The Best Laid Plans…

WHO REALLY RUNS DALLAS, DEVELOPERS OR NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS?

GARY SIEB, boy wonder of the Dallas Urban Planning department, had to laugh at these two cute little housewives, with their hyperkinetic mannerisms and their naive belief that they could beat city hall. Gary, they said, we are going to take that Crosstown Expressway and strangle it. Norma, he said to Norma Minnis; Mary, he said to Mary Nash: That road has been planned for 20 years! He was thinking, “It’s written in cement! It’s got to happen! Don’t make me laugh!”

Sieb coughs out a sharp little laugh when he thinks about that meeting nowadays, but his laugh is ironic. Mary and Norma won.

The Crosstown was torpedoed by hardball poi-itics, neighborhood uproar and critical news stories. As it keeled over and sank, Sieb and his colleagues could just imagine Norma and Mary, in their Angora sweaters and designer jeans, lowering their periscopes and slinking back to their husbands and homes, exactly like the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.

Sieb has the second most important job in the Dallas planning department, but when it comes to clout and cunning, to persistence and power, he has to hand it to Mary and Norma. So do a lot of other folks, which helps explain how the two became known to glum developers and frightened city officials as “urban guerrillas.”

Guerrillas? The way things have been going lately, it’s the developers who are guerrillas, relegated to the unsettled fringes of the city, hiding from neighborhood groups on search-and-destroy missions. In town, in East Dallas especially, it’s people like Mary and Norma who call the shots.

The neighborhoods are strong and have a lot of power in areas where there is a lot of neighborhood pride, and developers are strong in areas where there is mostly open land and nobody there to raise a whimper,” says Jack Schoop, who heads the city planning department. Dallas’ establishment does not consider the situation healthy, and if you don’t believe that, you can just ask him. His name is Nathan Alexander Bickley, and he is executive vice president and spokesman for the Dallas Citizens Council, the political action group for Dallas’ leading businessmen. “You cannot run a city with neighborhoods alone, any more than you can run a football team with one individual doing what he wants to do, without consideration for what the rest of them are going to do,” Bickley says. Zoning attorney Louis Nichols, who doubles as city attorney for 14-odd cities around Dallas, goes even further. “I think the councils [of many local cities] are too responsible to a relatively small number of people who they mistakenly believe speak for ’the people’,” Nichols complains.

Norma Minnis thinks she speaks for the people, and when she and Mary Nash talk, the City Council listens. “Since June of 1979 there have been no zoning cases in East Dallas where developers got their property up-zoned,” Norma Minnis says, rather proudly.

Mary and Norma live in the Swiss Avenue-Lakewood area of East Dallas, but the basic patterns of planning and zoning decision-making are similar throughout the city. When a neighborhood really wants to keep a developer out, it usually can do so. Both politics and state laws see to that.

Texas has some of the most neighbor-hood-oriented zoning laws in the nation. In fact, landowners surrounding a parcel up for rezoning have something approaching veto power over a development. To get land rezoned, the property owner or his agent must file for rezoning, paying fees ranging from $250 to $1,000. Once a petition is filed, the city planning staff begins putting together information about the land -how much, what’s around it, what utilities and streets are available -and sets a hearing date before the City Plan Commission.

At least 10 days prior to that hearing, all persons owning property within 200 feet of the boundaries of the rezoning case must be notified in writing of the petition and of the hearing. The plan commission consists of 15 citizens appointed by the City Council to serve two-year terms. Members often have business or real estate backgrounds, and virtually always have helped elect a council member. At times, the commissioners have tilted more toward developers than have the city planners, according to panel vice chairman David McAtee. “They pretty much like to keep the dirt flying,” agrees Sieb. “They could be better . . . at considering the whole picture, the interests of the whole city,” Bickley grouses.

But everyone agrees that the current plan commission, which includes such neighborhood association powers as McAtee and Celeste Guerrero, is more oriented toward neighborhood residents than any of its predecessors in the city’s 52-year association with zoning.

That is doubly bad news for developers, because both the plan commission and the increasingly aroused neighborhood groups can make it virtually impossible to get City Council approval of a rezoning petition. The plan commission cannot actually decide a zoning case; it merely makes recommendations to the council. But by law the council can approve a rezoning petition over the plan commission’s objection only if three-fourths of the council votes approval. In Dallas, that means nine of 11 members must approve a petition to override the plan commission’s veto. “I’d say the odds against the City Council passing something against the recommendation of the plan commission are about 90 percent, but it happens often enough that I always go to the City Council,” says Nichols.

