The Randall Park parking lot kerfuffle has at times been reminiscent of an episode of “Parks and Rec,” but several neighbors and public officials are not laughing as the matter heads toward a vote at the Park Board meeting Thursday, Dec. 7.
During the past few weeks, angry phone calls and online posts full of exclamation points and ALL CAPS became the preferred modes of communication for the two sides arguing about where, and whether, an additional and possibly temporary parking lot is needed for Woodrow’s teachers.
The Woodrow community, led by SBDM Facilities Chair Lauren Larson and Dallas ISD trustee Dustin Marshall, worked with the Park Department and the school district for over a year to add parking to the park across the street from the school to alleviate a temporary parking shortage.
Ongoing construction cost the school 32 parking spots in the teacher parking lot, and DISD asked the city for approval to add 22 spots to the northeast corner of the park near Glasgow.
DISD agreed to pay for the parking lot addition at the park, where it shares usage with the city, and will replace the trees in the park lost to construction. Larson personally planted and watered several trees around the school, even setting up an online signup to make sure they are watered when she goes on vacation.
Park Board member Jesse Moreno worked with Larson, Marshall and others at Woodrow, coaching them through the process to get the lot approved. Then, in November, Moreno voted against the plan.
In explaining his “no” vote, Moreno says he was under the impression the lot would be temporary, a point Larson disputes. Larson says the plans for the lot have always shown a concrete parking lot with lines, curbs and removed trees. Larson says she always believed the added parking would be permanent and would be used by both the district and park after Woodrow’s construction ended.
Park Board members also say they received complaints about additional parking from neighbors, but Larson says there was minimal resistance at the community meeting other than from Philip Kingston, who discussed the plan with Marshall and other Dallas ISD staff after the meeting.
Woodrow community members filed an open records request for complaints to Park Board member Becky Rader, which revealed four messages from residents protesting the parking. Moreno says he also received calls from park neighbors.
The park’s master plan calls for more parking on the west side of the park, but the Woodrow community argued parking there won’t work for the school. They also say designating existing spots for teachers to help solve the problem would simply push more students into the surrounding neighborhood, causing parking problems in other places.
Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer suggested Woodrow parents don’t want to build on the west side of the park because of proposed plans for a football stadium at the park in the future. But Robert Blumenstock, who has worked closely with the stadium plan, says that project is years away, if it’s ever built, and a small parking lot would not impact plans for a multi-million dollar stadium anyway.
The parking plan originally was approved by the Park Board, but following the complaints and accusations about motivation and location, the group voted to reconsider the issue at their meeting Thursday.
If the lot is approved, the plan will proceed to City Council for a final vote. Historically, the Park Board and City Council rarely vote to approve a project that doesn’t have support of the representatives from that area.
Park Board member Paul Sims and Councilman Philip Kingston have said they oppose the added parking along Glasgow.
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