When Dallas Wants Your Business, Don't Be Stubborn. Or else.

Categories: Schutze

So now eight years after this began the city finally shows its hand, and we learn the solution to a very old local riddle: Why in the world eight years ago was the city of Dallas sending armies of cops and code inspectors out to harass two guys who had never been convicted of so much as a speeding ticket between them but who happened to own a car-wash on Martin Luther King Boulevard?

Thumbnail image for armored-car-robbery-poster.jpg
Dallas Observer
Appropriate cover design for city pamphlet, "Your Rights as a Property-Owner.

It's exactly what a Texas House investigative committee suspected but could not prove at the time: Somebody wants those two white boys out of that car wash, and the city of Dallas intends to help make it happen.

This week Dale Davenport, who owns the business with his father, Freddy, showed me a letter from the city informing him the city wants his property. "As you are probably aware," the letter states, "the city of Dallas is planning improvements to Martin Luther King Boulevard and median. Plans have progressed to the point what we wish to advise you that your property described above will be needed for the project."

See also: Kickback City -- You Wouldn't Believe How Bad Dallas Looks in Austin

Along with the letter came a pamphlet, supposedly about rights of property owners, actually describing a long series of steps by which the city acquires property. At the end of that process, if a person refuses to sell voluntarily at the city's price, he is forced to sell under the city's power of eminent domain. That's where they say, "Sorry, sucker, we're taking it." You have to accept what they offer or what a judge says is fair. You do not have the right to refuse to sell.

This was just what everybody suspected when the city was doing things eight years ago like sending dozens of police cars to the Davenport car wash to park all over their lot so they couldn't do business, a tactic former Police David Kunkle admitted to legislative investigators had taken place (although not, he said, with his approval).

The legislative committee that investigated the Davenport car wash issue eight years ago found the car wash situation was typical of a pattern of shakedowns of honest businesses by southern Dallas elected officials. State Representative Terry Keel, a former sheriff of Travis County, told me at the time: "We had diverse businesses and individuals unconnected to each other who gave startlingly similar stories about these threats."

Most of the threats Keel said his investigators found involved schemes to get money out of businesses as so-called political donations. But it was never quite clear what City Hall wanted from Davenport and his father, unless it was their entire business.

Now we know. That's what they want. The whole enchilada. Their attempts to push the Davenports off the property with goon tactics like the mass parking of police cars failed, because the Davenports are resolute people. Freddy Davenport bought the car wash with his pension payout from Lone Star Steel where he was a steelworker. I sat across a booth from Dale Davenport, the son, over a piece of chess pie two days ago at Two Podners Restaurant on Cullum Boulevard by Fair Park. He was resolute but aghast.

"Look at this letter," he said, shaking it. "It says, 'As you are probably aware.' Probably aware of what? I've never heard a thing about this until I got this letter."

He said his own inquiries to city officials about the nature of the project that would require him to give up his business produced only vague references to some kind of "plaza." I got the same response when I called Lou Jones, a real estate manager for the city.

"It's supposed to be a plaza," she said.

I asked if she meant a walking around plaza or a retail plaza like a shopping strip.

"No retail, no," she said.

I asked whose plaza it will be, whose plan it is now.

"I don't know," she said. "You would have to check with I guess the city manager or the council people. I'm not sure of that."

OK. So the Davenports get a letter telling them the city wants their property. The only person who will return his calls, Jones, tells him it's for "a plaza." She tells me the same story, but she doesn't know whose plaza.

She insisted, by the way, that the letter sent to Davenport did not include the words "eminent domain" or "condemnation." She said the letter was merely a statement of initial intent in a long legal process. "It's just at the beginning," she said.

Yeah. But the end of the process, if you don't want to sell, is condemnation. I pointed out that the pamphlet she sent to Davenport described that end of the long legal process in some detail.

"It's always a possibility," she said.

I called acting City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and got no response. I called council member Carolyn Davis in whose district the car wash falls. Her staff relayed my message to her.

