Oak Cliff Chamber hates 'easy' RPO process, wants Council Rep Jasso to stop it NOW!

UPDATE @ 10pm - CBS11 just posted a story about the Bishop Arts RPO. The property and business owners are having a meeting to figure out how to prevent a war. They have issued their terms of surrender to the residents: Give us your parking spaces so we can make money, and shut up about RPO! Commercial property owner David Spence is worried that if RPO is implemented without any dialog with the commercial interests, then he's going to lose his shirt. David, lean closer to the monitor so I can talk to you only - The parking spaces belong to the residents, capiche?? Details here.


When the first Resident Parking Only zone popped up in the Bishop Arts last week, the residents expected some kvetching by local businesses. And darn if Gloria's Restaurants Jose Fuentes did not get on the news that night and pontificate about how his customers (the ones not parking on his private complimentary [read: tips] lots) are afraid to walk a few blocks extra past the RPO streets. That kind of grousing is expected, and if anything only serves to provide more hot air to heat the restaurants. Even in Uptown, the RPO controversy is down to a low hum as the residents continue to organize for more streets to be protected.

But BD and others were surprised - okay, frigging amazed - to see how the Oak Cliff Chamber and local business and property owners reacted. Did they express any concern for the safety and well-being of their residential neighbors or the reasons they were so determined to have RPO protect their residential property? No. Did they ask for meetings so they could hear about the problems? No.

Before we tell you what happened, let's look at what the then - and now leader of the Oak Cliff Chamber, Bob Stimson (photo), told Unfair Park back in 2010, just before Bishop Arts was rezoned C for Cool.

"This [zoning case] has had more vetting than any other zoning case in the history of the world ever, and, as such, it's not ever going to get a unanimous consensus," says Stimson. "And some folks, honestly, are fearful of any change. But I live in this world knowing there will be change, and the only question is: How? The Bishop/Davis plan does some really cool things for our community. It does some great stuff from a preservation standpoint. It offers some incremental steps in terms of allowing some properties -- strategically picked, in all honesty -- to get developed. Some of my friends, Michael among them, are concerned if this passes, it will make Oak Cliff look like Uptown. There's no way that is ever going to happen. Oak Cliff is Oak Cliff. That's why we love it. It'll never look like Uptown."

Oh boy, did he ever miss on that prediction. Missed it by an formerly urban now redeveloped mile. And now, he's trying to stop RPO before Bishop Arts really does look like Uptown.

An OC resident sent this email trail to BD, expressing concern that Dallas City Council Rep Delia Jasso (whose district includes Bishop Arts) is going to do whatever it takes to either stop RPO in Bishop Arts, no matter who she has to run over to do it, or kill it completely for the whole city. Her reputation, the resident writes, is to put the fear of god into City Staff until they do what she demands, no matter how many dead bodies she racks up. And that is different than any other council rep, how?

On January 23rd, just after Bishop Arts RPO was discussed at a City Council Transportation Committee meeting, Stimson sent an email to Kerry Elder, the City Traffic Planner in charge of RPO (whom sources in the neighborhood tell BD had stalled RPO applications for nearly three months). Mr. Elder had given him the standard boiler plate answer about what RPO does and how it happens (click here to see the email)

BD Note: BD has stated many times his belief Mr. Elder is the biggest impediment to successful RPO implementation in Dallas. The reported three-month delay - and the need for a higher-up-the-food-chain department manager to make this RPO happen - only reinforces that conviction.

[We are not disclosing how BD secured this or any other email referenced in this article in order to protect BD's sources. And in any case, the email to Council Rep Jasso would have been released under an Open Records Request, no matter how much they may protest.]

The City of Dallas affords residents the opportunity to petition for Residential Parking Only (RPO) to accommodate their parking needs. The petition must be signed by two thirds of the households within the proposed zone. I have attached a copy of the RPO zone petition for your information.

Upon receipt of a signed petition, staff will conduct a survey of the proposed zone to determine if parking spaces are being used by vehicle owners who are not property owners/tenants. The results of the survey must indicate that during the days and times proposed for the resident parking only zone, more than 60 percent of the available parking space is in use and 20 percent or more of the vehicles using the parking space are not owned or operated by owners or occupants of residences.

If you require additional information, please contact me at 214-670-xxxx.

Taking his cue from this terse and short email, Stimson wrote (over his Oak Cliff Chamber signature) to City Council Rep Delia Jasso (whose district includes Bishop Arts)...(click here to see the email - all email addies removed)

From: Bob Stimson [mailto:bstimson@oakcliffchamber.org]

Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 1:59 PM

To: 'Jasso, Delia'

Subject: FW: Residential Parking Only

I received the email below [Elder's reply] and the application form (attached) that explains the way staff implements a Residential Parking Only request. When reviewing it, a couple of thoughts come to mind.

