Photography by Danny Fulgencio

In early June, the City Plan Commission approved a zoning plan that would nearly double the number of condo units allowed on 14 acres of land, where a three-story condo burned down two years ago. The space is part of PD-15 (Planned Development District 15) and includes Preston Tower, The Athena and four low-rise properties near Northwest Highway and Pickwick Lane. The change would allow for four towers as high as 28 stories fronting Northwest Highway (two of which already exist). Four buildings as high as eight stories could be built on the north side. If built out to the maximum, the acreage could contain 1,300 residences.

CARD, a nonprofit association that stands for Citizens Advocating Responsible Development, is made up of Preston Hollow neighbors who oppose the zoning plan. Many of them served on the PD-15 Working Group and Steering Committee appointed by City Councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates to study the issue. Neither the Working Group nor the Steering Committee could come to an agreement with the developers.

“I continue to listen to all parties impacted by the rezoning of PD-15, including Preston Place Condominiums, which was destroyed by fire in March 2017,” Gates says. “I have supported the authorized hearing process from the beginning as it is the only viable option to redevelop the site because of the shared rights of six parcels contained in PD-15 with zoning rights dating back to 1947. My only goal has been to achieve a footprint to allow for quality development that protects the neighborhood from deterioration. I envision this area maintaining a residential atmosphere and incorporating more green space and pedestrian-friendly amenities to attract new residents to accommodate a growing Dallas.”

In advance of a CARD press conference Sept. 4 and a City Council meeting Sept. 11 at 6 p.m., here are interviews with six of the members of CARD.

BILL KRITZER

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

I have been a homeowner at Preston Tower for more than 10 years. I believe that we live in a unique part of Dallas that offers a stable, well-developed neighborhood that needs to continue to be economically viable. Because of the horrific fire in March 2017 at Preston Place (next to Preston Tower), there needs to be responsible development where the building once existed. Since this building was three-stories high with 60 units, there was an Area Plan that was unanimously passed by the City Council and endorsed by Gates in January 2017 before the fire occurred. This would have cost taxpayers more than $350,000 to complete and served as a framework for future development. Suddenly all the principles were totally disregarded.

What credentials do you bring to the table?

I graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration after starting as a pre-med major. After graduation, I worked at Texas Instruments in Lubbock as a consumer relations advisor for four years and returned to school to complete the medical entrance requirements to continue my education at the University of Houston. In 1987, I graduated from the University of Houston with my doctorate as an optometrist and have been in private practice for 32 years as a Diplomat certified by the American Board of Optometry. My daily interactions with patients has taught me that open communication is the best resource to resolve any issues with conflict.

What’s at stake?

Based on the final recommendation from the City Plan Commission (CPC) on June 6, there is a plan for up to two 310-foot buildings (about 28 stories) facing Northwest Highway and at least two 120-foot buildings (about 10 stories) behind them. This amount of height, density, population and traffic will cripple our neighborhood as the infrastructure is not there to support this overdevelopment proposal by the City.

Why is this issue so important to the community?

Infrastructure must first be restored before any development begins. The original City plan that has now been morphed to such a larger development is not appropriate for our community. We do believe in responsible development, but not potential “needle-point Towers” facing Northwest Highway.

How much time do you spend in this role?

This has a been a very time consuming role to keep myself informed so that I can update our neighborhood and the community.  Although the time commitment is variable, it has ranged from 15 minutes per day to up to six hours per day. Since the June 6 CPC proposal, I have spent nearly four hours a day communicating with homeowners and City leaders. It is my passion to save our neighborhood from overzealous development based on greed that has created a total disrespect by potential developers to our community.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

The lack of transparency by the City staff and our leadership. Not having a background in real estate, commercial or residential development has made me see how corrupt and deceptive some of the potential developers can be.

What has been most challenging for you?

Learning terminology for density, height, setbacks, tower spacing, green space, ingress and egress avenues. In addition, how the City of Dallas can manipulate development without listening to their residents in District 13.

What does success look like?

Success can be defined by the rational, reasonable development located on our pd15card.com website.

What advice would you give yourself after having been a part of this?

Always keep a positive attitude and always be prepared for City political maneuvers that can occur at any moment.

What would you have done differently?

Plan ahead for the unexpected. Learn not to trust everything the City of Dallas tells you.

CARLA PERCIVAL-YOUNG

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

When I moved to the Athena in 2014, the Area Plan was being developed. As an architect new to the neighborhood, I found that to be of interest and joined the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association (PHENA)to participate. Later I was asked by Gates’ office to be part of the 2017 PD-15 Working Group. At that time, I was president of the Athena HOA and had great interest in participating on the behalf of our homeowners.

