Expunge Him

Plus: Tudor Mania

Expunge Him

Culinary assassins: Apparently Mark Stuertz never listened to his mother's admonishment to "don't say anything if you don't have anything nice to say." Like his predecessor Mary Brown Malouf, apparently the Dallas Observer prefers to hire verbose assassins rather than skilled journalists who are knowledgeable food critics.

Your rambling tirade about our caviar and salmon selection ("Grape Lift," July 25) could only be described as an embarrassing display of your lack of journalistic skills. A critic's job is to critique from a professional point of view, not to talk about personal preferences. Was our caviar good, bad, excellent, over- or underpriced, served elegantly or poorly, how did it compare to other offerings of caviar around town or around the country? Somehow those key elements got left out for the reader. Did you actually bother tasting our caviar?

You obviously write with a thesaurus in hand while lacing your writing (I assume to try to impress us unwashed masses) with frequent, though mostly poorly or even incorrectly used, adjectives. My favorite in this article was, "But couldn't they offer some tar-back lumpfish millet." The operative word here being millet, which Mr. Webster defines as "a small seeded annual and forage grass." It was, however, followed closely by "explaining which fish (size, age) expunge it." If fish expunged (which means to destroy, obliterate or delete) their eggs, we wouldn't have a lot of fish around.

What exactly are your qualifications to be a food and wine writer? Were you a chef, are you trained in classic culinary arts, were you a waiter, busboy, worked as a wine salesman in retail or wholesale, degree in journalism, master of wine, ever studied wine?

Real people spend their entire life working very hard to build up their restaurants, and most are responsive to healthy criticism from knowledgeable sources. The finest food and wine writers in America are sensitive to the individuals they write about. They realize that their comments affect the lives of people they talk about, and in fact those restaurants are why critics have a job in the first place. They write informed, well-written, constructive articles about both the good and the bad.

Fortunately for Marty's, Dallas has The Dallas Morning News, which just gave us four stars (out of only 14 in Dallas) last month and was the antithesis of your review.

Larry M. Shapiro
President, Marty's
Dallas

Tudor Mania

The bulldozer stops here: While it certainly made for dramatic reading, your article on conservation in East Dallas ("Trouble in the House of Tudor," July 25) sounds more like an attempt to make a McMansion out of a molehill. The truth is, there's been much more consensus than controversy, at least in the Greenland Hills neighborhood. How do I know? Because I've attended every single meeting, both formal and informal, and have corresponded with or spoken to hundreds of homeowners during the petition drive. I found the vast majority of my neighbors to be thoughtful, articulate and reasonable...including most of those who declined to sign the petition. Though some difference of opinion is inevitable when trying to get 918 households to agree on anything, we've tried hard to keep the movement as inclusive as possible. There's no excuse for the sort of behavior directed toward Mr. Eisenberg, the owner of the modern home on McCommas. Equally, there was no justification for the hostile, anonymous phone calls I received after appearing in a Dallas Morning News article on conservation.

So let's just be clear; extremists exist on both sides of the issue. The real story won't push nearly so many papers, but for those who are interested, here it is: There are a handful of Greenland Hills homeowners who are vehemently opposed to the conservation district. Judging from petition "no" responses and their presence at the city meetings, the opposition accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of the neighborhood. That's probably a generous estimate. Based on volunteer participation, about twice that number vehemently support conservation. The rest of the homeowners run the gamut from generally favoring conservation to not being that concerned one way or the other.

Yes, a neighborhood is more than just buildings. And I'm proud to say that most of the people who live inside these houses are just as charming and diverse as the homes themselves. Greenland Hills includes all sorts of people: working-class and well-to-do; gay and straight; white, Asian and Hispanic; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; bankers and bohemians; young and old. If that's what your author meant when she called us all "yuppies," then thanks for the compliment. Most people in this neighborhood moved here because they appreciate vintage architecture. Why should they be attacked for wanting to keep it that way? After all, many planned communities in the suburbs have far more restrictive regulations on building than we are proposing for our CD. Those planned developments wouldn't allow someone from the M Streets to move an old house up there and place it on a lot in their neighborhood. Yet when homeowners here object to new houses that don't fit in, we're "elitists" and "yuppies."

The belief that high property values alone will prevent anything but eyesores from being torn down in the M Streets is not entirely accurate. A simple search of Dallas CAD will reveal a surprising number of homes in the $130K range--the point where demolition is currently considered economically feasible by builders. Not all of these homes are unattractive or beyond repair. In many cases, the low valuation is due to small square footage and/or lack of interior modernization. Often, these limitations could be corrected by adding on and updating...but that's more difficult and (key phrase here) less profitable than just scraping it off the lot and starting over.

