigate” any negative effects to the area).

(2) The editorial also laments the silly Plan Commission’s meddling into two years of hard work by the consultant and staff. Well, fact is, the consultant and staff have been reluctant to incorporate input from the public into their version of the plan since the process began. Sure, there have been minor tweaks here and there, but for the most part, they have made quite a show of “receiving public input,” but have done nothing to incorporate such input into the plan. Having lots of meetings and creating a database of public comments are MEANINGLESS unless the input makes its way into the final product. The Plan Commission, made up of citizen volunteers from every council district in the city, examined the input from residents, business groups, neighborhoods, and community leaders, and (gasp! shock!) incorporated the will of the people into the plan.

(3) Lastly, God forbid that neighborhoods and property owners have input into the future of the city: “City leaders are hoping to send the message that Dallas is open for business. But by giving neighborhoods more power than other stakeholders, the city appears skittish about progress.” I’m not sure how any of the changes give neighborhoods MORE power than other stakeholders; the changes the CPC made just ensures they’ve got a seat at the table.

The most important thing about this editorial is seeing what the crux of staff’s arguments are going to be to pass their version of the plan. Mainly, “the CPC is moving us backward, while the consultants and staff are moving us forward.” It’ll be the song and dance of “the CPC likes the status quo and just doesn’t like change,” when in fact, this document creates great, positive changes, but keeps the reins in the people’s hands, not city staffs’. Staff can guide and advise and suggest, but at the end of the day, it’s the residents and tax-payers who must live in this city. And your voice matters.