When she heard it was about Davenport, Davis instructed her staff to have me call Adam McGough, Mayor Mike Rawlings' chief of staff. I did call McGough and got a call back from Sam Merten, the mayor's spokesman, who indicated the mayor was aware of the plan and was considering it as part of his "Grow South" initiative to improve southern Dallas.

Merten said of the car wash, "It is a huge problem. I don't know how familiar you are with that specific property. On weekends literally hundreds of people gather."

Well, eight years into it, I am very familiar. I have spent time hanging out there off and on over several years. Yes, it is a social center for the neighborhood, and yes, the neighborhood houses some cool people and some scary people. Whenever I have been there, the cool people have kept the scary people under control or at least at bay. That's sort of how it works in poor neighborhoods, when it works. It ain't Frisco.

Merten said, "He has this property that, from all looks at it, it's hard to kind of understand his business model, because it doesn't seem like he's doing gangbusters business-wise, but on weekends and such it's a huge loitering issue."

In my times hanging around that car wash, especially on weekends, those coin boxes on the wall never stop dinging. My envious ears hear a steady river of cash flowing into the coffers. I don't know how the city knows that the Davenports aren't making money on the car wash. Just in terms of sheer return on investment, I have to think that car wash is probably a serious gold mine.

I asked Merten if he was aware of any study of the business itself carried out by the city to make that determination. He said he was not. But he said he was confident the city, in past attempts to acquire the property, had already offered more for the business than it is worth.

"The city in the past has approached him about purchasing the property at an above market very reasonable rate and the sense is that they're kind of dug in, and they don't want to sell. And we're not saying anything nefarious is necessarily going on, but it's one of those puzzling things where here's your run-down piece of property that theoretically isn't bringing you in much income and somebody is wanting to pay you well above market value for it. What is the logic of hanging on to it?"

OK, I do recognize that line of logic. It is exactly what Leo Chaney was saying eight years ago when he was mad at them for refusing to donate to his book fair. The accusation by innuendo is that the Davenports are drug dealers, pimps and crooks of some kind and their car wash is a front. Wow. If that is true, then both father and son deserve Academy Awards for acting, because they sure come across as a couple of hard-working East Texas church-going white guys who happen to get along well with black people.

And that right there, I have always suspected, is a lot of what somebody doesn't like. Their mere physical presence is an affront to somebody's picture of what that street ought to look like. And for that the city of Dallas is threatening to seize their property. More on this in days ahead.


My Voice Nation Help
86 comments
mcdallas
mcdallas

All he has to do is leave a brown paper bag of cash on someone's doorstep and this can all go away.  Until next time a brown paper bag of cash is needed.

b1491p
b1491p

It a shame our mayor is in cahoots with the council man & woman behind this scheme.  Piss off a crooked city council person in Dallas and watch out.  Retaliation ?

bruce.levy1
bruce.levy1

Maybe we can relocate the car wash to the new horse park.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Clarification, to be explained more explicitly in future reporting on this: David Kunkle was not police chief when the police park-in took place at the car wash.That happened under Kunkle's predecessor, Chief Terrell Bolton.

WylieH
WylieH

A side issue, which is quickly coming to the fore, is that the Dallas City Attorney's office appears to be skating off the edge... morphing into a heavily biased group of litigators furthering an unclear agenda at variance from their nominal bosses:  the City Council.   It's an extremely bad situation... the City Attorney's Office can run at full tilt:  providing slanted and highly-questionable legal interpretations to the City Council in an effort to frame debates to lean one way or the other, depending on what City staff is attempting to achieve, and using a combination of civil litigation and police power to jack with people who get in City staff's way.  Unlike private parties, there appear to be no realistic checks on the City Attorney's Office-- when was the last time you heard anyone on Council challenge its budget allocation?  If you want an eye-opening experience, compare the City of Dallas annual legal budget (on a per capita basis) to that of comparable cities-- that is a sure sign that things are out of whack.

 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

So this is one of those occasions when I have to say the better reporting may be in the comments. Wow.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Can't someone loan them a camera system for a week?

