Little Neighborhood at the Foot of the Calatrava Is a Step Closer to Survival, For Now

Categories: Development

NSO.jpeg
Danny Fulgencio
La Bajada residents hang signs in favor of preserving their neighborhood of single-family homes.
While the big white bridge across the Trinity River promises an economic boost for West Dallas, it's been a test of the will of La Bajada. The neighborhood, mostly composed of Latino families, has quietly existed for decades without much bother until now.

After being ignored for so many years, La Bajada residents find themselves sitting atop land perfectly positioned for new construction. Local developers have been eying the area around the old cottage-style homes for its potential, while most residents are defending their neighborhood against major change, as explored in an Observer story last year.

All of this is why neighborhood leaders started a petition drive last year, gathering enough signatures to pursue a a zoning measure called a neighborhood stabilization overlay that would limit the height of structures to 27 feet to maintain the area as a patch of single-family homes.

While it would stave off major redevelopment that could potentially raise property values, residents say La Bajada doesn't come with a price tag. It's a place where extended families take over entire blocks, with parents down the street from children and aunts and uncles around the corner.

Yesterday, after a hefty dose of comment from residents and developers and much back-and-forth among commissioners, the City Plan Commission voted in favor of the overlay, protecting the area for single-family homes while making the land less favorable to developers. Now the measure will head to City Council for a vote.

Eva Elvove, a leader in the push for the overlay, expressed relief over the commission's approval after a "touch and go" meeting in which La Bajada residents supported the plan and Larry "Butch" McGregor of West Dallas Investments spoke in favor of changing the overlay's boundaries to exclude certain properties along the perimeter.

McGregor told Unfair Park that he wanted seven Toronto Street properties that are owned by West Dallas Investments and a handful of others nearby excluded from the overlay. He repeated that he does not care whether or not there is an overlay, he only cares whether this particular selection of properties is included. As it stands now, they are included in the area with restricted zoning, but that could change when the council votes.

In June, Stuart Fitts, McGregor's business partner, told the Morning News he thought the overlay was bad for residents because it would limit the value of their property. "We feel bad for the neighborhood because they're getting duped," Fitts said.

The City Plan Commission was supposed to vote on the proposal last month, but it was postponed at the request of neighborhood resident Ed Nuncio, who asked for more time at the behest of West Dallas Investments, according to the Morning News. Nuncio's property falls between two lots owned by the development company.

"These homes are homes of the working class," Elvove says. "This is what they could afford, and we're happy here. In this economy, tell me, where are these people gonna go? ... How do you put a dollar value on that? You don't."

Elvove says while property values may not skyrocket as they would if a neighborhood of single-family homes turned into apartment high-rises, she expects they will rise more gradually as West Dallas improves.

This area was the first major project of the CityDesign Studio housed in City Hall and established to create guidelines for urban planning that take varying interests into consideration. The CityDesign Studio worked with West Dallas residents and investors to create a plan, Urban Structure and Guidelines, as they call it, which calls for a gradual increase in the height of buildings from La Bajada to Singleton Boulevard so there's not a wall of skyscrapers next to tiny homes.

The primary tenet of the plan is to "protect and enhance" La Bajada. Yesterday's commission decision was a major marker of the importance of the CityDesign Studio's work in West Dallas. It showed that the guidelines, while intended to be adaptable, are being taken seriously by both the community and the city bureaucracy. This is not another plan put on a shelf and forgotten, and in Dallas, that's huge.

Brent Brown, director of the CityDesign Studio, called La Bajada's push for the overlay "a wonderful expression of neighborhood acting out what they want and making it happen. "It's a very important signal that the neighborhood plans to be there," he said.

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15 comments
Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

If liberal policies made anyone wealthy the DNC would lose it's voter base.

Dalguy
Dalguy

Many of the comments indicate that the posters have never been in this neighborhood.  Go there and take a walk, see kids playing, people sitting outside talking, houses being improved.  It looks like a nice modest neighborhood full of good people and families.  This is not a slum.

Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

Sounds like you need to take a trip out of whiteopia and look around.

TrayvonasaurusRexxx
TrayvonasaurusRexxx

"After being ignored for so many years" Who "ignored" them? Was it the white-guilt libtard "progressive advocacy journalists" at the Dallas Observer, who usually pretend that the yuppie hipster libtard white enclaves of Lakewood/Lower Greenville/Knox/Henderson and Bishop Arts/North Oak Cliff are the only neighborhoods in Dallas?

Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

Liberals want us all poor. They would love to see Dallas become as much like Detroit as possible.

Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

Why am I not surprised the Observer is romanticizing  a slum(that none of it's staff would ever live in)

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Representative govt can be so damn pesky.

