Over the last couple of days I've received a batch of unhappy missives from Jane Bryant, the owner of 600 Elsbeth near the Bishop Arts District -- a property that's been the subject of years' worth of litigation. Bryant's particularly unhappy with my characterization of the property on Friday -- "if you've driven by it recently, you'll note that the place is barely standing" -- when we broke the news that she's suing the city to stop the court-ordered razing of the apartment complex in which Lee Harvey Oswald and wife Marina briefly lived in 1962. The city has long told Bryant: The building's a hazard, and either fix it up or tear it down. That's not how Bryant sees it:
You seem to like to write about 600 Elsbeth, without having all your facts in place.
1.) The property is NOT falling down - according to the City's own structural engineer the interior is in "excellent condition".
2.) The bricks are being taken down from the facade in order to renovate the building - then the bricks will be put back on - it is called "re pointing" the brick.
3.) I have attached letter's to the Mayor and City Council as well as the Dallas Planning Commission detailing my experience with 600 Elsbeth.
4.) If this were just about a dilapidated old building do you think the City Attorney's office would have tried to have me arrested and put in jail, pay a $500,000 bond on a property with arrest and misdemeanor charges when the property is appraised at $67,000. and this is a civil matter, and on, and on, and on......?
The City Attorney's Office vehemently denies the last allegation, as well as Bryant's contention that the city is trying to knock down the building and turn over the property to a private developer. First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers also sends along a statement from the city concerning the ongoing litigation, including last week's filing. It's below, as is Bryant's letter to the City Plan Commission from May 2010, during the debate over the Bishop Davis Land Use & Zoning Study, in which she insists that before she bought 600 Elsbeth, "it was a den of inequity and the corner had the highest number of 911 calls in the City." Den of inequity? I thought that was the Dallas County Commissioners Court.
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First, here's the city's response to Bryant's suit filed last week:
Code enforcement officers have conducted inspections of the property during the pendency of the litigation and the property continues to remain in a state of disrepair. The property has in some regards worsened since the suit was filed in 2008. Among other things, the property is structurally unsound, it has had at least one fire already, and it constitutes a public nuisance. There are holes where plumbing has been stripped from the walls, trip hazards, and other dangers throughout the building. In light of the pending civil lawsuit, it is not customary for the city to issue additional criminal citations. The city has agreed not to demolish the property without further notice to the owner, in light of the pending appeal.
Now, here's her letter to the City Plan Commission:
City of Dallas, Planning Commission Meeting, May 20, 2010
My name is Jane Bryant and I support passing the Zoning Recommendations, Case No. Z089-219 (DC). Iown a property at the "Gateway to Bishop Arts", 600 Elsbeth. If I agree with the current proposed Zoning for my property, is there any reason for me simultaneously apply for the exact same Zoning with a separate application? While I agree with the proposed Zoning for my property, I am sympathetic to the concerns of those who are opposed. I purchased my property in August 2007 and have been thwarted from renovating due to a lack of Zoning. (At the request of The City, I withdrew 2 Zoning applications to facilitate the implementation of the Bishop Land Use Study.) When I was trying to renovate, I contacted Larry Goode, Bob Stimson, Michael Mendoza, and eventually Rick Garza in order to coordinate my Zoning requests (which the City was forcing me to make) with those of the Bishop Land Use Study.
Larry Goode did not respond to my emails or telephone messages. When I called Bob Stimson at the Oak Cliff Chamber, he raised his voice to me, accusing me of causing the blight in Bishop Arts (although I had only owned the property a short time), to ld me Oak Cliff didn't want people like me who just wanted to make fast money, and that I should sell the property to people who had a history in Oak Cliff and cared about Oak Cliff. Mr. Stimson never actually answered any of my Zoning questions although he did want to know about my personal finances. Michael Mendoza never told me of any of the Bishop Land Use Study recommendations and Rick Garza, although charming and amiable -told me to drop my Zoning application for the good of the Bishop Land Use Study, which I did at considerable expense. David Spence, who I only met a short time ago, and with whom I have never had a conversation, has for over two years ranted and raved to anyone that would listen to him, that Jane Bryant is stopping Oak Cliff development, is the source of blight as well as a local developers economic demise because I would not sell my property. Mr. Spence regularly tells people that my property, which has historical significance, "should be blown up".
My reward for withdrawing my Zoning application, delaying renovation and gener~ting cash flow, and accommodating the Bishop Land Use Committee was that Larry Goode, with Rick Garza's approval, put my building in the "Bishop Land Use Study Recommendations" as a prominent example of blight and negligent property owners in Oak Cliff. (Mr. Goode is also the Planner for the Developer to which I would not sell my property.) It is this kind of disrespectful, unprofessional, self-serving behavior of individuals on the Bishop Land Use Committee, which has caused such skepticism regarding the recommendations of the Bishop Land Use Study.
Prior to my owning 600 Elsbeth, it was a den of inequity and the corner had the highest number of 911 calls in the City. Now, 911 calls are down by over 75%, saving the City thousands of dollars. Ifa well intentioned, educated, business woman -who makes a quarter of a million dollar investment in a blighted area is treated like this, I can imagine how people of less resources, less education, less investment and minority status are treated. I want the Zoning passed, but the Planning Commission and The City need to understand why the un-entitled don't trust the recommendations of the entrenched, entitled establishment of the Bishop Land Use Committee. Ifanyone wishes to see the renovation plans for my property, they can Google "600 Elsbeth, Dallas" and will be directed to the property's Facebook page.