Flashing lights won’t fix Cedar Springs’ No. 1 problem: Shabbiness

Community must work together to spiff up our strip, which wasn’t even included in Dallas’ ‘Complete Streets’ program until recently

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Afriend and I went to a Jan. 12 meeting at the Round-Up Saloon, hosted by Dallas City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano. The meeting was called to address the epidemic of pedestrian traffic accidents on Cedar Springs Road.

We listened to a city engineer, other city staff, a police officer and local businesspeople. The engineer showed us slides of Cedar Springs as it is and as the city proposed to change it in three stages.

If you read David Taffet’s article on Page 6 of the Jan. 27 issue of Dallas Voice, you know what’s proposed. And if you’ve been on Cedar Springs, you can’t have missed the most obvious change: yellow warning flashers, first at Knight Street, then at Reagan.

They are supposed to flash 24/7 for a month, then only when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. However, when I left the Oak Lawn Library on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the flasher at Knight — just in front of the library and the corner of Ilume — was not flashing. Hmmm.

I also went to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association meeting Jan. 25. There, Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Mayor Mike Rawlings, took questions and listened to comments during the first half of the meeting. I thought the most important point was made by Luke Crosland, ilume’s developer: The area generates $30 million a year in alcohol sales.

That’s a huge amount of revenue. With the next phase of ilume scheduled for development, and with more and more apartments replacing the area’s older homes, no doubt that revenue stream will grow.

In the second part of the meeting, CSMA Executive Director Scott Whittall spoke of the traffic study the city will conduct throughout February to help officials make more decisions about traffic problems and solutions. Whittall also announced a new campaign, online and presumably in print, to market “The Strip on Cedar Springs.” (Go to TinyUrl.com/8yb7uj8 to enter the logo design contest.)

Finally, after asking CSMA attendees to sign up for one of two committees, “traffic problems” or “taxi solutions,” Whittall announced a whole calendar of events for the remainder of 2012. All are geared to attract locals and visitors to The Strip.

Sounds good.

And if more crosswalk lights, pedestrian signs and police patrols will keep people from being run down, that certainly is good.

But changing the behavior of pedestrians and drivers is not the main problem.

The main problem is shabbiness.

Drive slowly up and down Cedar Springs as I did on Tuesday at midday.

Look at the very different storefronts, the very disparate signage.

Look at the street, cracked and torn and unevenly marked.

Look at the sidewalks, also cracked and torn. In some places, curbs are high, in other places low, in still others slanted to accommodate the disabled. Holes as big as a boot are everywhere. Round metal whatevers are inserted along portions of the sidewalk holding what look like tall twigs. Even if the twigs spring to life next month, they will still look weird.

This is a major “entertainment district” in a major American city? This is our answer to Manhattan’s Great White Way or Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade?

Our area was not even included in Dallas’ Complete Streets planning. In fact, I had never heard of “Complete Streets” until it appeared on the city’s handout of short-term, medium-term, and long-term Cedar Springs Pedestrian Safety Improvements. On the handout, as you might guess, it was No. 12, a long-term option to “Review area for Complete Street design.”

Check out www.dallascompletestreets.com. You’ll see that nine areas have already been selected for attention and investment, apparently by city staff or consultants. You’ll also see a list of workshops held this past November and December, none in our area and none advertised in the Dallas Voice.

How do we get from shabby to spiffy? We talk to the Dallas City Council, we talk to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association, we talk to the Dallas Complete Streets planners, and we talk to one another. Perhaps we organize the equivalent of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, which works on conserving what’s best and reworking what’s not.

Today. We can start today. Each of us can make one phone call or write one email, and make one post on Facebook or Twitter.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Violent crime falls 13% in Oak Lawn hotspot

But jumps in vehicle burglaries, auto thefts fuel overall increase in 2011 for Maple-Wycliff TAAG

Martin.Laura

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com
Violent crime fell roughly 13 percent last year in the 1-square-mile hotspot that encompasses the Cedar Springs entertainment district and most of the Oak Lawn gayborhood, according to statistics provided by the Dallas Police Department this week.

However, the number of nonviolent offenses jumped 7 percent in the area —including significant spikes in vehicle burglaries and auto thefts — leading to a 4 percent increase in overall crime.

The Maple-Wycliff Target Area Action Grid, previously known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, stretches generally from Maple Avenue to Lemmon Avenue, and from Oak Lawn Avenue to Kings Road.