Or get Davis' phone records; or central substation?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

The City owns the adjacent tract to the north (towards Malcolm X) of Davenport's, bought it in 2012 from the Knights of Pythias.

There's a contradiction in the story, it says "But [Merten] said he was confident the city, in past attempts to acquire the property, had already offered more for the business than it is worth."

Davenport says "Look at this letter," he said, shaking it. "It says, 'As you are probably aware.' Probably aware of what? I've never heard a thing about this until I got this letter."

when was the letter Davenport waved dated? if it is recent these remarks don't line up. 

Merten's statement says that negotiations on the price have been held, over a length of time, at least one firm price offer had been submitted to Davenport if not more due to the phrase "past attempts".

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

This isn't going to have a happy ending for the City, or the politicians involved.

I bet everyone is running for the tall grass as we speak.

This isn't a qualified condemnation either.

But that is going to be the least of their problems.

Justice Department time once again.

Catbird
Catbird

I despise these eminent domain takings. This isn't a "property" to the owners, it's their livelihood.

WylieH
WylieH

[Merten said, "He has this property that, from all looks at it, it's hard to kind of understand his business model, because it doesn't seem like he's doing gangbusters business-wise, but on weekends and such it's a huge loitering issue."

In (Schutze's) times hanging around that car wash, especially on weekends, those coin boxes on the wall never stop dinging. (His) envious ears hear a steady river of cash flowing into the coffers. (He doesn't) know how the city knows that the Davenports aren't making money on the car wash. Just in terms of sheer return on investment, (he has) to think that car wash is probably a serious gold mine.]

This was one of the those situations that just begged me to go "eyes on," and I happened to be near by, so I just finished a drive by.  Here is my report:

Every single bay of the car wash was filled with people actively washing their cars and every single vacuum station was also in use.  The remainder of the lot was filled with people wiping their cars down in the bright (but cold) sunlight.  I can't imagine how a self-service car wash could be any busier-- indeed, it was the busiest self-service car wash I've ever seen.

I also looked at this from the perspective of being used as some sort of plaza. From that aspect, it simply doesn't make sense.  There is nothing of significance about this particular location--- it just sits along MLK at an intersection with a minor side street.  If the City wanted to build some sort of plaza- that is a very, very strange location as it is hard to envision a less prominent location on the street.  Beyond that, if the City's acquisition criteria involves situating the plaza at an obscure, mid-block location along MLK, there are plenty of vacant and/or under-utilized sites that could, presumably be acquired for far less money.

A quick scan of documents to which I have access also didn't turn up anything about City of Dallas plans to build a "plaza" on that location (or anywhere else in close vicinity).

Keep digging, Mr. Schutze.

parisrec
parisrec

This is very similar to my experience with the Nasher deal and the Belo Gardens deal. I was sued by the city on the latter. Beware do-gooders who covet what actually belongs to you.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Davenport just called me. His manager just called him, told him there are three DPD cars at the car wash now, searching everybody, telling them not to wash their cars there. That means Carolyn Davis is on the warpath.

WylieH
WylieH

@JimSX Those were some good times we had under Bolton.. lol....

halldecker
halldecker

@WylieHOther than Municipal Court,  where Judges are continually rated by how much fine money they bring in (so are the Truancy Court Judges,  save that for another day),   the Dallas City Attorney's won-lost record is laughable.

I'm laughing,  recalling a decade or two ago,   Dallas went after super-low-end motel owners who rented to ladies of negotiable affection and their guests.  Rooms were rented multiple times a day (and night),  motel owners were paying the City Motel Tax on one rental.  If that.   City lawyers screwed up the case so bad,  Judge John Marshall made the City pay the motel owners attorney fees.   And threw out the City's case.

Everybody has their occasional good days,  but I doubt any halfway-good lawyer in Dallas is much worried when they see the City Attorney's Office is on the other side in a lawsuit.


bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@JimSX In your defense, you're a commentator, not a reporter.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog 

I'm looking at the DCAD map.  That tract is not to the north.  It adjoins the east side of Davenport's tract and it's tiny.  They aren't trying to take out a hold out.  Davenport is center mass.  But look who owns the tract on the other side of the City?

