If Dallas Loses its Homeowners All of Dallas Loses
Perhaps you’ve heard that there is a plan moving forward at Dallas City Hall that will permanently change single-family neighborhoods throughout our city. Whatever you might know about it, it’s actually worse than you think.
Not only is there a proposal from five council members to allow multifamily housing by right in single-family zoned neighborhoods but the city manager is pushing something known as the ForwardDallas development plan to effectively eliminate single-family zoned neighborhoods in the name of affordable housing.
ForwardDallas would circumvent long-established zoning with new development and construction codes and upzone the entire city by allowing, without a zoning change, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes by right on every single-family home lot.
Dallas City Manager and ForwardDallas Planning Staff Have Little Concern for Homeowners
The effect would be to replace homeowners with absentee owners and renters. As they have created this plan, the city manager and planning department staff creating ForwardDallas have shown little accountability to or apparent concern for the homeowners who are so important to Dallas. It’s time they did.
ForwardDallas Moves Dallas Backward
The ForwardDallas plan actually moves Dallas backward. It is trying to return Dallas to an idyll (that never really existed) of “walkable” 19th century cities when we lacked the technology and transportation options we have now. All of this is being done in the name of density, something that most buyers in our market have demonstrated they don’t want and that has done precious little to lower prices anywhere it has taken root. Every city in the U.S. and Europe over the last 200 years has become increasingly less dense as people naturally prefer more space. Further, upzoning for more density is harmful to the environment. High density developments typically cover permeable surfaces causing flooding and the deforestation of neighborhoods. Also creating density by upzoning threatens historic homes and period modern homes. ForwardDallas represents the greatest attack on preservation in Dallas since the upzoning of neighborhoods 60 years ago.
Healthy City Needs to Keep Adding Quality Housing in the Right Way
A healthy city needs to keep adding quality housing, but we need to do so in ways that respect both the historic character of existing single-family neighborhoods that provide the bulk of taxes to our city.
And we need to recognize that the density the Dallas city manager and a handful of council members crave for every neighborhood should actually be created in carefully planned developments where there is clear demand. For instance, Hunt Realty will be developing land they have owned for 50 years downtown next to Reunion Tower. This development will create 3,000 new apartments of which many will be workforce affordable units. This will accommodate thousands of residents and steeply increase the existing population of downtown. Close to the Calatrava-designed bridge, two different new developments are currently underway which will add more than 1,000 additional new apartments. In addition, the high rise office buildings in downtown Dallas provide another rich source for new residences that would add to the supply of Dallas housing. The Santander Tower office building has already been converted to residential units and the iconic Bryan Tower, Renaissance Tower and Energy Plaza are in the process of being converted to residential apartments.
Downzoning is Often a Better Solution than Upzoning for Adding Housing
Meanwhile, Dallas has many unrealized opportunities to rezone areas to create additional housing. Downzoning is often a better solution for adding housing than upzoning. Rezoning in places where housing currently isn’t permitted is almost always a better solution for adding housing than upzoning stable neighborhoods. Take for example the warehouses in Capella Park and the Mountain Creek area. These are right next to residential neighborhoods. Warehouses aren’t the highest and best use for this land. New housing development, done smartly, would be in high demand and would bring more services to this entire part of the city. Before it was warehouses, this area was zoned single-family. Let’s restore that and take advantage of this beautiful land.
There are other industrial areas that could be rezoned in the same way that Deep Ellum successfully transitioned in the 1980s from industrial to residential and mixed use. That effort is now bearing real fruit in the increase in apartments that create density and proximity to people’s work, not to mention restaurants, bars and other amenities.
Downzone Deteriorated Apartments and Remnant Retail and Commercial Buildings
That’s only the beginning of where the city could start to look. Deteriorated apartments along busy traffic corridors could be downzoned to duplex zoning to provide quality homes and a better residential perimeter for the single-family zoned neighborhoods behind them. Remnant retail or commercial buildings and abandoned retail strips or shopping centers could be downzoned to residential to increase housing and clean up outdated uses. However, ForwardDallas does not encourage changing the zoning for problematic areas. It instead targets the neighborhoods that are the backbone of our city.