The area, identified by DPD as one of 27 crime hotspots citywide, recorded 108 violent offenses from Jan. 1 through Dec. 26 of 2011, down from 122 violent offenses during the same period in 2010. Statistics for the final five days of the year were not yet available this week.

The 2011 numbers put the Maple-Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 for violent crime on a list of the city’s worst hotspots. Three years ago, shortly after the hotspots were identified, the Maple-Wycliff TAAG climbed as high as No. 2 on the list.

“I think part of it is the general trend in Dallas and nationally, that crime has gone down,” said Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes portions of the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. “I think the other part of it is the additional focus the city has placed on making safety a greater priority in that area.”

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for DPD, cited increased patrols, including plainclothes officers, as well as greater community involvement.

“The reason we have TAAG areas is they’re identified as high crime areas, so we address them with extra patrols,” Martin said. “Those areas where we have high crime get more attention, so it would stand to reason that crime would be reduced in those areas.”

Both Hunt and Martin also pointed to improved street lighting in the gayborhood, much of which was initiated by Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn campaign.

Martin said even the Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. — where the parking lot has long been plagued by aggravated robberies — recently installed additional lighting.

“If you go over there on the weekend now it looks like Christmas,” Martin said. “I don’t believe we’ve had a problem since then at that location.”

The 12.5 percent decrease in violent crime in the Maple-Wycliff TAAG was part of an 8.8 percent reduction citywide — which marked the eighth straight annual decline, a record for Dallas.

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that murders dropped to a 44-year low in 2011, while total crime was down 39 percent over the last eight years.

Factors cited as contributing to the trend include the hiring of hundreds more police officers over the last few years, DPD’s strategy of hotspot policing and the large number of convicts who are behind bars.

However, despite increased attention from police, the news was not all good for the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. Statistics obtained by Dallas Voice show vehicle burglaries jumped 21 percent from 2010 to 2011, while auto thefts jumped 17 percent.

The Maple-Wycliff TAAG recorded 338 vehicle burglaries in 2011 — or an average of almost one per day — up from 280 in 2010.

Martin noted that the number of vehicle burglaries dropped sharply over the last month of 2011. She said this was after DPD made several arrests of burglars who had been very active in the area.

Martin advised people to park in well-lit, nonisolated areas, away from shadows and tree cover, and to lock their vehicles and set their alarms if they have them.

She also said people should take anything from their vehicles they can’t afford to lose, and hide everything else under a seat, or in the glove compartment or trunk.

But she warned people against hiding items after they’ve already parked, because she said criminals look for this.

“You don’t want people to observe you hiding things,” she said. “Make your vehicle a hard target. Burglary of a vehicle a lot of times is a crime of opportunity.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

For the 4th time in 2 months, a pedestrian was struck last week on the Cedar Springs strip

A 72-year-old pedestrian was struck in the crosswalk on Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street at about 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 22. He was taken to Parkland Hospital and released on Christmas Day.

Lyle Bainbridge said he was crossing the street in the crosswalk and vehicles had stopped in both directions, when a motorist sped around the stopped vehicles and hit him.

He said he was thrown and his head landed in the gutter just inches from the car that hit him.

The driver of that vehicle stopped and told Bainbridge that he was delivering pizzas and was on his cell phone talking to the owner of his store. Bainbridge said the man was apologetic and in tears when he got out of his car.

Bainbridge has a broken collar bone. Doctors detected heart defibrillation problems that may have been a result of the accident. He said he had not been diagnosed previously with heart problems.

Bainbridge, who is from California, is in Dallas for the holidays house-sitting for a friend.

This is the fourth time a pedestrian has been hit on Cedar Springs Road in two months and the third time near this same location.

On Nov. 25, Edward Lee King, 61, was struck by a driver and killed crossing Cedar Springs Knight Street. Wayne Priest, 55, was killed by a hit-and-run driver near Cedar Springs and Reagan Street on Nov. 3.

A 10-year-old girl was hit on Dec. 10 near Knight Street. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

After the earlier accidents, Councilwoman Angela Hunt asked city staff to looks at ways to make the area safer for pedestrians.

Bainbridge said he wanted to call awareness to his accident to push the city to take action. He said that there should be stop signs at the intersection if not traffic lights.

“It takes something drastic happening before they’ll do something,” he said.

When he learned about the previous accidents at the intersection, he said he wondered how many more people will be hit before the city makes safety in this area a priority.

It was unclear whether the driver who hit Bainbridge received a citation. Sr. Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the Dallas Police Department, said an accident report was not yet available.

