Earlier this week I attended a briefing on the Oak Cliff Gateway hosted by the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League (OOCCL). The gathering was well attended by stakeholders from across North Oak Cliff and specifically from the neighborhoods we know as Kidd Springs, East Kessler and Lake Cliff. During the briefing city staff delivered their latest version of recommendations on changing the zoning ordinance for the Oak Cliff Gateway. The presentation was adequate and the dialogue was open and often direct. Staff are in favor of adopting form based zoning and utilizing Article XIII (Form Based Code) as the framework for the ordinance. You can find the proposal here >> http://www.dallascityhall.com/development_services/authorized_hearings.html
The recommendations drafted by city staff are not well received. Yes, this is a huge area. It is difficult to please everyone but we have been attending meetings and sharing ideas for a long time. The proposal we have today feels mostly imposed rather than inspired or informed by the decade of conversation of which many of us have been participants. The meeting concluded with representatives from each neighborhood association stating that they will not support the current version of recommendations. Subsequently, I received a note from the OOCCL stating they will not support the proposed ordinance either. Residents and property owners in the area recently received our blue voting affidavits from the city secretary asking us to support or protest the recommendations. I informed the group that my recommendation to LCNA would be to vote against current staff proposal and to ask the City Plan Commission to amend the proposed ordinance with changes that I believe better serve the Gateway.
In reality the ordinance is a moving target. It will change between today, next week during the CPC hearing and into August as it goes to City Council. Voting no does not mean one is against idea of a zoning change. This vote simply informs CPC, staff and City Council that one is not pleased or convinced with staff recommendations. Councilman Scott Griggs suggested that we vote on how we see the proposed plan and then follow up by informing CPC and staff with specifics on what we would like to see changed. The basis for my decision follows:
I believe Article XIII appears to do a good job of regulating towers to protect view corridors – it encourages spacing, narrow towers and it regulates against towers that create walls . While I have not seen a map or a dramatization, I think the view corridors from historic Lake Cliff Park to the CBD skyline are protected while allowing for the possibility of tower development along the Trinity River Levee from Marsalis to I-35. I am disappointed to see that the form based sub-districts presented by staff offer a prescription of little change for Lake Cliff – single family homes remain the only new structures allowed west of Marsalis. Staff overlooks the variety of building types in Lake Cliff and sees the neighborhood as single-family residential. Staff drafts the corridors of Ewing and Lancaster as residential with a three-story maximum. I disagree with both of these recommendations. The maximum heights along east side of Marsalis and on both sides of Lancaster and Ewing should be increased. I ask for the activation of garage apartments as a residential use and language allowing for limited commercial opportunities along Marsalis and Beckley Avenues.
East Kessler to the Trinity River Levee
Staff’s recommendations reduce the higher densities and heights along most of the Trinity River Levee. The draft presented does offer mixed uses but it restricts heights to eight floors. I disagree with this recommendation. The area between East Kessler and WMU-8 should have some type of height buffer as proposed in the Gateway Committee recommendations. Article XIII appears to do a good job of regulating towers to protect view corridors so I don’t see why the zoning on the east side of beckley should have a maximum height of 8 floors. Additionally, I think all heights above 8 stories should be tied to development triggers. For example: a structure with 10 stories would offer additional open space adjacent to the street, 15 – 20 stories might trigger open space and greater retail space.
Methodist Hospital Expansion Area
The hospital has assembled land across Beckley Avenue. One of these parcels is presently in use as surface parking. For these properties staff suggests retaining the 20-story height maximum. Staff suggests reducing the maximum heights down to 12 and 5 stories south of Greenbrier and along Zang Boulevard north of the 7-11. I don’t see the benefit of creating a policy that creates a valley between properties located along the levee and Beckley Avenue. Additionally, I think all heights above 8 stories should be tied to development triggers. For example: a structure with 10 stories would offer additional open space adjacent to the street, 15 – 20 stories might trigger open space and greater retail space.
Madison, Beckley, Ballard Triangle
Staff recommends RTN (Residential Transition Neighborhood) category for the north side of Ballard. I disagree with staff and agree with those that see situations of limited commercial use for the homes on Ballard – shops, galleries, live-work spaces.
Zang Boulevard between Beckley Avenue and 8th Street
I am confident that the streetcar will extend to the Bishop Arts District and the corridor for this expansion is Zang. The zoning categories in this corridor should allow for greater densities and a variety of uses. I think both sides of Zang could accommodate greater densities. Staff is recommending heights up to 5 stories on the east side of Zang and up to three stories on the west side of Zang. The regulations imposed by a Residential Proximity Slope (RPS) make these recommendations misleading and arbitrary. It would benefit everyone if we were able to see elevations depicting how the RPS would influence development on both sides of Zang.
Neely Street and Beckley Avenue
Staff is recommending up to three stories with shop fronts for the properties north of 8th street. I agree with this recommendation. However, the northern boundary of the subdistrict jigs up and down as it follows the plat lines for the first and second properties north of 8th street. This line drops arbitrarily along Neely between Beckley and Patton. Why?
Most of us are not expert at writing zoning ordinances but we do notice even subtle differences in built environments favoring vehicles and prescribed uses rather than open spaces and approachable structures and mixed uses. I am simply asking staff and the city plan commission to find a way to accommodate our desires during this unique and long-awaited opportunity to make a difference in future of the Oak Cliff Gateway. You can express your opinion by sending a note to Mike Anglin and or all planning commissioners.
Mailto: Mike Anglin, Commissioner, City Plan Commission, 1500 Marilla Street, 5BN, Dallas, Texas 75201, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Michael A. Mendoza