After "thousands of hours of discussion and debate," according to architect Rick Garza, head of the Bishop/Davis Land Use and Zoning Study steering committee, the Dallas City Council will finally vote on the plan Wednesday. Bob Stimson, the former city council member who's now president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, expects council to OK the plan, which allows for the rezoning of some 350 acres of real estate -- though, he tells Unfair Park this morning, he expects "it will have some amendments."
The likely passage of the plan concerns Michael Amonett, president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, who this morning sent this letter to the heads of several neighborhood associations (Winnetka Heights, Kings Highway and West Kessler) that support the plan. In short, Amonett writes: Support those who don't support the plan.
"I am hoping our organization will do what it's supposed to do -- support each other," he tells Unfair Park. "We have two [groups] not being heard from and not satisfied with the end result. That's the process, and I understand it. But what I want from the neighborhood groups who do like it is for them not to go down to council, like they did at the City Plan Commission, and support what's being done to people down the road. That's not right."
If you've been following along at all, you know this is the core of the debate: whether or not the rezoning plan, which encourages pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development, will eradicate the area's historic architecture and allow for brand-new towering structures that will overshadow smaller, older homes.
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Garza and Stimson, though, insist most of the neighborhood associations are in favor of the plan -- as evidenced by the number of people who spoke in support of it in front of the plan commission in May. (There were, of course, several reisdents who turned out in opposition -- and the Kings Highway neighborhood is so divided over its implementation a splinter group against the plan has sprung up to voice its opposition.) Stimson says Amonett's letter is short on any concrete suggestions and amounts to little more than "an emotional appeal, which isn't productive."
"This has had more vetting than any other zoning case in the history of the world ever, and, as such, it's not every going to get a unanimous consensus," says Stimson. "And some folks, honestly, are fearful of any change. But I live in this world knowing there will be change, and the only question is: How? The Bishop/Davis plan does some really cool things for our community. It does some great stuff from a preservation standpoint. It offers some incremental steps in terms of allowing some properties -- strategically picked, in all honesty -- to get developed. Some of my friends, Michael among them, are concerned if this passes, it will make Oak Cliff look like Uptown. There's no way that is ever going to happen. Oak Cliff is Oak Cliff. That's why we love it. It'll never look like Uptown."
Garza and others began fomenting this plan in '04; There have been myriad committees, both ad hoc and council-appointed, and myriad public meetings -- including, most recently, Tuesday night's meeting with David Cossum in Sustainable Planning at Methodist Hospital. He and Stimson point to significant changes made to the plan over its lengthy existence -- like, say, architect Larry Good's suggestion that they keep buildings on Bishop Street between Davis and Methodist Hospital under 60 feet. And even then, Stimson says, that suggestion ultimately resulted in their being limited to 42 feet.
"We've taken everything reasonable and incorporated it into the plan, that's all we can do short of saying, 'We're gong to stop and not do anything," Garza says. "We've been very open and have listened to everything we can, but progress is progress. ... And to think that you can't have new progress cohabitate with existing and older architecture is not really a palatable idea. We have to move forward."