Late last week, the newly formed Lowest Lower Greenville Avenue Business Association requested a meeting with council member Angela Hunt and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano to discuss their proposed plan to rezone Lower Greenville Avenue as a Planned Development District. The LLGABA and the Greenville Avenue Restaurant Association were hoping to get together with the city folks in advance of the planned July 29 public meeting where Hunt, Medrano and other city staff will present plans for the PD to Lower Greenville residents, business owners and property owners.
Yesterday afternoon, LLGABA and GARA got their pre-meeting meeting, and Unfair Park was there taking notes. About 80 people packed into the main dining area of Kush Mediterranean Restaurant + Hookah Bar on Greenville Avenue to hear a presentation on the proposed PD.
The momentum behind the plan is to put an end to what folks down there generally refer to as "the bad bars," which are said to increase crime, traffic and other problems to Lowest Greenville and the surrounding neighborhoods. Then there's the fact that the police are putting dozens of officers on the ground every Friday and Saturday night. (See: budget cuts.)
But because targeting these troubled late-night businesses would be "unfair" and "discriminatory," according to city staff, under the PD any establishment wanting to stay open past midnight would be required to obtain a specific use permit from the city.
It's precisely that blanket approach to the SUPs that has some (or many, depending who you ask) of the late-night business owners -- restaurants, tattoo parlors and the, well, good bars -- feeling like they are being unfairly punished by the business practices of only a couple of bad actors.
Kush's dining room was packed by the start of the afternoon meeting, with only a handful of stragglers arriving late. Most in attendance were business owners, managers or employees, with the rest of the audience made up of representatives from the nearby neighborhood associations. (Also, we noted that a few beer 'n' booze reps were also in the crowd. "We're just here to listen," said one well-dressed gent.)
Avi Adelman, in his managerial capacity with GARA, briefly opened the meeting, noting that the turnout was bigger than they'd imagined. He then passed the microphone to Hunt.
The first half of the meeting was devoted to Hunt and other city staff, among them Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles; Dallas Police Department's newly promoted assistant chief, Vincent Golbeck; assistant director for sustainable development and construction, David Cossum; and District 14 City Plan Commission member Dr. Bill Peterson. (Medrano's office told Unfair Park last week that she would be out of town and unable to attend the meeting.)
These city of Dallas folks took turns explaining the ins-and-outs of the PD that has, in the last week or so, been stripped of nearly everything save for the "after-midnight" part. Yesterday, we were provided with a new new version dated July 19, which you'll find below along with a map of the proposed district.
Hunt said they were there to dispel some of the misinformation the businesses had received in recent weeks as rumors and assumptions about the PD had started taking root. She told them that the PD has the support of the majority of the area neighborhood associations.
"Four out of five are for it," she said.
She said there was some bond money already earmarked for area improvements, and that she's planning on asking for more in the 2012, but that the city's "not interested in putting tax dollars into a bar district."
Miles detailed the city's attempts to weed out the establishments that tend to cause the problems, and how she "predicted about a year ago" that there was a serious need for something like the PD.
Golbeck then explained how the crime in the area spikes from midnight to about 3:30 in the morning, and how "violent crime is still up on Lower Greenville," which explains the need for more officers in the area. Cossum talked about how the businesses will obtain their SUPs. And Peterson assured the audience that the majority of the SUPs will be granted.
"Don't fear the process," he said, insisting that the City Plan Commission isn't a bunch of "mean, nasty people." The process itself sounds like little more than a hoop-jumping, form-filing formality that will give the city some power to not renew the SUPs of businesses deemed to be troublesome.
Hunt assured the crowd that this wasn't going to be another Deep Ellum, referring to when the city started cracking down on SUPs OK'd for that neighborhood back in '07. "We're not trying to kill it," she said. The crowd grumbled, taking exception to the remark. Peterson chimed in, insisting that when it came to granting SUPs in Deep Ellum, "Out of 18 bars that came in for the SUP, 14 were approved."
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After all the city folks had presented their info, the floor was opened to the businesses for questions -- most of which seemed to revolve around the $1,100 fee required to get the SUP, not to mention legal fees. Then there was the question of whether the SUP plan will actually close down all the bad bars. To which the city folks had to answer there were no "100 percent" guarantees.
Simon McDonald of The Libertine Bar said he felt there was "a lot of ambiguity to the process," and that he was concerned that some good businesses may be lost.
But other than a few tense moments, during which folks talked over each other, the meeting was relatively calm. We stuck around to see how people felt the meeting went, and everyone seemed to agree that it went well.
Hunt called the meeting "very positive" and said, "It was helpful to hear these concerns from folks and to clarify any misinformation."
Lower Greenville Avenue Proposed PD