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Compliments of
John W. Pritchett
  
Last updated
December 9, 2018

Copyright © 2018

PD-15 Working Group
 
What is PD-15?
Planned Development 15 (PD-15) is a Dallas City ordinance that applies to a portion of Preston Hollow South and defines its development limitations and requirements. It is different from city zoning and deed restrictions found outside of PD-15. Originally created in 1947, it has been amended several times.  As indicated in the diagram below, the properties subject to PD-15 include the following (with approximate number of dwelling units presently, and tract): 
   
High-rises: Preston Tower (305 - No tract #), Athena (143 - Tract 5)
Low-rises: Preston Place (formerly 60 - Tract 3), Diplomat (15 - Tract 2), 
Royal Orleans (20 - Tract 4), Diamond Head (41 - Tract 1)
   
 
The text of PD-15 is 6 pages long including 2 pages of exhibits from which the above diagram was extracted .
   
How big is the PD-15 district?
Although the PD itself states that the size is approximately 14.2 acres (SEC. 51P-15.102), the “developable acreage” is 12.6 acres (PD No. 15. Determination - Maximum Density, David Cossum, June 30, 2017 ). 
   
The predecessor ordinance of PD-15 included property description but not number of acres. When the City Attorney’s Office codified all the PDs in 1965, the standard template included the size of the PD-15, which they derived from the shape of PD district, that extended to the centerline of Pickwick Lane, Northwest Highway, and Baltimore Drive and the centerline of the alley on the north side (14.2 acres). The parcels as a whole, including easements, amount to 12.6 acres. 

Page 192 of the City Plat Books, that includes the district, depicts individual lot dimensions (excerpted below). The product of the east-west (1,161.08') and north-south (467.55') dimensions indicates the total size of the district is about 12.46 acres, confirming the city's computation.
 
   
What are some development limitations of PD-15?
The most significant element of PD-15 is that it restricts the total number of dwelling units to an overall density of 52.4 dwelling units per acre (SEC. 51P-15.105), which is 660 units using the city-determined acreage of 12.6.
    
A zoning determination request letter from August 31, 2015, regarding Tract 2 - Diplomat reveals additional information about PD-15.Because PD-15 was created before March 1, 1987, and does not enumerate regulations over the low-rises, they are subject to guidelines of zoning district MF-3 as described in Chapter 51 of the Dallas Development Code (SEC. 51P-15.103). Note that MF-3 is distinct from MF-3(A) which is codified in Chapter 51A.
  
Excerpts from Chapter 51 reveal that although MF-3 permits “any legal height,” they are restricted to a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 4:1. This means the square footage devoted to the building structure (excluding basements) can be no more than four times the number of square feet in the lot  .  

Buildings are further restricted to a maximum lot coverage of 60%. A multi-family residential building with 4:1 FAR that covers 60% of the lot would be effectively limited to about 7 stories (4.0 ÷ 0.6 = 6.67). Should a developer select a lesser lot coverage in order to contribute more to community green space, they would be permitted to construct a building taller than 7 stories — 10 in the case of a 40% lot coverage.
 
Redevelopment is coming
Transwestern's successful acquisition of land in Preston Hollow South to construct The Laurel demonstrated that other properties might be economically ripe for redevelopment. Indeed, Diplomat agreed in 2017 to be purchased, subject to satisfactory re-zoning, and other properties have conversed with developers. The loss of Preston Place by fire placed redevelopment front and center. 
 
Both Diplomat and Preston Place, and two other low-rises, are in the district governed by PD-15 and consequently there are three redevelopment options:
  
  1. They are permitted to redevelop in accordance with MF-3 and with no more than the number of units presently allotted to them, and would be permitted to build as many as 7 or more stories, given an FAR of 4:0.
  2. They may choose to increase the number of units such that the total units in the district remains no more than 660. This would require an amendment to the development plan, needing open hearings at CPC and City Council. A property taking this approach might expect to be challenged by one or more other low-rises.
  3. They may choose to increase the number of units such that the total units in the district is more than 660. This would require all six properties to be part of the application.
In any event, revising any other element of the PD would require all six properties to be part of the application.
  
