Dallas city leaders working on plan for city-owned buildings after recent squatting debacle

Dallas city leaders say they are working on a plan to make sure no other city-owned properties become home to squatters after what happened just outside Dallas City Hall on South St. Paul Street. 

After the city's own building was overrun by squatters, city council members were told on Monday that the interim city manager is working on a plan. 

Within a short walk of city hall, 20 squatters made their home out of a vacant, city-owned building. It is now so trashed and might have to be condemned.

It is an embarrassment city leaders want to ensure is not repeated at 711 South St. Paul Street or any of the other vacant buildings the city is still holding onto. 

"How do we as a council leave here knowing it is not happening at other city properties?" said Councilmember Chad West.

Donzell Gipson, who became an assistant city manager in May, admitted right now there are still gaps to close in the management of city properties. 

"That is a tough one. We have to be transparent and honest. In the past, it’s been a challenge relative to this area. 711 South St. Paul became a red flag," he said. "Soon, there are plans that will be shown by the interim city manager that will provide some high level of comfort that properties are being managed properly."

Councilmember Jesse Moreno said to mitigate that, his top priority is to get vacant Dallas buildings sold. 

"We want that, but that is costing the city dollars every day to keep secure and to keep it up to code," he said.

Cara Mendelsohn went even further with a warning to city department heads. 

"You will get rid of every property unless you can defend why you keep it. We have no business holding all this land," she said.

Mendelsohn wants to know how much the city is paying to hold onto vacant properties. 

"We need to turn it over to the private sector, which has done a beautiful job at developing so many things in Dallas," she said.

Gipson admits the city's way of managing its unused properties needs work. 

"Today, there are a bunch of gaps. It’s hard to point out who is responsible," he said.

Gipson says city leaders are working on a new plan for managing as well as selling unused city properties. That will be unveiled when council returns from its summer break in August.