—  David Taffet

Another pedestrian hit on Cedar Springs

For the third time in six weeks, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on the Cedar Springs strip over the weekend.

This time, the victim reportedly is a 10-year-old girl, but her injuries aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

Dallas police said today they could provide few additional details about the accident. No offense report was generated since the driver of the vehicle stopped at the scene.

According to 911 call records, the incident was reported at 2:35 p.m. on Saturday and took place at 4100 Cedar Springs Road.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said the unidentified victim was transported to Children’s Medical Center.

“From what I can tell by the notes on the call sheet, the child had non-life threatening injuries, but may have had possible broken bones, but it does not say which bones,” Janse said.

Dallas Voice is working to obtain an accident report from DPD’s Open Records Division.

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts forwarded to the newspaper indicate the victim is a 10-year-old girl who had just exited a school bus from a field trip and was struck by a pickup truck.

Two pedestrians were killed last month on the Cedar Springs strip in accidents involving hit-and-run drivers. Wayne Priest, 55, died after being struck Nov. 3 near Cedar Springs and Reagan Street. Edward Lee King, 61, was hit Nov. 25 near Cedar Springs and Knight Street.

In response to the deadly accidents — the first in recent memory on the strip — Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt has asked city staff to look at ways to make the area safer for pedestrians.

 

—  John Wright

Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett to participate in World AIDS Day event

Dallas Cowboys' tight end Martellus Bennett

Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Martellus Bennett will speak Thursday, Dec. 1 at the World AIDS Day event at Main Street Garden in Downtown Dallas at 7:30 p.m.

Bennett may be best known in the LGBT community for cheating on a girlfriend who had nude pics of him last year — and for making a rap video that included a gay slur the year before.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero.” Organizers said that meant zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Among the other speakers at the hour-long event are restaurant-owner Monica Greene, Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation founder Anthony Chisom, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. Openly gay Cantor Don Croll will begin the event with an invocation. Pastor Doris G. Deckard, founder of the Church of the Solid Rock, will close the ceremony. The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the African drum ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School will perform.

Six panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display.

The Greater Than AIDS movement will set up a video and photo booth where individuals can share their “Deciding Moment” — a personal decision to take a stand against HIV and to be greater than the disease.

Local HIV/AIDS organizations and community groups will be on hand with information on HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

The event is free and open to the public. Main Street Garden, 1900 Main Street. Dec. 1, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Fatal hit-and-run raises safety concerns

Pedestrian struck, killed near unlighted crosswalk on Cedar Springs strip

Oak-Lawn-MapJOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A fatal hit-and-run accident on the Cedar Springs strip last week has led to renewed debate about what can be done to make the street safer for pedestrians.

Wayne Priest, 55, passed away Friday, Nov. 4, at Parkland hospital from injuries he sustained the night before when he was struck near an unlighted crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of Reagan Street eastbound.

Priest, who lived in the 2800 block of Reagan Street, reportedly was on his way to pick up a prescription at Walgreens shortly after 9 p.m. He was crossing Cedar Springs a few feet outside the painted crosswalk, according to witnesses, when he was struck by a maroon four-door vehicle traveling southbound toward Oak Lawn Avenue. The driver of the vehicle didn’t stop and hasn’t been located by police.

“I think any time we have a tragedy like this, we have to investigate whether there are things the city can do to make the area safer for pedestrians,” Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt said this week. “What I’ve asked the city to do is look into exactly what happened and to make recommendations about how we can move forward in making the area safer. I think the challenge we’ve had in the past is the city has been focused on moving cars, not people, and we’re trying to refocus that.”

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said in the wake of the incident, pedestrian safety was the main topic of discussion at the group’s monthly board meeting this week. The Merchants Association plans to invite both Hunt and Councilwoman Pauline Medrano to its next meeting to a take a firsthand look at crosswalks on the strip.

Whittall said the Merchants Association feels the city needs to either remove the crosswalk near which Priest was hit or add more signage. The crosswalk is marked with a sign on the side of the street in one direction but not the other. Whittall said the Merchants Association would like to see free-standing crosswalk signs in the middle of the street, like the ones where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away.

“It’s an entertainment district, and there are going to be a lot of people on the street,” Whittall said. “There needs to be proper signage on this crosswalk. Unfortunately, something like this has to happen before people pay attention again.”

