I’ve gotten several requests for more information about the proposed conservation district changes (UPDATE: Read Proposed Conservation District Ordinance Changes.) Melissa Kingston has done an excellent, thorough job of analyzing city staff’s proposed changes to the conservation district process. She has kindly agreed to let me repost her analysis.
The City Staff has proposed changes dealing with the CD provisions of the Dallas Development Code. The proposed changes and flow charts showing existing and proposed changes are attached. I live in the Belmont Addition CD and chair its Ordinance Review Committee. I wanted to make sure that each of you are aware of the proposed changes at the City. I would also like for the CDs to work together on responding to these proposed changes. I don’t mind taking the lead, but I think we need to respond. And I am working with the Preservation Dallas and the Dallas Homeowners League on this matter as well.
WHY should we care, you might ask (since we are already CDs)? BECAUSE you know that next thing coming are changes to the Development Code on how to alter existing CDs.
My thoughts/concerns are as follows:
1. Director gets More Discretion: The revisions give the Director of Development Services significant discretion that could be used to defeat the purpose of the statute and limit the creation of new CDs. For example, see Section (d)(2)(H) on page 6 and Section (g)(2)(C) on page 11. These are new provisions that basically give the Director the authority to require applications to do whatever she says without any guidance from the statute.
2. No Time Limits by When Director Must Act: There are no no timeframes from some of the decisions that are required by the Director. Under section (g)(3) and (4), there is no time by when the Director has to determine whether the application is complete. There is no time frame by when the Director must schedule the pre-meetings or the public meetings. All of this gives staff time to put applications on a back burner.
3. Reduced Appeal Rights: Section (g)(5) does away with City Council appeal. I never like getting rid of appeal rights.
4. Poorly Drafted Lists: The lists under Section (h) regarding what “must” and “may” be regulated by a CD need work. For example, I think (a) doors, (b) alteration of lots (building up or scraping) and any other alterations to the lot that could create run-off issues for neighboring properties, and (c) trees should be included in the “must be regulated” category. I also don’t like the list of what “may be regulated” – So, if the feature a neighborhood wants to regulate through its CD isn’t on the “may be regulated” list, that neighborhood can’t regulate it? In my view, that is bad policy. Examples might include some unique feature that a certain architectural style has that isn’t on one of these lists or simply things like placement of satellite dishes and mail boxes.
5. New Application / Petition Process is ONEROUS: The new petition/application process is designed to make it almost impossible to get people on board early on.
The current process allows one person to initiate the process of becoming a CD by submitting an application with the required information. From that, staff determines whether the application is complete and whether the proposed CD is eligible to become a CD. The application has to have the signature of 50% of the property owners in the proposed CD, but that petition merely says the people are interested in determining whether they want to become a CD.
New process requires the formation of a 10-member Neighborhood Committee to seek the Director’s determination whether the proposed CD is eligible to become a CD. If so, the Neighborhood Committee must have 2 pre-application meetings where the proposed changes that will be included in the CD are discussed (meaning you have to know what you want the CD ordinance will likely say before any public meetings), at the end of these 2 pre-application meetings, the Director provides a Petition that the neighborhood has to get signed by 66% of the property owners (up from 50%) that lays out all of the things the Neighborhood Committee thinks it wants in the CD Ordinance. This petition has detailed information about what the new CD might look like before the public drafting meetings (including a list of development and architectural standards that the Neighborhood Committee of 10 thinks it might want). In my view, this is designed to make it harder to get signatures! And now you have 6 months to get your signatures. There previously was no time limit.
I think these changes are designed to talk people out of or scare people off from trying to become a CD early on. The process that currently exists is onerous enough, and City Staff constantly complains about how the current process takes too many resources. So, the Staff’s answer is to add more steps to the process? I smell a rat! And while staff was at it, they increased the required signatures from 50% to 66%, reduced the time available to obtain those signatures, and replaced a one sentence petition with one that will likely be pages.