What credentials do you bring to the table?

Being a registered architect, the now former president of the HOA and the longevity of being involved from the Area Plan through the Steering Committee.

Why is this issue so important to the community?

The “pink wall” community is and has been a long-term stable neighborhood of homeownership. We are the largest concentration of condos in Dallas. We have a unique identity with the pink brick serpentine wall and a collection of wonderful midcentury modern buildings. We would like that stability to remain. We offer some of the most affordable homes in Preston Hollow. Where else can you buy a place for $200,000 to 300,000 in Preston Hollow? This is great for those who are downsizing and for those seeking to dip their toe into homeownership.

What’s at stake?

For most of the existing condos, the new proposed rezoning document would bring in the possibility of several new towers. These would loom over existing properties, block the views of others, increase traffic and reduce overall property value. This has already been documented by the construction of the Laurel Apartments. Those condos adjacent to it are not selling and the few that have are going for less per square footage than previously. Most important, the process set forth by Gates’office does not allow for negotiation with the developers thus our voice has been silenced. With the proposal, we would be the most dense neighborhood in Dallas, even more than Uptown. I choose here, not Uptown.

How much time do you spend in this role?

It ebbs and flows. At times, up to 20 hours a week; other times two to three hours or less. I work full-time, and it is a big commitment.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

The lack of transparency by Gates’ office and how much influence developers have upon the council members.

What has been most challenging for you?

Getting heard over the sympathy card Preston Place plays over and over. Being forced to hear what the developers think more than looking at the Area Plan that Gates’ championed and was unanimously passed by the City Council in 2017. Months were spent on developing the Area Plan and if memory serves me correctly about $400,000 was spent on it. Why not use it as the road map it was intended for?

What does success look like?

A plan for our neighborhood developed not based on what a developer tells us is financially doable or what benefits a seller the most, but a plan that can be embraced and built and still protect what is currently here.

How can concerned neighbors help?

We have had a tremendous outpouring of support.  To keep building on getting the word out they can donate to our GoFundMe account, volunteer to write letters to council members, and show up on Sept. 11 for the Council meeting.

What advice would you give yourself after having been a part of this?

To remind myself to stay upbeat and remember “it is not either or but excellence in the middle.”

What would you have done differently?

Push back more in the beginning and be less trusting of the system.

What else would you like our readers to know?

I care not just about my property but about all the properties around us. Yes, I live in one of the towers but I support the majority that do not desire any more towers. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet and find new friends throughout Preston Hollow that I would have not otherwise ever meet.

STEVE DAWSON

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

When Transwestern filed their application to build the Laurel in 2015, the President of the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association asked me to serve on the planning committee created to negotiate with the developer. My appointment by Gates to the Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan Taskforce in late 2015 interrupted my service on the planning committee. The path to volunteer and serve on behalf of my neighbors began 10 years earlier as a member of a group of residents of University Park negotiating with the Park Cities Baptist Church over their plans to build a community center across from our homes. Thereafter my neighbors asked me to help them in their three successive successful efforts to stop the Legacy Hillcrest Building from being built on Hillcrest and Daniel in University Park. Once again after the fire destroyed the Preston Place Condominiums in 2017, Gates asked me to serve on the PD-15 Working Group to address the amendment of the Dallas City Ordinance for PD-15. The failure of the Working Group and the Steering Committee formed for the same purpose led me to help our neighbors found CARD to oppose the proposed amendment to PD-15 offered by city Staff and approved by the CPC on June 6.

What credentials do you bring to the table?

My degree from SMU in real estate coupled with my experience as a title examiner with Dallas Title, as well over a decade spent as a practicing commercial real estate attorney with Dawson and Dawson, Attorneys at Law, prepared me for handling complex commercial real estate transactions.

Why is this issue so important to the community?

The basic issue is one of fairness. The City abused the power of the government to deny the homeowners the opportunity to negotiate directly with the developers as we had done so successfully with Transwestern’s plans for the Laurel.

What’s at stake?

The local city government’s ability to decide the fate of a neighborhood where 80 percent of the homeowners remain consistently opposed to the City’s development plans for the past three years.

How much time do you spend in this role?

Countless hours.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

Gates’ refusal to defend members of our community who were heckled and demeaned at public meetings announced and led by Gates from the developers and the people selling their land to those developers.

What has been most challenging for you?

