THIS NICE BUILDING IS ILLEGAL

Dallas architect Dave Braden has always been a decent, law-abiding man, so he was more than a little shocked to receive a phone call from the city recently informing him he was in violation of City Ordinance 15-203. Oh my God, he thought.

But the nature of the crime was hardly heinous. In fact, it was downright peculiar. It seems that Braden, who’d just begun refurbishing a downtown west end warehouse for a new office, had committed the unseemly sin of painting the brick on the building’s facade an “illegal brown.” What, you may ask, is an “illegal brown?” Well, for lack of a better explanation, it’s a brown that doesn’t fit into the “approved colors” for restored buildings in City Ordinance 15-203, the so-called “West End preservation” ordinance.

Braden, a likable and unflappable sort, was not so much miffed as mystified. Here he’d gone to the considerable risk of buying and renovating a warehouse in one of the city’s high-priority restoration districts, and the only thanks he got was a court summons. Notified by Braden of the problem, both the City Plan Commission and the City Attorney’s Office scratched their heads and admitted the law did seem, well, a little inflexible.

“There is a problem in this case.” says Assistant City Attorney Bob Buckner, “because the ordinance is not clear with respect to the structural facade of his building. We’ve already met with the Landmark Committee and we’ll find a way of working it out – whether in the existing wording of the ordinance or through modification.”

Meanwhile, Braden is more than willing to forgive and forget. “I’ve got no complaints. I’m glad I live in a town where I can take a problem like this straight to city government and get action. And I still say it’s a nice brown.”

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