My overall thought is that the changes are designed to look good on paper but have enough new onerous steps and enough additional discretion for staff that these changes are designed to make it harder to create CDs, which is exactly what staff wants.
MELISSA’S ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS OF MOST RECENT PROPOSAL:
1. The definition of “Neighborhood Committee” now includes CDs to be amended or expanded and is required to be 10 people OR at least 50% of the proposed new CD area.
2. Throughout, there are notations that ZOC recommends CDs (and changes to CDs) require 66% of the property owners’ signatures, and staff recommends 75%. To have the fee waived, ZOC recommends 75%, and staff recommends 85%.
3. There is now a requirement that within 65 days of the director determining that an area is eligible to be a CD, the neighborhood committee must request the pre-application meetings….(one more hurdle for NAs)
4. The biggest change is that the ordinance now has a section on amending/expanding CDs (starting on page 14). The new process is fairly similar to the new process outlined for becoming a CD BUT for certain changes, the neighborhood has to collect signatures within 60 days.
A new area of concern that I have is that the ordinance say “the original petition” must be signed by property owners…I assume that means you can’t have multiple copies that are being circulated in the proposed new CD area. Logistically, it would be almost impossible to get 75% of property owners to sign the SAME piece of paper (and within 6 months).
In 2013, my service on the Dallas City Council will come to a close. I am writing to thank you for your support these last eight years, and to introduce you to my good friend Philip Kingston, who will be running for my seat.
It has been an honor to serve you as the representative for District 14, and I am deeply grateful for your support. Together, we’ve improved our wonderfully diverse neighborhoods, fostered economic growth and walkable communities, fulfilled the dream of a nationally-renowned Arts District, and revitalized downtown Dallas.
But there is still much to be done. Next May, voters will elect a new voice to represent District 14. I hope you will join me in supporting Philip Kingston, who has spent more than a decade working to strengthen our neighborhoods and improve our city.
I met Philip and his wife Melissa over a decade ago when he was leading the effort to protect the historic integrity of his East Dallas neighborhood. After months of hard work, Philip successfully championed the Belmont Addition Conservation District, resulting in the protection of more than 400 homes from demolition and incompatible development.
What has most impressed me about Philip is his ability to bring people together and create coalitions. For the last several years, Philip has volunteered on behalf of more than a dozen East Dallas neighborhoods to build consensus on complex zoning cases. He’s championed neighborhood causes countless times before the City Plan Commission and City Council, played an integral role in improving the St. Patrick’s Day experience for residents, and led the coalition of neighborhood associations focusing on improving Lower Greenville Avenue.
The diversity of our neighborhoods demands a leader who listens to residents, understands the issues, and believes in neighborhood self-determination. Philip will be a great partner at Dallas City Hall, and I hope you will assist his campaign with your vote, your endorsement, and your support. To learn more about Philip and his vision for our district, visit www.philipkingston.com.
The Dallas Museum of Art just announced museum admission will be free, starting in January.
This is awesome. This is going to open up the museum to an entirely new group of people who’ve never set foot in a museum. For residents, it’ll become a new destination, and for conventioneers and visitors, a great introduction to Dallas.
This is yet another step towards a new, better, cooler, funner Dallas. Klyde Warren Park, to me, was step one: a fun park with lots of stuff to do, that’s free to the public. The combo of KWP and the DMA will be terrific. Play at the park, hit the museum, come back to the park for dinner. Very fun.
In a perfect world, here’s what else would be free: DART. The Nasher. The Zoo. The Arboretum. Neiman’s. (A girl can dream.) Add a robust system of bike lanes and I think Dallas can be the coolest city in the country. Yeah, I said it.
Over the last two years, the city has been taking baby steps to change that: We completed a new bike plan last year, put several millions of dollars into the upcoming bond package for hike and bike trails as well as several “complete streets” projects, painted bike lanes and “sharrows” on a handful of city streets, and proposed a vulnerable road user law that will protect bicyclists from cars.