Gates’ continued refusal to allow an opportunity for any negotiations to occur between the neighborhood and the developers.

What does success look like?

Success would be the opportunity for the representatives of our neighborhood to negotiate directly with the developers before they file for a building permit.

How can concerned neighbors help?

Volunteer to support your neighbors directly affected by future development.

What advice would you give to yourself after having been a part of this?

Never give up!

What would you have done differently?

Working harder to get Laura Miller elected as the District 13 councilmember.

What else would you like our readers to know?

Do not stand idly by when the government abuses the public trust. Stand up and defend your property rights when called upon.

GROVER WILKINS

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

I’ve always been involved in community, as a professional musician serving his community, a condo owner and a club member. I also thought that my national and international experience might bring a different perspective to what should happen — outside the box.

 What credentials do you bring to the table?

As a conductor, I’m experienced in leading musicians. I have lived abroad where space is used differently than here. I’m a product of an earlier version of Dallas, so I understand the community. I’m confident in my taste.

Why is this issue so important to the community?

The system is flawed. Owners in 3 of 6 acres in play had received promised buyouts by two developers, contingent on getting their way with their desired new zoning. Why would those owners agree to anything that didn’t conform? As a result, the Gates Steering Committee could never reach a unanimous consensus, which is what Gates was looking for. The developers’ lack of taste and sense of proportion has led at least one of them to the horror of the new Walnut Hill complex of Soviet architecture. It’s a necessity to save the topography and green space into which I moved, saving the community around it.

What’s at stake?

In part, the entire Preston Center/Northwest Highway/Preston Road ambiance that behind the “pink wall” is garden style with tree-lined streets and an open feel.

How much time do you spend in this role?

One day per week.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

The total disaster that is the City’s method for developing PD modifications. City Planning assumed the Steering Committee members were conversant with the language of city zoning and treated us like high schoolers preparing a new project.

What has been most challenging for you?

Dealing with the inability of neighbors to negotiate with an understanding of other people’s needs and priorities and the duplicity of Margot Murphy, who is Gates’ member of the City Planning Commission. She barely even tried to hide her determination to see the two developers win, and that includes private meetings with the commissioners and developers to set up the deal.

What does success look like?

The highest success is a return to the proposal offered to us by a major international design firm, built by one developer. Anything less — for example, developer mandated architecture — will undoubtedly lead to long-term and perhaps insoluble congestion, pollution and diminishing land values for the surrounding area.

What advice would you give to yourself after having been a part of this?

Continue to believe in yourself. My gut that the process needed architectural urban design input was so obviously right on the money and has offered the only option for Gates and the City to do right.

What would you have done differently?

I should have ignored propriety in bringing issues to the Advocate, Dallas Morning News and City officials because the Steering Committee was ignored, set aside, dropped instead of being respected by Gates and Murphy who worked hand in glove with the developers and CPC to railroad through their financially tainted proposals.

How can concerned neighbors help?

Let councilmembers know their concerns and desires, and hopefully urge that the proposed zoning plan be denied.

SUSAN COX

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

I am a resident of Preston Hollow East (PHE) and first learned about the PD-15 issue in February 2019, rather late in the game. I was made aware of the PD-15 issue when someone shared an email with me. The email was exchanged between members of a committee working on PD-15. In the email, a person representing the homeowners in PHE stated: “There has been very little and only isolated opposition limited to only a handful of homeowners out of over 1,100 homes to the proposed development. I am comfortable with the position I have expressed representing the single-family homes and the support of the majority of single-family homes in Preston Hollow East.” That was the first I learned of the already ongoing plans for redevelopment and was shocked about the lack of representation that homeowners had. The PHE neighborhood was unaware of PD-15 plans and, furthermore, homeowners had never been polled. Under those circumstances, no one could have spoken on behalf of the neighborhood. It was at that time I got involved spreading the word to fellow homeowners about the developers’ and the City’s plans for PD-15.

What credentials do you bring to the table?

I bring only my interest and heart to the table. I have been working with fellow neighbors and friends for up to five years on zoning cases affecting my neighborhood. The first involvement with the City was not long after moving back to Preston Hollow from the Park Cities. Quickly, we noticed a new home on Prestonshire set 20 feet closer to the street than surrounding original homes. Soon after a zoning sign was posted at the corner of another block of Prestonshire, and I called the City to find out what the zoning change entailed. It was then that I learned about an NSO (Neighborhood Stabilization Overlay). The purpose of an NSO is to regulate and make uniform any or all of the following: front setbacks, side setbacks, rear setbacks or height. The City has changed original building codes allowing homes to cover more of a lot. Impervious cover, or concrete instead of actual dirt, is creating a chronic flooding issue in the area during storms. In addition, the look of a checkerboard alignment of homes and the loss of views for those living in original homes when new homes are constructed having smaller setbacks, contributes to a significant impairment of field of view, possibly affecting safety and limiting daylight. We spent well over a year going through the process and obtained an NSO with tremendous support for our blocks ensuring that setbacks will be uniform on our street between Hillcrest to Edgemere.

