3900 block of N. Hall would be 2nd in area to enact restrictions
The parking situation for visitors to the Cedar Springs entertainment district may be on the verge of going from bad to worse.
A group of residents who live in the 3900 block of Hall Street, one block northeast of the strip, is petitioning to have their street become a "resident parking only" zone, meaning Cedar Springs patrons would be prohibited from parking there on weekend nights.
The 3900 Hall Street petition would affect only about 10 on-street parking spaces between Reagan and Throckmorton streets, and the block would be just the second near the entertainment district to become an RPO zone.
But conventional wisdom holds that the 3900 Hall Street petition — along with an RPO created in the 3200 block of Throckmorton Street last year — signals the beginning of a trend that could eventually ban nonresident parking on numerous side streets near the strip.
"It’s going to be viral, just like it was on our street," said Avi Adelman, a resident and neighborhood watchdog in the Lower Greenville Avenue area who’s helped create dozens of RPO zones near the East Dallas entertainment district in the last few years. "It’s not only viral emotionally, it’s viral physically, because when you push them off of one street, they’ve got to go somewhere else. It just dominoed for people over here."
Adelman and others say RPOs are needed not only to ensure that property owners and residents have ample parking, but also to cut down on noise, trash and crime associated with nightclub patrons.
"All we’re doing is taking back the neighborhood and saying, ‘These are our streets,’" Adelman said. "This is the only thing we can control."
The process for creating an RPO zone is relatively simple, according to Kerry Elder, a transportation planner for the city of Dallas. But Elder added that the spread of RPOs in Oak Lawn could be limited by a provision of the 10-year-old ordinance that requires a certain percentage of a block to be zoned for single family or duplex use before it’s eligible to become an RPO zone. Many blocks in the Cedar Springs area are made up primarily of apartments and zoned multi-family.
If two-thirds of residents or property owners in a block that meets the zoning requirements sign a petition saying they support an RPO during specified hours, the city conducts a survey to confirm whether the spaces in question are 60 percent occupied by nonresidents during those times.
The residents or property owners must then pay to install RPO signs and purchase "hang tags" for vehicles. Each resident can purchase up to six "hang tags" for resident and guest parking. Elder said the typical cost of an RPO is about $300.
Nonresidents who park in RPOs during the prohibited times are subject to citations and having their vehicles towed. In the 3200 Throckmorton RPO, nonresident parking is prohibited from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.
A man who lives in the 3900 block of Hall Street said this week that he’s one of the residents who’s been circulating the petition to establish an RPO there. The man asked that his name be withheld to avoid backlash from neighbors or business owners who may oppose the petition.
The man said part of the problem is that his condominium complex has only one parking space per unit because they’re mostly one-bedrooms, but many of the tenants are couples with two vehicles.
The man said although this isn’t an issue for him because he’s single, the parking situation prevents him from having guests on weekends.
"If I was to entertain on a Friday or Saturday night, I’d have to have people come over hours in advance just to try to secure a parking spot anywhere near my building," the man said.
Another Hall Street resident who reportedly initiated the petition couldn’t be reached for comment.
But not all residents of the 3900 block support the RPO zone.
"I think this would be a very bad thing for the businesses in the area, and it would make the horrible parking situation in the area even worse," said resident Jim Musick, who notified Dallas Voice about the petition last week.
Michael Milliken, president of the Oak Lawn Committee, which addresses quality of life issues in the area, said he also opposes the concept of RPOs, in part because the entertainment district was in place long before many of the current residents.
"They should have thought of that before they moved there," Milliken said. "It’s been that way for 20 years, so it’s not a new situation. What’s new is that certain properties have been converted from apartments and small homes to complexes of condominiums and townhouses. … If you paid $650,000 for a townhouse on Hall Street, you might get a little upset that people couldn’t park in front of your complex, too."
Milliken said he sometimes encounters parking problems near his north Oak Lawn home as a result of overflow from the Hidden Door, a gay bar off Lemmon Avenue.
"It’s inconvenient, but I work around it," Milliken said. "It’s just part of living in the city."
Oak Lawn resident and openly gay City Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons, whose district includes the 3900 block of Hall Street, said he supports the concept of RPOs. Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who appointed Emmons to the Plan Commission, is also a strong supporter of RPOs.
"It’s a way to keep the residential vital, because if it’s so choked that people can’t enjoy their homes, they move out," Emmons said.
Emmons said it’s also a safety issue, because parking in residential areas results in nightclub patrons walking down dimly lit side streets late at night to get back to their vehicles. Last week,
Dallas Voice reported that the Cedar Springs entertainment district is situated in what has been the third-most dangerous area of the city for violent crime through the first eight months of this year.
Emmons said ultimately the onus is on Cedar Springs business owners to provide more public parking on the strip for their customers. He said the city has granted too many variances to minimum parking requirements on Cedar Springs over the years, creating a "huge parking deficit."
"At some point, businesses need to take care of the patrons whose money they’re depending on for their livelihood," Emmons said.
Rick Espaillat, a spokesman for Caven Enterprises, which owns four nightclubs on Cedar Springs, said this week that he wasn’t aware of the North Hall Street petition, but he added that Caven "far exceeds" legal requirements for parking.
Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, which is made up of business owners on the street, said he hadn’t been aware of the petition but brought up it during a board meeting this week after being contacted by the Voice.
"We would love to meet with whoever’s starting the petition and just listen to what they want," Whittall said after the meeting. "We’d just like to hear what they have to say and see what we could do collectively to work together to solve it."
Whittall said the Merchants Association is well aware of the age-old parking issues in the area and is working to come up with a long-term solution. He acknowledged that the solution likely will eventually entail a paid public parking garage, but questions remain about how to pay for it and where it would be.
"Obviously it will make us have to be a little more aggressive when it comes to developing public parking in the area if this trend gets going," Whittall said of RPOs.
"You can’t blame people for wanting to be able to park in front of their own houses."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.