In our ongoing coverage of the Davis/ Bishop Plan, we have another Q&A for your reading (and commenting) pleasure. As we posted yesterday, Go Oak Cliff plans to cover the issue of the Davis/ Bishop plan by offering our readers a series of Questions and Answers from folks in the community who are impacted by the plan and who have participated in the process. We look forward to creating a healthy dialogue as North Oak Cliff tackles this issue.
Q: Attorney Bob Rodriguez lives with his wife and two daughters in Winnetka Heights, a few blocks off Davis Street.
I think it’s great that the Bishop/Davis Plan will save our old buildings by giving them a break on city-imposed parking requirements, but patrons of those businesses will still have to park somewhere. I’m concerned that my street in Winnetka Heights will constantly be lined with cars belonging to people from outside our neighborhood. My friends and family are used to parking in front of my home, and we are used to a quiet street. How will the proposed rezoning ordinance address my concerns?
A: Paul Maute, a registered architect with expertise in historic preservation, is a 20-year resident of Winnetka Heights and a member of the Bishop/Davis steering committee.
Our portion of Davis Street grew up at a time before the automobile ruled. It’s a classic Mainstreet USA, with commercial storefronts at street level and apartments above. When most folks got around on foot or via mass transit, there was no parking problem. But over the years, we switched to automobiles for our transportation, and zoning came to mandate that new developments provide all their own parking. However, new development was suburban in nature, and the parking requirements extremely conservative. That’s why you see so many big-box parking lots that are always half empty: they’re required to provide parking for peak demand – the day after Thanksgiving. Those suburban parking requirements simply don’t work for a vintage, urban neighborhood. So the Bishop/Davis Plan seeks to strike a balance between the old and the new, like this:
- Reducing parking requirements for vintage structures. Many of these buildings have been legislated out of business by suburban parking requirements. The existing requirements are actually an incentive to demolish old buildings. This parking reduction wouldn’t apply to restaurant uses; they truly need a lot of parking. These reductions are a fraction of those that have worked well in Bishop Arts for a decade.
- Creating incentives for small parking lots shared by more than one business, like extending the distance between a restaurant and its parking lot. This strategy has worked elsewhere in Dallas.
- Making commercial districts less dependent on the automobile. Our commercial districts must become more walkable, so that those of us that live close will leave our cars at home and walk or ride a bike to Davis. That’s what my wife and I did the other night when we attended a show at the Kessler Theater. So did other people, because the place was full and parking didn’t extend into the neighborhood.
Although we’re blessed to have residential neighborhoods that resemble Primrose Lane, remember that Oak Cliff is an urban neighborhood. In order to get out of the unhealthy habit of driving across town for what should be neighborhood errands, our development model has to support that. That might mean more cars parked on our streets. But remember, we don’t own those parking places – the city does. And research shows that parking on the streets slows down traffic and creates a “fence of steel” between street traffic and kids on the sidewalk. More people on the sidewalk make our streets safer. It’s what folks in real cities do.
The safeguard for our community is our activist nature; we’ll remain engaged in this issue long after the ordinance has passed. If necessary, we’ll pressure our commercial neighbors to share parking more aggressively. Or, alternatively, to control parking in the residential areas by adopting a resident-only program.