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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Urbanism

The NY Times Questions the Value of the Single-Family Home

| 45 mins ago

It’s the bedrock of the 20th century American Dream: four-walls, a little lawn, and space for a family and personal equity to grow. Over the past 100 years, urban areas in the United States have doubled down on the single-family home as the de facto form of American life. And even with the romantic allure of city living that re-sprouted in the popular imagination in the 1990s—as the apocalyptic urban visions of Shaft and Taxi Driver gave way to the boho congeniality of Friends and Seinfeld—single family homes have remained the dominant mode of living. According to a (perhaps a little dated) 2011 study, 70 percent of Americans live in single-family homes, but 80 percent wish they did.

But cities are starting to alter their assumptions about single-family homes—a development that we’ve commented on before. Today, the New York Times deep-dives into the trend. The report is in response to several recent attempts to change the rules of urban zoning in order to discourage single-family homes and encourage more density. The Oregon legislature is considering a law that would end zoning for single-family homes throughout the state. California is looking to do the same. We’ve written about Minneapolis’ new zoning policy that forbids single-family zoning. And Democratic presidential hopefuls are also talking density.

The causes for debate are all the familiar talking points we hammer away on from time to time in this space.

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Immigration

Teens Turn Trip to the Border Into a Play About Immigration

| 3 hours ago

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email with a link to a trailer for “Crossing the Line,” an upcoming documentary play about immigration co-produced by Cry Havoc Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater. It’s emotional stuff. (You can watch the trailer below.)

The eight actors are all Dallas-area high school students. Mara Richards Bim, Cry Havoc founder and artistic director, and Tim Johnson, managing director of Kitchen Dog Theater, took them on a pilgrimage to the Rio Grande Valley over spring break in order to collect first-person interviews. Those interviews will become the dialogue for the play.

This is the first co-production of Cry Havoc and Kitchen Dog, but this is not the first time Cry Havoc has tackled an issue of cultural relevance through documentary-style theater. Last year the theater company produced “Babel,” a play about gun violence derived from interviews with parents of children lost in school shootings, gun control advocates, and elected officials.

Johnson says this year’s show draws from more than twice the material. I sat down to talk with him and two of the student actors, M. Bandy and Leonela Arguello, about what the experience was like. Bandy is a recent graduate of W.T. White High School and will be heading to Bennington College in the fall; Arguello is a junior at Booker T. Washington High School. “Crossing the Line” runs from July 19 to August 4 at the Trinity River Arts Center. You can purchase tickets here.

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Local News

Leading Off (6/18/19)

| 5 hours ago

The Latest on the Shooter. It’s not much, but here’s what we know about Brian Clyde. A soldier who served with him in the 101st Airborne Division said Clyde “struggled with the high stress of military life but was ‘kind and gentle.’”

R.I.P., Witten the Giraffe. The 1-year-old died at the Dallas Zoo while undergoing an exam that required anesthesia. Zoo vets tried for 45 minutes to resuscitate him.

AT&T to Cut Nearly 2,000 Jobs. About 400 of them will be in Texas. The company employs about 250,000 people. Meanwhile, Morningstar is bullish on the company’s stock.

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Local Government

At His Inauguration, Mayor Eric Johnson Charts His Vision for Dallas’ Next Four Years

| 20 hours ago

Dallas met its new mayor and City Council on Monday. At the Winspear, seven new faces and seven returning ones—with one absence—took their oaths and swore to faithfully execute the duties of the office.

Former Mayor Mike Rawlings earned a standing ovation. He told the packed Winspear Opera House that today was a day for thank yous and for welcomes.

“Our city is special. It will face harsh winds at times, but we are made of something unique,” he said, and then referenced the city’s response after literal harsh winds took power from hundreds of thousands of Dallasites over the last two weekends and did much worse to residents of an apartment complex in Old East Dallas.

But more than anything, Monday was about one man, Eric Johnson, who officially became Dallas’ 60th mayor at about 10:40 a.m. Later in the day, Johnson and his colleagues took their seats around the horseshoe for the first time and unanimously selected Adam Medrano as mayor pro tem.

The new Council then voted down a motion to make fourth-term Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates the deputy mayor pro tem. Johnson and Gates voted for it along with Cara Mendelsohn, Chad West, and Carolyn King Arnold. The Council then unanimously selected Adam McGough for the role instead, meaning three men will again occupy the horseshoe’s highest seats. (The mayor pro tem and deputy mayor pro tem titles have traditionally gone to black and Latino council members when there is a white mayor, to ensure diversity among the leadership roles. Johnson is black, Medrano is Latino, and McGough is white. The mayor pro tem assumes the mayor’s duties should the mayor step down, and also runs meetings in his absence.)

But back at the morning’s inauguration, Johnson took the microphone, declared campaign season dead, and delivered his vision for his next four years. That vision carries distinct similarities to his campaign priorities. It also ventures into new territory and digs deeper into areas he’d only touched on during debates. He did not address the shooting outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building about two hours earlier.