Peter Fonberg.

Maybe they are trying to do a trade for the building the City is taking on C Chaves downtown?  Wouldn't be the first time they tried to do a swap with other peoples' tracts.  They tried this not far away at 2nd Ave and Hickory, until they got caught.  The guy had dough and invoked the State anti-Kelo legislation and the City folded like a cheap suit.

the plot thickens

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@mavdog 

Good point. Davenport told me after I wrote this piece that the city has never once offered him or his father a price for their property. Merten, he says, has been misled on this point..

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog Freddy Davenport is 81 years old.  Guys like him want income, not a sale on the property.  

Not surprised he doesn't want to sell.  It's a cash cow.

literally.

halldecker
halldecker

@holmantx Prof.  Joe McKnight told us the first day at SMU Law,  "who really runs Texas?   The Governor,  Legislature,  Supreme Court.   No.  Little Bitty Men,  Little Bitty Women in governmental offices.  Elected officials come and go,   those LBM and LBW stay forever.  And they have long memories of who pissed them off ..."

LBM and LBW don't file campaign finance reports.  

At the very very deepest of all this is the hairy land of a LBM or LBW.

 

 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@WylieH And again we're left wondering just who Wylie is and how gets all his wonderful information.

James080
James080

@parisrec  

 "Beware do-gooders who covet what actually belongs to you."

You just described the entire federal government.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Especially do-gooders who don't want to meet your price but have the power of the state behind them.

jobe3
jobe3

COD cannot damage and harm their fucking business! Get with a smart civil rights attorney and sue the hell out of them!!!

Imminent domain can only be used under certain conditions and this does not appear to meet those conditions! AC Gonzales needs the black vote so he's become desperate, which leads to a very liable situation for COD.

wilme2
wilme2

@JimSX If that is true they need to get it documented.  And file complaints against the DPD...

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Fucking Nazis. Jim, so much for your paean to dpd at the jfk bash. Guess there aren't big time media at the carwash. But it would make a great story.... if any local media had any real stones.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@WylieH @JimSX 

Ah, yes. The false arrest of a customer and the bullet through Dale Davenport;s house the day after he testified to the false arrest, as confirmed by the FBI. A stellar team and tradition Mayor Mike has signed himself up with here.Of course very little of this was ever reported in the Morning News at the time, because they were still angling for the convention hotel to bail out their real estate holdings and needed those South Dallas votes to get it.

WylieH
WylieH

@holmantx This is weird.  Why would the City of Dallas have purchased that mid-block Knights of Pythias on a one-off basis?

According to DCAD, the property was constructed in 1959 and the City hasn't done anything with it since its purchase, other than turn it in into a neglected, overgrown, poorly-secured, trash-strewn eyesore-- basically urban blight.

Someone at the City clearly has some sort of plan--- but what is it?

At the very least, the City should keep the trash picked up there.  Davenport keep his properly immaculate.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

In fact, Fonberg controls the next three tracts with one holdout in between.  Contact the holdout, I will not name them but you can see who they are on DCAD.

They will know what's up.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX @mavdog 

You are right about this guy being a Boy Scout.

How can anyone make it to 81 and not have a civil or criminal record - of any kind?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX @mavdog 

The City filed an injunction on Freddy Davenport back in 2003.  

Is this before or after the first donation request?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Holmes, who Wylie is is not a well kept secret. He used to work at DO before leaving for DMN.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@JimSX Price is a thing that no gov't can decree, you should be better than that.   I'm not saying this isn't a huge issue, but let's try to be more precise please.  Sorry, I'm uncomfortable with racist jokes too.

shawnterria
shawnterria

Makes no scence at all to me people are working there washing cars making a living. I get my car wash there and those fellows do a darn good job better than when i take my care anywere else. I dont see why you would bother a white man over a carwash. I acually been there when the police would come and harrass people for no reason nothing was going on at all. To me this carwash owner need to sue the city of dallas for this type of behavior. My son was with me that day and the police scared the hell out of him. I rather for these men to work than be stealing and breaking unto peoples houses.

