Council Committee Approves Comp Plan Without Any Public Hearings

Well, the five-member Council Comprehensive Plan Committee just met, and it was a sham meeting.

Staff explained very generally why the most significant changes the Plan Commission recommended were bad. Staff explained that transit corridors are terrific (even though there are no plans for mass transit service to them); that the map is perfect as it is (even though it doesn’t focus on specific areas of change and protect our neighborhoods as stable); and that a bottom-up, community-focused planning process is wrong — we need staff telling us how our communities should be.

Despite the fact that the City Council hasn’t even held a SINGLE public hearing yet; despite the fact that 13 of 15 CPC members support all the changes; despite the fact that the COMMITTEE DIDN’T EVEN DISCUSS THE MAJORITY OF THE CPC’S PLAN; Mr. Oakley nonetheless moved to approve the minor changes proposed by the CPC, but not the major ones I mention above. The Committee approved it on a vote of 4-1; I voted “no.”

Care about this? Well, we may pass this plan on Wednesday, the way things are going, so come down to City Hall at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14 at 1500 Marilla St. and let us know what you think.

Message to Council: Pass CPC Version of Comprehensive Plan

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?

Nope.

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.

Angela Hunt
Dallas City Councilmember, District 14

Graffiti Wipe Out a Great Success!

I am so pleased to report that Dallas’ first-ever citywide Graffiti Wipe Out on May 20 was a great success! The event exceeded our expectations, with more than 680 volunteers cleaning up more than 200 vandalized sites across the city, and more than 37,000 square feet of graffiti.

Since last fall I’ve been working to create a comprehensive graffiti program for Dallas. Unlike cities like Phoenix and Fort Worth, which spend respectively $1.2 million and $.5 million every year to clean up graffiti, Dallas spends next to nothing. We also don’t have a coordinated effort to attack this problem, which not only makes our city look dirty, but increases crime and reduces property values.

Last fall I pulled together various city departments to look at ways to attack this problem — code, police, legal and environmental — and we investigated other cities best practices. I also sought advice from community leaders who have done an incredible job organizing neighborhood clean-ups: Jeff Bryan, Bill Peterson, Sandy Graham and Danny Chandler. Since January, we’ve been meeting every other week for a couple of hours, then starting in March, every week, to plan.

Because the city couldn’t afford to suddenly undertake a $1.2 million graffiti program like Phoenix, we decided to try to break it out into phases. Our first phase was finding a community partner that would help us raise funds for equipment and help us organize a citywide graffiti cleanup effort to raise awareness and get people energized about the project. The Leadership Dallas class of 2006 stepped up to the plate, and was remarkable in their dedication, raising more than $100,000 in donations and inkind contributions. Now we have two well-equipped trucks with camper locks for city employees to use in abating graffiti, as well as supplies from Sherwin Williams.

Next, we looked at ways we could improve our city ordinances. We examined laws from other cities that had successfully addressed graffiti, and earlier this month we adopted an ordinance that makes carrying graffiti implements (spray paint, fat markers, glass cutters) a misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. Graffiti vandals are great at not getting caught, and this puts one more tool in the hands of our police officers. We then organized the Graffiti Wipe Out Day held May 20.

During the Wipe Out, I caught a vandal red-handed as he defaced a wall that one of our teams had just cleaned up in Deep Ellum. Police arrested him, and he was charged with vandalism. The Wipe Out was a great event, and I want to thank State Representative Rafael Anchia, DISD board member Adam Medrano, and Councilmembers Medrano, Griffith and Koop for participating.

But this is only the beginning of our efforts to clean up our city and make it safer. Our next step is two-fold. First, develop an infrastructure and process in our city to effectively help clean up graffiti on private property like we did with the Wipe Out. Phoenix is largely graffiti- free, and they have city employees that clean up graffiti on private property. Second, tighten our graffiti clean-up rules. Some property owners never clean up their property, and graffiti begets more graffiti. On the other hand, if graffiti is cleaned up within 24 to 48 hours, it almost never returns. We must get property owners to clean up their property, and develop a system to help them do so.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I hope to do a citywide event again next year, and hope you’ll join us.

Fixing Lower Greenville

Yesterday, I met with Police Chief Kunkle, Central Division Chief Brian Harvey, and other DPD officers to discuss the violent murder and stabbings on Greenville Avenue over the weekend. We met for over an hour and had a productive discussion.

My first question was whether we could have prevented this with additional police presence. Police Kunkle explained that since last November, he allocated $600,000 in overtime pay to Lower Greenville, Deep Ellum, and the Cedar Springs entertainment areas, providing 5 additional officers to Lower Greenville. In fact, Chief Harvey himself was right across the street when the fight broke out that resulted in the stabbings. Police were also at the scene immediately in response to the murder. On Middle Greenville, where the murder took place, the DPD will increase the police on the street between midnight and 3 a.m. starting this weekend.

My next question was, how do we prevent this from happening again? Part of the solution, the police advised, was to work with the bars on crowd control and dispersal. The police explained that fights generally break out when bars close and the streets become congested.

But the police also see this as an extremely problematic area with no simple solution. So where do we go from here? To me, this violence is symptomatic of a larger problem on Lower Greenville. Unlike Deep Ellum, Lower Greenville is a strip of bars surrounded by neighborhoods and families. It is in the middle of a residential area, and there are inherent conflicts.

PARKING DEFICIT
There is a severe parking deficit in Lower Greenville. The lack of parking results in bar patrons parking in front of people’s homes, some of whom return to their cars late at night, relieving themselves in residents’ yards, slamming car doors, playing loud music. We need more resident-only parking, and a solution to our parking deficit.

NOISE
The music from some bars can be heard in the neighborhood late at night, and the roof-top patios exacerbate this. In addition, bar patrons can be loud walking back to their cars parked in the neighborhood.

TOO MANY BARS
There is an over-concentration of bars along Lower Greenville, andwe need a healthier mix of retail and restaurants.

CROWD IS TOO YOUNG
The police tell me part of the problem is the 18-20 year olds who patron the area establishments.

HOW DO WE SOLVE THIS?
Just increasing police presence in the area is not going to solve the underlying problems. That would be a band-aid, and we need a more comprehensive solution that addresses all of these issues. I have received some very good emails with creative suggestions, and I ask that you keep them coming. We must address public safety, parking, noise, traffic, crowd control, and the mix of businesses.

I am setting up a taskforce of city department representatives to examine this issue. Chief Harvey will represent the DPD, and I will have others from code enforcement, the legal department, parking enforcement, zoning, and environmental health (noise). We will begin meeting next week. I will then ask for participation from neighborhood residents and Greenville property owners, so that we can do all that we can to clean up the area and prevent the kind of violent incidences of last weekend.