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A few thoughts on awarding public incentives for the Alamo Manhattan project in Oak Cliff:

  • The risk of developing property in North Oak Cliff is less now than it has been in decades.
  • The scale of real estate development should take its signals from the marketplace.
  • Public monetary incentives for developers can distort the marketplace and inflate expectations for future growth.
  • Public incentives impact every project built after the one that gets public money.
  • Public incentives can be helpful when they focus on direct improvements to common spaces and infrastructure, and support community values.
  • We must look closely at how public incentive deals are structured and enforce the outcomes promised by the developer.

The City of Dallas uses a variety of public financial incentives to promote real estate development in areas of town considered risky.  Neighborhoods and commercial corridors in North Oak Cliff, for the most part, have benefited from these past incentives.  Active shops, restaurants and homes along Bishop Avenue, West Davis Street, Beckley Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard are leading the way as destinations for residents and visitors. Buzz in these areas gives us all confidence that these changes are part of a success story.  There are clear signs of enthusiasm for investing in North Oak Cliff.  So, we must ask ourselves is it still too risky for private developers to invest in North Oak Cliff without incentives to achieve community growth goals?

Alamo Manhattan’s proposal for its project in North Oak Cliff is designed on a grand, contemporary footprint. It makes us wonder if there is a point when incentives can lead to inappropriately large development projects. The Alamo Manhattan development vision gives us an idea of what is possible with access to $11 million in public incentives.  In reviewing this proposal, we should compare it to what a project might look like with public funds half of this amount, or with just enough public funds to repair the sidewalks and replace the sewer lines, or with no public funds at all.  We need to see and think about how much the incentive package is influencing Alamo Manhattan’s proposal.

Giving public incentives to developers for a project elevates development expectations in the entire community.  The price of land will increase, and will increase based on elevated and distorted market conditions provided by the public funds, not based on true market conditions. The result will be an environment and market that is more difficult for smaller-scale, local development.  Case-in-point today is how many small-scale development projects are now found in Uptown?

Public incentives can be helpful to make development attractive in less desireable communities.  Is North Oak Cliff having difficulty attracting development today?  Over the last 20 years, North Oak Cliff evolved organically with cornerstone public investment in utilities and infrastructure, and smaller developers using mostly existing structures along Davis, Bishop Arts, and Beckley without public incentives.

Many residents want to see the momentum continue, but we also must think about what happens when we exhaust the supply of legacy structures.  It is important to recognize that our future will require new and updated infrastructure and a greater supply of housing to support our new streetcar line and an urban, walkable core where people of all ages can work and enjoy a nice quality of life.

We have a tool chest to help with improvements and they should focus on water, sewage, streetscape and utility improvements, as well as reflect our community’s values like LEED certification, transit oriented design, and better building materials.

Finally, we must look closely at how public incentive deals are structured and enforce the outcomes promised by the developers.  Public/private partnerships get complicated by the ways real estate developers and financiers structure partnerships and payouts.  Public incentives should not be bundled into aggressive management fees and quick exit strategies that primarily benefit developers and bankers.

We can welcome a new generation of residents in North Oak Cliff.  The area offers plenty of space and a deep zoning framework for different types of dwellings and commercial structures.   Public incentives are a great tool for sparking growth and promoting community values, and we must stand strong to guard our values and tax resources.  We must be courageous enough to walk away to protect our long-term goals.

Corporate Site for Alamo Manhattan | Griggs on Alamo Manhattan | Petition Against the Project

Posted by Michael & Beverly Mendoza


“The time is now.” Scott Griggs on the future of the Oak Cliff Gateway

Dallas City Council approved a new zoning ordinance on Wednesday, April 22.  The Oak Cliff Gateway ordinance is online for review here >>

Public Hearing September 18 and Work Session September 30

Public hearing is scheduled for this Thursday September 18th at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Additionally, if your organization would like to participate in the Oak Cliff Gateway work session September 30th from 9 a.m. to 12 noon please contact Valerie Miller, Sr. Planner direct at 214.671.5724.

“The goal of this meeting is to give each organization an opportunity to discuss their concerns/ proposed ordinance with the CPC.” An agenda will be forthcoming. If you are unable to make this meeting, you are welcome to appoint another person to represent your organization.

LCNA seeks to consider new development types and uses in the Gateway:

The current zoning ordinance (PD 468) governing development types and uses in Lake Cliff, limits all new construction to only single-family structures for properties beginning on the west side  of Marsalis Avenue.  Recently, City of Dallas staff drafted a set of recommendations for changes to PD 468 but these recommendations do not include any changes to the status quo.   Staff’s recommendations do not allow segments of Lake Cliff to redevelopment in form or uses other than single family.  City staff sees Lake Cliff as a single-family residential neighborhood.   Many have argued that the margins of our park and single-family core offer greater variety and opportunity.