Since it is considered essential that the total number of units permitted by PD-15 be increased beyond 660 units before quality redevelopment can be economically feasible, the question is:
  
How can PD-15 be amended and by whom?
The Dallas City Council approves changes to planned development districts based upon recommendations of city staff and the City Plan Commission, all of whom take into account a formal ballot of property owners in a particular area about the PD-15 district, as defined by city code, and after public hearings. For condominium associations, a single ballot may be submitted by their board, unless restricted covenants expressly state otherwise.
  
Amendments to a planned development may be proposed in any of 3 ways:
 
  1. The 6 properties in the district may preemptively propose amendments, if all agree to do so.
  2. The city could reopen a planned development via an “Authorized Hearing,” which can take an extended period of time, due to a backlog at city hall.
  3. An individual property within the district, with participation of a developer, could trigger it as indicated above. However, that is considered unlikely while the community is pursuing methods 1 or 2.
 

July 12, 2017 - PD-15 Community Meeting
Agenda
 
In consideration to the threats / opportunities that redevelopment presents, District 13 Council Member Jennifer Gates and her plan commissioner Margot Murphy organized a community meeting on the subject of PD-15. The meeting was very well-attended and after substantial open discussion the consensus was that it would be beneficial to the community if PD-15 be amended to reflect present-day development economics and that a working group would be appointed to propose such amendments with the broad objective of permitting greater density in return for other desirable development considerations such as set-backs, landscape guidelines, parking requirements, etc. 
 
Development considerations for Preston Hollow South were partly addressed in the recently completed Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan. The portion applicable to Preston Hollow South was emailed beforehand and distributed at the meeting .
  
CM Gates subsequently appointed the following individuals to the PD-15 Working Group:
 
PD-15 Residents
Preston Tower John Pritchett, Keith Burtner
Preston Place Arnold Spencer, Joe Meredith
Athena Carla Young, Jon Anderson
Diamond Head Lee Shuey, Marilyn Schroeder
Royal Orleans Ken Newberry, Curtis Kehr
Diplomat Robert Cammack, Maura Conley
Residents of Other Neighboring Properties in PHSNA
Madonna Villa John Welch
Harcourt House Robert Spurlock
Royal Arms Fred Pendleton
Bandera Villa Steve Dawson
Park Fontaine Nancy Kariel
 
ALL MEETINGS OF THE WORKING GROUP ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
   

August 8, 2017 - Meeting 1 of the PD-15 Working Group
 
Agenda
 
See the agenda for a summary of the meeting. Most of the discussion was around “what does the community want.” It was agreed that the working group meet frequently, in consideration of the unfortunate circumstances of some of the former Preston Place residents, and endeavor to reach unanimous agreement on a modernized PD-15. 
 

August 15, 2017 - Meeting 2 of the PD-15 Working Group
 
Agenda
 
Meeting Summary .  
 

August 29, 2017 - Meeting 3 of the PD-15 Working Group
  
Agenda
Meeting Summary .  
 
When City Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy distributed the Meeting Summary, she added:
I visited with Scott Polikov (planner) and CM Gates about next steps. Accordingly, work is underway to secure certain information and/or studies for presentation to the group. The information we are seeking takes time to compile and will not be ready for the next schedule meeting. Consequently, the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 12th is cancelled. We will reconvene on Tuesday, September 26th at 6:00 p.m. The goal is to have a robust presentation of information for our consideration, so please plan on attending a two-hour meeting on the 26th.
 

September 26, 2017 - Meeting 4 of the PD-15 Working Group
 
6:00 pm at Park Cities Baptist Church in the Collins Building, Room 2. Park in the lower level of the Park Cities Baptist Church parking garage and follow the blue signs to the Collins Building. 
Agenda
 
At the meeting Scott Polikov presented the results of a “Massing Study” in PowerPoint format prepared by his staff based on input from representatives of Diplomat and Preston Place, which, net, contributed an additional 618 units to PD-15 .
 
