Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

Stop the Violence Press Conference

May 5, 2010

Please join me, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, Rickey Smiley, Tom Joyner, District Attorney Craig Watkins, and local religious and community leaders today for a Stop the Violence press conference.  We are trying to shed light on a continuing problem in Dallas, and an announcement will be made towards that goal.

Date: TODAY
Time: 2pm
Location: Dallas City Hall, 6th Floor Flag Room

We hope to see you there.

DMN Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants

March 17, 2010
The following editorial follows up on an article written by the Dallas Morning News on Sunday.  I also wrote about the same article. This is such an important issue, I am going to print the entire editorial in its entirety. 
The one thing I question is if any landlord has ever “walked away” from a building because of the pressure from HUD or any other public entity. I am very curious to know the answer.
Next, the editorial.
Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants
  Dallas Morning News 06:24 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Harvard-educated Rene Campos Jr. made a fortune by buying, rehabilitating and reselling distressed private apartment properties. Today, at 46, he lives in a million-dollar University Park home, owns a $4 million vacation property in Hawaii, plays polo, rides a custom motorcycle and drives a Land Rover.
Nothing wrong with being wealthy.

The problem is whether Campos and his investment company, Eureka Holdings, are living up to his self-described “mantra”: “We provide clean, safe, affordable housing for people.”

Eureka’s tenants at the Ridgecrest Terrace apartments in west Oak Cliff might beg to differ. Despite a constant stream of federal rent subsidies to the complex – including $1.5 million from the latest stimulus package – they describe a hellish swirl of drug activity, mold and mildew simply painted over, carpet so filthy it causes blackened feet and rashes, water-leak stains on walls.

Our issue isn’t just with Campos, a guy apparently more concerned with maximizing income by holding down expenses than with fulfilling housing commitments. It’s also with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which lets him get away with it.

Campos’ stimulus windfall was part of a $2 billion HUD effort to ensure that HUD-contracted landlords received a full year of rent subsidy payments. Ridgecrest Terrace was one of 14 Dallas County properties – nine in southern Dallas – to benefit. This, despite a record of failed HUD property inspections (later overturned on appeal), a city lawsuit to force repairs of substandard conditions (later settled) and the property’s failure to file audited financial statements on time (leading to a $3,000 fine).

If Campos is a slumlord, he’s giving other slumlords a bad name. HUD’s inability to separate worthy property owners from the chaff confirms criticisms of the $787 billion stimulus as larded with fraud and waste.

HUD’s response to this newspaper’s Steve McGonigle, whose research and reporting produced the Ridgecrest Terrace revelations, was dispiriting. A spokesman in Washington tried to explain the “delicate balance” between holding landlords accountable and making sure even the poor had decent housing. HUD supervisors locally and in Washington chose to not respond.

Campos tried to explain his side by blaming city vendettas for many of his problems at Ridgecrest Terrace.

Caught in the middle, of course, are the tenants, who just want that “clean, safe, affordable housing.” Landlords have the ultimate hammer, which is walking away if HUD leans on them too hard. With so much of southern Dallas’ housing stock tied up in complexes like Ridgecrest Terrace, tossing families into the street is a black eye HUD and the city don’t need.

Neither is looking away while people with few other options live in squalor.

Owner of Oak Cliff Apartment Complex Sees Nothing Wrong with Mold, Drug Baggies, and Unhealthy Apartments

March 14, 2010
This article is in today’s Dallas Morning News. Read for yourself.
The blog Katy’s Exposure also says what I already know, having lived in an apartment with mold.

And regarding the skin rashes from the carpet, that is from the mold coming from the vents.

The reasoning that such conditions are OK just because it’s Section 8 housing has nothing to do with the interior quality in the apartments. Nobody is asking the owner to put a fountain or media room in the middle of the complex. You take the government money to provide safe housing for lower-income people.  That means the outside environment should be safe as well as the inside.  In addition to mold, I have lived places with termites, roaches pouring out of crevices, rats, mice, and other issues.  I was blessed to be able to move; everyone is not. 
This article disgusts me. Poor people deserve to live without mold, drug baggies all over, and leaking walls. This owner should be ashamed of himself, but obviously he is not.

This is a front page article in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News; it doesn’t get much bigger than that. Hopefully some elected official reads this article and does something about it. It’s obvious that the owner could care less.

