Residents fight DHA zoning change for Oak Lawn land

Posted on 23 Aug 2013 at 9:00am

Cedar Springs Place would be more than double the size of any Dallas Housing Authority project if city allows zoning change for property

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NOT BACKING DOWN | Mike Harper, left, and Leslie Maturin petition to deny a rezoning request by Dallas Housing Authority to build denser housing on its Oak Lawn property. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Oak Lawn residents are petitioning the City Council to block rezoning that would allow the Dallas Housing Authority to build a high-density complex on their Cedar Springs Place property.

A 200-unit development stood on the Hartford Street property between Kings Road and Hawthorne Avenue. Like many older apartments in Oak Lawn, it was torn down for redevelopment. Now, the DHA would like to do what other Oak Lawn developers are doing — replace it with higher density housing.

The proposed rezoning would allow DHA to build 400 units and waive standard parking requirements. More than 300 people have signed a petition to stop the rezoning.

Oak Lawn resident Ronnie Marr said he is concerned about crime in the area.

“A few years ago they were torn down and there seemed to be a dramatic reduction in crime and panhandling,” he said.

Leslie Maturin lives in the neighborhood and is among the organizers of the Rezoning DHA Action Committee, which is leading the efforts to stop the rezoning. She said she’s just trying to get information out so neighbors can make their own opinions. Her preference is for the new property to house the same number of people as the former development.

She’d like to see a mix of incomes, limit residents’ time at the property and do background checks to keep criminals out of the development.

She said she’s concerned about property values in the neighborhood. She’s a Realtor and spoke to her broker who estimates the property would lower prices on the new condos going up on Kings Road and others surrounding the project by 10 to 15 percent.

“Let’s work together to make this work for the whole neighborhood,” she said.

The project manager from DHA did not return calls seeking comment.

Although the rezoning request will be discussed by the Dallas Plan Commission, the final decision is made by the City Council.

In most cases, the council relies on the opinion of the council member  who represents the district in which the rezoning will occur. Councilman Adam Medrano represents District 2 where Cedar Springs Place is located.

Briefed on it last week, Medrano said he was considering the best needs of DHA residents and the neighborhood.

“I’m looking at both sides,” Medrano said.

He said he asked for an update from DHA and then hopes to meet with both sides to come up with a solution acceptable to everyone.

Kings Road resident Mike Harper said when the property was torn down, the housing authority intended to sell it. Instead, they decided to keep it to build the largest public housing development in the city.

Harper said he is not objecting to the land being used for public housing. His objection is to the density and to Oak Lawn having the largest DHA development in the city.

DHA runs about 30 public housing apartment complexes in Dallas. The largest is Estell Village in South Dallas with 291 units.

A 182-unit division of Cedar Springs Place lies adjacent to the vacant property. The existing Cedar Springs Place units were not torn down because they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The rezoning would allow 410 units on the Hartford Street property. Together, the area would have almost 600 apartments.

In addition to Estell, only five other properties have more than 200 units. Eleven have fewer than 100 units.

Harper is also concerned about the request for a waiver of minimum parking. With the number of new high-density complexes already being built in Oak Lawn, he is worried about traffic and congestion on the streets surrounding Cedar Springs Place, especially if residents and their guests do not have enough on-site places to park.

Nearby residents said the housing authority based its request on lower car ownership among its residents than among other higher-income apartment residents. But Maturin thinks it’s insulting to the residents to expect they won’t have cars and won’t have friends and relatives with cars come and visit them.

Harper would like the housing authority to be more transparent to the neighborhood about rental rates. Although some public housing is rented at full market value, DHA is not saying what percentage, if any, of these would be at full market value and what percentage under market the other units would be.

Harper is also concerned about management of the property. He said it was mismanaged with half the proposed units.

The current Cedar Springs Place “has closed down their gym as they allowed the residents and guests to tear it up versus manage the property in a manner in which this would not be tolerated,” he said.

When he spoke to Cedar Springs Place management, he suggested a neighborhood project to buy gift cards for residents to use at local nurseries to add landscaping to the barren Cedar Springs Place property.

He was told that residents aren’t allowed to do any planting and management didn’t plan to.

The Plan Commission will discuss the project at a Sept. 10 meeting. After that, there will be a public hearing before it is voted on by the City Council.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 23, 2013.

The petition can be found here. The Rezoning DHA Action Committee is here.

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