1) It allows the tenant, as opposed to the property owners, to implement an RPO area. That seems somewhat short-sighted...

2) Even if there are multiple tenants, it only takes one per property to sign the request.

3) In areas which are zoned as mixed use, it does not seem appropriate to allow this policy to be enacted. I can envision areas of the Bishop Arts PD that are currently zoned mixed use but could be impacted.

4) If two thirds of the neighbors sign the petition and list their vehicles' license numbers, how does the city staffer that conducts the survey know that a vehicle may, indeed, belong to one of the neighbors that did not sign the petition? Thus counting that vehicle as an interloper...

5) It sure seems that the percentages that the staff uses to approve the district are very low. For instance, if one side of a block has spaces for 25 vehicles and the inspection shows 15 spaces in use at the time of the inspection. And, of the 15, 3 vehicles are from some non-adjacent use, then the RPO district gets approved. This means that if as little as 12% of the availalbe spaces are found to be non-adjacent users, then the district is implemented. That percentage is way too low!

Can you check into this? I understand that a few streets around Bishop Arts are applying....

Thanks!

Bob Stimson
President
Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce
400 S. Zang Blvd., Ste. 110
Dallas, TX 75208

A few days later, the emails were re-circulated to a number of business and property owners in the area by David Spence, the owner of the GoodSpace property management company, which specializes in Bishop Arts leases. Spence copied Stimson's email trail and commented... (email addies have been deleted, affiliations added by BD) (click here to see the original email)

From: David Spence [GoodSpace]

Date: February 13, 2012 12:22:49 PM CST

To: Jose Fuentes [Gloria's], Mark Miranda [Miranda Realty], Craig Schenkel [Schenkel Real Estate], Amanda Moreno Cross [CK Capital], Jim Lake [Jim Lake Company], Lupe Garcia [Calvario Funeral Home], Joe McElroy and Linda Holt [Square Foot Real Estate], Rick Barton [Bishop Arts Merchant Association], Matthew Spillers [Eno's Pizza]

Subject: FW: Residential Parking Only

Bob Stimson at the OC Chamber shared this with me. You'll note how easy it is to get resident-only parking approved. This could really diminish the inventory of street-side parking surrounding Bishop Arts.

DS

Upon getting this email, BD fired off an email to Ms Jasso's office, citing the Stimson email and shooting holes in almost all his arguments (including a couple of flat out misstatements). We quote it in full here.

Ms Jasso -

As you know, I am the biggest proponent of neighborhood associations and residents using Resident Parking Only as a means to protect their small communities from intrusive parking and the issues it creates (eg trash, noise, fights, disturbances of any kind to the peace and quiet).

And you probably know I have advised many neighborhoods, including Bishop Arts, on the how-to's of RPO petitions and fees.

Therefore it is with geat disdain, bordering on disgust, that I read the email sent to you from Mr. Bob Stimson, of the Oak Cliff Chamber, asking you to take whatever actions may be needed to prevent any more RPO from being installed in the Bishop Arts area. His reasoning - It's bad for business!

My answer - Too damn bad!

Let's start with the reason for RPO, as defined in the 1998 legislation -

RPO Preamble

The purpose of this division is to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of certain neighborhoods in the city of Dallas by addressing the problems that arise when residential streets are used for the parking of motor vehicles by persons using adjacent nonresidential parking generators, but who do not reside in the neighborhood. The establishment of resident-parking-only zones would reduce these problems, which include, but are not limited to, hazardous traffic conditions, air and noise pollution, litter, and inability of residents of these neighborhoods to obtain easy access to and adequate parking near their residences. (Ord. 23863)

The RPO law protects the residents from any problems, and does not create levels or categories or problems needed before its use is allowed. The decision to RPO, and the burden of petitions and fees, is on the residents.

Mr. Stimson's points, with my answers, are below -

1) It allows the tenant, as opposed to the property owners, to implement an RPO area. That seems somewhat short-sighted...

WRONG! The law allows tenants who live in the property OR the property owner to sign the petition. This is not short-sighted, just recognizing that many properties have absentee landlords or property owners.

2) Even if there are multiple tenants, it only takes one per property to sign the request.

WRONG! The petition counts are based on HOUSEHOLDS (residential units), not properties. A multi-unit property with FIVE units counts as FIVE HOUSEHOLDS. So if a street has three properties, and two are 4-plexes, the total number of households are 9, which requires 6 signatures in favor of RPO.

3) In areas which are zoned as mixed use, it does not seem appropriate to allow this policy to be enacted. I can envision areas of the Bishop Arts PD that are currently zoned mixed use but could be impacted.

This is completely opposite the purpose of RPO. It is meant to protect the residents from all intrusive parking generators, no matter the source. If you follow Mr. Stimson's logic, the business owners will be making decsions regarding the quality of life for the residential areas around them. And we know how bad an idea that is.