ForwardDallas Planners and Five City Councilmembers Have Proposed Breaking Up Residential Lots Into Mini-Lots
The five council members in lockstep with the ForwardDallas planners have proposed to the City Council that it reduce the residential minimum lot size to 1,500 square feet. Currently, the standard lot size is 50’ x 150’ or 7,500 square feet. This mini-lot proposal would allow five houses on a standard size lot, and 29 houses on a one-acre lot in Preston Hollow, and over 100 houses on a four-acre West Lawther White Rock Lake lot that now only has one 3,800 square foot home on it. And right next door, it would allow 290 houses on the 10-acre single-family lot overlooking White Rock Lake. Adding insult to injury, the City Council is scheduled to vote in February to allow daycare centers in any single-family neighborhood by right without alerting the neighbors or a request for a Special Use Permit.
Neighborhoods Will No Longer Have a Say if ForwardDallas “Place Types” Replace Zoning
Forward Dallas proposes development code changes incorporating “Place Types” and “Score Cards” for developers and city planners to determine which of the higher density housing types each single-family zoned neighborhood should receive. Place Types would remove the clarity of zoning and diminish the influence of homeowners. Neighbors will lose their right to voice their opinions in hearings that, as the zoning law stands now, must be held before zoning changes are made.
Previous Dallas Upzoning Devastated Neighborhoods
Historically, Dallas has thrived because of the contributions of homeowners. Not long out of SMU, I was impressed by the consideration the Dallas Mayor and City Council gave homeowners and their ideas. Mayor Folsom, over the objection of the Planning Department, directed City Manager George Schrader to help with an initiative I spearheaded to rezone 100 blocks encompassing 2,000 properties in Old East Dallas from multifamily to single-family. The objective was to reverse the negative effects of the apartment zoning created in the 1960s. Originally, in 1905, Munger Place was the finest and most prestigious neighborhood in Dallas. The prices of homes were higher than those in Old Highland Park. However, in the 1940s, gentle density was added to the neighborhood. Single-family homes became rooming houses or had bedrooms turned into apartments. Then, as homeowners moved out, absentee owners moved in, converting single-family homes into duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. Next, the area was blanket zoned multifamily. In the 1960s, fashionable apartment complexes replaced grand Swiss Avenue style homes on Gaston Avenue and other apartment complexes were built, scattered around the now historic districts of Peak Suburban, Munger Place and Junius Heights. The condition of these apartments declined, homeowners moved out, the area was redlined, and property values evaporated.
Munger Place Homes Lost 30% of Their Value Over 70 Years
In 1907 a home on Junius sold for $10,500. Seventy years later, in 1977, the same house resold for $7,500. During a time when Dallas was booming, Munger Place homes, just 2.5 miles from downtown Dallas, had lost 30% of their value over 70 years.
Dallas Has Thrived Because of Its Distinct Single-Family Zoned Neighborhoods
The successful single-family rezoning, initiated in the late 1970s, reversed the trend of rentals and disinvestment and created a new trend. Each year, more homes were owner-occupied and the number of apartments declined, bolstering homeowner confidence. This single-family rezoning resulted in one billion dollars of increased property values through renovation and appreciation in this 100-block area. Subsequently, dozens of other neighborhoods have thrived thanks to single-family, conservation and historic district rezoning, and other homeowner initiatives.
ForwardDallas Replaces Zoning With “Place Types”
How things have changed! Now the City Manager and Planning Department and five City Councilmembers are turning their backs on the neighborhood approach that has fostered the continuing success of our older neighborhoods of Dallas. ForwardDallas aims, across all of Dallas, to increase rental units and shape Dallas into a city of absentee owners and renters rather than homeowners. The ForwardDallas City planners are promoting this plan by conducting community meetings asking residents which of several mixed-use Place Types they prefer – traditional single-family zoned neighborhoods are not even offered as a choice. Experienced neighborhood leaders, unable to decipher ForwardDallas’s platitude-laden language, met with the ForwardDallas Planning Department staff.
ForwardDallas Planning Staff Says Every Single-Family Neighborhood Needs to Share the Burden of ADUs and New Apartments
This group was told by the Planning Department staff that single-family zoning needs to end because every neighborhood in Dallas needs to share the BURDEN (my emphasis) of offering denser housing types. And we were told that homeowners provide no greater benefits to a home, neighborhood, school, crime prevention or city than absentee owners and renters. I couldn’t believe my ears.
