Spring Cleaning…A list of Dallas Ordinances that Should be Overturned in 2011

Posted by    |    March 18th, 2011 at 4:10 am

(reposted from Bike Friendly Oak Cliff)

Since it’s almost springtime, we thought it was time to share a list of ordinances that were highlighted in our Better Block projects that we feel should be overturned in order to reactivate our city’s streetlife.

1. Remove Prohibitive Fees for Awnings:

Dallas Development Code. SEC. 43-115. ANNUAL FEE FOR USE OF PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY.
(a) Except as provided in Section 43-115.1, the annual fee for a license to use a public right-of-way for the following uses is:
(4) Fee for awnings and canopies: $1,000 per awning or canopy.

First of all, it gets hot in Dallas…putting a heavy cost on cooling a sidewalk is inhumane and akin to saying “it will cost you extra to install air-conditioning”. That cost may seem nominal, but remember, if a business has two sides, and multiple windows, you start looking at an annual fee of $4,000…that’s a big chunk for a small business that’s selling $2 cups of coffee. Awnings also invite people to sit under them, allow a business an opportunity to place their logo on them, and encourage street life. They’re found in cities around the world, but here, they’re taxed with prohibitive fees.

2. Remove ordinance restricting merchants from placing their products on the street

Dallas Development Code. SEC. 43-133. USE OF SIDEWALK FOR DISPLAY OF MERCHANDISE.

No merchant or owner of a building, fronting on any street, shall be allowed the use of any portion of any sidewalk for the display of goods, wares or merchandise. (Code 1941, Art. 143-12; Ord. 3707)

Now imagine that amazing street that you’ve been to in New York, Paris, or San Francisco. You’re walking along it, and stroll past a bookstore that has a small cart out front with a number of classic beatnick novels. Next, you stroll along and see the art shop with rolled up copies of impressionist classics and maybe the shop purveyor is out painting beside the shop. Beyond that, the baker has a beautiful arrangement of artisian baguettes just below his window. These small items are invitations that keep you strolling and invite you into the shop to discover. You can find this in cities around the world…in Dallas, it’s outlawed.

3. Remove prohibitive fees that allow flowers on the sidewalk

Dallas Development Code. SEC. 43-115. ANNUAL FEE FOR USE OF PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY.
(a) Except as provided in Section 43-115.1, the annual fee for a license to use a public right-of-way for the following uses is:
(3) Fee for landscaping and appurtenant irrigation systems: $1,000.

If you wanted to put a small flowerbox filled with daisies outside your business in Dallas, it will cost you $1,000…per year.

4. Remove prohibitive costs for allowing sidewalk cafes

Dallas Development Code. SEC. 43-115. ANNUAL FEE FOR USE OF PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY.
(b) Except as provided in Section 43-115.1, the annual fee for a license to use a public right-of-way for uses other than those listed in Subsection (a) is $1,000 or is calculated in accordance with one of the following formulas, whichever is greater:
(1) Fee for use of public right-of-way, including but not limited to sidewalk cafes: area X market value X 85% X 12%.

In Copenhagen, they’ve begun measuring the increases in their quality of life year over year by detailing the increase in the number of cafe seating occuring. We all know that the great cities are filled with life spilling out onto wide sidewalks with people eating, drinking, and enjoying their community. Even in Dallas, the places we put on our visitor’s guides show images of McKinney Avenue, or Westend Marketplace with people sitting outside at a cafe. Unfortunately, the cost associated with adding this amenity is overly prohibitive. Retailers in Oak Cliff have noted being cited so many times that they’ve eventually given up trying to promote a street cafe culture. We know that outdoor cafes invite people and encourage street life, but beyond that, they increase city tax revenues as area businesses are able to generate extra revenue on increased real estate. With this in mind, we should be removing every hurdle that exists for a business that wants to open a patio.

5. Remove ordinance that disallows crowds on sidewalks

Dallas Development Code. SEC. 43-129. CAUSING CROWD TO CONGREGATE ON SIDEWALK.
No person shall occupy any space on the sidewalk or any space near the sidewalk where the same attracts any crowd or causes any crowd to congregate on the sidewalk or where the patrons or customers must remain on the sidewalk, for the purpose of carrying on any kind of business whether for amusement or profit. (Code 1941, Art. 143-8)

One of the things I love about cities like New Orleans is that at any given moment, someone might break into tap dancing on the sidewalk, or a ragtag group of musicians will trumpet out a hot jazz classic. People stop and form a circle, and for a moment everyone enjoys a small slice of street entertainment that brings the sidewalk to life. Afterward, a hat gets passed around and those interested can drop a dollar in. It’s simple, small, but memorable, and is the mark of a great city. It should be encouraged, not outlawed.