Even if the neighborhoods cannot convince the plan commission to reject a zoning petition, the neighboring property owners can impose the three-fourths rule on the council. By law, all persons owning property within 200 feet of the land in question must be given at least 15 days notice of the zoning hearing before the council. If the owners of at least 20 percent of that property oppose the zoning in writing, the petition fails unless nine of the 11 council members vote for approval.

If the developer loses that fight, he can sue in state District Court. But he can’t expect to win. “In the whole history of zoning in Texas, I don’t think that there have been a dozen cases overturned,” Nichols says.

Even Texas’ restrictive laws have not protected whole quadrants of Dallas from high-density “overzoning” that snarls traffic and frustrates utilities planners. Far North Dallas, which we will discuss in a bit, is a splendid example of how developers eased past political mine fields to get the apartment and commercial zoning they sought. And there are many examples of what planners would consider “good” zoning killed by ill-founded but vociferous criticisms. We’ll discuss one of them, too, as well as one case where, remarkably, the system seems to work.

But first we should delve into the case that made Norma and Mary urban guerrillas (UGs) – the Crosstown Expressway.

When the UGs first got involved in city planning, they found that the state legislature had made zoning reasonably easy to handle. Small wonder. Texas is a conservative state, built on empires of land, and the state’s zoning codes are designed to protect old landholders, with established land uses, from new land uses that might lower surrounding property values or harm the public interest. If letting everyone do what he wants with his land (as in Houston, where the city has no zoning laws) is one form of conservatism, preventing anyone from changing the status quo without a good, hard Tight is another form.

But roads, thoroughfares -there’s another matter. Before Mary and Norma became professional gadflies, the city could pretty much put the LBJ in your backyard, and the only warning you’d get would be a condemnation notice. That’s how the owners of 51 homes in Ricardo Medrano’s City Council district – specifically in Little Mexico -found out about the Crosstown in the spring of 1980. Mary Nash heard about it then, too, but somewhat more deviously.

Mary Nash has an intelligent set of dark eyes framed with blonde hair, set in an oval face with a model’s high cheekbones. Her figure is trim, and her mind is sharp, at least cunning enough to tell her that some men will spill the beans to a dumb blonde. Like Norma Minnis, she carries a Suzy Homemaker mask over the soul of a bull terrier.

She became what Norma Minnis calls a “road person” in 1979, when she found that the city had spent $70,000 on engineering fees for a road widening that, legally, could not yet begin. “I just went crazy then and I’ve been crazy ever since,” Mary says. She and Norma started showing up at City Hall as regularly as the cleaning crew. They hit the plan commission meetings, the thoroughfare committee meetings; they visited the city planning department and the city utilities department. They were friendly with everyone but, of course, they were not merely socializing. They were collecting evidence.

Mary made a friend in the public works department, a draftsman who liked her so much that he would call her sometimes, just to chat. He wanted to buy a house in East Dallas; he wanted to be friends. And incidentally, had she heard that they were rerouting the Crosstown through Little Mexico? Yessir, he was getting history of the route together; things were happening. They were about to purchase land for the highway. “We are going to build it,” he told her.

The UGs had heard about the Cross-town one year earlier, but they thought it was dormant. The Crosstown coming out of hibernation! That was big news to the UGs. If it were built, it would curve in maybe six lanes from Maple Avenue and Stemmons Freeway in Oak Lawn to Central Expressway and then to Live Oak in East Dallas, thence to R.L. Thornton. It would gobble up those 51 homes in Little Mexico, plus apartments in East Dallas housing an estimated 180 families.

The UGs had a lot of sympathy for Little Mexico, which would be cut in half by the Crosstown. But they had even more sympathy for their own neighborhood and, like good chess players, they were thinking several moves ahead. “We realized that if they built it in Little Mexico there would be no way to stop it here, because we would be the last link in the expressway,” UG Nash says.

The thing to do, the two of them figured, was to knock the Crosstown out before it even came close to East Dallas. That would take some politics, bringing together Medrano and his constituents and Councilman Lee Simpson and his supporters. East Dallas, they knew, would fight like hell to avoid the carnage another major street would cause. So the trick was to make East Dallas feel threatened. (Simpson, of course, would be with them. His political career began with the Swiss Avenue neighborhood association, and the UGs had helped elect him.)