It’s not clear what demand we are feeding. Dallas’s population has remained relatively stagnant even though Dallas leads the nation in new apartment units constructed, forcing apartment owners to offer concessions to renters because so many apartments are coming on the market. Meanwhile, the percentage of homeowners in Dallas is at an all-time low and over 30% of all home purchases in Dallas are made by absentee investors. Still, the planners tell us, single-family zoning needs to end. Dallas needs more affordable housing. They promise that if more housing is built in Dallas, the price of housing will go down because of supply and demand. They say that Dallas needs to keep adding density until the cost of housing goes down. Dallas needs to “grow up” and “act more like a big city.”
ForwardDallas Planning Staff Wants Dallas to be More Like Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco
But why should we emulate big cities? Chicago’s high- and low-income populations stay the same while middle-income homeowners are abandoning the city. New York renters move to the suburbs when they start a family because they want more space. Los Angeles is bleeding population, with many coming to Dallas for our bucolic single-family neighborhoods. Density in the San Francisco Bay Area has gone up 50% in the last 50 years, but home prices, relative to median income, have gone up 150%, according to economist and public policy analyst Randal O’Toole. Adding density does not lower housing prices until the city is in decline. Adding density just attracts more renters and usually exacerbates income inequality in the city. Despite the aspirational platitudes, ForwardDallas reduces affordable housing, eliminates single-family homes for workforce families and stymies the cycle that creates generational wealth for first-time homebuyers.
Dallas Has Existing Affordable Housing
Once when I mentioned to a panel on affordable housing that Dallas has an abundance of affordable housing, the head of the Dallas Real Estate Council said, “But not affordable homes where anyone wants to live.” Dallas should be investing in the infrastructure and amenities in areas where there is an abundance of affordable housing, to help turn those neighborhoods into places where people do want to live.
Dallas City Auditor Reports the City Has No Data Indicating Shortage of Affordable Housing
Furthermore, the definition of affordable housing remains murky. The City Auditor recently reported that the City of Dallas has no conclusive data indicating there is a shortage of affordable housing in Dallas. ADUs are presented as a solution to a problem that does not clearly exist. Nevertheless, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are touted by ForwardDallas as the affordable housing silver bullet. In truth, they are the most expensive housing type per square foot. Adding an ADU doubles the cost of a $250,000 affordable home and prevents a buyer from obtaining a conventional mortgage. In California and Portland, the average cost to add a small ADU is $350,000 and $250,000, respectively. Dallas construction cost might be closer to that of Portland at $600 per square foot for an ADU. There are $10 million dollar homes in Highland Park and Preston Hollow that cost less than that to build per square foot. Homeowner and property investor Ed Zahra explained to a city council committee that even if a 400-square-foot garage apartment costs only $175,000, a homeowner collecting market rent would lose $20,000 a year after paying the expense of a ten-year loan, taxes, insurance and maintenance. The homeowner would also suffer the loss of privacy and along with neighbors would have to put up with extra cars cluttering the curb. The real threat of ADUs comes from potential absentee owners who, at any time, might tear down the house next door and build two rental houses on the same lot.
ForwardDallas also wants to increase affordable housing by opening up all of North Dallas for ADUs, fourplexes and denser development. This will direct developers to North Dallas and other expensive neighborhoods. There is no such thing as an affordable home of any size on an expensive lot. Foisting added density on North Dallas residents will have the unintended effect of driving developers away from the bountiful and beautiful inexpensive land in Southern Dallas, where there is high demand for single-family homes and quality investment is desperately needed.
Neighborhoods of Color Are the Ones Most Negatively Impacted by ForwardDallas
Southern Dallas neighborhood leader Anga Sanders has said this about how ForwardDallas impacts her community:
This proposal (ForwardDallas) will hit communities of color harder than others, ensuring that those who actually want to purchase homes will be less likely to be able to do so.Anga Sanders
Former Dallas City Planner, Architect, and Southern Dallas Homeowner Calls for ForwardDallas to be Killed
Darryl Baker, former Dallas City Planner, architect, and Southern Dallas homeowner was instrumental in creating the first single-family historic district in Dallas, and conservation districts in Old East Dallas and Old Oak Cliff. He understands good planning with full neighborhood input. Darryl Baker explains that ForwardDallas does not reflect the sentiments of Dallas homeowners or neighborhoods. He adds that ForwardDallas has no credibility and it provides no benefit for any of the Dallas neighborhoods. In addition, he emphasizes ForwardDallas especially harms the neighborhoods of the Southern sector.