4) If two thirds of the neighbors sign the petition and list their vehicles' license numbers, how does the city staffer that conducts the survey know that a vehicle may, indeed, belong to one of the neighbors that did not sign the petition thus counting that vehicle as an interloper...

The paperwork and process assumes the residents have at least one parking space on their property, and are using it. There is no requirement for an intrusive and expensive property-by-property survey. And it's probably an invasion of privacy, too.

5) It sure seems that the percentages that the staff uses to approve the district are very low. For instance, if one side of a block has spaces for 25 vehicles and the inspection shows 15 spaces in use at the time of the inspection. And, of the 15, 3 vehicles are from some non-adjacent use, then the RPO district gets approved. This means that if as little as 12% of the availalbe spaces are found to be non-adjacent users, then the district is implemented. That percentage is way too low!

The math works on a real scale, since very few streets in residential areas have (as Mr. Stimson opines) 25 parking spaces on one side (or nearly 300 feet of space) without accounting for driveways, curbs and corners.

If Mr. Stimson thinks RPO is so evil, let him sit on a Bishop Arts street with a resident and see the noise, garbage and bad behavior the residents put up with. We stopped this horrible behavior on Lowest Greenville and now Bishop Arts residents want to stop it (early) in their area. The residents live there, and it's their choice. Their streets are for the residents, under law) and if they want RPO, so be it.

Don't mess with RPO. Your efforts will impact 30+ RPO zones around Dallas unfairly for the benefit of Mr. Stimson's small membership. RPO is meant to protect residents, without regard for the businesses or parking generators. Any change in this means the residents lose control of their parking spaces, their streets, and eventually their safety and peace of mind in their own home.

RPO has been a god-send on Lowest Greenville, and it will bring miracles to Bishop Arts' area residents.

Regards,

Avi S. Adelman

The 2011 Mardi Gras 5K @ Bishop Arts

BD used to think the only difference between the business and property owners on Lowest Greenville (back when we even had businesses in 2007) and Bishop Arts was a committment to make OC cool, but not at the expense of the neighborhood. Events like this week's Mardi Gras, the Bastille Day party and more were See, I told you so moments. But these emails, with their flat-out lies spoken as full-truths, have made BD think otherwise. It's not just RPO showing cracks in the Bishop Arts facade. The residents are getting tired of big events being held without any notice in advance to the community or parking restrictions just like Lower Greenville gets for St. Patrick's Day. Case in point - This week's Mardi Gras event permit was approved by the Special Events office, even though the organizers failed to notify the community six weeks ago, per the requirements of their permit. Oops, this was the first time they even asked for a permit, so that makes it okay???

Mr. Spence cracks me up. He's worried that RPO would diminish parking spaces in the neighborhood for the businesses. And he claims it's too easy to get RPO. He's right and he's wrong. And he did not even bother to check the facts before spreading his fear to the other business owners. Not that it matters, his only concern was protecting the residential parking stock for the businesses. The neighborhood is supposed to just sit back and shut up, while hoping to catch a few Mardi Gras beads. If that does not qualify as BOHICA, BD does not know what does.

Mr. Stimson is putting the OC Chamber into a very bad position. If the Chamber starts to lobby for changes in the RPO law, will their membership be consulted? What about the members who live in the area (a large number of the business owners actually live in Oak Cliff or nearby) - will they sit silently while their neighbors are pushed out of the way for another customer vehicle? What about the members who depend upon the neighborhood for walk-in business on a regular basis (unlike Lowest Greenville, most are really local businesses serving local customers) - will they want the OC Chamber to say, Give us your money AND your parking places?

The Bishop Arts residents have learned from the experiences of building RPO zones on Lowest Greenville and other neighborhoods. They know the business owners will promise the moon, even whole universes, in order to keep residents from signing RPO petitions. But no matter what they promise, don't ever expect the business or property owners to be out on the streets at 2am telling their patrons to STFU while carousing in front of their homes. No matter what they promise, the only group that benefits from a non-RPO street are the businesses. Period.

BD sent an email to Mr. Stimson on Tuesday evening, with lots of questions (starting with - Is the OC Chamber trying to change the RPO law?) and as of this writing three days later, still no answer. We know he's in town, because one of BD's friends saw him at lunch on Wednesday. And none of the business people cc'd on the GoodSpace email (a few of whom BD knows well) have bothered to answer those same questions.

A closing note to Ms Jasso: Visit any RPO street in Dallas - not Lowest Greenville - and then decide if you want to throw your constituents under the parked cars by changing RPO. Remind yourself there are 30+ RPO zones in Dallas across most council districts. Try to change or revoke RPO and you are guaranteed a very public and noisy fight on your hands. Residents with RPO all over Dallas like our streets safe and quiet, and we are not about to let a few worried real estate owners in Bishop Arts screw around with all our parking restrictions.

By Avi S. Adelman under Neighborhoods , Safe streets