Oh, I do so love it when the little people pull a swiftie on the big shots. Yesterday, just shy of the deadline, a neighborhood group ducked into the city planning department and posted a $150 fee to postpone the Trammell Crow zoning case next to Klyde Warren Park.
I told you about this deal last week. It’s a huge bejesus mega-politan fandango development that will have every bell, whistle and lollipop known to man, including some high … up high! … high-end residential. Trammell Crow Company wants the plan commission to change the law so they can make it even more huge than the law allows already. They were very worried last week about a proposal by a single plan commission member to get them to include a few, just a few affordable units in exchange for the hugeness.
As an entire room full of glowering high-priced lawyers looked on, a 13-2 majority of the plan commission sliced, diced and slammed the affordable idea. It was brutal.
Then the strategy was to hustle the case forward as quickly as possible to the city council for its approval, shooting for a June 17 council meeting before new members elected in the June 13 council run-off could be seated. Get it done, get it down!
But the high-priced lawyers maybe didn’t read the fine print. Any adjacent neighborhood group can ask for a delay, and one of them did at the very last minute yesterday, before the deadline for a delay (by an hour and a half) but after anybody could go around to the group’s members and mess with them about it.
So what does that mean? Well, for one thing, Dear Reader, it means you and I now have until August, when the council returns from its summer hiatus, to talk about affordable housing. And who, by the way, do you think is included in that definition in Dallas?
The Ridley plan would call on the city to negotiate with developers seeking a special break on their zoning, asking them to include a certain percentage of units at rents affordable to people whose incomes are at 80 percent of median income for the area.
To figure that, everybody uses definitions and parameters published by HUD (The U.S. department of Housing and Urban development). According to the latest HUD guidelines, you are that person, at 80 percent of median income in Dallas, if you are single and make less than $39,450.
Almost forty grand. It’s not the Russian Revolution, is it? Nobody’s asking Trammell Crow to turn their project into the People’s Housing and Goat Farm Collective. Ridley found that cities like New York do this because it’s actually good for the economy and good for street life. On a great weekend at Klyde Warren, for example, how much of the crowd is made up of elderly rich people?
I discussed this last week with City Council Member Philip Kingston, who appointed Ridley to the plan commission. He pointed out that this is never a gun to anybody’s head. There is nothing compulsory about it. It doesn’t even come up unless a developer goes to City Hall and asks for a special break on zoning over and above what the law provides for everybody else.
Then the idea is: we do something for you, you do something for us. We give you zoning. You give us affordable. What’s so terrible? And what is the alternative? We do something for you, and then we do something else for you, and then we get zip?
If the city can use its zoning power to benefit developers, why can’t it use it to benefit diversity including a ton of young people working their way along in the world?
So now we have until August to talk about it. Maybe a new city council will appoint new city plan commission members who won’t squeak, leak and take a dive every time they see a roomful of rich lawyers staring daggers at them.
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I love this last-minute maneuver with the delay, because it’s just a great gypsy take-down, and …what can I tell you? I love gypsy take-downs. But it’s also a serious opportunity to discuss a serious issue – rents. Rents so high they’re running people the hell out of Dodge. Now we’ve got something to talk about this summer.
Ridley’s proposal is below, and below that the Trammell Crow proposal, which, by the way, looks pretty cool. I would like to live there, but only if I can keep my goats.