ForwardDallas should immediately be killed.Darryl Baker
Former Dallas City Planner, Architect, Homeowner
ForwardDallas Planners Harm Neighborhoods by Imposing Burdens
Planners are not bound by the oath “to do no harm.” ForwardDallas does harm by imposing “burdens” (their words) on neighborhoods and the city. If the Dallas City Council is serious about reviewing land use, it should reject ForwardDallas and its Generic Urbanism approach that is infiltrating and failing in other cities. Dallas should think more in terms of Organic Urbanism. Like cultivating a garden, Dallas should protect and nurture thriving neighborhoods while encouraging and incentivizing development in areas that are languishing. These areas need to be identified and rejuvenated or considered for another use. For example, there is an immense number of houses that remain vacant simply because of title problems that the city could help resolve. Downzoning (reducing intensity of uses) often brings greater economic benefits and demand than upzoning (adding density or uses). Land that is not developed or that is underutilized should be cultivated for high-quality housing and redevelopment.
Does Dallas Want to be a City of Absentee Owners or Homeowners?
Dallas is currently confronted with two different visions for the city. One would undermine the very core of what made Dallas the great city it is, a city of distinct and established neighborhoods. The other recognizes that Dallas must grow but that it can do so in ways that respect and enhance those neighborhoods through the addition of new development in underused or poorly used tracts of land that are easy to find wherever you go.
The city manager’s plan, through his development staff, is one that is hostile to a bedrock of the American dream, a home with a little yard. They want such homeowners to share what they see as a burden of providing housing.
That’s the wrong way to understand our city. And it’s the wrong way to understand the people who live here now and the people who might want to live here in years to come.
Dallas Should Protect What Has Made Us Strong and Build a Future Around That Core
Dallas has the land, the demand and the vitality to keep evolving in an economically positive and an aesthetically pleasing way. A Dallas plan for the future should not replicate the failures and follies of other cities or of our own past. Instead, Dallas should protect what has made us strong and build a future smartly around that core.
The above article has been expanded from the originally op-ed that appeared on the Dallas Morning News Opinion Page on Sunday, January 14th, 2024.
Readers Respond With Letters to Editor
Save trees and homes
Re: “Who will speak for the trees? The people will,” by Sharon Grigsby, Jan. 14 Metro column, and “Dallas is risking single-family neighborhoods — City pushing a plan, in the name of affordable housing, that puts density first,” by Douglas Newby, Jan. 14 Opinion.
Kudos to Grigsby and Newby. How nice to see Dallas taking the initiative to save historic trees. Now if we could get builders to do the same. It has long been disheartening to see huge neighborhood trees bite the dust to be replaced by twigs.
It was informative to read Newby’s column on the future of Dallas’ traditional neighborhoods. Again, disheartening to read story after story about Dallas not having affordable housing and then seeing so many affordable small to medium sized homes being torn down. These are homes perfect for young families, seniors, teachers, first responders and nonprofit workers who keep our city going.
No wonder so many of these categories of people must leave Dallas and go to the suburbs to find affordable houses. This is being done in the established neighborhoods: Lakewood, Preston Hollow, Lake Highlands, etc. How many more will leave when you start cramming multi-level, high density buildings on small neighborhood lots with no zoning?
Newby took the time and did the research to offer creative planning ideas for high-density building. It will take a lot of give and take on all sides to keep Dallas a viable place for all types of taxpaying citizens to live and work.
Sherrie Hull, Dallas
Forward Dallas needed
For two years, the city’s Planning and Urban Design staff and Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee have worked on the ForwardDallas Comprehensive Land Use Plan update. Our city faces a housing shortage, particularly for middle-class and low-income residents.
To address the housing shortage, the ForwardDallas draft suggests several strategies, including “missing-middle” housing. What is missing middle? Buildings comparable in scale to a single-family home with more than one residence, such as duplexes and accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats. Missing middle allows essential workers like teachers and firefighters a better chance at living in increasingly unattainable neighborhoods.
Newby claims ForwardDallas would “circumvent” single-family zoning and allow four units on any single-family lot. Not true. Under state law, a comprehensive plan cannot change zoning. Legalizing expanded missing-middle housing will require code changes. Dallasites have a range of perspectives: Some want to allow a four-plex on any lot and others, like Newby, vehemently oppose expanding missing-middle housing.
Crafting code changes to make the missing middle work for Dallas will require thoughtful efforts from our policymakers. Misrepresenting ForwardDallas as a sweeping rezoning is a cynical attempt to stop consideration of missing middle as a tool to tackle the housing shortage.
