Contentious pocket neighborhood plan to City Council today

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Update: The City Council hearing for this case has been postponed to April 8.

A pocket neighborhood with 42 high-end homes, six townhomes and three apartments could begin taking shape this year on the west side of Hampton Road just south of Stevens Park golf course if City Council approves a zoning change.

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However, that’s a big “if.”

The plan, Kessler Commons, is from an Oak Cliff-based developer and on land that’s now subject to illegal dumping and vagrants. But most nearby neighbors are opposed to it.

Emotions have run high on neighborhood online forums. A neighbor who lives close to the proposed project, filmmaker Kirby Warnock, posted a video to youtube (and sent it to the media) in response to the proposal. The video protests the project and makes some personal attacks on developer Christian Chernock. So, in a battle between two guys with oddly similar surnames, Chernock’s attorney asked Warnock to make correct some factual errors in the video. But instead, Warnock made another video.

The plan calls for LEED certified homes priced in the $500,000 range. Why are neighbors so mad about that?

At first they were angry because they say Chernock set his plan into motion before letting them know anything about it. They felt they were left in the dark by a developer who was being “sneaky.” Since then, Chernock says he has done everything he can to answer questions and modify his plans based on neighbors’ input.

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, after a meeting with adjacent neighbors at which Chernock was not present, wrote a letter opposing the plan.

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The proposed spot rezoning and high-density development disrupts successful and deep-rooted residential patterns. It turns its back away from the existing neighborhoods, segregating itself both visually and functionally. In addition, the developer intends to erect fencing surrounding the property, including a 4-foot high fence along Hampton. This fencing would effectively bisect the block, disrupting the prevailing architectural pattern and negatively impacting the views of surrounding residents.

The league also opposes the proposed development’s 25-foot setbacks. Most homes on that stretch of Hampton, between Plymouth and Jefferson, have setbacks of between 85-160 feet.

While the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League frequently succeeds in swaying City Plan Commissioners and City Council members, Chernock’s Kessler Commons plan made it through the planning commission largely because of commissioner Mike Anglin, who voted in favor of the plan.

Anglin said he received many emails from neighbors who opposed the plan but also appeared to be sorely misinformed about it.

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“Some of the letters that we get simply talk about this as if it was an apartments complex, calling it an apartment complex; they just don’t understand whats going on here,” Anglin said during a hearing on the project earlier this month.

The development is planned to have three apartments, which would be owned by the homeowners association and could be used for income instead of HOA fees.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of apartments and townhomes.

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  • Linda_Coleman

    Is there really a market for this project? If I had $500,000 to spend on a home, I wouldn’t want to be squashed into a “pocket park,” along with town homes and an apartment building.

  • dump the incumbents

    Lol! If only it were so simple. Sounds a little narrow in scope for my neighborhood. Yes, there is deterioration evident in my neighborhood. Much is due to absentee landlords who squeeze every last drop of profit out of a structure, in effect stealing the money from the neighborhood by depressing values. Some is due to finances. And some is urban camouflage! Some is due to ignorance and some of us admire the patina a building takes on! Every situation has its story. Gross generalizations are what’s changing Tyler.

  • dump the incumbents

    No. Actually, I’m an artist/designer for over 45 years. Lol I’m delighted to see art in my neighborhood. It’s been here all along! There have been several generations of artist groups here in Oak Cliff most of whom were ignored. I’m not interested in seeing BAD replicated on my block. The thing that makes the arts district work is the unique concentration of commercial buildings as well as their charm and nostalgia. Anytime you take an area designed to handle traffic of 1930’s-40’s and adapt that to today, with well over ten times the traffic, there will be growing pains.But I love living in an alive, diverse part of town. Where people are willing to speak out. It’s great to see people involved.

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    Are you against the bishop arts district? Or were you in the past?

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    Maintain your neighborhood. Mow your yards and edge the sidewalks. Paint your houses and clean up the backyards. Do that, and you will will be grateful of the two way streets.

  • dump the incumbents

    As a North Oak Cliffer since 1978, I totally understand residents being suspicious and leery of all so called developers and the city! Responding with sarcasm is really the poorest way of dealing with the resistance. Many of us are sincerely interested in
    being informed about developments that directly impact us. Sarcastic remarks appear to be poorly veiled attacks, implying that the opponents are incapable of understanding such complicated proposals or that there are perhaps hidden agendas and subterfuge at work.

    I do not live in the area adjacent to this particular project but have total empathy for the stakeholders being ignored in their attempts to seek answers to their questions. I don’t feel it is unreasonable to ask developers what they plan to do. I feel developers owe the neighbors a concise plan with highly detailed and specific renderings and verbal descriptions. Of course, our skepticism is based on experience. There are many examples of bait and switch techniques being used by developers and the complicity of the city. Apartment complexs and developments abound that promised street level commercial development that mysteriously dissipated upon construction and no attempt by the city is ever issued to demand compliance. Proposals submitted to the city being ignored is nothing new. Neighbors generally believe the city is protecting them with planning and zoning departments but when you point out that the execution of a plan differs dramatically from the original proposal, all you get is ignored! So what good is the city? What good is zoning and permits if developers simply ignore them and do whatever they want?