Former City Councilman Steve Bartlett recalls that what happened next was a shrewd political move: While the city was letting the East Dallas portion of the Crosstown lie dormant, Mary and Norma revived it, pulling from the moldy file cabinets at City Hall several reports showing the precise path (“alignment”) of the proposed East Dallas Crosstown route. “I never could understand the logic of how they [the two Crosstown projects] got tied together,” Bartlett says. “It didn’t make much sense as far as traffic was concerned.” But, he adds, “It was good politics.”

Next thing the City Council knew, County Commissioner Jim Tyson was before them, announcing that he was, in effect, impounding the county funds for Crosstown land purchases until the council reaffirmed its commitment to the expressway. “The citizens asked me to,” Tyson recalls. Medrano and Simpson, of course, were working their tails off and had talked to Tyson; but so had a lot of regular citizens. How did they know to call Tyson, a county official, about a city project? Possibly because in June the UGs distributed more than 500 copies of a two-page alarm sheet to homeowners in East Dallas. At the top was a summary of the project and in the middle was a list of the neighborhoods that would be affected by the Crosstown, along with a notation that once Little Mexico was gone, “the only missing link in Crosstown Expressway” would be East Dallas. At the bottom of the sheet was a list of nine officials and their phone numbers. Tyson’s name and number were second on the list.

Tyson’s request for reaffirmation of the Crosstown landed in the council’s collective lap like a whale in an aquarium. Now the council would have to approve Cross-town, instead of just letting it happen. For the UGs and a score of similarly hardworking neighborhood operatives, this was the big chance. Indeed, when the matter came before the council for a vote on July 23, 1980, Simpson and Medrano came within one vote of killing the project outright. The council did ask the county not to spend any more right-of-way money until it could study the matter, which in effect sent the question back to the City Plan Commission.

The UGs were ready for that. They drove plan commissioners along the Crosstown route, pointing out doomed houses. They collected technical information and argued that the road would not be a crosstown loop so much as a connector between the Dallas North Tollway, Wycliff Road and Stemmons Freeway. Why build a whole highway when all you really needed was a set of exit and entrance ramps? Mostly, the UGs politicked.

But the pro-Crosstown forces had a big gun, too. His name is Trammell Crow, and he is Dallas’ premier developer. Among other things, he owns the Market Center along Stemmons, which could benefit substantially from a better link to the tollway. Crow’s Market Center president, William E. Cooper, told the Dallas Plan Commission’s Thoroughfare Committee in February of 1981 that his firm favored a Crosstown route through the heart of Little Mexico, as opposed to alternate routes that the city staff said were less desirable from an engineering standpoint. The city staff agreed, and so did a man named John Reglin, who worked for Pinnell, Anderson, Wilshire and Associates, better known as PAWA. The previous January, PAWA had obtained a $73,870 contract to advise the city on which Crosstown route should be selected.

Mary Nash saw John Reglin talking to Bill Cooper after that committee meeting, and a bell rang somewhere in her head. She had seen the two of them talking together several months earlier, at a hearing before the same board. She made a few phone calls and discovered that Reglin did, in fact, work for PAWA, and that PAWA worked for the city, and that PAWA worked for Trammell Crow. On the same project -the Crosstown route.

Fortunately for Mary, she did not have to sit on the information for long. One day after she tied Crow and city hall together via Reglin, she ran into Frank Clifford, a reporter for the Times Herald, at an anti-Crosstown press conference. Clifford, who knew that the UGs were always full of information, asked Mary what was happening. She told him. The Times Herald printed it, without so much as mentioning Mary’s name, on February 18, 19, 20 and 21. Clifford found out some other things: That PAWA had told the city staff about its work for Crow, and had been hired anyway, and that John DeShazo, the thoroughfare committee member who moved to accept the routing recommendation of Reglin and Crow’s staff, himself had worked as a consultant for Crow in 1977.

Crow, who was not available for an interview for this article, was never accused of doing anything improper. Neither was PAWA, which after all had told the city what it was getting into. But as for the city staff, well, things looked a little seamy. Among other things, the staff briefly tried to keep thoroughfare committee chairman McAtee from seeing the only written report PAWA ever submitted on the Cross-town question.

And this wasn’t the first time the staff had provoked McAtee’s ire. In March of 1980 the thoroughfare committee was asked to delete a lane from the Houston Street Viaduct over the Trinity River. When the panel went to inspect the site, it found that the city utilities department already had allowed the construction of a sidewalk over the lane in question. That July, the thoroughfare panel was asked to cut San Jacinto Street east of Pearl Expressway from four to three lanes. Once more it hopped aboard its inspection bus, and found that a decision had been made for it. Above the fourth lane stood the Plaza of the Americas complex.