Brent M. Rubin, Dallas,
Vice Chair, Dallas City Plan Commission,
Chair, Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee
Response Correcting Brent M. Rubin’s Assertions
In the Sunday January 21st edition of the Dallas Morning News there were three letters to the editor regarding the previous Sunday’s op-ed by Douglas Newby on ForwardDallas. Two of the letters came from homeowners who were very complimentary and supportive. Brent Rubin, Vice chair, Dallas City Planning Commission, Chair, Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee objects to my claims in the ForwardDallas op-ed. “Newby claims ForwardDallas would circumvent single-family zoning.”
In his letter to the editor, Brent Rubin almost reiterated my point. “Under state law a comprehensive plan cannot change zoning. Expanded middle housing will require code changes.”
This was my point in my op-ed when I said they are trying to circumvent zoning with code changes. They are trying to change the code to allow ADUs by right where one house can be replaced with multiple houses. Further, Brent Rubin claims that I vehemently oppose middle housing. I do not oppose middle housing and in fact am a strong advocate of preserving middle housing. I object to Forward Dallas encouraging middle housing for workforce families to be torn down for new small apartments.
Tsunami to hit neighborhoods
Re: “Minneapolis isn’t Dallas,” by Stephen McKeown, Tuesday Letters.
I am afraid McKeown’s letter to the editor is representative of the naive and complacent majority in our city with no idea how close we actually are to becoming like Minneapolis.
In his critique of Mark Lamster’s column, “Resist the urge to go BANANAs,” McKeown expresses childlike belief that what has happened in Minneapolis in regards to the elimination of single-family zoning are ” ideas that have no chance of ever seeing the light of day in Dallas (thank God).”
Oh, my. McKeown read the Arts section but overlooked the Opinion section. Otherwise, he would have read the masterful work of Doug Newby with the headline, “Dallas is risking single-family neighborhoods.” In his full page piece, the imminent threat to our neighborhoods could not be made more clear. The word “imminent” means right now! As soon as four or five City Council members can cram it down our throats!
Everyone! Please salvage the Opinion section of Sunday’s newspaper and read Newby’s op-ed. Email your councilperson now!
Those of you who are stubbornly sleeping through the warning sirens heralding the coming tsunami that will literally wipe your neighborhood off the map, wake up!
Ellen Beadling, Dallas/Caruth Hills and Homeplace
Additional Comments on ForwardDallas and ForwardDallas Article
Protected By Historic District on Three Sides – Devastated By Five-Story Apartments on the Fourth Side of This Owner-Occupied Home
My house is pictured in the middle of the article. I am is inside the Lake Cliff Park historic district. That designation did not protect my property from a developer building a 5 story apartment complex just a few feet from my house. I have lived in my house for 17 years. Now, my views are a brick wall and their parking garage (with no protection from car exhaust – it is “naturally ventilated”). It used to be a fun street view and partial downtown views. I have lost the sunlight on that side of my home. Further, as they built so close to me, they created a dangerous, isolated corridor that was recently visited by a knife-wielding man looking in my windows. He can do so in complete privacy now. (caught on my Ring and provided to the police). The developer damaged my property from front to back. I am still trying to get them to fix the damage they caused to my roof two years ago. They keep saying they will make the repairs…and now they are ignoring my attempts at communicating. Let my story be a warning for anyone who thinks this could not happen to them – the odds of it happening to you go up exponentially if we break up single-family lots for multifamily.
Renters Can Move When Indiscriminate Zoning Ruins the Neighborhood
I agree. Are they going to widen the roads, build more schools, hospitals, fire stations, police departments? And, if so, who is going to pay for it? Apartment renters don’t pay property taxes but can vote to raise taxes. They do not have a vested interest in the neighborhood. That does not mean that renters don’t care about the community they live in, but they have the flexibility to move. I understand that the apartment owners pay taxes but my experience is that most of them are located out of state and really don’t care about the character or integrity of the neighborhood. It sounds to me like they are executing a philosophy. Philosophies belong in books. I have yet to see a well thought out plan from A to Z, that protects existing property owners (who already pay high taxes) from home depreciation due to indiscriminate zoning.
Dallas Should Not Change the Rules in the Middle of the Game
Douglas, thank you for sharing this crucial information. Regarding this zoning we should not “change the rules in the middle of the game”. The homebuyers who wanted single family neighborhoods purchased homes in locations with that zoning. In contrast, people who wanted the energy/vibe of more dense neighborhoods purchased condos/townhomes in such zones. The damages to those groups for changing their zoning would be immense.
