Before the informational meeting on the city’s plan to build affordable supportive housing for homeless people was finished, the Audelia Road librarian came into the meeting room demanding that City of Dallas organizers shut the gathering down. So many Lake Highlands homeowners had packed the space they’d exceeded fire code regulations. It was an insult-to-injury moment that exemplified the evening.
Representatives with Dallas Animal Services tried to open the presentation with plans to add a new adoption center at 12000 Greenville, adjacent to the proposed supportive housing. Lake Highlands residents don’t travel to shelters in the city’s other corners, and the new center would house 150-200 pets at a time – up to 2000 per year. The speaker had a tough time gaining traction.
“Nobody cares,” said one attendee. “That’s not what we came here to talk about.” Attendees clapped and nodded agreement.
Monica Hardman, Director of Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions, shared information on three city-owned properties proposed as locations for apartments for homeless persons, with wrap-around services including case management, medical services, behavioral services and workforce or job training. It seemed clear, though, that the site on Greenville Avenue between Forest Lane and LBJ Freeway was at the top of the city’s list. No zoning changes will be required there, and 175 units are possible on the property. The 12-acre site would be divided into thirds, with a spot for the animal adoption center and a portion for Dallas Water Utilities. Both Site 2 (2009 & 2011 North Haskell Ave. combined) and Site 3 (4013 Roseland & 1805 North Haskell Ave. combined) in District 14 could accommodate only 10 housing units and would require rezoning. About 11,000 families and individuals need housing, Hardman said.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough expressed frustration that he was not told about the meeting, and his ire was matched by that of the crowd. When Hardman assured attendees her office had publicized the event through neighborhood HOAs and social media, the multitude pushed back. Hard.
“I don’t think it’s lost on any of us that the councilman was against this, and he did not get notice of this meeting,” agreed Greg Duval. “I don’t think your public affairs department is serving you well.”
“Had I known this meeting was happening, it would have gone a lot differently,” said McGough. “I’m going to try to stop (the proposal), but right now it’s moving on to the RDI phase.”
Real estate developers, on the other hand, received notice in June to submit a Request for Developer Interest (RDI) if they’d like to tap into the city’s $20 million in bond funds to build the proposed housing. RDIs are due Aug. 15., and developers have the option to propose their own properties as building sites. When one or more is chosen, the plan(s) will go to the city council in Nov. for approval.
Attendees, including McGough, said Lake Highlands is already pulling its weight hosting affordable housing for Dallas’ needy.
“Forest Green Manor, NorthGate Village Apartments, Hidden Ridge, Audelia Manor, North Creek, Sterling Crest Village, Brook View Apartments, Autumn Creek,” listed McGough, ticking off hundreds of HUD multi-family, public housing and low-income tax credit units in the neighborhood.
Daniel Roby, Lake Highlands High graduate and director of Austin Street Shelter, made an impassioned plea for developing creative solutions for housing the homeless.
“Sometimes I think there’s a massive discrepancy between what we fear people are and what they actually are,” said Roby. “I can’t tell you how many people in this community have called me when it was their son who was addicted and homeless, how many people in Lake Highlands are reaching out to me and asking me for help. I think we need to take a step back and say, ‘this may not be the perfect project, but if it’s not, let’s find the one that is.’”
Many attendees said it isn’t the mission, but the site which is simply the wrong location for the wrong purpose.
“We have federal dollars (from Project Safe Neighborhood) going to fight crime in this area, and you’re going to throw water on a grease fire,” said one attendee.
“Go to Forest Lane and 75 and there are homeless camps under that bridge, and the city never comes to clean them up,” said another. “We’ve got homeless camps at the Willie B. Johnson recreation center. My mother is 80 years old and we have to have security to protect our elderly. The Home Depot had a shooting. You can’t get on the DART train. We need more police. We need some help over here.”
“Have you proposed any sites in Preston Hollow?” asked Lake Highlands Chamber of Commerce founder Ted Hill, to uproarious applause.
“I live half a mile from that site, and it’s a high-crime, high risk area” added another resident. “Putting vulnerable people in that area is just not smart. I completely agree that people need to have affordable housing. As Councilman McGough pointed out, that entire area is surrounded by affordable housing. I love my neighborhood, but putting this in this area will be a nightmare. You’re not doing what’s best for the homeless people who’ll be going there.”
Advocate will continue coverage of this proposal and others which may follow. The city council votes in November.