Demolition Girl on Top, or: Liveblogging the Council's Housing Committee Meeting

Carolyn Davis makes a point -- several, actually -- concerning a proposed ordinance that makes it easier to demolish historic homes.
What it do, Friends? Today's Housing Committee meeting, which Robert warned you I'd be liveblogging, got a late start because of the overflow of the previous Public Safety Committee meeting, which I caught the tail end of, while they were discussing agenda item Mild Panic Over Not Having Enough Police Officers And Also Houston Is Worse Than Us So There.

But as far as the Housing Committee goes, today's BFD is the "demolition process for urban nuisances in existing and proposed historic districts." City planning director Teresa O'Donnell brought with her a mighty PowerPoint presentation, saying, "This is a difficult question. What we're really trying to do here is balance two very worthy goals," which are neighborhood protection and public safety.

The question of making a City Planning Commission ordinance regarding demolition in historic districts has been heard multiple times by practically every committee in Dallas -- Public Safety, Landmark Commission, etc. This time, O'Donnell reported her recommendations: Let the fire marshal tear down dangerous structures at his or her discretion, while everything else will be a massive hoop-jumping process if the city or anyone else wants to tear down a residential structure under 3,000 square feet. Anyone who wants to rehab a building has a lengthy time period to save a building -- four months to find a planner/engineer/architect/etc., eight months to get a plan going, more time to implement, etc.

Then came Katherine Seale, the director of Preservation Dallas, who said she and her organization are in no way against tearing down dangerous buildings, but are concerned about the city having too much power to tear down historic properties willy-nilly -- things like, for example, the Knights of Pythias building. Said Seale, "I think the concern is that there's nothing in the ordinance that says they won't be targeted."

Dwaine Caraway spoke next, advising the AV nerd in charge of O'Donnell's PowerPoint presentation (or, you know, the nice regular person whose job that is) to put up the many, many photos of blighted buildings and "just let 'em flip" while he talks. For effect, I guess.

He said, of the photos: "None of them are in North Dallas at all," and moreover, those whiny babies over on Lower Greenville complaining about the recent fire and burned-out buildings can quit their bitching, because "that was just two months ago," while he knows of several neighborhoods dealing with properties that have been burned out for years.

Carolyn Davis went next, and she said she's "a big fan of historical preservation" and used to serve with Preservation Dallas. She gave us a brief oral history of some neighborhood in Atlanta, then moved on to why streets are small in South Dallas (something to do with Jews?) and then a bit about black folks in the early 1800s. Therefore, preservation is important. FACT.

Then she talked about another thing and decided she needed to say more about history. She talked "shotgun houses" in South Dallas and how black people used to not be able to live anywhere in Dallas but in the 10th Street area. Possibly the most legitimately interesting thing any city council member has said in a long time. How can we get Davis on the History Channel? I would totally get cable just so I could watch Old Stuff And Also This Other Historical Thing Plus My Awesome Glasses Match My Top Featuring Carolyn Davis.

She's presently tearing into Fire Marshal Debra Carlin, who may be surprised to find herself with additional rear-end openings if she takes a bathroom break later on today. Davis says Carlin is too slow to demolish burned-out buildings, and inconsistent in the application thereof.

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