But this isn’t nearly enough. Even fully implemented, these projects will barely pull Dallas into the latter half of the 20th century. And it’s not just the lack of urgency that’s dooming our attempt at bike friendliness. It’s the half-hearted infrastructure that’s being implemented.
In Downtown Dallas, the city has painted shared lane markings on Main Street to emphasize that bikes can share the road with cars. In reality, these markings do nothing to create a safer, more inviting environment for bicyclists. And encouraging bikes to use a major, narrow street through Downtown just further aggravates drivers who can’t pass slower cyclists.
Instead, we need to create protected bike lanes with actual barriers separating cyclists from traffic. Physically separated lanes are significantly safer: a recent study shows they reduce injuries by 90%. ) And protected bike lanes are more compatible with Dallas’ existing car culture, allowing bikes and cars to coexist safely.
Many Dallas streets are wider than they need to be for the level of car traffic they carry. We can take a traffic lane or parking lane from these streets, put up some bollards, and create bike infrastructure that will actually encourage people to get on their bikes. The change will be dramatic. We need to commit to building 10 miles of physically separated bike lanes every year for the next ten years.
The lack of connections of Dallas’ bike infrastructure is also ensuring its failure. Throughout our city, there are plans to put in short spans of bike lanes connecting nothing. No cyclist is going to use bike lanes that go nowhere and suddenly end. Instead, we need to connect neighborhoods, off-street trails, light rail, work centers, schools, shopping, and locations of interest. No “lanes to nowhere.”
Dallas’ current, half-hearted approach to making our city bike friendly is going to doom it to failure. In a couple of years, the city will determine that bike ridership hasn’t increased in Downtown or on the bike lanes to nowhere (surprise!). This will then be cited as proof that there is no bike culture in Dallas, that we can’t transition to a bike-friendly city, and that bike infrastructure is a waste of money. The city will paint over the “sharrows” and wash its hands of this silly experiment.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can go all-in on bike infrastructure and get it done. We can dramatically increase bike ridership in our city. We’ve seen what can Dallas can do when it sets its heart on Big Ideas. That’s why Dallas’ remarkably meek approach to bike infrastructure is so frustrating. We pride ourselves for taking on extravagant, bold initiatives — the Calatrava Bridge, a park over a freeway, a city-owned convention center hotel, a massive toll road in a floodway. Let’s apply that same laser-like focus to making Dallas the best bicycling city in the country.
The courts in the City of Dallas do not function well. People who receive tickets regularly ignore them, the technology in the courts is antiquated or non-existent, police officers serving as witnesses regularly do not show up, and cases are repeatedly reset, resulting in dismissal. This has created a system that rewards people who ignore city tickets, whether they’re for code violations or traffic citations. That’s unfair to people who pay their tickets as well as to residents who have to live in neighborhoods where absentee landlords let homes deteriorate into drug houses with impunity, where violators stack junk vehicles on their lawns with no repercussions, and where our roads are less safe because speeders rejoice at our lax system. This must change.
A year ago, city staff embarked on an in-depth review of our court system, which included looking at best practices in other Texas cities. They discovered concrete ways to improve our court system, and recommended those best practices to the council judicial committee, and earlier this month to the full city council. The recommendations do not lay the blame for the problems in our courts solely at the feet of the judges; technology improvements, process changes, and other enhancements were recommended as well. But the fact is, many of the recommendations will have to be made by the judges themselves, and that means finding judges who are willing to work to implement changes.
Every two years, the council selects municipal judges. The mayor appointed me and Councilmember Delia Jasso as co-chairs of the judicial committee. He also appointed Councilmembers Vonciel Hill, Linda Koop, Sheffie Kadane, and Jerry Allen to the committee. Earlier this month, for three days over the course of two weeks, we interviewed 22 candidates for 11 full-time judicial positions, and then deliberated on our recommendations to the full council.
