City Hall

Oak Cliff Chamber Considers Its Own Suit Over DHA's Surprise Cliff Manor Move-In

Update: Chris Heinbaugh, Mayor Tom Leppert's chief of staff, responds, briefly, to some questions I had for him this morning. They follow after the jump.

This morning a Friend of Unfair Park directed our attention to None Zip Zero, a Web site created by opponents of Dallas Housing Authority's efforts to move 100 chronically homeless into Cliff Manor on Fort Worth Avenue. As you no doubt recall, late Monday night the DHA told Dave Neumann's handpicked task force that despite promises to put the move-in on hold till those naysayers had their say, they were moving 17 Bridge residents into Cliff Manor next week, and that, as they say, is that. The city says it had no choice, pointing to the threat of a lawsuit by attorney Mike Daniel -- the man behind the Walker Consent Decree.

Turns out, the men behind None Zip Zero -- and the attendant, invite-only Facebook page -- are Elettore's Randall White (who helped run the online efforts in support of the convention center hotel and the Trinity River toll road, as well as Mayor Tom Leppert's campaign) and Jeff Herrington. White's also chair of the Fort Worth Avenue TIF District, and he was there Monday night when, after three hours of what amounted to little more than small talk, DHA and Metro Dallas Housing Alliance told the task force, sorry, but the deal's done.

"I am a neighbor, and from my perspective it was never really about permanent supportive housing or low-income housing or the homeless," says White. "Even if a business was to come to the Fort Worth Avenue corridor, it would have to engage the community first. That's how it happens: How are we going to be a good neighbor? But this has been a whole series of announcements that has had the community in a position of reaction. We have so many residents who have, for a decade, tried to reverse the economy of a long-neglected corridor, and that element of surprise and the lack of truth has the neighbors wanting to know one thing: What's the truth?"

Several people to whom I spoke this morning say they met with Leppert yesterday, who promised them that the DHA has cut in half the number of 100 residents scheduled to move into Cliff Manor. But none has seen anything in writing. And now, some Oak Cliff residents are considering a lawsuit of their very own

At the bottom of the None Zip Zero nada site, White and Herrington ask, "Anybody know a good lawyer?" So I asked White: DId you find one yet?

To which he responds: His is more of a "discussion group," though he has heard of several organizations contemplating litigation -- chief among them, the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce. I called Bob Stimson, the former council member and the OCCC's president, to find out if that's the case.

"We haven't made any decision on that at this stage," he tells Unfair Park. "We're taking a look at it. But it's not something we're sure we want to do or not do. ... But the bigger issue is the zoning issue and getting that resolved. According to Chris Heinbaugh [Leppert's chief of staff], DHA has been unresponsive to the city attorney's inquiry about what kind of services they'll be providing and whether it's appropriate." That could be the the basis for a lawsuit, should one eventually find its way to the courthouse.

Stimson is among those who says he spoke with Leppert yesterday, and he says he voiced his unhappiness with the way things went down Monday night: "We find it kind of curious the neighborhood task force can negotiate in good faith for three hours and have everyone know the secret except them." (Stimson, incidentally, was not on Dave Neumman's handpicked task force despite Stimson's asking for an invite.)

"And per the mayor, DHA will limit the number of residents to 50," he continues. "That's part of the issue we have. It's like when something's on hold but not really. We want to see it in writing -- even if it's something from the mayor to DHA saying that's his understanding."

I e-mailed Heinbaugh three hours ago to get The Official Word from City Hall, and left him a message a few minutes ago, but have yet to hear back. Also: Repeated calls to DHA head MaryAnn Russ have gone unreturned.

But Stimson says this is far from over -- and reminds that the Cliff Manor ruckus is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to where the city places permanent supportive housing.

"The agreement we had with the mayor yesterday was we would get a look at where all the PSH is going to go," he says, reiterating other Cliffdwellers' concerns that close to 80 percent of permanent supportive housing has landed in the southern sector. "Somehow, we need to get to the mindset of, if we're going to provide these services we need to buy more expensive property and spread the wealth and bring it to council and hope they do the right thing."

Update at 3:10 p.m.: Here's what Chris Heinbaugh e-mailed to Unfair Park moments ago:

The Mayor spoke with Stimson yesterday. The Mayor spoke with MDHA and DHA and got the commitment for 50. I do not know if there is anything in writing yet. I'll try to find out, but I just spoke with MDHA and DHA and they have reconfirmed the 50 with me. We are also working to get the zoning issue answered.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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