Everybody loves Bishop Arts, Larry Good says, and the general feeling among both neighbors and businesspeople is that more of such retailers and restaurants would be a boon for Oak Cliff. Continuing the trend along Davis and Bishop would be ideal, but in trying to figure out how to make this happen, neighborhood leaders reached a “standstill in really turning the Davis corridor around,” Good says.
That’s why Good, president of Dallas architecture firm Good Fulton and Farrell, was tapped by Oak Cliff council members Elba Garcia and Dave Neumann to lead a committee of 12 appointed stakeholders representing businesses and neighborhoods right around the corridor. Since early summer, the committee has studied land uses along Bishop from Methodist Health System down to Jefferson, and along Davis from Beckley to Plymouth.
The result is a new zoning plan that will “protect all the good things and provide an incentive for redevelopment,” Good says.
The committee is recommending “form-based zoning”, a new buzzword often cited as the impetus for West Village– or Mockingbird Station-types of mixed-use developments. This type of zoning encourages pedestrian-friendly areas, often with storefronts close to the street and residential units on top with parking in back. It falls in line with the Oak Cliff Transit Authority’s vision of the trolley being a functional connector, Good says, so people can walk down to the corner and hop on the trolley to get to shops or restaurants, instead of using their cars.
“I think the stakeholders have a pretty consistent passion for a walkable, higher-desnity urban environment,” Good says. “Even the Winnetka Heights and Kidd Springs representatives know that increasing density along the edges doesn’t need to be a threat, as long as we can control parking so that we don’t have a Lower Greenville situation.”
Form-based zoning would encourage redevelopment by allowing a developer to add height, “so it will become feasible for a property owner on Davis to redevelop with a ground-floor use — retail, restaurant, artist’s studio or something like that — and above that put housing … maybe residential above a restaurant in Winnetka Heights, and maybe four stories above retail along Davis between Bishop Arts and King’s Highway.”
“If you want to get rid of used car lots and windshield repair places, you’ve got to make the property too valuable for that,” Good says.
The tricky part about a blanket zoning plan for Bishop and Davis is that those streets pass through quite diverse neighborhoods — Winnetka Heights, Kidd Springs, Kings Highway and Lake Cliff, which all have unique architectural traits, not to mention the 1920s-era streetcar commercial district of Bishop Arts. The solution to that problem, Good says, is creating zoning sub-districts, so that whatever develops in Winnetka Heights, for example, would have to adhere to that neighborhood’s historic regulations.
“We want to make the area more urban, more walkable, but we don’t want to do something that is seen as taking the very things that are charming about those neighborhoods and messing them up,” Good says.
City staff is reviewing the committee’s proposal, and a recent “show and tell”, Good says, provided neighbors “an opportunity to say, “‘Love that,’ ‘Hate that,’ or ‘You forgot about that.’” Anyone who missed the meeting can attend the next neighborhood meeting in mid-January, before the proposal goes before the city plan commission and then city council. (For updates read the Back Talk Oak Cliff blog.) The committee’s goal is to get the plan in front of Councilwoman Elba Garcia before her term ends in May.
Former city plan commissioner Michael Mendoza, is representing Lake Cliff on the committee. He believes that the proposed zoning “opens the door to a new generation of folks,” and has posted updates on a “Think Davis” blog to keep neighbors informed during the process.
“These things are written to grow into themselves over 15 or 20 years,” Mendoza says of the zoning proposal. “They seem scary because it seems like they’re all happening at once — that’s where we get most of the push back — but no one has the money to do it tomorrow or the will. It’s really building a framework so these kinds of things can happen.” —KERI MITCHELL