Prior to interviewing the judicial candidates, we sent them staff’s recommendations for court improvements. During our first day of interviews, many candidates talked at length about the proposed changes, explaining why some were good ideas and others were not. The conversations were informative and very helpful, but with a limited amount of time, we were unable to address each of the recommendations with each judge. So we sent out a list of thirteen recommendations and asked for comment from all the candidates.
When the committee reviewed the candidate’s responses to staff’s proposals, we weren’t looking for yes-men and -women, nor were we seeking candidates who would help line the city coffers . We were looking for thoughtful, fair responses, even if that meant explaining why the proposed recommendation would not work, or a description of another option might better address the underlying issue. We received some excellent, thoughtful responses.
In addition, the committee reviewed the following information for each candidate:
Attached resume and other materials
Ranking in order of preference from the Judicial Nominating Commission, a body appointed by the council to interview judicial candidates and make recommendations to our committee
For the candidates currently serving as full- or part-time judges, we also reviewed the following:
The score (on a scale of 1-5) given by the sitting Administrative Judge
The average score given to each judge by prosecutors
The average score given to each judge by defense attorneys via Dallas’ Defense Bar Association
Anonymized excerpted comments on each judge from prosecutors
Anonymized excerpted comments on each judge from defense attorneys
As the committee deliberated, we discussed putting together a team of judges that could work well together in implementing changes to our courts, communicate well with the administrative side of the court system, and work well with the Administrative Judge. Our final recommended slate of judges included 4 of the currently sitting judges and 7 new judges, as well as a new Administrative Judge (head judge).
Last Wednesday, the full council voted on our recommended slate of judges. While the council approved 10 of 11 of our committee’s recommendations, as well as our recommendation for Administrative Judge, the debate was very destructive at times. Statements were made that the process by which judges were selected was unfair and racially biased. Having co-chaired the judicial committee, I want to set the record straight.
First, on the issue of race: Our committee was color-blind in selecting the candidates we believed would be the best judges. The resulting recommended slate was as racially diverse as the last group of judges: one Asian-American judge, two Black judges, three Hispanic judges, and five White judges.
Of the six current judges who were not recommended by the committee, three were White, one was Hispanic, and two were Black.
Given the diversity of both those who were selected as well as those who were not, it is difficult to argue that our recommendation was racially biased.
Furthermore, any implication that our committee selected judges based on their conviction rate, fines levied, revenue collected, or any other metric relating to revenue generation, is completely false. The committee didn’t request that information, we weren’t provided with that information, and it played no part in our deliberations or recommendations.
As to the more general question of the fairness of this process, some councilmembers complained that they were not notified about the committee meetings and blamed that for their absence. The truth is that this process was completely transparent and open to every councilmember. All councilmembers were notified of the meetings ahead of time and invited to attend.
The chart below shows the attendance of our committee meetings. Please note that two councilmembers who were not members of the committee attended some of the meetings. (Non-committee members are shown in gray.)
Mayor’s Ad Hoc Judicial Committee Attendance
Delia Jasso (Co-Chair)
Angela Hunt (Co-Chair)
Vonciel Jones Hill
If there is a way to improve the process by which our city selects judges, I welcome that conversation. We can always do a better job. But the fact is, this was a thoughtful, deliberative, exceedingly transparent process, and it led us to recommend a slate of the most qualified candidates to our municipal courts.
Since we had good weather last night, we were able to complete the rest of City. Attached is a map that shows areas that were sprayed last night (Sunday 8.19) totaling 226,000 acres (pink=sprayed last night).
There should be 5 planes available tonight to complete a second spray beginning at 9:00pm and continuing till around 2am. The weather forecast looks good right now, so there should be a second application throughout the City tonight. If for some reason, they are unable to spray an area tonight, they will finish up all areas tomorrow.