Two More Southern Dallas Motels Set to Close

January 15, 2010
In Council District Four, two more hot-sheet motels are set to close. Both are in the Piedmont neighborhood in Dallas. The motels are:
Sundial Motel at Buckner & Ricardo (map)
Luxury Inn Motel near Buckner & Scyene (map) – pictured below
Both motels were magnets for prostitution and other crimes.
The motels are set to close in January 2011.  In addition, regulations requiring landscaping and displays to be much closer to the storefronts (e.g. racks of tires and rims) and not along the streets and sidewalks.
Other motels will be announced in the coming months.

My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

June 29, 2009

A lot has been written lately about Southwest Center Mall. A $120,000 study has been commissioned and presented. Shawn Williams wrote an article for DMagazine. Numerous editorials from various newspapers have been published. I’m not sure if people are going to like what I like to say about the mall, but that’s life.

I’ve been writing about the mall since I started Dallas Progress.

One thing that has to be done, no matter whose feathers get ruffled, is to face facts about the area around the mall. The area around the mall is in shambles.

I don’t feel safe in this area; that is why I have decided to move my family from this neighborhood. The main reason that stores have left is one of the same reasons that I am leaving. All of the writing, trying to expose various issues in this neighborhood, has been for naught. We still don’t get the proper help over here.

Some may feel that I am giving up on this area. All I can say is that I lived it.

All of the police attention in this area goes to the neighborhood east of 67 which includes the Chaucer Place neighborhood. Of course, that is inside the South Central Police division which is led by the magnificent Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. The west side of 67 (Marvin D Love Freeway) is a different police division.

The only time we had any type of consistent patrols was when Pastor Rickie Rush put together an informal patrol of hundreds of men and dozens of vehicles from IBOC Church. They were the best security we ever had in this area.

While we spent $120,000 for the study of the mall, my buddy Shawn Williams gave you a lot of similar insight for the $5 cost of DMagazine. The study does go into more depth, but the basic premise is the same.

My take is a little different. I feel that putting a lot of money into the mall, and only the mall, is a mistake. When you look at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study (warning: this is a 15MB PDF so it may take time to download), it draws comparisons to Prestonwood Mall. I can understand that; but what it shows is that the two areas are starkly different in terms of income, worker traffic, and spending power. Instead of the city putting $50+ million (as it has been suggested) into one shopping mall, I would rather it gets spread through a bunch of small centers all over southern Dallas.

With respect to Southwest Center Mall, several opportunities were missed. We know that the retail moved to Cedar Hill. It moved there because the city didn’t support former Councilman James Fantroy’s attempts to revitalize the mall between 2003-2006. For example, he tried to put a new Target and a movie theater in and around the vacant JC Penney space to jumpstart redevelopment but the numbers wouldn’t work without city help. As a result, Inland Southwest began to develop a new center at Hampton & Wheatland which includes the Target store that opened in March of 2008.

Some have suggested that we should consider turning Southwest Center Mall into an outlet mall. However, our chance at the outlet mall opportunity has come and gone. In the past year,Grand Prairie snagged an outlet mall that will be next to I20 & 360 owned by Prime Outlets (the same owner as the one in San Marcos), and another got announced for another city farther north (Irving, I think).

You will never get the income parameters you need to bring the stores that you want until you solve the number one problem around the mall. Again, it goes back to neighborhood safety. You have to start the revitalization by tearing down of some of the apartment complexes in the area.

All of the good businesses are leaving the Mall area, most of the reason is that the business owners and potential customers are constantly robbed and assaulted by criminals in the area. As an example of the issues around here, Pizza Hut won’t even deliver to apartment complexes in our neighborhood.

Some apartment operators work to maintain their properties, keep gates in working order, and make sure that they don’t house criminals. Many do not.

One way these thugs get around background checks is to date a female with a decent job and get the apartment in her name. Then, the thug moves in and here comes the crime. The girl then is scared to kick him out because she has been threatened to keep quiet, and the apartment complex does nothing about it. This happens more than you think.

Some of the worst offenders in the area are below. The good tenants are held hostage in the complexes by the thugs and crime element that certain owners refuse to eradicate.