 Why is this issue so important to the community?

For residents within PHE, traffic ranks high as a reason to oppose the up-zoning. Living many blocks away from the congestion on Northwest Highway, we have been surprised at the amount of cut-through traffic during morning and evening commute hours. Many commuters avoid the bumps on Park and take other streets to and from work.  The City conducted a traffic study on our street and found that due to the volume and speed of traffic, our street also qualified for speed bumps. I can only imagine how much traffic the streets closer to Northwest Highway must have. Added traffic in the area will degrade our already poor, cracked and pothole covered streets. Up-zoning PD-15 with added height and density will only exacerbate the gridlock on Northwest Highway, Preston and Hillcrest during peak hours. As with water, a commuter will find the path of least resistance. Under current the “Authorized Hearing Process” for the PD-15 Plan, no traffic studies are required by the City. Lastly, PHE already has more than 3,000 apartments and condos surrounding the neighborhood. The newest apartment building in the “pink wall” has never been fully occupied. Besides the possibility of the City’s plan to flip the “owner-occupied” “pink wall” into a majority rental neighborhood, the addition of so many units could leave the area with a glut of empty apartment units.

What’s at stake?

A beautiful, peaceful, established neighborhood filled with mid-century architecture, some designed by architect of note, Hal Anderson. Further, the loss of mature trees, the loss of street and off street parking, walkability, safety, quality of life and more. The importance of the mature trees in the PD-15 area is being overlooked. Any trees re-planted after re-development will not reach maturity during the life times of current owners in the PD. The mature trees provide shade, cool the air and provide screening.  With the chronic flooding that occurs in the neighborhood during storms, one mature tree can lift 100 gallons of water out of the ground and release it into the air in a day. One large tree can provide a day’s worth of oxygen for up to four people. So you could possibly lump health onto the heap of “what’s at stake” with passage of the PD-15 Plan.

How much time do you spend in this role?

Daily. I work on the computer, make calls or do projects revolving around the PD-15 issue. Some days, I’m at it longer than a regular business day.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

My continuing surprise is how little City representatives listen to property owners. Their ear is bent toward developers. Approximately 80 percent of those within PD-15 + 200-feet are opposed to the City’s plan. Yet, it continues to be pushed. Those advocating for sensible redevelopment have spent thousands of man hours and a lot of money for over two years to get a compromise, but their voices have fallen on deaf ears. In past years, councilmembers would make a judgment call on a developer’s plan. If it was outrageous, the councilmember would tell the developer to go back to the drawing board. If it had potential, the councilmember would tell the developer to go work with neighbors and come up with a compromise, then come back when the plan had support from the neighborhood. That was a better way to conduct City business. Having every proposal, good or bad go forward, continually puts the work of oversight on the backs of homeowners. It’s wrong. It’s also a surprise at how much decision-making that impacts a huge part of the City falls on one person to make.

What has been most challenging for you?

Juggling personal and family life while spending so much time on zoning is a big challenge, as is getting the word out to homeowners. Everyone is busy, and getting media attention is the biggest hurdle.

What does success look like?

Another Edgemere neighbor sums it up. Success is a beautiful, well-designed and constructed low-rise building, with increased green space, that preserves the views enjoyed by residents for decades, preserves the mature trees, provides for ample underground parking for residents, service providers and employees and maintains walkability and safety. A shortened height allows for maximum direct sunlight to owners along Bandera; maintains current side and rear setbacks; aligns with Preston Tower and Athena on the south; preserves as much privacy as possible; and is built by one developer so construction takes less time than it would take having multiple developers.

What advice would you give to yourself after having been a part of this?

Be thick-skinned and “all-in” if you are working for something you believe is right and fair.

What would you have done differently?

I would have started the website, fundraising, petition and mailings earlier than we did. It takes time for “grass-roots” to mature and take hold. There’s a learning curve.

What else would you like our readers to know?