    If you are indeed looking for support for your project you might want to consider a more detailed proposal targeting transparency instead of defensive sarcasm and diversion.

  • dump the incumbents

    Please excuse my lengthy response… this is not a simple problem!

    As I stated, streets similar to Elm and Commerce have had better results because of commercial density, albeit mixed. If you Google two way conversions there is an abundance of information. There have been numerous success stories in the proper environs, primarily in downtown scenarios where there is heavy commercial density. But there have been several instances where the nonsense spouted by city planners turned out to be a pipe dream. Some refer to two way conversions as the latest city planning “fad” while pointing out that this is not a panacea and some advocate abolishing city planning departments altogether! I would scoff at such an idea except my building sits next to a charter school playground on three residential lots! Zoning?

    The school, as proposed, should be isolated to property north of Tenth Street, south of 9th between Tyler and almost to Vernon! I guess our 3 agape facilities limit growth to the east. The city planners will do nothing about it. The church behaves like a bully, doing whatever they want and ignoring the neighbors requests! Responding to zoning request signage has been a waste of time. They simply state that they will “look into it” and nothing is ever done… the city goes mute.

    The traffic used to shut down Tyler from Jefferson to Ninth street making it impossible to enter and exit my building! God forbid someone should have need of emergency services. Now this congestion happens only a couple of days a week but the crossing streets of Sunset, Tenth and Ninth, east of Tyler, get extremely congested. Even though the school designates specific drop off and pick up areas most parents ignore them. The school is a conglomeration of prefabricated boxes moved in over a weekend. After 5 years of use, I am told it is going to be closed for a year to remodel. City planning, city council, church and Dallas Police have done zip to improve the situation and no demand of compliance has been issued. Therefore, I would have to agree with city planning being useless and again we are being dictated to as though we were children.

    The two way conversion is just the tip of an iceberg. The city seems totally oblivious to the needs of the citizens. And totally unwilling to consider the facts.

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    Obviously, you are passionate and well informed about this issue and I respect that. Can you provide examples of one way streets being beneficial to neighborhoods?

  • dump the incumbents

    Unfortunately, Tyler lacks sufficient commercial density for the conversion to be beneficial, unlike Commerce and Elm in downtown (which are also slated to return to two way). Two way streets are more dangerous as well. Logical scrutiny would dictate that a more complex environment increases the chances for accidents. Also slower moving traffic pollutes more and since I live on Tyler I am concerned about degradation of the air we breathe! Additionally, parking will be eliminated during rush hours which has a huge negative impact on commercial viability. Many of the buildings on Tyler are residences and residents park on the street. They will have to find somewhere else to park during those times. There is a block of retail at Jefferson and all businesses and residents on that end oppose this plan. The street has residences, two churches, two charter schools and a high rise of 180 apartments for the elderly all the way up to a block within Davis before there’s another area of small shops. The price tag has blossomed to 3 million bucks and growing! The southern roundabout appears to have been shelved as there appears that a laundromat and convenience store are being built there. Having lived in this location for almost 25 years, I am very aware that one must be ready to accept progress. But people need to be represented not dictated to… we are citizens not subjects!

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    Good job. Twenty years from now someone will footnote your comment as they write about the irrational resistance to change in North Oak Cliff.

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    Just an opinion, but I don’t think your statement stands up to logical scrutiny. it seems to me that two way streets diminish drive through traffic and actually enhance the commercial viability of a neighborhood

  • Kirk Stanley Jones

    I think that people complaining about this proposed project would have a stronger argument if they actually maintained their own properties. As an experiment, walk from the KFC on Davis to the Hampton Plymouth intersection.

  • dump the incumbents

    When the city converts Tyler and Polk to two way streets you’re gonna see rush hour congestion that will make the I-30 mess look like a picnic! BTW councilman Griggs is switching Tyler and Polk to two way streets in order to create congestion! Ever wonder why the congestion keeps getting worse?

  • Real Christian Chernock

    Damn you, Rachel. Only I am allowed to distort the facts and mislead people. This is my project dammit!

    1. Townhome, shmownhome. You’ll find out the details of this project once it is completed.

    2. See number 1, except replace townhome with apartment. Emphasis should be placed on you not knowing the details until it is too late.

    3. I always have my attorney send letters of encouragement. Doesn’t everyone?

    4. Regarding the letter from the League: I must repeat myself, I and only I am allowed to lie, I mean misrepresent the truth, I mean distort facts. Well, you know what I mean.

    5. This is not spot zoning, it is zoning of a particular spot in a vastly different way than the area surrounding the spot. Yea, that’s the ticket.

    6. Each case is based on its own merit, and as you can see from my actions of telling the community one thing and the city another I am a man full of merit.

    7. Trust me, I’m a developer.

    I could go on, but I haven’t had time to make up any additional bs. But, rest assured I will craft and fabricate as much manure as necessary to exploit the community and leave it in irreparable disarray.