City Planners are not Being Forthright When Trying to Quietly Eliminate Single-Family Zoning
Thank you for consistently bringing awareness to a greedy, silent and stealthy change that we will all look back and regret not fighting against. Your efforts are so very appreciated!
Densification Harms the Character and Affordability of Single-Family Homes
Doug / great insights – this densification harms the character, stability, and affordability of single-family neighborhoods.
-Brian McFarlane, AIA
Dallas Needs Liveable Neighborhoods with Trees, Parks and Sidewalks
Insanity. We have liveable neighborhoods with trees, parks, sidewalks,etc. We Don’t need apartments in our neighborhoods. Move out of the city in any direction and build your high rise apartments where there is room (and no trees!)
-J. Anthony McClure
ForwardDallas is a Toxic Plan
Great article! So sad that this is happening! I am hoping this article brings awareness to more Dallas residents, so they can stop this toxic plan. Thank you for writing this and posting it.
There are Plenty of Good Places for Density Which are not Single-Family Home Neighborhoods
Thank you for alerting us to the the threat of single family homes being eliminated, and also for letting us know that there are many places available for more density that don’t eliminate our neighborhoods. Single family homes are important to homeowners and for the city.
Well Reasoned Argument
Well reasoned case rooted in long experience.
Added Density Even Ruins Portland Neighborhoods
I moved to Portland Oregon in 1998 and after living in an apartment the first year, I was able to find a nice town home in St. John’s. It was an industrial flavored “sleepy” neighborhood within Portland City limits. My new townhome was built under the historic St. John’s bridge and was steps away from Cathedral Park built along the banks of the Willamette River under the bridge. It was so nice to be blocks away from Starbucks coffee and a local movie theater. The townhomes I moved into were sandwiched between a marine shop and a warehouse, and was surrounded by blocks of single family homes and apartments.
After several years, I moved 2 blocks east to a new home that had been developed as an infill project, it was a single-family home that was 25’ wide on a 50’ wide lot and about 75’ deep – I lived there for 15 years and witnessed the continual development and increased density of St. John’s turning a quaint calm neighborhood into a high density quagmire…
First came the infill homes (mine was one of the first), next was a 3 story apartment building replacing a restaurant right at the entrance to the St. John’s bridge with minimal parking for residents. Next were more multi-story apartment buildings replacing commercial buildings and connected townhomes replacing older single-family homes.
Sadly, St. John’s is no longer recognizable as a quaint, hip Portland neighborhood – the parking situation is annoying, traffic is annoying and the quiet ambiance from living next to a park along a river has been destroyed.
I’ve since purchased a home in an unincorporated area 10 miles from Portland in neighboring Clackamas county. I enjoy the space and my neighbors and am surrounded by old growth cedar trees.
I’m very sad about what has happened to the St. Johns neighborhood. I felt less safe, more crowded and more stressed with each new housing development. It doesn’t feel right that city planners can affect the mental health of all residents when approving plans for more housing, at some point density becomes unhealthy.
ForwardDallas Comprehensive Plan Will Eliminate Single-Family Zoning – “Zoning regulations must be adopted in accordance with comprehensive plan.”
This state law provision is also very troubling because it says:
“Section 211.004 – Compliance with Comprehensive Plan (a) Zoning regulations must be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan …”
In their new Forward Dallas Comprehensive plan proposal, staff is directly including multifamily as an allowed use within existing single-family areas everywhere in the city.
Staff and council keep saying “let’s get ForwardDallas done” and then we can have more discussions. Staff KNOWS that if ForwardDallas gets approved as it is right now, then zoning regulations will HAVE to be re-written allowing multifamily infill in all our single-family neighborhoods. Staff is getting this multifamily approved in single-family through the process of ForwardDallas.
Council needs to stop this current effort of ForwardDallas – not “get it done”. All councilmembers need to understand this backdoor re-zoning is being done through the current effort of ForwardDallas land-use changes – and that, if approved as is, apparently state law will require it get rezoned to match their insidious plan.
Thank You For Sounding the Alarm
Douglas, beautifully said and right on point. Congratulations on sounding the alarm … and doing it so well.
You Bring Common Sense to City Planners’ Short-Sighted Proposals that are Detrimental to the City
Doug, as usual, I appreciate your extensive knowledge of Dallas and its neighborhoods. Your thinking is spot on. You bring common sense to these issues that are short sighted and detrimental to our city.
