Everybody got a piece when the families at Timbercreek got evicted--except the families

On the day of the final vote, perhaps the most poignant speech was by Robyn Flatt, executive director of the Dallas Children's Theatre, which occupies the re-developed bowling alley across Skillman from Timbercreek. I was in my car listening on the radio when she spoke, so I don't have notes, but I did call and chat with her later.

She sounds like a nice person. She has $2.5 million in public support to raise each year, according to her IRS records. I'm sure a person with her responsibilities doesn't want to flip off either the arts patron community or her neighbors in Lake Highlands.

But I was struck, nonetheless, by her willingness to get in the car, go downtown and testify in favor of the eviction of hundreds of families from their homes. She did confirm for me that Trammell Crow Co. had agreed to plant trees around her parking lot at no cost. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting she sold out the babies and the mamas for the trees alone, although they may have helped sweeten the deal.

Kids at Timbercreek, mainly Latino, rallied to save their homes. Not a single Latino on the city council voted for them. But the mayor did.
Kids at Timbercreek, mainly Latino, rallied to save their homes. Not a single Latino on the city council voted for them. But the mayor did.

Instead, I think she's just somebody who has imbibed a bit too much Dallas Kool-Aid. "I'm excited to be part of the improvement and the re-development of the whole Skillman corridor," she said. "I think what they're doing will help the whole thing move forward."

Well, yes. It will help the whole thing move forward. But what is the thing? Not every train should run on time.

Flatt said the apartments along Skillman have been a problem. "I think it has been a problematic area." But then she conceded that Timbercreek has not been a part of the problem. "As the mayor said, this particular group of apartments has not been one of the heavy abusers. I have known many people, many of my theater associates, who have lived in those apartments over the years."

So. Maybe all of this will help inform the performances of those actors who help the theater meet its annual budget every Christmas by doing all that Dickens.

I got another big chug-a-lug of Kool-Aid when I talked to Michael Gonzalez, the MiCasa guy--the Dallas version of a Latino advocate. He said, "I'm all for the environment. I'm for all these things. The issue is, I don't have $29 million.

"The truth is, whoever wants Timbercreek to be there, I don't care if they're black, white or Hispanic, go get a developer who can buy that for $29 million, and you can do whatever you want.

"Just like our own apartments or homes or cars, we can do whatever we want, because we bought it. So that's my advice. The truth is, unless you can do that, it doesn't make sense."

So there's your Dallas Latino community activist point of view. If the babies and the mamas want to keep their homes, they need to come up with $29 million. End of story.

But that's not even the beginning of the story. We need to get back to the truth. You can't do whatever you want with property just because you bought it. If you think you can, go buy a residential lot in the middle of Highland Park and announce your plans to turn it into a pizza parlor.

The uses of property are circumscribed by law. You are responsible for knowing what the zoning is on your land when you buy it. The city council was under no obligation whatsoever to change the zoning for Trammell Crow Co. and in so doing help pull the rug out from under thousands of decent tenants.

The mayor was right. This was an example of low-income, private-sector, multifamily housing the way we wish it always could be. No tax subsidies. Working just great.

There was nothing inevitable here, or there wouldn't have been a vote. The council could have looked Trammell Crow in the eye and said, "You bought it with apartment zoning. If we change the zoning for you, our vote will disrupt the lives of thousands of men, women and children who are respected and valuable members of our community. We're not doing it.

"Sorry if you take a loss. You bet the wrong way on our integrity."

But of course that is not what happened. Trammell Crow bet the right way. I guess that's why the people at Trammell Crow are doing what they do, and I'm doing what I do.

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