Protecting Real Neighborhoods from Disneyfication

Great op-ed today in the NY Times celebrating real neighborhoods and the zoning laws that protect them, and lamenting the Disneyfication of our cities:

It’s funny how we crave the authentic, the unspoiled, the genuine — the un-globalized and un-homogenized and un-gentrified — only to destroy them.  And then, as if in remorse, attempt to create unthreatening Disney versions of the authentic, the unspoiled and the genuine….

I’m grateful for my New York journeys and for the zoning laws that make them possible. Wholesale gentrification deadens. There’s an untamed thread that binds button stores and stir-fried intestines with chili: They’re genuine. The fight for the genuine in the world’s great cities is also a fight for jobs, workers and creativity.

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Bike with Me to City Hall on October 7

Dallas currently has the dubious distinction of being the “Worst City in the US for Bicycling,” but we’re working to change that.  Join me on Wednesday, October 7 as we “Bike to City Hall” and unveil some of the initiatives that will help transform our city into a bike-friendly destination.

The City of Dallas, in cooperation with DART, the City Parks Department, and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff invites everyone to bicycle to City Hall to promote greater bicycle awareness on the morning of October 7.  Councilmembers will leave from Union Station at 8AM and bicycle down Young Street to City Hall. Meet up with me at Union Station so we can ride together.

Afterward, we’ll introduce the city’s new bicycle coordinator, update everyone on the city’s new bike plan, and unveil upcoming initiatives that embrace Complete Streets policies. Complete Streets are streets designed to provide safe access for all users — not just cars. Developing multi-modal streets improves safety, eases transportation flow, improves air quality, and promotes the overall health of communities that have adopted them.

Please join me and pass this on to bicycling groups that may be interested in participating.

Got Issues With Oncor Tree Trimming? Come to Oct. 12 Meeting

I love trees, and it just kills me to see trees hacked into “V’s” around power lines. I understand fallen tree limbs can cause power outages, but perhaps there’s a better way to address pruning issues?

That’s one of the issues we’ll discuss at my upcoming meeting on Monday, October 12 at Arlington Hall (3333 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas, TX 75219), beginning at 6:30pm.

I’ve received many complaints from residents about Oncor’s aggressive tree trimming around power lines, and at our meeting, we’ll hear from Oncor, arborists, and concerned residents who’ve been researching how other cities address tree trimming around power lines.

I hope you’ll join me and let your neighbors know.

2000 McKinney Tour

A couple of weeks ago, I took a tour of 2000 McKinney Avenue. The new Uptown office building sits on the edge of the future Woodall Rodgers Park, between Harwood and Olive.

Like many new developments in District 14, the developer came to the city requesing a zoning change to allow them more flexibility in height and other aspects of construction.

Their original proposal had (typical) narrow sidewalks, a parking garage facing the park, and several driveways along the building (which broke up the sidewalk). Continue reading

Recreating Dallas: Council Discusses Creating Walkable, Urban Coummunities

Last week’s council briefing was terrific. We had a full-day session on “sustainable development and the value of urban design.” Our City Manager, Mary Suhm, did an outstanding job organizing this symposium, which included Larry Beasley, who led Vancouver’s development processes during a period of inner-city revitalization; Christopher Leinberger, a visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute and metropolitan land strategist; Maurice Cox, Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts; and James Rojas, Transportation Manager for L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Authority and co-founder of the Latino Urban Forum. Continue reading

Dallas is “Walkable”? Really?!

On Friday, the Downtown Dallas Association held a luncheon at which keynote speaker Christopher Leinberger opined about the need for walkability in cities: the pendulum is swinging back from the post-war, sparsely populated, suburban model that required dependence on cars, to a more dense, urban model that encourages pedestrian accessibility and mixed-use planning.

I enjoyed Mr. Leinberger’s discussion, but found his conclusion that Dallas is on the cutting edge of pedestrianism curious. Because we aren’t. We aren’t neck-and-neck with Denver for creating a walkable city. We’re just starting out.

Our lack of good sidewalks in Uptown drives me crazy. They’re ridiculously narrow, particularly on McKinney, and we have utility poles, street sign poles, and other obstacles obstructing the walkways.

So what do we do? What I’ve been doing is an ad hoc response: when there are zoning change requests, I require the developer to do 10-12 foot sidewalks (the new Lincoln and Hanover buildings on McKinney). But that isn’t good enough.

So here’s what I’m going to do: First, I’m working with Uptown and Downtown stakeholders on a trail connector from the Katy Trail to the Arts District. That will be an awesome pedestrian amenity. Second, I’m going to work with Uptown Public Improvement District and the Downtown Dallas Association on improving sidewalks linking major venues, like Uptown, Victory, Woodall Rodgers Park, Arts District, West End, Convention Center, Main Street Gardens, Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, and the Cedars. We could make them more attractive, wider (?), line them with trees, encourage flowers and planters, standardize the location of, and move, signs/lamp poles/telephone poles. Third, I’m working on a streetcar system in Downtown Dallas that will get people out of their cars.

I welcome other ideas about making our city more walkable!

Greater Dallas Planning Council Holiday Party & 2004 Urban Design Awards

Tonight I attended the Greater Dallas Planning Council Urban Design Awards. Last year, I was the recipient of a GDPC Urban Design Award for my work on the M Streets Conservation District.

This year, Ray Nasher was honored with the Kessler Award for his incredible gift of the Nasher Sculpture Center and his many contributions to our city. The Nasher has been an incredible addition to our city, our Arts District, and District 14.

I am proud to report that ALL of the Built Award winners this year are located in District 14: the Latino Cultural Center, the Katy Trail, and West Village. We really are the gem of the city!