Those who closely followed the race won’t be surprised to see the inclusion of Johnson’s goals to bring greater civility to City Hall, eradicate corruption, and develop Dallas’ workforce. He delivered those as three prongs of his five-part agenda.

Often as an indictment of his opponent, the term-limited Councilman Scott Griggs, civility and divisiveness became some of Johnson’s biggest talking points on the campaign trail. During one debate, he went so far as to say the tactics of former Councilman Philip Kingston, a Griggs ally, helped motivate his run for Dallas mayor. On Monday, Johnson said he’d be keeping an open door and an open mind, and asked that Council members treat each other “with a spirit of grace, a tone of civility, and we need to be coming from a posture of friendship.”

He said he’d work with that Council to solve the city’s well-documented ethics problems. And on workforce development, which he called his No. 1 priority while campaigning, he brought into focus his plan. He will create a new City Council committee focused on education and workforce needs and appoint a “czar or czarina” with the same aim.

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Transportation

Why Do We Accept Traffic Deaths as Part of Life?

| 24 hours ago

If you’ve turned on the news at any point in the last couple of months, you’ll know that airplane manufacturer Boeing is in hot water. Early this year, a couple of its new 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed likely because a malfunction in the plane’s anti-stall system. A total of 346 people were killed in the two incidents, a death toll frightening enough to “traumatize” the airline industry.

Meanwhile, in Texas, an average of 3,609.4 people have died every year on state roads between 2013 and 2017. The reaction? Celebration. After all, state transportation agencies were shooting to limit the number of deaths to 3,791.

How is this okay? How is it that traffic deaths are routine and cause little concern or worry? How are they accepted as simply a part of life? How come we build our cities and economies around a form of transportation in which death is one of several costs of doing business?

One possible answer: the statistics themselves are to blame.

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 27

| 1 day ago

Last week, a commenter on an encouraging post about the presence of scaffolding noted the mess of construction along Knox Street. As it just so happens, our founder Wick Allison was there over the weekend and took a photo.

On Knox Street, just west of Cole, where RH has taken over the world, pedestrians be damned. (Photo by Wick Allison)

This is work for Restoration Hardware’s new “RH Gallery,” we believe, which combined eight lots into a 2.2-acre tract of land. RH hasn’t said exactly what will go there, but the city has certainly allowed their contractors to run wild. The sidewalk that was present has vanished, but the parking spaces remain.

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Local News

Federal Building Shooter Killed By Authorities, Avoid the Area

| 1 day ago

Update: The shooter, 22-year-old Brian Clyde, has died. The FBI hasn’t released a motive yet.

Original: Dallas police have a suspect in custody who apparently opened fire Monday morning with an assault rifle outside the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse.

Here is video from WFAA’s Jason Whitely, in which you can hear a drumbeat of gunshots.

 

Here’s another from a Fox 4 viewer, where you can see the guy in a black mask running across the street into a parking lot.

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Local News

Leading Off (06/17/19)

| 1 day ago

We Were Hit With Another (More) Crazy Storm(s). It seemed like it rained extremely hard all early Sunday morning, then it was nice, and then came another deluge and a tornado warning. When I was driving home yesterday — after holing up in a Target for about an hour, after hanging out in the meditation room at Cosmic Cafe for half an hour or so after lunch — Garland Road was almost impassable. Based on my tracking, in three years, I’ll be writing about this kind of freak weather in July, should I still be employed or above the water line.

Fallen Crane Remains At Elan City Lights Apartment Complex. The crane that killed Kiersten Smith and injured five others is still there, with no set date for its removal.

Get to Know Adam Bazaldua. I’m already getting a bit more familiar with typing the name.

Uber Wants to Bring the Future to Dallas. “When Uber envisions the future, it not only wants to put urban air taxis and drones in the skies. It also wants to transform how people navigate cities and how they live in them.” No, you know what, I’m sure absolutely nothing could go wrong with this. Nope. Do not see a problem.

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Urbanism

Henderson Avenue Eyes a More Walkable Future

| 4 days ago

Dallasites who commute or live near Henderson Avenue, between Central Expressway and Ross, will be familiar with the recent onset of construction. The craters are a little too close for comfort along one westbound stretch of the road. Reasonable minds could assume the city is doing routine street work on a badly potholed thoroughfare. What they’re actually seeing is the result of years of planning—your 2012 bond dollars finally coming to life with an aim to slow the flow of traffic and make the area more walkable.

By February 2020, the city will install curbs that “bump-out” further, add parallel parking, improve the cracked and broken sidewalks, add new sidewalks, repaint, and put in a new stoplight at the pedestrian nightmare that is the intersection of Henderson and Willis, outside the Old Monk. It’s the latest iteration in Dallas’ “complete streets” program, which counts Lowest Greenville as its greatest achievement.