Members of LCNA have been open to allowing other forms of development within specific segments of the neighborhood.  During the last round of discussions in 2011-2012, LCNA representatives (Mendoza, Holt & Garza) advised the Gateway Steering Committee to recommend changes to the ordinance.  These recommendations were forwarded to the City of Dallas and they included language allowing new construction of building types such as manor houses (Colorado & Blaylock), duplexes and four-plexes (such as found on Marsalis) and small scale apartment buildings (like the Bomar or structures on Blaylock and Crawford) on segments of Marsalis Avenue, Crawford Street, and Blaylock Street.  LCNA representatives also advised the committee to recommend limited commercial activity on Marsalis Avenue, from Colorado to 8th Street.  In addition to the bookends of a daycare center and a retail store, new uses might include activities scaled to fit the street like an insurance agent, barbershop, or professional services like law, accounting or architecture.  In fact, encouraging office uses within the Gateway is one of the goals outlined during town hall meeting on July 29.   >>


Staff with City of Dallas planning office disagrees with the LCNA/Gateway Committee recommendations to allow new development types west of Marsalis and greater uses along Marsalis.  If you agree with LCNA/Gateway Committee recommendations and want to see the ordinance changed we will need to ask Mike Anglin, our representative on the City Plan Commission, and or Scott Griggs, our Councilman, to offer an amendment that makes the changes.

Posted by Michael A. Mendoza

Gateway: The proposal is not ready

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 >>


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:

Lake Cliff


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,

Posted by Michael A. Mendoza

Public Hearing Dates for CPC & City Council

The dates for briefings and public hearings are scheduled:

[] Thursday, July 24, CPC briefing with public comments

[] Thursday, August 7, CPC hearing with public comments

[] Wednesday, September 10, City Council with public comments

Staff recommendations and the proposed ordinance and maps can be found here >> Proposed Ordinance & Maps


Proposed Ordinance for the Gateway as of June 2014

Maybe you have seen the notifications.  The review of zoning recommendations is just about complete and a vote on the Oak Cliff Gateway zoning ordinance is just weeks away.  You can find the most recent proposed ordinance and map here >>

Wow! More of the same…Methodist/City Position to Ignore Residents

From: “Lee, Alicia D”

Date:01/31/2014 10:58 AM (GMT-06:00)

To: “‘'”

Subject: Oak Cliff Gateway Meeting, 2/4/2014, Tuesday, 6:00pm

Hi XXXXXXXX, I left a voice message on your phone earlier today on behalf of Dr. Stephen Mansfield and Scott Siemer of Methodist Health System, they asked I reach out to you and inform you of a meeting next week, Tuesday, February 4th at 6pm in the Methodist Dallas Medical Center’s Hitt Auditorium. Scott Griggs and the City of Dallas Planning Department are seeking Volunteers to serve on a New Task Force to garner feedback on Zoning within the Oak Cliff Gateway Area.

The Previous Oak Cliff Gateway Committee work does not sound as if it will formally move forward as it was proposed by the Committee in the Spring of 2012. However, the City does recognize the scope that the previous effort was not effectively managed. With that being said, the new Task Force will not be asked to consider streets, thoroughfare planning or bike lanes. Instead, the effort is to garner feedback from the Community on how to best Manage Effective Zoning within the Gateway. The Task Force will have a specific 3-Month Timeline and will be staffed and supported by the City Planning Department.

Steve and Scott would like to again remind you of the Meeting next Tuesday, February 4th, and would love to have as much Community support participating in the process as possible.

If you have any questions, you may direct them to Scott Siemer at 214-947-4535. And I extend my thanks to you in advance for your participation.

Alicia D. Lee

Executive Assistant

Methodist Health System

1441 N. Beckley Avenue

Dallas, TX 75203

214-947-2508 – (Office)

214-947-4501 – (Fax)

Plan commission puts Oak Cliff Gateway rezoning back in play

Article by , Dallas Morning News, September 13, 2013

“The plan commission yesterday authorized another public hearing on the Gateway rezoning, expanding the target area to match that studied by the volunteer group.

David Cossum, the city’s interim director planning and sustainable development, said the rezoning will draw on the group’s work and ideas from community meetings to come with a goal of getting a rezoning recommendation to the plan commission in three months.”  Read more here >>


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