City Planner 51 Years Shares Concern Over ForwardDallas
Douglas Newby, I’m a retired city planner with 51 years of experience and live in Dallas. Your article is the best article I have ever read in the Dallas Morning News regarding the city planning in Dallas. I understand that I also worked in your hometown of Hinsdale in Dupage County from 1972 to 1979 as the Director of Community Planning and served on the Illinois Regional Planning Commission. I have done many comprehensive plans and as a planner I share many concerns that you have. Thank you for the outstanding job you did on that article and I hope to goodness it might make some difference on what officials are planning.
Forward Dallas is ill informed and destructive
Hello Douglas, Read your editorial. Wonderfully reasoned and thoughtful. Staff all went to some conference and heard this pitch and want to put it on their resume. Horrible idea. Ill informed destructive and will not solve the problem. God so many bad ideas out there. And I am an apartment developer.
Additional Letters to the Editor in Response to Dallas Morning News Op-Eds and Columns Attacking Homeowners’ Opposition to ForwardDallas
Let Dallas Be
Dallas Forward is a laudable program that envisions a future for this city and its inhabitants. But what and how sustainable is the motivation behind the vision? The current discussion around how to create more housing seems to be related to the fact that Dallas has lost population as measured by the latest census count, and the notion that density must define its future success.
So what? That doesn’t mean we must prostitute Dallas’ older, quiet neighborhoods to the god of competitive growth. Let the suburbs flourish. Let the unique architecture of Dallas’ past be an attraction, even for the young whose eyes are trained for beauty.
Let Dallas be a city for people, and not vice versa. Let our winding roads invite. Let our hills and dales delight. Let our unending diversity be our gift. All this is already ours, if we are strong enough to keep it.
-Betsy Whitfill, Dallas/Lakewood
Re: “Zoning changes on table — City Council may consider contentious housing reform,” Wednesday Metro & Business story.
Nathaniel Barrett, real estate developer, touts that reducing the minimum-lot-size requirement is the least likely to disrupt the aesthetic consistency of an area. Developers long ago coaxed the city of Dallas to abandon the importance of that!
In the last 10 years, East Dallas has been decimated with bungalow teardowns and McMansion replacements. The out-of-scale side-by-side hodgepodge is laughable if it wasn’t so sad. Does not seem a concern to anyone except for those of us who live in it. And this new effort to hodgepodge our single-family neighborhoods further? Again, laughable if not so sad. Come on, city!
-Mike Sundin, East Dallas
Draconian Density Rise
The challenge of increasing housing density in Dallas doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. There are plenty of opportunities to achieve increased density by rezoning failed strip centers, office buildings, warehouse areas and vacant parcels of land that exist all over Dallas. Attacking existing single-family neighborhoods with draconian rule changes should be Plan Z.
-Ben Orr, Dallas
Listen to Us, City Hall
Re: “Stop buying the scare tactics,” by Sharon Grigsby, Jan. 21 Metro column.
As a lifetime resident of Dallas, I am appalled by the name-calling rhetoric recently published by proponents of Forward Dallas 2.0. I am proud to be one of those gray-haired, not-in-my-backyard people who show up at City Hall.
I am fortunate; I am retired and am able to attend meetings that younger people in my neighborhood, whom I represent, cannot attend because they have full-time jobs. So, label me what you will, I will continue to show up and speak for those who are still working hard to achieve the American dream — homeownership.
They want the chance to raise their children in a safe, single-family neighborhood, and one where their single-story home or cottage is not dwarfed by a multistory triplex or quadruplex.
Yes, we do need affordable housing, but all the grandiose ideas of achieving that goal have fallen short over and over again. Why is it that city employees and appointed and elected officials seem unable to hear what the residents of Dallas are saying they want and need? Why is it that we have to march on City Hall and show up en masse to get this city to listen to us?
Dallas, listen to us, we are speaking to you.
-Cookie Peadon, North Dallas
What About Parking?
Nowhere in his column did Cothrum mention anything about vehicle parking issues that can come along with high-density multifamily housing. A single unit of a four-unit building could have as many as four driving age family members. If each unit has four drivers, that’s 16 drivers in one building. Where will they all park?
Even if these four units have a two-car garage, that means that most of the vehicles will still have to be parked on the street. And if any unit resident decides to use the garage for storage instead of vehicles, the street parking problem becomes even more acute. Just some food for thought.
