The McMansion next door

To the Editor:

Surprisingly, the Advocate has addressed controversial neighborhood issues in an environment where most publications would steer well clear of controversy. Most of us appreciate you putting these issues on the table for frank discussion.

Your “Neighborly Ways” article (October Advocate) is one of those thorny issues.

From the angry letters that you published in your last issue, one is quick to see that many of your readers believe that because they are homeowners themselves, they do, or should, have a right to influence the style and scale of construction that occurs after their date of purchase. Other than within historical or conservation districts, no such rights exist.

I, too, appreciate the older styles of architecture and how beautiful a city block can be when it is filled with well-maintained gems from yesteryear. But if my neighbor should sell (hopefully for a fantastic price) the bungalow next door to a developer of “McMansions,” the new home would be welcomed as a new neighbor.

This view merely acknowledges the fact that if I want the right to redesign or redevelop my property, I must allow other owners to do the same. I resist the urge to impose my sense of historical design on the new development because, simply, it is not legally my business to do so.

Like every homeowner, I hope that new development fits well into my neighborhood. But if it doesn’t, I will remain silent because I know that architecture usually reflects the age in which it was constructed. More often than not, this means a larger and grander home. Besides, many of these new homes look very nice, indeed.

I just think that the architects and developers of today deserve the same level of freedom that the architects and developers of the 1930s enjoyed. Freedom trumps my desire to rule the architectural world. — Richard E. Finlan

Whither Minyard’s?

To the Editor:

I just read Jeff Siegel’s commentary on the Lakewood Minyard’s (November Advocate) and the issues presented by the possible closure of that store. I think that some of the same issues may be presented in the not-too-distant future by the Albertson’s at Mockingbird and Abrams.

As you know, Albertson’s is seeking a buyer for the entire chain. It is a distant third in the grocery market in the Dallas area, which does not bode well for the stores in this area after the chain is sold. I don’t know what the sales figures are for the Lakewood Albertson’s in particular, but the store exhibits some of the same problems you describe at the Lakewood Minyard’s, namely, fewer employees, space cluttered with freestanding displays, and poor inventory control.

In addition to the question of the future of the Lakewood Albertson’s and the use of the site if the store were to close, there is the larger issue of the continued deterioration of that shopping center as a whole. To my knowledge, the space vacated by the plant nursery has never been re-leased to a permanent tenant, and the center is marginal in terms of upkeep. All of which suggests to me the possibility that at some future date the whole center might be razed, and that would open up the entire site to a number of different potential developments, from a high-rise, a la the Mark Miller’s of the world, a West Village-type project, town homes or condominiums, or even some type of big-box store. Any of these possibilities would present major issues for the neighborhood to wrestle with.

I appreciate the role the Advocate plays in covering these subjects and enjoy reading your commentary in each issue. — Denise Dumon

Water, water everywhere

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see the coming water crisis prominently featured in November’s issue. How we balance the availability, cost and quality of water today has a drastic impact on our quality of life tomorrow.

As stated in the article, the answer to this problem does not come without great cost. However, the price of change is dwarfed by the risk of not embracing necessary improvements.

We must continue to look for new sources of water while encouraging a reduction in overall usage. The solution is to build new reservoirs, promote conservation through incentives (not penalties), and begin to seriously secure this precious asset from terrorist attack. Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) must be empowered to serve as the catalyst for change. The citizens DWU serves should be encouraged (not forced) to embrace a lifestyle of conservation.

Financing these improvements by raising water rates is no solution. Increasing the cost of water will encourage urban flight and may reverse the revitalization of Dallas many are fighting so hard to promote. Instead, we ought to establish a long-range plan that disburses the cost of compliance across an extended period. Be wary of those preaching an immediate solution. — Andy Ivey

To the Editor:

I read with interest your story on water use, as it is of great importance to me — I love to garden, and I have no lawn.

However, the most unfair element is never mentioned: Dallas charges for water per household (meter), not per person, so that the tiered system whacks families while singles get off pretty much scot-free.

If poster-child Judy Foster is single and uses 6,000 gallons per month, then she’s using 200 gallons per day, while a family of four under the 8,300-gallon average uses only 69 gallons per person per day. Why not give credit where it is due, to normal families, perhaps even with lawns, whose water use is reasonable?

The story points out that in Dallas, we use on average 245 gallons per person per day. Per capita use is the salient feature in discussions of water use, but singles — especially those living in apartments — can take a long, hot shower or bath every day, flush every cigarette down the toilet, let the water run while they brush their teeth — and hardly notice it on their water bills. However, families who actually use the average of 245 gallons per person per day pay a very serious penalty under the current rules. The answer to our problem is clearly to distinguish family users from singles, and bill accordingly.

Water use is an interesting and important topic. Using “per household,” which is to say “per water meter,” as the guideline is deceptive, not useful, and a throwback to times when there was no better way to gather data. It is reminiscent of the old IRS “marriage penalty” and, like it, evokes a different world where everyone lived in a nuclear family.

You owe your readers a more fair and balanced article, not yet another exhortation to improve ourselves in some quasi-moral fashion following eco-politics. Native plants are fine, but they’re nowhere near as important as realistic billing per capita. — James Richman

When the owner isn’t the chef

To the Editor:

I would first like to thank you for the wonderful piece that you did on my restaurant, Franki’s Li’l Europe. The article was great and the photo magnificent. We have already begun receiving patronage from your readers.

However, I wished to address an inaccuracy. In the article, I am listed as the new owner and longtime chef. It should have read new owner and longtime manager. I am not the chef.

Our current chef is Ubelio Zamora, a gentleman who worked here for years previously and has been kind enough to return to work here presently. I wished to point out this misstatement out of respect for him and the fantastic job that he does day in and day out.

Again, thank you for the article. — Jeffrey “Jake” Batt