McAtee was piqued at those transgressions against the thoroughfare plan, which is adopted by the City Council on the recommendation of the plan commission and which, with full force of law, lists the status and size of all city streets. Since the changes did not appear to be contrary to the city’s best interests, however, McAtee restricted himself at first to worrying about the staffs lack of respect for procedures.

During the summer of 1981, however, the UGs helped him stumble onto something that looked like deliberate deception of the plan commission by the city staff. The case involved a proposed parking garage at 1900 Pacific, which was to be paired with an office tower half a block away at St. Paul and Elm. But the developer, Cadillac Fairview, didn’t tell the City Plan Commission about the office tower when it made its application for a Special Use Permit on May 15. Instead, on the advice of a city planner, the company said its parking garage was to serve the city’s Majestic Theater, a proposal that was economically laughable and legally doomed, according to an attorney opposing the garage construction. He said that under the city’s ordinances restricting downtown parking, Cadillac Fairview could have its parking deck only if it was tied to a new development. When the plan commission asked the city planning staff for a copy of those parking ordinances, the staff omitted pages 13 through 15 of that document. Those three pages happened to contain the crucial restrictions, as the panel found when Mary and Norma distributed them. McAtee couldn’t help but feel that the omission was intentional.

Given that history of malpractice by city staff workers, the flap over Crow and the city employing the same consultant on the same project caused a lot of tongue-clicking in and around City Hall. The UGs and several City Council members agree after all that bad publicity Crow’s assistants ceased publicly supporting Cross-town.

It wasn’t long before the whole expressway plan collapsed. The plan commission voted on May 21, 1981, to scrap the Little Mexico route in favor of an extension of Wycliff that would cost only 22 homes; the East Dallas leg was cut out entirely. Even that watered-down plan was protested by some 200 residents at a public hearing, and by McAtee. And, of course, by Mary and Norma, who helped convince Councilman Simpson that he could tack a few other worthwhile road downgradings to his motion deleting the entire Cross-town plan in East Dallas. They were right. By a 9-2 vote, with only Joe Haggar and Rolan Tucker in the minority, the council rejected the entire Crosstown package, save the Wycliff extension.

“And the really great thing is, after we convinced them that they should extend Wycliff, the county told the city that they couldn’t use bond funds for that extension,” Mary Nash says now, rolling back in her chair and wiggling her toes in glee.

Alex Bickley doesn’t think that’s so great. “It defeated a portion of the thoroughfare plan that had been there in the past, which raises concern about stability, and we have got to be concerned not just with neighborhoods but with the movement of traffic throughout the city,” he says. To which Simpson counters that Crosstown was unnecessary and that building it would have been a terrible waste of scarce road funds.

Mayor Jack Evans says the city will have to reconsider some sort of crosstown route, but local opposition may be so fierce that Dallasites never will know what might happen if the road builders win. We do, however, know about the fallout from our wildest builders’ bonanza: the zoning turkey shoot in North Dallas.

When former Mayor Robert Folsom took office in 1975, he vowed to remove “antidevelopment” influences that had kept Dallas from booming. He made “antidevelopment” sound a lot like “anti-Christ,” and he made good on his promise. By 1979, the mayor of Addison was begging the Dallas City Council not to grant much more up-zoning above LBJ. “We are killing each other,” he told them. The council responded by asking the city’s new planning director to study the question.

Jack Schoop took over a Dallas planning department with a national reputation for weakness and incompetence. Within a year, however, he and his associates had produced a sophisticated report that grimly spelled out trouble for far North Dallas. Even with an estimated $100 million in road construction money, the study said, about one-quarter of the area’s freeways and major thoroughfares would be horribly overcrowded by the year 2000. It would cost an additional $82 million to bring the roads up to minimally acceptable capacity. It would cost a great deal more than that if the City Council continued to grant zoning for more intensive land uses, or if developers made better use of zoning already in effect. The latter seems inevitable, since less than one-fifth to one-tenth of the land’s legal capacity for offices, apartments and commercial space has been used in most of North Dallas.

Even Alex Bickley concedes that raising an estimated $300 million-the current best guess of total costs -for road construction in North Dallas would be a major, if not insurmountable, problem. Even the planning department’s harshest critics could not crack the methodology of the report. And yet, within six weeks, the City Council disregarded those findings, in a series of zoning cases involving huge tracts of land along State Highway 190.