Your readers need to understand that the push for density and height is going on throughout the City. Unique neighborhoods are being scrapped and cookie-cutter, cheaply built, uninspired developments are being built in their place. Look what’s already happened in the Bishop Arts area. Urban pioneers create a new and vibrant atmosphere utilizing existing properties within an old neighborhood, the area gets popular, then developers come in and do teardowns so people can live there. Oak Lawn and the Katy Trail are also dealing with the ongoing City effort to up-zone and add density. The case for PD-15, is just the first of three cases coming for the Preston Center area. If developers get their way, it will begin a domino effect around Preston Center. The “pink wall” will be destroyed and become a “mini-Manhattan” as our CPC representative envisioned and touted during a meeting with constituents.

How can concerned neighbors help?

Homeowners within PD-15, the “pink wall,” Preston Hollow, Devonshire, Windsor Park and University Park will all be affected in differing ways. Go to www.pd15card.com  for further information. On that site, they can sign a petition calling for a halt to the current PD-15 plan, make a donation, email their councilmember or call the number listed to leave a message or question.  Calls to local media asking for more information may be helpful, as well as posting on neighborhood sites and social sites.

 

BARBARA DEWBERRY

What prompted you to join the team to help resolve the PD-15 issue?

I attended a community meeting at the Park Cities Baptist Church on Northwest Highway in March 2018 and listened to discussions about PD-15 and signed a form to volunteer to join the Steering Committee. I was concerned about the development of our area. I was one of 12 committee members chosen.

What credentials do you bring to the table?

I’m a graduate of SMU, a CPA and owner of Willow Creek Mart. I’ve spent 30 years buying, renovating, renting and selling real estate.

Why is this issue so important to the community?

The proposed untenable density and traffic, along with changing the neighborhood from owners to renters. Trying to turn us into New York with no public transit is ludicrous — a huge mistake for decades to come.

What’s at stake?

Too many people in too small an area.  There are studies about over-population and the unhappy results. The proposed zoning could allow 750 additional small units, with 1,500 people and 1,500 cars if all four low-rise buildings developed into apartments.

How much time do you spend in this role?

So much time that it is like a full-time job, neglecting friends and family.

What has been most surprising about this experience?

How developers’ greed would try to transform a neighborhood for the worst and that they cansway Murphy and Gates so completely.How do they do that?

What has been most challenging for you?

Gates has let Murphy drive the zoning to create a mini “Margot’s Manhattan” in our side yard. However, we don’t have the infrastructure to support this type of development, especially with no public transit system. Dallasites love our cars, and there are getting to be too many at one time in our neighborhood already. We shudder to think of all the vehicles to be added to our small PD-15. This would mean construction vehicles wandering around streets we own and have to maintain. After development, there would be 1,500 additional cars, plus guests, maids, maintenance, trash trucks, UPS, Lyft, repair trucks, mail, etc. My vision is it will take a helicopter to get from our homes.

What does success look like?

Compromise in height, density and setbacks in PD-15 to something reasonable and responsible.

How can concerned neighbors help?

Write, call, email and meet with councilmembers, asking them to vote “no” to the proposed PD-15 zoning plan.

What advice would you give to yourself after having been a part of this?

Don’t expect people to act logically or fairly. The City sent out 854 blue ballots to owners in PD-15 plus the 200-foot surrounding area asking for approval or opposition of their plan.  About 643 ballots were returned to the City of which 515 were opposed. Yet the CPC has not allowed any input from homeowners and made no effort to compromise. So 80 percent of our neighbors opposed the City’s plan and yet, Murphy pushed through an even taller-denser plan, which all the developers asked for. Only one commissioner, Michael Jung, voted “no.” Thus, the CPC approved Gates’, Murphy’s and the developers’ plan and sent it to the City Council for vote on Sept. 11. We were told that neither Gates nor the CPC looked at the ballots.

What would you have done differently?

I would have asked the City for a zoning template at the first meeting of the Steering Committee — a guideline to start the discussion. I also would have asked that more people be added to the Steering Committee so that its makeup was more representational of the area. The low-rise buildings with 134 units had four representatives, and the high-rise towers with 464 units had only four representatives.Nothing democratic there!

What else would you like our readers to know?

The last chance for PD-15 proposed zoning to be stopped is Sept. 11. Developers are asking for possibly two buildings 310-feet-high (about 28 stories) facing Northwest Highway and maybe two

96-feet-high (eight-plus stories) buildings on the North, blocking light and looming over homes on Bandera. Please attend the Council meeting on Sept. 11. The City should respect big numbers.

Illustration by Jon Anderson/Candy’sDirt.com

 

 


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