Jason Roberts's List of Dallas Ordinances He'd Like to See Tossed in the Trash This Year

Categories: Development
citycode1941.jpeg
At the end of last month, Patrick Michels was at City Hall for that Complete Streets-Bike Plan-Better Block jam session, where Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard were greeted with "great acclaim" by council members no doubt eager to implement and then claim the pair's restorative ideas as their own. But as Friend of Unfair Park Ellum08 noted in the comments, you can dream of complete streets and better blocks all day long, but until the antiquated and "broken" Dallas City Code gets its own extreme makeover, good luck with all that -- outside, of course, of a few nice weekends in Oak Cliff and the Arts District, when we're teased with the what-could-be.

And Roberts knows all this -- we've been here before. Just last April, before the first Better Block made its bow at the N. Tyler Street-W. 7th Street-Kings Highway clusterfudge, we scoured that 1941 copy of the City Code only to realize how much of that antiquated tome lives today. But enough is enough, writes Roberts on both the Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and Go Oak Cliff sites, where he offers his list of "Dallas Ordinances That Should Be Overturned in 2011." On the to-go list: fees for awnings, rules barring merchants from selling on sidealks, the high price of planting flower boxes and cafes in front of businesses and that nutty one disallowing crowds on sidewalks. Writes Roberts of the thousand-dollar-and-up charge for opening an exterior eatery:
Even in Dallas, the places we put on our visitor's guides show images of McKinney Avenue, or West End Marketplace with people sitting outside at a cafe. Unfortunately, the cost associated with adding this amenity is overly prohibitive. Retailers in Oak Cliff have noted being cited so many times that they've eventually given up trying to promote a street cafe culture. We know that outdoor cafes invite people and encourage street life, but beyond that, they increase city tax revenues as area businesses are able to generate extra revenue on increased real estate. With this in mind, we should be removing every hurdle that exists for a business that wants to open a patio.
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45 comments
Freddd
Freddd

how about repealing the stupid garage sale sign ban - this makes no difference and hurts the citizens who in this day and age could use the opportunity to clean up their place and make a bit of money. You want to fine them for leaving signs up past 4 days - great - but how about this for pro business.

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

If the City Code is from 1941, that means it is eligible for the premium level of Social Security this year....

Thad
Thad

I'm amazed that so many here think there's any significant consensus beyond this blog to plow any effort much less money into these sorts of frivolities for Dallas. There's a small dedicated minority that's interested in putting the best interior design face on Nordstrom's too I have no doubt but the majority just want to hit it and quit it, just like they do Dallas.

Who the fuck are you people kidding? Dallas is never going to be a national city, much less an international one. It's only going to remain one bit retail office and shopping mall, that's all people want it to be, and that's all it's ever going to be. All this talk is like a couple of excited new employees getting together to decorate their cubicles. Dream on.

Amy
Amy

Why settle for "it'll never happen"? Elect the right people. Then it can happen. Pay attention. Vote. Does your council member know your name? If not, you haven't been active enough.

IQ
IQ

Getting rid of these makes way too much sense...........it'll never happen!

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

other things affecting this are public health, safety and welfare - particularly as it pertains to fire codes, occupancy loads, etc. outside patios have occupancy rates all their own and there is 7' of clearance required from the back of curb to the patio area.

I love the idea of sidewalk patios if they're done right - meaning, if you put up a guard-rail system around it to protect the person sitting and the person walking by, make sure you don't plant it in the concrete over a utility line. LOL

Reduce the parking availabilty encourages less vehicles and more walkability - increasing the use of the patios. Then you have people complaining there's nowhere to park. sigh. round and round it goes. Crowds on the sidewalk are a sticky issue due to visibility for those drivers at downtown intersections trying to turn.

I agree with the one regarding awnings. follow the codes for them and forget the private license fee.

selling on sidewalks should be allowed. however, when you look at plats and deeds for buildings downtown, more often times than not, the building edge is the front property line. Occassionally, the property line will include a portion of the sidewalk and for those guys it should be a no-brainer. what you want is to waive the private license fees to use the sidewalk. Those can run $5400 or more annually. the owner/tenant should just be allowed to provide the city a certificate of insurance to use it and be done with it.

Guest
Guest

How come you never see Tea Party protests against these onerous (and arguably "nanny state") local rules and regulations?

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

I'm reading all this about "the city makes it so hard to do business on the street in front of my storefront" and all I can think about is the earlier article about the city blaming the downtown tunnels for the lack of people on the street...

cp
cp

Poor Jason Roberts, so right and yet so naive.... doesn't he realize that the first thing the city does when there's a budget shortfall is start adding fees and charges to everything it can?