Many members of the planning staff saw the council votes on far North Dallas rezonings as chicken-hearted retreats from sound planning. Most likely, however, the votes were just adherences to the same chicken-hearted philosophy the council has followed all along.

Former Councilman Steve Bartlett, who served during some of the more intense zoning battles, might not use those exact words. But he comes close. When neighborhoods and developers are scratching and biting over every petition, he says, the council naturally prays for a nice, quiet case it can handle without making anyone mad. It is likely to approve anything, no matter how unreasonable, if it is not protested by pitchfork-wielding voters screaming for human blood. Which helps explain why developers lusted after North Dallas like piranhas after hamburger: The area had huge tracts of land unencumbered by single-family neighborhoods. “The council,” Bartlett recalls, “had become so used to simply approving zoning cases in which there was no neighborhood opposition that it couldn’t differentiate between good cases and cases where there was no opposition because there was no neighborhood.”

(Even in areas with strong neighborhood opposition, a developer could avoid the three-fourths vote requirement by getting a huge tract of land and “doughnut-ing” his project -asking for rezoning only on the central portion and leaving buffers on the sides large enough so that the only property owner within 200 feet of his project was himself. Doughnuting is a luxury denied to inner-city developers, with their smaller tracts of land.)

Several current council members give different explanations for their approval of the zoning cases. They point out that if Dallas had rejected some of the petitions, developers could have moved to Addison or Richardson, leaving Dallas with most of the traffic problems but none of the tax revenues. They also look hopefully to future rapid transit. But Nichols says that the council has created land that is too densely settled for automobile travel and too lightly settled for bus or rapid rail systems. Schoop agrees, “it takes a long time to build up volume along a transit way, and it has to be both [trip] origins and destinations,” he says. “Mostly we have destinations -places to shop or work.”

The councilmen do not credit politics for their North Dallas votes, but politics lives at City Hall, judging by a case heard September 30. By a 7-4 vote, the City Council rejected developer Jim Williams’ request to build a hotel, office, and high-rise (200-unit) residential complex on 22 acres at the west side of Central Expressway between Walnut Hill Lane and Park Lane. The council members opposing Williams’ plan said it was too large for the area, which is near single-family homes. If so, the fact escaped the planning department (which favored the proposal) and the City Plan Commission, which endorsed Williams’ plan by a vote of 13-1. Williams’ proposal did not change between the August 6 plan commission vote and the September 30 council meeting, but the political environment did: deveioper Smith joined several of his Glen Lakes subdivision customers in opposing the plan, putting the proposal into the magic three-fourths vote category.

Nichols, who is representing Williams in the case, says the city needs density along the Central Expressway if it is to have a successful mass transit program. City planner Sieb said the council’s reasoning “escapes us.” Councilman Goldblatt, however, has an explanation: “It was nothing but political.”

The planning process in Dallas does seem at times to have all the predictability and rationality of a gang war. But there have been cases where neighborhoods and developers plea-bargained with each other successfully instead of risking a trial before the City Council. The State-Thomas neighborhood is one example. There, after overcoming what some residents viewed as persecution by the city inspector’s office, residents have managed to renovate and restore some of the oldest homes in Dallas.

Early this year, however, residents felt threatened by the sale of one square block of land along the border of their 12-block planning district between McKinney and Woodall Rogers. It wasn’t the sale that bothered them so much as the fact that the purchaser was Dallas Power and Light, which planned a substation to serve the downtown area. But DP&L also was scared – of neighborhood opposition that might prevent it from getting City Council permission to go ahead with construction. When negotiations ended this spring, DP&L had agreed to build the city’s most tasteful power distribution station, complete with 9-foot brick exterior walls, sunken equipment and buried cables.

DP&L also promised to build a park on one-sixth of a block that the substation would leave untouched. Best of all, perhaps, it agreed that instead of selling or demolishing 15 shotgun houses on the site, it would give the homes away and pay to move them into nearby State-Thomas, where 15 purchasers already had been signed up, committed to buying lots for the homes and to renovating them.

Judy Smith-Hearst, the 35-year-old hyperactive housewife who helped strike that deal, also runs an “old house orphanage” that is on the verge of arranging a revolving financial package allowing it to find Victorian homes threatened by development throughout Dallas, move them to State-Thomas, and sell them to would-be renovators. Despite the area’s proximity to downtown and to commercially booming uptown, nationally known urban planner Vincent Ponte says he believes State-Thomas is likely to succeed as a residential neighborhood. The house orphanage, he adds, is “a brilliant idea, so long as they can find people willing to buy them.” Ms. Smith-Hearst says the old houses, even with renovation costs, will be cheaper than new ones with less room and less style.