In focusing on a few isolated squabbles, your author missed the big picture here: People in Dallas are finally getting tired of seeing their architectural heritage wiped out. Until recently, most of us assumed there was nothing we could do to prevent it. But thanks to people like Angela Hunt, who started a dialogue, we discovered there were lots of others who felt the same way. That's why there are no fewer than seven neighborhoods (in addition to Greenland Hills) waiting in line to become conservation districts. Dallas loves to recall its colorful, cowboy past. Sadly, though, the architectural traces of that past are virtually nonexistent today. For many years, "Keep the dirt flyin', boys" was the prevailing motto. Because no one objected, many of our vintage structures, both commercial and residential, are long gone. Now people are taking a stand for what's left. If the taxpayers have their way, maybe the buck, and the bulldozer, will stop here.

Juli Roland
Dallas

Nothing Tudor about it: Rose Farley should not believe and quote affirmatively everyone who supports the building of new homes in the M Streets.

Example: "Those houses will never be torn down. Nobody's going to pay $350,000 for a lot in the M Streets..." Does that mean that the demolition currently taking place in the 5900 block of Mercedes isn't really happening?

Does Rose Farley really believe that Arthur Eisenberg's steel and stucco factory-like house at Concho and McCommas has "Tudor-like gables?" Did she look at the house? There is nothing Tudor about it. It is a straight-up, plain warehouse-type building.

Great architecture, even just plain good architecture, does its best to fit into its context and environment. This house--and some other new houses in the area--don't. Eisenberg said: "Buildings don't make a neighborhood. People do." But houses ought to enhance neighborhood living, not hinder it. In that regard, the best thing that can be said for Eisenberg's house is that it has brought neighbors together to work for the common good.

What is it that the Dallas Observer doesn't like about that?

Mark and Donna Herbener
Dallas

Dog-dung slinger: Wow! This article does an excellent job of holding to the negative, rabble-rousing, vague, irresponsible journalistic standards upon which your rag is founded. As 60-something residents, being called "yuppie elitists" made us proud! When a reporter arrives on the scene with a preconceived notion, a balanced story is just not going to happen. From her rampant discrepancies and overstatements, it's obvious that Ms. Farley possesses neither the desire nor the ability to grasp the concept of conservation-district efforts. Armed with a positive attitude and just a teensy bit of respect, perhaps she wouldn't find it necessary to wallow in name-calling and mudslinging--or should I say "dog dung-slinging?"--in order to sell her stories. Of course, were she a literate and clever journalist, surely she would have found employment elsewhere.

Lynn Parker
Dallas

Not about elitism: Your article "Trouble in the House of Tudor" is appalling. As a five-year Greenland Hills resident before my recent move to Charlotte, North Carolina, I strongly support a neighborhood conservation district. This isn't about elitism; it's about preserving a unique neighborhood. Dallas has so few neighborhoods of any historic value. The peaked roofs, stained-glass windows and small cottage feel to these homes shouldn't be torn down just so someone can have a house where a big-screen TV will fit through the door. The neighborhood character is lost as residents move in who don't appreciate the charm of these homes. As the builder mentioned in your article, the quality of construction in these 1920s homes would be cost-prohibitive to replicate today. If Belmont Homes were building homes in Boston in the 1800s, there would be no historic homes standing. People like Angela Hunt are working to ensure that our children have some history to preserve in a town where newer is always better.

Amy Robeson
Charlotte, North Carolina

You tried, you failed: Give me a break!

"Eisenberg took great pains to ensure his new house would fit into the neighborhood." Well, just in case no one has told him yet--he failed. Adding a stone accent wall to the front facade of a structure finished with stucco, corrugated metal and aluminum frame windows does not a Tudor, Spanish Eclectic, nor Craftsman make. Actually, it would be a super-cool house to have on the beach somewhere, but we live in Dallas! No beach!

Someone please explain to me exactly what architectural elements of his house are consistent with the prevailing styles of our neighborhood. Mr. Eisenberg, we hated it when you had a dormant construction site with a giant pit (future basement) on your lot for the better part of a year, and we hate it even more now that it's finished. Yeah, yeah. We've heard it before. You've lived here 25 years and you raised your kids here and you love the M Streets and you spent a bunch of money and...

Tim McMahon
Dallas

Some builders care: Your story on the M Streets building was just terrible! (You are usually so much better.) You committed the very crime that you so often accuse The Dallas Morning News of committing--you wrote a story using developers' quotes without questioning their statements or investigating their involvement. You quoted Belmont Homes as being "supportive" of the neighborhood-protection ordinance without investigating to find that Belmont itself built many (if not most) of the most boxy, unadorned, metal-windowed "Plano Palaces" that started the complaints. You asked Vintage Contemporaries about the use of metal windows, but they seem to be the one builder in this area that consistently uses wood windows on the fronts of their houses. We built a new home in this neighborhood last year, and we worked hard to make it fit in. We considered most of the builders you interviewed; there is a huge difference in these builders. There are builders that care about building quality houses that are appropriate for the area, but your story did a lousy job of sorting them out.

Craig Wilbanks
Dallas

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