Also, it's so hard to break into the Dallas Code to make changes because once you open that door, everyone with an agenda wants their piece added in too. It's a long and complicated process, making changes to the code.

RS1963
RS1963

If I'm not mistaken, both Monica Greene and the La Duni people have had MAJOR difficulties in getting downtown restaurants going. I'm not sure if the outside issues were part of Monica's problems (I know she ran for the City Council after having so many issues with Dallas zoning and other anti-business problems with the city), but I believe that the outdoor seating issue was/is a major problem for getting the downtown La Duni open. I think they may have even given up on downtown.

HomelessBumatCliffManor
HomelessBumatCliffManor

We should add a sidewalk cafe to Cliff Manor so when the Mike "the Preston Hollow Homeless Czar" Rawlings comes over the river for a photo-op with his best friend Maryann Russ it will look uber cool!!

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

The Merchants pay landlords to rent space, why shouldn't they have to pay the city to rent space on the sidewalks?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Yesterday afternoon/evening Sol Irlandes had a St. Patrick's party that drew a pretty decent size crowd with music and people in tables everywhere. It's exactly the kind of thing downtown needs more of.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

My understanding is that in order to have tables on a sidewalk for a restaurant or bar the first step is to complete an application to the city. That costs $750 which is non-refundable and is only for the application. If the application is approved it then costs $1,500 a year to have the outdoor tables.Also, when talking about a downtown restaurant or bar there is a business operating fee that is waived for the first three years. Beginning in year four there is a charge imposed by the city.And there is still confusion among city inspectors over whether or not a bar, that does not serve food, has to have a food handling permit. It does not but the inspectors don't all know the rules.The above was all told to me by the owner of a downtown business that lasted about four years but closed earlier this year.It sucks to try and do business in Dallas.

TimCov
TimCov

You have to wonder what the heck they were thinking when they passed some of these ordinances. Oh, wait! I know what they were thinking. At the time these ordinances were passed, these things were done by "those people." The poor people they did not want to be exposed to.

Loki Laufeyson
Loki Laufeyson

WTF? A business can't even have a sign on their own window. Have you all heard of the heavy enforcement going on along Walnut Hill around Audelia? Even the Wendy's there doesn't have its "Frosty and burger" signs up anymore. Something about how the popo can't see if there's a crime taking place inside. More like, they can't snoop.

Talk about nanny state!

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

Well, that is why you are running right? So you can do the right thing rather than the "first thing"?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Why does this always come up? Busking is not illegal. It is protected speech under the Constitution. If the city is trying to regulate it, let's honestly approach the ACLU to bring a lawsuit against the city. The legality of busking is upheld 99.9% of the time, and Dallas leaders are not the legal minds who will figure out how to operate in that 0.1% of wiggle room in the law.

Guest
Guest

When the city figures my property square footage, they don't deduct the space that the sidewalk takes up. The developer who built my house paid to build the sidewalk, and we pay taxes on it. City regulations (and easements) require me to keep that area free for anybody to walk down, but it's still legally my property that I'm required to maintain and which I pay taxes for.

RS1963
RS1963

Isn't "future increased tax revenue" the reason the city cites in order to give away millions of dollars to companies as "incentives" and set up TIF districts for the sole benefit of big developers like the AA center?

Yet again, take a look at how Fort Worth has turned what was a similarly dead downtown into a thriving part of the city: free parking, a helpful city hall, private security. With those three basic things, they are going gangbusters almost every night of the week.

Alfredo
Alfredo

and the City of Dallas has so much extra cash, why shouldn't a resturant get to use public right of way for free?

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

Because the city will earn its money on the increased tax revenue generated by the additional table space. Outside of that, it disincentivizes small businesses from opening onto the sidewalk at all because fees are too high...larger chains can easily afford the expense, but small mom and pop cafes cannot.

We get something more as well by encouraging cafe seating...greater streetlife and more eyes on the street which increases the area's safety.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

The rent will come in the form of higher sales tax revenue. The city of Dallas continues to worry about quarters from parking meters instead of increased commerce, and sales tax, from free parking on evenings and weekends and sidewalk cafes.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Not sure if they were attacked by homeless zombies after dark though.

cp
cp

Unless you're a wealthy developer, then you get all kinds of great perks! It sucks to try to be a small business owner in Dallas.

