On April 19 there appeared in the paper version of Unfair Park a column in which I reported that mayoral candidate Ed Oakley, who is chairman of the Dallas city council Trinity River committee, owns land in the Trinity Industrial District -- where the Trinity River Project will have a major impact on real estate values.
Since that column ran, I have noticed comments on Unfair Park from people wondering if the allegations about Oakley’s ownership are true. I blame myself for not having been more explicit.
After the jump, I will be explicit.
Now and in the past, Oakley has owned at least two types of property in the area near Stemmons Expressway, just across from the American Airlines Center. One involves commercial lots and buildings, two of which are warehouses for his construction business. They are at 121 and 127 Leslie Street, with a total value on the tax rolls of $454,710.
He acquired the first of those properties in 2003, the same year he was named chair of the Trinity River Committee. He acquired the second one in 2005.
Oakley can and does argue that the properties on Leslie are legitimately related to his business and that he has recused himself from council votes effecting them.
He is also owner of a building at 1605 Levee Street that is valued at $327,760. That building is owned under the name USA Trinity Properties. He acquired it in 2006.
Oakley owned another building at 110 Manufacturing before going on the council in 2001. He sold that property in 2004 to JBJackson Properties LLC. It was listed at a value of $175,120 before he sold it, and the next year it was listed at a value of $319,790.
I think Oakley could have been more candid about these holdings when he argued vehemently against a relocation of the Trinity River Toll Road to Industrial Boulevard, which would have put the toll road within a half block of his Leslie Street holdings.
But the harder one is this: Oakley owns or has owned at least four small properties on abandoned rail spurs in this same district. Two are at 1900 Levee Street under the name USA Trinity District Partners. Two more are at 2021 Levee Street and 2011 Irving Blvd., under the same name.
Because he owns land in this area under a name other than his own, I was only able to find these ownerships originally by searching lot to lot across the property maps. To find Oakley, I had to look at ownership histories for each lot, and in some cases I Googled phone numbers or office addresses to find hints of cross-ownership. Take it from me, it’s an irritating and very non-comprehensive way to search.
The abandoned rail spurs are the real problem. As I explained in my original column, zoning changes that Oakley has helped push through for this area have greatly increased the potential value of the rail spur land, both as parking and as potential matching grants for federal redevelopment money.
The new parking requirements appeared at one point to put some owners in a position of having to knock down their buildings in order to provide legally required parking. A subsequent rezoning of the area allowed owners to use or trade rail spur land behind their buildings in order to meet these requirements.
But two of the most important people steering that re-zoning process were Oakley and his close political supporter, Bob Darrouzet. Darrouzet told me he went to the Stemmons family some years ago, explained to them that the rail spur land could have value as parking and became their agent for the sale of that land.
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That puts the zoning, the parking requirements and the rail spur land itself in the hands of two people: Oakley and Darrouzet. And Oakley, as chairman of the city council’s Trinity River committee, also has great influence over the single most important factor for real estate in the district: the Trinity River Project.
At mayoral forums, Oakley’s mantra has been that the public must reject calls for a referendum on putting a toll highway in the park along the river because, as he puts it, the whole project is “like a suit. If you pull out one thread, the whole thing comes apart.”
Never once in making this statement did Oakley ever feel called upon to mention that he himself is one of the buttons.
You can find these records at the Dallas Central Appraisal District under account numbers 00000634204000000, 00000634207000000, 00000775396000000, 00000634645000000, 00789000230450400, 00789000230450600, 00789000240400000, and 00789000250180000. Look for "history" and click on it.--Jim Schutze