Another crosswalk half a block away on Cedar Springs has flashing lights in the roadway and on both sides of the street which can be activated by pedestrians. However, it has been a maintenance headache for the city, which only recently repaired it after the flashing lights failed for at least the third time in the last few years.

“It’s very unfortunate that this is happening right when we finally got the other crosswalk fixed,” Whittall said, adding that the Merchants Association would also like to see the city follow through with plans to add surveillance cameras on Cedar Springs. “We probably would have been able to catch the driver if we’d had those cameras.”

If caught, the driver would now face third-degree felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident causing injury or death, according to Detective D.T. Marchetti of the Dallas Police Department’s Vehicle Crimes Unit.

“The investigation is open and we are actively seeking the individual that struck him,” Marchetti said Tuesday. “I’m surprised there weren’t more witnesses to it. I’m surprised we didn’t get a tag number or a partial tag or a better description of the vehicle.”

According to a police report, the impact of the collision was so severe that it caused one of Priest’s shoes to fly off. Marchetti said a second vehicle struck Priest after he was lying in the roadway. The driver of the that vehicle remained at the scene.

Assuming the driver of the first vehicle that struck Priest wasn’t intoxicated, they wouldn’t have faced charges if they’d stopped, Marchetti said. That’s because there’s no indication the driver was speeding and Priest was outside the crosswalk, albeit by only a few feet. But Marchetti added that the No. 1 reason people leave accident scenes at night is because they’re intoxicated.

One of Priest’s roommates, Carrie Moon, said this week she’s hoping the driver will be found.

“It is one thing to make a horrible mistake and try to do what you can to help,” Moon said. “It is another thing to make a horrible mistake and just leave a person to die in the street. How this person can live with themselves is beyond me.”

Moon said she’d known Priest for about a year after they met at the Oak Lawn library. She and her boyfriend were looking for a room to rent, and Priest needed help with expenses.

Priest was from Louisiana but was estranged from family there and had moved to Dallas a few years ago. Moon said he’d been married twice and had a daughter.

Moon said Priest had struggled with his sexual orientation for most of his life but recently came out as gay after moving to Oak Lawn. He was a member of the Cathedral of Hope.

“He was in his mid-50s and it took moving to this area to for once in his life feel like he could be himself and not be judged, not even by the church, which was very important to him,” Moon said. “It was like he was starting over, and he had a lot of hope of finding a partner and a new life, and then this happened, which is just so sad.”

Moon said she was trying to coordinate funeral arrangements with Priest’s family in Louisiana. She said his wishes were to be cremated and buried near his son who committed suicide. The service likely will be held in New Orleans.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is asked to call the Vehicle Crimes Unit at 214-670-5817.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Utility work on Cedar Springs not expected to hurt business

CSMA announces schedule of fall events, including annual Christmas tree lighting in December

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STRONG SALES | Matthew Evans, the newest employee at Union Jack on Cedar Springs Road, saw his busiest day at the store during Pride weekend. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Utility work is scheduled to begin on Cedar Springs Road on Monday, Sept. 26, but should create minimal interruption to business on the street, business owners said this week.

When Atmos Energy first announced the work, all parking on the street was going to be affected for about two weeks. The original start date would have had the street torn up during the Pride parade.

After City Councilwoman Angela Hunt intervened, the work was postponed until after Pride, and the company agreed to do one section at a time.

Cedar Springs Merchants Association President Scott Whittall said this week that he doesn’t expect the work to interfere with business. Only a few parking spaces at a time should be disrupted, he said.

“They’re checking connections, not doing repairs,” he said, adding that it will be a “dig, check, fill back in” situation.

Work will begin on the Oak Lawn Avenue end of the street and proceed toward Douglas Avenue. All construction should be completed in time for fall events planned for the street.

Merchants this week reported strong business during Pride weekend, and they said they are looking for fall events to continue boosting sales.

Whittall.Scott
CSMA President Scott Whittall

“We really had a good weekend,” said Macho Nacho Assistant General Manager Brandi Knutzen. “We had fun and saw a lot of new faces.”

She said it was their biggest weekend since the restaurant opened in April, and she hopes many of the people who came in for the first time during Pride will return.

OutLines Manager David Lester said that business in his shop is up over last year. He said that in addition to events the Cedar Springs Merchants Association has planned, his store will decorate for Texas-OU weekend and will do a tent sale once a month.

“Overall, business is good,” he said.

Union Jack Manager Kim Johnson reported a similar boost in business over the Pride weekend. “It was one of the best we’ve had in a long time.”

