Next month, the Dallas City Plan Commission will be replaced by a new group chosen by the new City Council. Each council member is allowed one appointment; four additional commission members will be appointed by the full council. Theoretically, the plan commission should represent each section of the city. In practice, at least geographically, that hasn’t been the case.
Gary Sieb of the city’s planning department says that in the 10 years he has worked with the commission, there has always been a strong North Dallas faction within the plan commission, and often little representation from other sections of the city. Sieb says that this oc-curence is not only true for the plan commission but for most other city boards and commissions as well.
The current commission is a perfect example: Five of the 15 members live in Council District 4-North Dallas (three of those members – Vance Jobe, Lydia Turner and Herb Walne-live in Bent Tree within blocks of each other); Districts 1, 6 and 8-South Oak Cliff, South Dallas and Southwest Oak Cliff- each have one member only; Districts 7 and 3 – Southeast and Northwest Dallas-have two members each; District 5 -Northeast Dallas -has three; and District 2-North Oak Cliff, West Dallas and Western North Dallas -has no members. Within District 2 lies a large segment of Oak Lawn, an area of the city with a significant number of recent zoning cases. It is also an area with a great deal of infighting between developers and homeowners and a high level of grass-roots involvement in zoning.
Sieb says he believes that the current council is going to change the trend of heavy North Dallas concentration. He says many of the new members have expressed concern that their appointees be from their home districts. The change, he says, is probably a result of increased citizen awareness and the fact that many campaign promises were made during this election – promises that various neighborhoods will be well represented.
Regardless of who takes over the plan commission, one thing is certain: The seats to be filled are powerful ones. Since January, more than 80 percent of the commission’s recommendations have been upheld by the council.