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President Bush To Move Into Racially Exclusive Neighborhood?

NPR Article December 2008

By Geoffrey Bennett

Preston Hollow Neighborhood HomeIs President Bush about to move into an exclusive Dallas neighborhood, which until 2000 had a “whites only” rule on the books?

Several national and local outlets have picked up a story reported by Raw Story’s Andrew McLemore (emphasis ours):

Traffic has already begun to clog the narrow streets around the home, causing neighbors to call the police — who expect the hullabaloo to continue.

“When the Bushes are here full time, I imagine we’ll be here full time,” said Officer Michael Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department, who was directing traffic.

But the exclusive Dallas community the Bush family will soon join has a troubled history of its own.

Until 2000, the neighborhood association’s covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.

Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: “Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.”

The entire covenant can be seen here.

When asked about his new home in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Bush “played coy.”

“Mr. President — you excited about your house in Dallas?” Todd Gillman asked.

“Todd, why do you care?” Bush responded. “You live in Washington, D.C.”

The neighborhood is home to many famous people, including former presidential candidate Ross Perot and Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner.

President Bush’s new house abuts the 14-acre lair of real-estate investor Gene Phillips, who just had a trout-filled lake installed on his property.

Though the Fair Housing Act would render such an archaic neighborhood ordinance unenforceable, we turned to Dallas real estate broker Douglas Newby for insight. He was among the first to report the Bush family’s house hunting on his blog.

Newby says the Bushes have chosen a home in Mayflower Estates — “a little known Preston Hollow estate area neighborhood

of just over 100 houses” — within Dallas.

Though the Preston Hollow enclave is largely white, Newby says nearby John J Pershing Elementary School is ethnically and racially diverse.

So if the Bush family’s new neighborhood is racially exclusive, it may have more to do with who has the money to purchase the million-dollar homes located there.

And, for what it’s worth, Newby says the talk of Bush living close to Perot and Cuban is overblown: “[They] aren’t anywhere near this neighborhood!”

Geoffrey Bennett

The objective everyone should agree on is to protect the aesthetics and scale of the area. The main consideration should be design guidelines, such as exterior building materials, structures with a common setback and most important, height of the structure.

The property owners’ solution goes even further than the city proposal in protecting the scale of the neighborhood by suggesting a 125-foot height ceiling vs. the 140-foot limit the city proposes. The city is proposing a 4-1 floor area ratio (FAR). While most owners will never use our proposed 6-1 FAR with a 125-foot height limit, every owner, regardless of lot configuration, will at least be able to reach 125 feet.

Under the city proposal only a few property owners with extra deep lots on the periphery would be able to attain the 140-foot limit. The property owners’ solution includes a greater use of design guidelines to preserve the character of the area than those suggested in the city proposal.

If the city is genuinely concerned with too much density in the area, it should increase the inducements for renovation and new low-density buildings. These inducements could include greater tax incentives or abatements and subsidized city parking; also an increase of the commitment to street level improvements (such as trees and awnings) on several streets and not just Main, which would then encourage a pedestrian atmosphere throughout the area.

One of the greatest beneficiaries of this rezoning is Baylor Hospital, which is excluded from the rezoning area, but is one of the city plan’s strongest proponents. Their 250-foot office tower will never have to compete with another high rise in Deep Ellum. As a recipient of this windfall, they might consider donating parking spaces to make the rezoning more attractive to the Deep Ellum property owners who are sacrificing development rights for the good of the area.

There has been a reluctance on the part of the city to alter its proposal. Officials cite an 18-month process and 50 meetings with property owners in justifying their current firm position. These 50 meetings were run by planning staff and some property owners who were meeting privately with the city consultant and city staff. The 50 meetings of slide shows and sales pitches were able to convince only approximately 65 of the area’s 450 property owners to accept the plan.

The city needs to find a solution. We have an assistant city manager of planning, Jim Reid, who is experienced and creative in finding solutions. The city manager and City Council should give him free rein to proceed toward this end. A preservation solution has been offered by the owners. If the process does not include the opportunity to find a solution that satisfies a majority of the property owners in Deep Ellum, a very dangerous precedent could be established.

The solution now being offered by the property owners as an alternative to the planning department proposal goes even further in preserving the character and scale of the area and protecting the value of the property for all the owners.

Clients who select Realtor Douglas Newby understand they are contributing to the fabric of the community.