The distribution email included the following note: 
On Tuesday, September 26, 2017 the Working Group convened for its fourth meeting. Scott Polikov of Gateway Planning presented a “Massing Study” for purposes of facilitating a discussion about possible PD 15 redevelopment scenarios. At your request, attached please find Mr. Polikov’s presentation. It is important to emphasize that the Massing Study was simply one iteration of a possible development scenario and should not be interpreted as endorsement by either me or Council Member Gates. CM Gates and I are grateful for Mr. Polikov’s time and continued efforts in this process. We look forward to seeing you on October 10, 2017.

Meeting Summary .  
  

October 10, 2017 - Meeting 5 of the PD-15 Working Group
 
6:00 pm at Park Cities Baptist Church in the Collins Building, Room 2. Park in the lower level of the Park Cities Baptist Church parking garage and follow the blue signs to the Collins Building. 
Agenda
 
Meeting Summary .  
   

October 24, 2017 - Meeting 6 of the PD-15 Working Group
 
6:00 pm at Park Cities Baptist Church in the Collins Building, Room 2. Park in the lower level of the Park Cities Baptist Church parking garage and follow the blue signs to the Collins Building. 
Agenda
“PD 15 Scott Polikov's Policy Considerations,” which was distributed with the agenda
  
Meeting Summary .  
 
Following receipt of the Meeting Summary, John Pritchett, who was absent from the meeting emailed the following:
"Council member Gates pointed out that Transwestern made it work with a three and four story height limitation. Anderson pointed out that deal was accomplished using 2010-2011 prices on what was super low-density land. Those economics have radically changed in the past five years. Gates admitted that a market analysis was not conducted as part of the area plan. Anderson feels it's not economically feasible to build only four stories for anyone in the community."
 
See specifically, "Anderson pointed out that deal was accomplished using 2010-2011 prices on what was super low-density land." Transwestern did not approach PHS until November 2013, so I don't know where the 2010-2011 came from. Further, after a 2015-2016 lull, they came back with a substantially scaled-down proposal likely achieved by renegotiating the land price. (Mr. Pritchett later confirmed with an owner in Townhouse Row that this was indeed the case.)
 
Regarding "Those economics have radically changed in the past five years," Jon, does "economics" mean land prices? If so, I have not seen any study detailing land prices in Preston Hollow, even if 5 years was relevant. It would be good if you could cite a source for this statement. I would really like to know for sure as it would be very helpful. The problem in all this is that how land is zoned is a major determinate of its value. Merely the anticipation of modified zoning will influence perceived value.
 
Regarding, "Gates admitted that a market analysis was not conducted as part of the area plan," the best indicator we had of market was Transwestern which was approved while the Area Plan was being conducted, and it had 3- and 4-story components.
 
I understand these statement were made and should be included in the minutes, but perhaps some footnotes would be in order? Anyway, as always, thanks for the hard work pulling these minutes together.
 
Mr. Pritchett was informed that the changes to the minutes would be permitted and to bring up his objections at the next meeting. Nor did he receive a reply from Jon Anderson.
 

November 14, 2017 - Meeting 7 of the PD-15 Working Group - DEFERRED
 
A November 2, 2017, email from Jennifer Gates reported:
After discussion at the October 24, 2017 meeting, I determined that it would be the best use of the working group's time to not meet until there are renderings available for the group to review. The Preston Place representatives communicated that they will provide renderings of Preston Place for our next meeting. We will notify you with at least 2 weeks notice of when the next PD 15 working group will reconvene. For planning purposes, we are targeting for the week after the Thanksgiving Holiday. 

Correspondence Between Some Members of PD-15 Working Group and CM Gates
 
On December 1, 2017, some group members, concerned about some aspects of the PD-15 Working Group, directed a letter to CM Gates , who replied to the letter on December 8, 2017, adding the following to her email  .
I received a letter on December 1, 2017 from seven of the fifteen members of the PD15 working group. In effort to keep you fully informed and in acting in full transparency I have attached the letter I received and as well as my response.
 
The working group will plan on meeting once representatives from the Preston Place are ready to share their conceptual plan with the group. That meeting is estimated to take place in January.