  • Rachel Stone

    Thanks, Christian. I corrected the errors

  • Tex

    Our point exactly. There are more than 80 acres in Oak Cliff already zoned multi-family. But he got the City to award him two of the properties by having them declared abandoned, and now he wants the City to re-zone them. Sounds like welfare for real estate weasels to me.

  • TEx

    That drawing you have on this page is NOT what Christian filed (officially) with the City Plan Commission. Please go here for a copy of the ACTUAL drawing that he submitted for the CPC hearing. http://norezone.org/conceptual-plan/

    As you can see, he’s still trying to distract folks with his “bright and shiny object.” He says one thing to the neighborhood and another to City Hall. We are getting very tired of his duplicitous messages and constant bait-and-switch approach.

  • Joseph Beckham

    To borrow words from a distinguished city leader, “This thing has been nothing but a sales job based on some watercolors. Fancy watercolors. It’s time now to just kill this….”. The to-scale massing model shown below reveals the shear bulk and intensity of this “albatross” of a design.

    We had Ross Chapin the renown architect, author and pioneer of pocket neighborhoods review the proposed site plan. He did not have too many flattering things to say about it. “There is a plop, plop, plop mentality in this plan that will create a fishbowl effect that creates tension in the community and a resentment to the increased density; Needs to be better, safer, pedestrian friendly and visually toned down; the major focal point of this site plan is the waste management area; the developer needs to look at the design patterns in the book – the patterns that make for good neighbors.”

    See more of Ross Chapin’s review at http://norezone.org/pocket-neighborhood-not/

  • Tex

    I could go on about you, too, Christian. You have never shown an architectural rendering on this thing, so we have no idea what it will look like, (if you really build it). All you’ve shown are drawings of other developments in other cities. We all believe you’re going to flip it once you get the zoning approved because you don’t have a plan in place.
    You filed this rezoning request back in July, never bothered to meet with the neighbors until they sent a certified letter to Scott Griggs on September 10, and they still can’t get you to address the biggest issue they have with this scheme. Now, at 5:01 pm yesterday, you request a postponement on the hearing.

  • Sandy Bates Emmons

    PS Oak Cliff Advocate, I have been documenting the traffic issues at Sylvan/30 and have many photos showing you what its really like in the morning and afternoon rush hour traffic. I will be happy to share. I can also document the traffic on Hampton. I used to go down Hampton each morning and afternoon (making my way toward the Galleria area) , but it has become an impossibility. It takes almost 40 minutes to get from Clarendon to the Hampton bridge (passing right through this proposed development) currently between the hours of 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM

  • Sandy Bates Emmons

    Really? More traffic on Hampton than it can already hold? The ugliness of these “developments” and the havoc they are inflicting on longtime residents of Oak Cliff is out of control. Just look at Sylvan/30 as one example of overdevelopment in a congested area and the fact that the “hipster ghetto” design has attracted less than a 50% occupancy and now the same “developer” (I use that term lightly) is now going to inflict the same ugliness across the street at the Chase Bank location.

    At some point current Oak Cliff residents need to unite and fight this type of gentrification. These developers are destroying the balance.

    It’s true what the other commenter said about Wynnewood North. Why not rehab existing properties and real estate and make them safe and viable neighborhoods that can handle the influx of new traffic etc.

    Enough is enough. We are just turning into another uptown at the expense of these “developers”. They do not care about the current residents of Oak Cliff. Why not rename it Take the Money and Run Cliff.

  • Christian Chernock

    Some factual errors in Rachels story here and some other misleading comments and quotes.

    1) There are not 18 town homes…there are two triplexes with 3 units each. That’s 6 town homes.
    2) There are not 6 apartments. There are 3 apartments that would be owned by the HOA. Revenue would go towards upkeep in common areas and to pay for larger costs in the future
    3) The letter sent to Kirby was not a demand to take down his videos but to encourage him to make make them factually correct
    4) Regarding the letter from the League: My understanding, which came from one of their members, is that the letter was drafted by a West Kessler resident and then voted and approved by the League as their official position. They never reached out to me to check facts or include me in the dialogue. The letter is latent with mis information and mis characterizations of the project and me personally
    5) This is not Spot Zoning: this was addressed by the CPC and commissioner Bagley specifically called out this mis informations by the opposition.She said, “I think some of the correspondence I received was based on mis information. I don’t see this as spot zoning, its residential zoning.”
    6) No case sets a precedent. Each case is judged on its own merits. Thats zoning law.
    7) Fencing around the project is mandated by the zoning code for this project. If it were up to me we wouldn’t have fences. Also, fences are allowed by right now and 4’ fences are allowed in the front yard currently. Not reasonable to oppose a project for reasons that the current zoning allows.

    I could go on…There are other points that simply aren’t so in this piece by Rachel. Unfortunately this is emblematic of the rampant mis information that is being spread about the project.

    To learn more about the facts and why Pocket Neighborhoods are something that we as a community should be fighting for go to http://www.kesslercommons.us or http://www.facebook.com/kesslercommons

  • Elmwoodhobo

    These developers are missing out on a much more lucrative opportunity in the Wynnewood shopping center, where they can develop hundreds of units instead of a few dozen. Likely with little neighborhoood opposition.

  • AWC

    Postponed to April 8th.