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

On the other hand, try to open a sidewalk cafe in the 'burbs. Unless it is Legacy Town Center, you are more or less screwed just because of design.

Loki Laufeyson
Loki Laufeyson

I'm a damn good singer, classically trained and currently in several choirs/choruses. I'd love to busk but I really don't want to spend time in jail testing my First Amendment rights. I'm less likely to get busted as a moving panhandler (or even an "offramp activist" flying my "Pray for __" cardboard sign on the side of 635 offramps... prayer is free speech, too!) than as a busker singing at the Cityplace DART station or someplace like that. Problem is, I usually have to fight some uncultured and drunken bum -who's probably never held a real job in his life-- for the choice interstate real estate.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Big developers make big campaign donations.In FW, Bass Bros already owned downtown, so they got to make their own rules, which makes them more money.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Further, I would presume a neighborhood with sidewalk cafes would have higher values than a comparable neighborhood with out that feature. This is pretty petting thinking. There needs to be a wide clear path for people to pass, so long as you don't violate a 6' easement what's the beef?

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

Ok , Jason, I love what you do and encourage you to keep up the good fight and I understand maintaining the right of way, but still do not understand the right to rent it for free. If the existing Biz does not rent that space what stops me, a second biz from renting it, other than the first biz paying to sell services on it?

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

Ok, more tax revenue, eyes on the street, but that still does not answer why they should get to use city real estate for free. Should all city property be allowed to be used for free because of perceived tax revenue? On that sceanerio, Why can't I just open up a soda stand in front of anothers restaurant? Not trying to argue here, trying to understand.

Montemalone
Montemalone

IN the burbs, sidwalk cafes are called drive-thrus.

TimCov
TimCov

I know that a couple of the restaurants in downtown Garland have outdoor seating in nice weather. Believe it or not, downtown Garland is undergoing a little bit of a revival. They have a couple of entertainment venues, a little shopping, a coffee shop (The Generator) and several restaurants. Compared to the last times I was in downtown Dallas on a weekend afternoon or evening, there appears to be a lot more going on in downtown Garland.

cp
cp

Yes and no streetcars.....

gshelton
gshelton

Another important thing to note here is that we (tax payers) are spending millions to get businesses to open in Downtown at street level. It makes no sense to give them money to open in Downtown then restrict their ability to make a profit once they open up.

Now if (and i hope this happens) in the future we have an active downtown and the sidewalks are full of people walking... perhaps waiting even till the point that the sidewalks are too crowded --- then I don't see why not charge some nominal fee to use the sidewalk.

But today we need those businesses to make money and be successful.

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

No worries, it's a good question. Let me put it a different way...

Currently, most everyone with a home in Dallas has a mailbox that is placed on a small strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. This strip of grass is actually owned by the city, though you and I are required to maintain it. What stops someone else (let's say a junk mail solicitor) from putting a mailbox on that strip of land as well? The fact that this public right of way is directly adjacent to your property and that you are required to maintain it allows you certain priviledges to its use and no one else. This same priviledge should extend to the business that is required to maintain its own adjacent right-of-way.

Now if a business don't sweep it, leaves trash, or places furniture in a way that breaks ADA compliancy, then they can be cited, but outside of that they and they alone should have priviledges to use the space.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The thing I don't think you're understanding is the ownership structure of a right of way. If you operate a business and pay rent, it already includes the sidewalk. The business/landlord owns that sidewalk (you will find this out quickly if you hurt yourself on a poorly maintained sidewalk and attempt to sue the city - they will quickly point you in the direction of the property owner). The city has a right of way on that space that requires you to keep it open to the public who might walk by, but the city does not own anything. The property is private.

cp
cp

Fine. Then let the city charge them a fair price per square foot for "renting" a section of sidewalk. And by fair, I don't mean what a landlord charges inside the building, since the sidewalks are still shares with pedestrians.

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

It's not free. Business owners are required, at their expense, to maintain the right-of-way fronting their businesses. Just like you and I are required to maintain the sidewalk in front of our house.

In your scenario, you're talking about the separate issue of allowing a second business altogether that isn't required to maintain the right-of-way, setup its shop freely. I'm referring to existing businesses using their own frontage/right-of-way.

Montemalone
Montemalone

You are assuming sidewalks are city property. Are they all?

G_David
G_David

Think that has anything to do with the DART rail stop in Downtown Garland?

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

But then that is the point right? It is still about design? I am not sure if you are going to get a sidewalk cafe in Garland in an area that is not Downtown Garland.

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