In 10 years, all of Dallas could be fighting its zoning wars like East Dallas. Or not fighting them, like North Dallas. Or compromising, like State-Thomas. Before guessing which of the three courses is most likely, it might help to look briefly at how the city has come this far.

Generally, despite the state’s favorable zoning laws, neighborhood groups in Dallas fought few battles 20 years ago; East Dallas was becoming a land of apartment dwellers -who are notoriously apathetic about their surroundings-thanks partially to blanket rezoning that gradually changed the entire area from single-family to multi-family land. In North Dallas there was very little to fight; everything being built was single-family residential. There was not enough commercial development elsewhere in the city to create widespread friction.

But as time passed there came to East Dallas a moneyed crowd of young professionals interested in living close to the center city and willing to renovate the older homes, due to style or economics. As whole blocks were rejuvenated, the new homeowners banded together to beat back the apartments that were encroaching on them like fire ants. As late as 1965 the city’s comprehensive zoning ordinance made just about everything in East Dallas multi-family land; a dozen years later, the neighborhoods convinced City Council to turn back the tide and backzone 750 acres to single-family status.

In North Dallas, meanwhile, homeowners were beginning to get those little notices from City Hall announcing that one of their neighbors wanted to sell out to Texaco, or Tom Thumb or, God forbid, McDonald’s. Pretty soon maybe a half-dozen citizens would be telephoning, driving and walking around Walnut Hill, or Oak Lawn, or Merriman Park, shouting, “The Safeway is coming! The Safeway is coming!” And bingo, you’d have an instant neighborhood association. Then came bigger projects, such as Crosstown or the Lone Star Transit Authority proposal so roundly trounced by the voters last year, and you had a whole network of neighborhood associations. They are still with us, under the umbrella of the Dallas Homeowners’ League.

Dallas developers never again will have as free a hand as they did above LBJ, both because they are running out of vacant land and because the neighborhoods have learned how much clout they have when they work together. Indeed, they have more power over the City Council now than ever before, thanks to the single-member council districts created in 1975 following a voting-rights action.

Under Dallas’ old system, councilmen represented all of the city, and therefore no particular part of it. To win elections they needed a big organization and maybe big financial backing, things that a group like the Citizens Charter Association (offspring of the Dallas Citizens Council) was best able to provide. With single-member districts, each neighborhood knows who its councilman is, and expects that representative to act accordingly. Campaign money becomes less important than a dedicated corps of campaign workers who know their community -something the neighborhood groups can best supply.

Given their extra reach, the neighborhoods could make things much tougher on developers. Already the city planning department has started work on a project called Dallas 2000, which has every possibility of becoming the citywide comprehensive plan that developers have fought to a standstill for decades, fearing that it will set land use patterns in cement and prevent dynamic growth.

Last January Simpson and the UGs got an item on a city charter referendum asking voters whether property owners should be notified before the city changes its official plan for streets near their land. The voters overwhelmingly approved the idea, and that notice is now required by the charter. It is possible that the neighborhood advocates also could put together the council votes to create special plan commissions for various areas of the city. Besides adding another layer of red tape to the zoning process, those panels could bind the City Plan Commission itself to pass new zoning only through a three-fourths vote. “That is an idea I have toyed with,” Simpson says, adding that he has rejected it so far, because he is not sure he wants to hinder development with such a bureaucracy.

McAtee believes that neither the neighborhood groups nor the developers have an upper hand citywide now, and adds that neither is likely to get one in the near future. The neighborhoods are coming on strong, he says, “But underlying this whole process is a basic agreement by most people in Dallas that what’s good for business is good for them.”

To make sure the agreement is preserved, Alex Bickley plans to have the Citizens Council use more of its muscle to influence planning. In past years, the council has pushed a slate of candidates for the plan commission; this year it did not, and Bickley feels the panel could be better. Businessmen, he thinks, “can take a more overall perspective” on city growth than can neighborhood advocates. He worries that city government may become anti-growth.

Norma Minnis, for her part, is tired of hearing that sort of thing. “You do have to have growth, but we’ve got to be careful that we don’t kill ourselves,” she says. “We have to protect what we’ve got in the ground now.”

Mayor Evans takes sort of a close-your-eyes-and-pray approach. “I think the neighborhood influence is growing rapidly,” he says. “I think the groups are better organized than ever before, and I think that’s good in some respects and I hope that we don’t overreact and stop our growth and development.”



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