Everyone likes strip malls, right? Plenty of parking.

Urban Design

Someone Needs to Stop the Dallas City Council’s ‘Nanny’ Committee

Why is the Quality of Life Committee trying to ruin Dallas' quality of life?

It sounds so sweet: The Dallas City Council’s Quality of Life Committee and Environment Committee. I like the environment. I’d like a quality life. The problem is, the Quality of Life Committee is increasingly responsible for bringing bozo ideas before the Dallas City Council.

Cases in point:

  • The Quality of Life Committee were behind the ham-fisted ban on mobile retailers, opting to toss out a city staff suggestion to create new permitting processes for roll-around retail that potentially activate neighborhoods in strategic ways. Instead, the committee wanted to ban them altogether.
  • The Quality of Life Committee nearly banned the little free libraries that communities love. Luckily, council member Scott Griggs stepped in to save the poor, little libraries.
  • The Quality of Life Committee banned smoking in city parks. Regardless of how you feel about smoking and the extent to which governments should regulate behavior in public spaces, why, as the Dallas Observer wondered, pass a draconian measure that may not even be enforceable?

And the committee keeps on trucking.

On November 29, they are set to consider expanding parking requirements to outdoor seating areas. Currently city code does not consider outdoor seating and patios at bars and restaurants as part of the floor area used to calculate how much parking businesses need to provide to operate. In recent years, as a briefing prepared by city staff points out, there have been more establishments opening in Dallas with large outdoor seating areas, places like Truck Yard and The Foundry. Staff recognizes, using some Orwellian language, that outdoor seating is a good thing — it “enhances pedestrian street life when located on or adjacent to the sidewalk” and “may encourage more social interaction between individuals and may help enhance a since of community” (sic). But then staff suggests looping the square footage into city code’s parking requirement calculation, meaning places like Truck Yard would have to find a lot more parking on Lower Greenville in order to keep their doors open.

Here’s why that’s silly. First off, as the presentation itself points out, many of the entertainment districts that would be most affected by this are already in Planned Development Districts, meaning the area’s zoning — and parking requirements — can be tailored to the particular needs and vitality of the specific community. That’s better than a catch all update to city code that would make it more difficult to new businesses. Secondly, the last thing Dallas needs is more parking requirements. Forcing places like Truck Yard or the Foundry — or potential new businesses like them — to provide more parking would make it more expensive to operate and would potential force nearby land that could be developed to be purchased for parking and left to lie as fallow concrete.

When will Dallas learn? Forcing businesses to provide parking incentives car use, gobbles up land for dead uses, and places unnecessary burden on people trying to operate the kinds of businesses we want more of. We’re not Chicago or New York. Even in the busiest parts of this city at the busiest times of the week, parking can be found if you are willing to walk just a few blocks. Forcing the addition of even more available parking will only perpetuate a cycle of development that destroys that pedestrian incentive, working precisely against the “sense of community,” enhanced pedestrian street life,” and “social interaction” that these outdoor spaces are being lauded for stimulating.

Dallas is a growing city. It is beginning to have the kinds of pedestrian trafficked business corridors that most cities take for granted. Please, let’s not regulate those little glimmers of hope out of existence.

Comments

  • DubiousBrother

    Good thing we don’t have snow here – the committee could do something like this:
    http://heatst.com/world/feminist-snow-plowing-system-brings-stockholm-to-a-standstill/

  • Caroline M. Belfour Stanley

    Look at how they killed lower greenville A https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d23395e5a0b8ba1c320be29d916843e7201ad90b3dfdb8c7ab54c63a122e3f0.jpg ve. I live here and now it’s douch bag city. Not to mention that my neighborhood is ruined also.

  • Mavdog

    Dallas would be better served by establishing a parking ratio that is based on the number of seats at a food service operation including both indoor and outdoor, instead of basing the parking requirement on the square footage.

    While there are “entertainment” districts where there is a high number of pedestrians on any given night, the vast majority are using a car to get to these districts. There needs to be sufficient parking provided for these visitors to park their vehicle or the vehicles end up being pushed into adjacent areas (specifically residential neighborhoods) where they shouldn’t be parked.

    • kduble

      Au contraire, as Simek notes above, forcing businesses to provide parking incentives car use and gobbles up land. Mandating parking merely spaces businesses farther apart and necessitates driving, ad nauseum. Yours is 1950s-era thinking.

      • Mavdog

        much to the chagrin of those who believe the automobile is the cause of all things evil in urban planning, the fact of the matter is it is a necessary part of our lives, as well as a critical factor in the success or failure of a business. Failing to provide for a consumer having the ability to park their vehicle will result in the consumer avoiding the business and reduce the potential success of that business. I’m confident if you ask an operator they would agree.

        When the auto is not the primary means of transportation, such as in the case of dense urban communities elsewhere, the need for parking will not be critical. However Dallas is not anywhere close to reaching that stage of urban development outside of a couple of very small pockets.

        That is the reality and will continue to be such for possibly decades. The attitude of cars not needing to be accommodated in Dallas is merely wishful thinking.

        • ocschwar

          The reason the auto is the primary means of transportation is that things like the parking requirement make the building of dense urban neighborhoods illegal in Dallas.

          We need parking because we’re sprawled.
          We’re sprawled because the codes require it.
          The codes require it because we need parking.

          • Mavdog

            so you are saying that densely populated urban neighborhoods in Dallas do not exist? there are none because they are “illegal”?

            also, go out to a lender and tell them you want them to finance a development that has no parking for its residents or visitors. think they will give you a loan? nope. they aren’t stupid.

            Dallas is “sprawled” because a) families prefer suburban living, b) the roads and highways were built to allow for the sprawl. Guess what? removing a parking requirement won’t make sprawl go away.

  • Cristine

    The article is dead on target.

    All of Dallas design plans: Comprehensive Plan, TIF Districts, Complete Streets state the city’s goal is to transition to a walkable city. I don’t believe anyone has told City Council members, or Council just doesn’t get it, or maybe Council is power hungry. If there’s an issue, you must plan your way out of it.
    STOP PLANNING !!!

    Why not get rid of parking requirements all together. Allow resident parking only (RPO) to be established where neighborhoods want them. Then sit back and let the drivers figure out where to park. Maybe, just maybe, public transit ridership will increase and people may actually start walking. Small incremental steps to get to the place where BIG things live.

    • tbatts666

      Yeah down with parking minimums!

      Parking benefit districts are better than RPO. Current Residents should be given priority for political expededience, but we need to start managing the current supply better.

      We need to unsocialize parking, turn it to a unsubsidized market good.

  • Aardvark

    I agree with your points but your photo above is of the Richardson Heights shopping center, which is not in Dallas. Also, the photo was taken some time ago. Many of the vacancies have been filled and that shopping center is one of the most alive areas of Richardson, thanks in large part to Alamo Drafthouse.

  • Stephen Vasquez

    They are broke and I’m sure it’s some kinda squeeze tactic.

  • tbatts666

    Parking is housing for our metal overlords!! How dare you insinuate that we should provide less if it!!

    Every inch of Dallas should be paved over so cars can sleep peacefully.

  • kduble

    First Asst City Mgr Ryan Evans ought to be fired for such stupidity.

  • Sara Walker

    But Dallas is a majority Democrat city now. We are supposed to love progressive measures to control every part of our life.