(the crime numbers for 2009 are from January 1st-June 29th)

  • Whispering Hollow – 6910 S Cockrell Hill Road (100 crimes in 2008, 52 in 2009). Owners are based out of California.
  • Redbird Trails – 3636 W Red Bird – again, the owners are based in California. There is always a line of cars outside the gates because they are always broken. Usually a lot of people walking in and out. You can see the drug traffic.
  • Arborstone – 6500 S Cockrell Hill Rd (58 crimes in 2008, 26 in 2009). Check out this stellar review from apartment ratings.com:

I wouldn’t recommend this place to my worst enemy. First off, there is always trash and broken bottles everywhere. People sit outside and drink beer and smoke weed and nobody does anything. Maintenance doesn’t fix a thing.

They will fix the easiest thing that needs to be fixed and leave the other things broke.

The security guards are a joke. They had some really bad ones before that just flirted and hung out, but now they have “invisible” ones that you never see. Oh, except from when they are sleep in their cars. The office staff are not helpful at all, the only one worth something is Deon who works on the weekends. The manager is mean and could care less about the residents. They can’t answer your questions, you have to keep calling to get any help, they don’t listen to you, but they are quick to put a notice on your door about the smallest fees like a $2.00 fee. I am writing a formal complaint to the owners.

People say they were improving because they evicted some of the drugs dealers here, but what about the other things. The crazy man who walks around and harasses the women in building 11 and 10 whenever he hasn’t taken his pills. The random gunshots. The half man/woman hooker that does its business out of the empty apartments. You mean to tell me I know all this and the office staff doesn’t. So sad. I cannot wait until my lease is up so I can move

Other complexes should also be considered. A check of the crime records or apartment reviews will show similar reports. They include:

  • Park Village -7575 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Harbors – 7550 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Cielo Ranch – 3829 Gannon Lane – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Broadmoor – 3900 Investor Dr – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Brookfield Apts – 4060 Preferred Pl -Dallas, TX 75237

Add in the motels along I-20, and it adds up to a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

The model for this area should be based on what was done along Skillman. Yes there is a TIF called Skillman Corridor, but most of the developments received no TIF money. In fact, the only major development that received funding was the Lake Highlands Town Center ($23 million for a $350 million development). The total amount of non-TIF related development in this area: $300 million.

Retail developers will return once they see strong signs that the area is changing. Until then, we’ll be writing these types of articles and blog posts for years to come.

More Tax-Credit Apartments?

February 16, 2009

Now that the moratorium has been lifted on tax-credit applications in Dallas, the floodgates are starting to open. The City Council is now considering applications for 13 such complexes.

I know there are different types of units; I do support single room occupancy (SRO) units in moderation as a part of the solution to address homelessness in Dallas. I also generally support senior housing units as long as services for the residents are being provided.

I have the biggest problem with tax-credit apartments that are not focused on a specific niche of residents. Some are even marketed as single-family home rental developments.

The oldest tax-credit apartment complexes have created a glut of units in some neighborhoods. On top of that, many of the newer tax-credit (non-senior) complexes have occupancy rates of 90% or less. That should tell you that we have enough units in certain areas.

I hope that any tax-credit projects that get approved have comprehensive security plans in place. In addition, new tax-credit complexes should be based on tearing down old units and replacing them with new units, and weeding out the thugs as residents are transitioned to newer places.

Some of the highest numbers of crime in Dallas can be found in the oldest tax-credit complexes. It’s not because DPD isn’t working as hard as they can; it’s because a lot of the owners are comfortable with taking their guaranteed rent and not investing in their property in terms of physical structure or safety.

Here are some examples of the oldest tax-credit complexes in Dallas, based on when the complexes joined the tax-credit system.

Apartment Complex Name – Address – (date joined system / date built)
Red Bird Trails 3636 W. Red Bird Lane (1992 / 1985)
Woodhollow 4424 Woodhollow Drive (1992 / 1970)
Surrey Row 7272 Marvin D Love Freeway (1989 / 1988 )
Diamond Creek – 3402 S. Buckner ( 1992 / 1985)
Crestridge Apartments – 6417 Ridgecrest Road ( 1991 / 1985)
Manor on the Park – 3122 Park Lane (1990 / 1965 )

If apartments are to be built in southern Dallas, they should be market-rate apartment complexes. As I talk to developers within my role as a plan commissioner, I try to hammer this point home. Living in such a complex, I can tell you that our complex is fairly safe but we are held hostage in some ways by the other complexes in the area. We are looked at as good pickings because we are perceived as being more affluent than other people in the area.