-Curtis Green, Garland
Threat is Real, Not ‘Perceived’
Re: “Greater density is Dallas’ way forward — Enact policies to encourage the true American dream in our neighborhoods,” by Patrick Kennedy, Jan. 24 Opinion.
Kennedy talks about “eliminating mandatory off-street parking minimums, liberalizing single-use zoning to allow mixing of uses by right, reducing minimum lot size, and allowing more than one unit by right on all residential-zoned properties.” I don’t consider these proposals a “perceived threat” to single-family residential neighborhoods. I consider them a real threat! By right, development allows developers to build without any community input such as neighborhood review or existing homeowner approval.
What I see is an attempt to do away with public comment and citizens’ rights to have a say about their property and their neighborhood and instead give that control to city staff, developers and investors.
He says, “Our elected leaders must ignore the noisy minority.” Strong neighborhoods are the backbone of the city. We pay taxes, we vote, we raise our families here. We purchased homes with the understanding that certain zoning protections came with that purchase. For the city to remove those protections seems like a bait-and-switch.
-Laurie Johnson, Dallas
A Losing Density Push
Research at the University of California, Merced, found that across every demographic subgroup analyzed, respondents preferred single-family home developments by a wide margin. Comparatively, apartments are viewed as decreasing property values, increasing crime rates, lowering school quality, increasing traffic and decreasing desirability.
California’s focus on increasing density in urban areas is also at odds with the national shift toward remote work and retail-office growth in more suburban areas.
Kennedy talks about higher density increasing tax revenues, but he has forgotten the cost of increased need for city services, schools and policing.
He references the progress achieved by Minneapolis “reforms,” but there is disagreement on whether the reforms, which abolished single-family zoning, resulted in the improvements he touts. Other potential causes include the city’s history of multi-unit construction, civil unrest and economics. Two- and three-unit housing permits were only a very small percentage of total permits issued.
Planners like Kennedy promote an ideology of density even at the expense of the needs and desires of the average person. The suburb, characterized by single-family units, is the future.
The more you convert the city to rental units, the more you lose on every level. Kennedy talks about increasing homeownership as a means of increasing net worth among minorities, but most accessory dwelling units and multifamily units will be rentals.
-Sara R. Mahoney, Athens
Homeowner provides statistics- Duplex development increasingly raises rent and lowers homeownership in her neighborhood
As a 23-year City of Dallas resident I am concerned. Developers have pitched this idea to city officials before promising that by increasing density on single-family lots more people would be able to afford homeownership. Those developers were wrong, and their work proves they were wrong.
Let’s look at one existing example on two streets in Dallas, Pineberry and Sorcey Rd. On DCAD I looked up each of these 160 Duplexes’ ownership and the 114 single-family homes across the street.
At the end of this e-mail is a full chart of my findings and attachment 1 is a colored-in map showing those rental lots.
Out of these160 duplexes 99 of are currently rental units. Off those 99 rental duplexes 46 are owned by a Company and 53 rental units are owned by a person who does not live in the duplex. The number of duplexes owned by a Company went UP 48% in the last 3 years. The number of rental duplexes owned by a person went down by 25% in the last 3 years. Of the total 160 duplexes, 62% are rentals. Attachment 2 is an example of the look of these duplexes.
There are 114 single-family homes across the street from these duplexes, 38% of these homes are rentals. 28 of these single-family homes are owned by a person and rented out to someone else. 15 of these single-family homes are owned by a company and rented out to someone else.
A home with 3 bedrooms stands a good chance of having more than one car needing to park at that home. If these proposed four-plex units only have a single-wide driveway, or no driveway at all, then all these cars will be parking on a city street. Don’t be fooled with the line, “All we need to do is install ‘No Parking’ signs to keep them from blocking the streets.” The last two pictures are examples of signs not being a fix to the parking problem in gentle density areas. The City of Dallas does NOT enforce these signs in any of our neighborhoods. You can drive on Pineberry any day of the week, day or night, and there are multiple cars parked right under the dozen NO PARKING signs all the way up and down these streets. Firetrucks have had trouble getting through the crowded streets in emergencies because of the congested parking.
Their statement that ‘gentle density’ will improve a person’s opportunity to purchase a home of their own is not true and these numbers prove my point. The cost to rent 1/2 of a duplex is as much and, in some cases, more than to rent an apartment in the same community. Please VOTE NO to this change in zoning.
Ellen J Taft
Mt. Creek Neighborhood Alliance