WylieH
WylieH

@pak152 @WylieH Agreed that the City's plans frequently "make no sense," but... there is some plan... no matter how zany it may be.

I want to know what the zany plan is and why this poor old guy Davenport (who actually took his own hard-earned cash and invested in South Dallas while all these other folks just pay lip service to the idea) is evidently being targeted to subsidize this crazy misadventure.

I also want to know how much money the City intends to squander on this escapade.  They've already indicated they are willing to pay more than market value to acquire what appears to be one of the most successful businesses on MLK when there is plenty of empty land in the surrounding vicinity that could be acquired at a fraction of the cost.

Those hearings down in Austin did incredible additional damage to the City's reputation.  It's crap like this that causes my associates in surrounding major cities to rib me about living in a city that's hopelessly corrupt.  It's embarrassing and costly.  No amount of cheer-leading by Philip Jones and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau can overcome the damage that is done when it appears that doing business in Dallas more closely resembles doing business in Nicaragua than it does Ft. Worth.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH

It requires further investigation.

Which is why I am paid the big bucks (ha!).

I will look into it.

Prima facie - Who is JEANETTE Schwartz (the adjacent ownerships)? 

She was involved in a civil suit with Fonberg and Mitchell Rasansky on a collateral search.. along with Peter Fonberg. 

They were the plaintiffs.

Settled in July of this year.  Began in 1986.

At this juncture no quid pro quo between Blackocrats putting the arm on a car wash operator, however pristine.  Maybe unrelated. However, typical it is not.  Unseen hand.  There could be two independent movements, but I doubt it.  Way too many moving parts on this one and not enough money to fire Public Interest.  Odds are, the little man loses.  Go Schutze.  No good will come from this one.

But if you look at the alternative satellite shots (instead of Google) you see a very clean corner site.

Paste this grid coord into Bing Maps (also free) 32.768148, -96.769119 then click on Bird's Eye.  then zoom in.

From the shadows it is early in the morning but it shows you a well-maintained commercial property.  The traffic count and the demographics don't support a big dollar value so why?  Why close on THIS corner, Mr. City?

Ten drops in a Bucket.

Or they are being pushed by private interests with a profit motive.  Or it may be altruistic.  Ha!  

Maybe all three.  The newspaper, the City and the well connected.

Preliminary conclusion:

The City is developing property under the guise of eminent domain for private interest.  So far it looks like it, but its early.  The City is thwarting the law for our own good.

Then they will sell it for a a loss for the Public Good.

But then there is Peter Phonberg.  

Why does this guy always show up in a condemnation dust up?

There are more questions than answers.

No sense dwelling on the micro.

The City has no business in attempting to curve society. We will redevelop the south when the north develops out, and society turns back south.  It's simple. The south developed first.    

Just concentrate on city services please.

We'll do the rest, naturally.


pak152
pak152

@WylieH you're asking why the CoD isn't acting like a normal business? duuude it's a government a local government. whatever they do makes no sense at all


bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx @JimSX @mavdog 

If you're white, yeah - it's very possible.  I've had warrants out for my arrest in Garland for years, and they flat out refuse to take my white self.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@holmantx @JimSX @mavdog 

The injunction was part of what the legislative committee looked at before coming to the conclusion that the city was engaging in something like extortion, blaming business and apartment owners for crime in their areas, then forcing them to hire off-duty Dallas cops at high rates to take care of it, for example.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

So what is on intentional grounding tonight Robert?

WylieH
WylieH

@P1Gunter If only I were Robert Wilonsky...
 if you compare my posts to his, however, you will see that he has a far better command of the English language.

parisrec
parisrec

@scottindallas @JimSX The City set the price and threw me out. They used municipal cover to break a valid lease with the majority landowner who then turned around and bought property from the principal Belo Gardens donor's company. At no time was i allowed to counter. 

jobe3
jobe3

It's called auto-correct on my phone!

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...