Matthew Evans, the store’s newest employee, said it was the busiest weekend he’s seen.

Johnson said that rather than special promotions, he’s relying on new lines of jackets, shoes, accessories and “the works” that are scheduled to arrive for the fall.

One that hit the store recently is a line of Pan Am logo wallets, bags and related merchandise. The items are tied to the premiere of a new TV show about the airline set in the 1960s, and Johnson said sales of those items are especially strong.

Johnson also suggested that new stores opening on the street will help keep shoppers on Cedar Springs.

A hair care supply store is set to open in the old Shades of Gray space behind Hunky’s. And across from there, construction is close to complete on the new Thai-rrific restaurant that should open in October.

However, a coffee shop that had begun construction in the space between Thai-rrific and Macho Nacho abandoned its lease because of permit issues related to parking.

Events drive traffic to the gay strip, and CSMA announced a fall schedule of events through Christmas.

On Oct. 29, Cedar Springs Road will be closed to traffic for the annual Halloween street party, which, Whittall said, is traditionally one of the biggest times for sales along the street.

He said the best time to shop is after the street closes around 4 p.m.

The next sidewalk sale and mini art show is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19, with artists  showing their work along the strip in conjunction with sales by many of the merchants. A lineup of local vendors in booths is planned as well.

DFW Rescue will be there looking for new homes for pets. Music on the street will add to the day’s festivities.

“That event kicks off the Christmas season on Cedar Springs,” Whittall said.

Two events are scheduled for the first week in December.

On Dec. 2, a holiday dinner theater at the Rose Room will benefit the Cedar Springs Beautification Project. Whittall said the lineup should be announced soon.

On Dec. 7, the DFW Sisters will light the Christmas tree on the patio of TMC: The Mining Company at 7 p.m. Whittall said they plan to have a bigger tree this year. And he hoped to have an announcement soon about additional lighting.

The Oak Lawn Band is slated to perform. The lighting will be followed by a cider and wine stroll. Sexy Santa will be on the street handing out gifts and carolers will perform.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Caraway, Davis absent from gay Pride

Eleven of 15 councilmembers appeared on the city float.

Dallas City Councilmembers Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway were absent from Sunday’s Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, despite having RSVP’d affirmatively for the gay Pride celebration.

Eleven of 15 councilmembers, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, rode in the parade, sources at City Hall confirmed this week.

“He enjoyed it and looks forward to next year,” said Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Rawlings, who became the third mayor in Dallas history to ride in the parade.

Councilmembers Sandy Greyson and Vonciel Jones Hill were the only two who indicated in advance they wouldn’t make the parade — Hill due to religious objections and Greyson because of a scheduling conflict.

—  John Wright

Cedar Springs fire station may keep truck

Fire station 11
Truck to stay on Cedar Springs Road?

Earlier this month, we reported that Fire Station 11 on Cedar Springs Road might lose a ladder truck.

City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes the first station, said today that according to the latest she’s heard, the truck is expected to stay put.

City Manager Mary Suhm conducted the city’s first survey of equipment distribution in 25 years. The report showed a need for more fire equipment in the southern half of the city. Initial plans were to move one truck from the Oak Lawn station to South Oak Cliff.

“The last I heard, it was not going to be moved,” Hunt told us.

She said moving the truck was part of the initial plan but no final decisions have been made. Hunt’s office was flooded with calls about maintaining safety in Oak Lawn.

“Nothing final yet,” Hunt said, “But the latest is to keep it at the 11th.”

—  David Taffet

Cedar Springs construction postponed

Cedar Springs Road

Earlier this week, merchants on Cedar Springs were told that traffic would be disrupted for two weeks because of installation of new gas pipes. That construction has been postponed until after Pride.

“Great news!” wrote Cedar Springs Merchants Association President Scott Whittall. “The street closure planned by Atmos Energy has been postponed to Sept. 26.”

The construction was to have closed two lanes of traffic and eliminated all street parking while work progressed. Instead, Whittall reported that the work will be done in sections so that parking will not be blocked for two weeks.

Calls to Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano made the difference, Whittall said. In addition to the loss of business during construction, merchants were worried that work would drag on longer than the announced two weeks and interfere with the Pride Parade on Sept. 18.

Whittall said that the delay gives merchants time to post signs warning of the closure and direct customers to alternate places to park. The closure should not affect evening or weekend business. Whittall said that weekday customers are used to parking in front of the businesses. He expects merchants along the street to offer “construction discounts” during the utility repairs.

—  David Taffet