Cities have long emphasized traffic flow at the detriment of pedestrians, but Lowest Greenville became foot-friendly through city improvements that widened sidewalks, took four lanes of traffic down to two, added parallel parking, and installed touches like decorative pavement that signal to drivers they’re in a pedestrian realm.

Henderson is tricky in part because of the more limited right of way, which means the city won’t be able to widen the sidewalks in many portions of the project. Bike lanes, mulled over, were also axed due to space. But the city hopes to spur more foot traffic by repaving sidewalks that had long ago fallen into disrepair and by closing mostly unexplained blatant gaps in paving. Parallel parking will be protected by curb “bump-outs.” That will reduce the width of the traffic lanes considerably, slowing traffic.

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Local News

DART Will Replace a Parking Lot Near Victory with a Plaza Park

| 4 days ago
Very early plans for DART’s Victory Plaza. (Photo courtesy DART)

DART is replacing a parking lot with a pocket park between the American Airlines Center and its Victory Station.

Victory Plaza, as it will be known, will be a one-acre space that abuts an upcoming 350,000 square foot office building. It’s a great move for DART. Victory is one of the best stops in the system, putting you in the heart of amenities and, on certain nights, attracting the ridership that makes the line feel vibrant. The problem was always that parking lot across the street. You were dropped off into an expanse of concrete, and that was your welcoming to the American Airlines Center.

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Local News

Major Tree Donation Coming to Dallas Parks After Sunday’s Storms

| 4 days ago

After the storm came the cleanup. Dallas city staffers took to the streets this week to get trees and other debris removed from the roadway after a brief but brutal wind battered most of the city. Residents dealt with it on their properties. And private companies, both well-intentioned and not-so, went to work. It was a half hour of 70 mph winds, but it was enough to spark a nearly citywide response. And the City Council picked a rather inopportune time to vote on a longtime plan to limit the city’s bulk trash collection program.

The city’s Sanitation Services department hired 20 contract crews to help collect debris from neighborhoods, not unlike how the city deploys its own employees to corral bulk waste pickups. City spokeswoman Anastasia Reed said that City Hall is in contact with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to grind down the debris at temporary sites and expedite gathering all of it.

Reed said the city is looking to turn the waste into something that can be reused: mulch, compost, landfill ground material. Public works was in charge of clearing the public right-of-way. They pass the mess along to Sanitation to process. If the trees were down in a park, they’re also getting turned into mulch or compost.

It’s not clear how many trees we lost. But Parks Board President Bobby Abtahi says Dallas parks are down 641, with 255 of those at White Rock Lake alone. “We do go out and assess the damage,” he said. “We prioritize safety and clearing roads and trails first. We keep track of what we remove and we keep track of man hours.”

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Local News

Leading Off (6/14/19)

| 4 days ago

No Motive Yet in Muhlaysia Booker’s Slaying. But police say her alleged killer had her cell phone. The suspect is Kendrell Lavar Lyles, a 33-year-old man who a witness said was known to frequent the 2800 block of Lagow Street in South Dallas “to meet with transgender prostitutes.” Booker’s phone was still on after her death, and police were able to find it in West Dallas, the same general area where Lyles’ champagne-colored Lincoln LS was parked in front of an apartment complex. He had been arrested earlier in suspicion with the killing of 35-year-old Leticia Grant in Far North Dallas. He is also accused of killing Kenneth Cichocki, whom Lyles had allegedly been speaking with about a Xanax buy before he was found shot in the neck. Lyles is also a person of interest in the killing of Chynal Lindsey, a 26-year-old transgender woman whose body was found in White Rock Lake.

There Is Maybe a Plan to Re-Do the Khalita Humphreys Theatre. The City Council yesterday agreed to lease the decaying Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece to the Dallas Theater Center for the next five years. The DTC will come up with a 13-member “steering committee”—apparently not a task force?—to review a master plan for the theatre that architect Ann Abernathy came up with in 2010. That group will also hire an outside consultant to review the plan. There are requirements to plan for “equitable access” for smaller and more diverse theater groups, as well. The restoration is expected to cost somewhere above $10 million. An underrated aspect of this story is the minor Twitter beef between The News‘ architecture critic Mark Lamster and the columnist Robert Wilonsky. Lamster believes this is “more kicking the can down the road,” as the DTC is the organization that allowed the building fall into such disrepair.

Fort Worth Hiker Reflects on Being Saved from the Arkansas Wilderness. Joshua McClatchy was rescued six days after taking off on a hike in Arkansas and getting lost. He spoke to WFAA about his experience. (I am sorry in advance for the bombardment of pop-ups that that link will deliver. It may not crash your browser, but it will give you a headache. It is a nice story, though.)

Congratulations to All You Displaced Toronto Folks. Like my friend Jason Hackett, who seemed more stunned than anything last night that the Raptors won the NBA championship. What a game.

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