I understand that some complexes may have a percentage of lower-income units, and I have no problem with that as long as it’s part of a bigger plan. But I do not support arbitrarily dropping hundreds more units into areas that are already saturated with such complexes. Enough is enough.

The Hood: 5 – Motel Slumlords: 0

January 28, 2009

Today the City Council followed the City Plan Commission recommendation to close the Colonial Motel in South Dallas. The Colonial Motel has been on the chopping block for a little more than a year.

The Colonial Motel owners lost their case in federal court to stay open. They have since closed, and now they will not get a specific use permit. Keep in mind they should’ve applied for the permit more than ten years ago. Kudos to the parents and administrators of St. Philips School for bringing this issue to City Hall and following through with their goal of shutting this place down.

This piece of garbage can now hit the bricks along with the others:

Motel Three (South Oak Cliff)
Southern Comfort Motel (South Oak Cliff)
Sunset Motel (South Oak Cliff)
American Inn (South Dallas)

Two more motels are on the chopping block. They will be announced in the coming weeks.

New Apartment Safety Ordinance Approved

January 14, 2009

I have been writing about needs to increase apartment safety since I started Dallas Progress. This ordinance has been worked on for months.

Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Caraway, and the rest of the Public Safety Committee for making sure this ordinance got to Council.

I also thank Deputy Chief Brian Harvey and Lt. Keith Allen for their hard work, creativity, and leadership. I thank them for using some of my ideas in crafting the program. Among other things, the ordinance calls for required security, monitoring, lawsuits, and shutting down apartment complexes.

I also thought some of the editorials written in the last week or so targeting certain complexes were ill-targeted. Before Dwaine got to Council, little or nothing was said about apartment complex safety in southern Dallas. Dwaine has been pounding the table about apartments at every public safety meeting and almost every week at the horseshoe, down to asking about specific complexes. The result is this ordinance.

Most of the things that have called for in last week’s newspaper editorials are already on the way, as mentioned above.

Again, thanks to all that are responsible for this ordinance coming to pass. Now the City has more tools to rid our city of slumlords that ignore major issues on their properties.

Touching a Nerve

December 26, 2008

The “welcome to hell” post I wrote a few days back definitely touched a nerve with some of the readers. I appreciate the responses I received. These types of places and areas exist in our communities, and we must continue to move the clock forward toward progress (not backward).

I hope it causes something greater than anger that fades with time. I hope it inspires people to stay involved and get reacquainted with their old neighborhoods, even if you moved far away.

Welcome to Hell where You are Welcome to Sell – The Situation on South Lamar

December 19, 2008

When I speak about south Lamar, I am not referring to the Cedars. I am referring to the portion of Lamar that is in South Dallas.

In this area, we have a real bad situation in terms of crime. Most of it can be attributed to the type of behavior that is caused when you have a proliferation of nightclubs, liquor stores, and motels in a small radius.

Here is a graphic of the nightclubs on and around South Lamar.


Here is a graphic of the liquor stores on and around South Lamar.


The green arrow represents a newly-proposed nightclub. In a one-block radius of the newly proposed club, there are five other existing clubs.

On South Lamar alone, in the DPD’s 300 number patrol beats (SE division), there have been 236 crimes from January 1st – December 19th. They include:

13 aggravated assaults
15 assaults
33 burglaries
18 robberies

These are only the crimes committed on Lamar; this doesn’t even include the side streets.

In terms of making policy, we as elected and appointed officials have to make sure that we take these types of things into account when we decide where to allow new clubs to exist. If we don’t protect all citizens equally in all corners of the city, we are failing our constituents.

DPD is stretched to the hilt because the leeches of the community aren’t being shut down and are allowed to flourish. People complain about DPD, but they’re stuck at the clubs and bars that cause all of the problems. What Avi Adelman is writing about on Lower Greenville is happening in this area as well. The people in South Dallas just have less resources and less of a voice.

We are beyond doing sweeps on South Lamar; we need businesses shut down.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. As someone who grew up in these types of environments, as someone that has had to deal with things like people getting robbed and killed in front of our family home, I know what I’m talking about. Too many of these types of places in the same area asks for trouble.

It’s obvious that there are people that don’t care where they put their businesses; it’s up to us to help communities revitalize and reap the benefits of a better tomorrow.