StopDISD
StopDISD

This sounds like what Dallas ISD is doing to the residents in Jubilee Park.  For over three years they've been engaged in the fight of their lives, they've been fighting to protect their homes, community and and American dream. First, Dallas ISD lurked through the neighborhood using eminent domain lawsuits as a guise, and now today they demolished every vacant home left in the aftermath of its lawsuits. For the remaining families whose homes have been spared, the horror only continues. DISD has been busy transforming its newly "acquired" property into parking lots and geo-thermal fields and is placing them right in between the remaining homes.Architects like Brent Brown and Peter Brown are hard pressed to comprehend how parking lots and geo-thermal fields in between homes would be considered “safe” for the children".  Brent Brown and Peter Brown are an inspiration to our cause and as we communities feel very fortunate knowing we have the support of caring individuals like them.We commend the residents at La Bajada Community for standing up for the rights!  Don't give up!Learn more about the injustice going on in Jubilee Park visit www.StopDISD.org First, Dallas ISD lurked through the neighborhood using eminent domain lawsuits as a guise, and now today they demolished every vacant home left in the aftermath of its lawsuits. For the remaining families whose homes have been spared, the horror only continues. DISD has been busy transforming its newly "acquired" property into parking lots and geo-thermal fields and is placing them right in between the remaining homes. Architects like Brent Brown and Peter Brown are hard pressed to comprehend how parking lots and geo-thermal fields in between homes would be considered “safe” for the children".  Brent Brown and Peter Brown are an inspiration to our cause and as we communities feel very fortunate knowing we have the support of caring individuals like them. We commend the residents at La Bajada Community for standing up for the rights!  Don't give up! Learn more about the injustice going on in Jubilee Park visit www.StopDISD.org

jeff
jeff

I think your view of the situation is accurate.  The idea of legislatively preserving a 'poor' neighborhood from encroaching development, when it was the city's construction of the bridge that produced the development, seems schizophrenic. Urban redevelopment always displaces some people to allow the development to proceed.  What is possible, is now that land values have risen, the people will get far more money for their homes than they were ever worth before. The land alone may command 3 or 4 times the entire value of their home and land before the bridge came. If I were a lower income family living there, I'd look at that as an opportunity, not as oppression. A real problem is that I understand that many of the residents in those homes have no clear title to the properties in which they live. For them, that's going to be the real problem. People who have lived in places for generations, may not properly own them in the first place.

Herewegoagain
Herewegoagain

Great idea. Make it harder to redevelop Dallas. That makes sure that the tax base continues to erode. Keep providing big incentives (tax breaks) so that new development doesn't generate tax money to pay for essential services. Keep Dallas on a downhill spiral by making sure every neighborhood group controls council votes.   

StopDISD
StopDISD

This sounds like what Dallas ISD is doing to the residents in Jubilee Park.  For three years they've been engaged in the fight of their lives, they've been fighting to protect their homes, community and and American dream. First, Dallas ISD lurked through the neighborhood using eminent domain lawsuits as a guise, and now today they demolished every vacant home left in the aftermath of its lawsuits. For the remaining families whose homes have been spared, the horror only continues. DISD has been busy transforming its newly "acquired" property into parking lots and geo-thermal fields and is placing them right in between the remaining homes.Architects like Brent Brown and Peter Brown are hard pressed to comprehend how parking lots and geo-thermal fields in between homes would be considered “safe” for the children".  Brent Brown and Peter Brown are an inspiration to our cause and as we communities feel very fortunate knowing we have the support of caring individuals like them.We commend the residents at La Bajada Community for standing up for their rights!  Don't give up!Learn more about the injustice going on in Jubilee Park visit www.StopDISD.org First, Dallas ISD lurked through the neighborhood using eminent domain lawsuits as a guise, and now today they demolished every vacant home left in the aftermath of its lawsuits. For the remaining families whose homes have been spared, the horror only continues. DISD has been busy transforming its newly "acquired" property into parking lots and geo-thermal fields and is placing them right in between the remaining homes. Architects like Brent Brown and Peter Brown are hard pressed to comprehend how parking lots and geo-thermal fields in between homes would be considered “safe” for the children".  Brent Brown and Peter Brown are an inspiration to our cause and as we communities feel very fortunate knowing we have the support of caring individuals like them. We commend the residents at La Bajada Community for standing up for their rights!  Don't give up! Learn more about the injustice going on in Jubilee Park visit www.StopDISD.org

Downtownworker
Downtownworker

They should paint the bridge brown or beige so that it doesn't look like a tall, imposing white man telling the Hispanic residents what to do with their property.

Anon
Anon

If anyone believes that the redevelopment of this area will be successful, and I'm not going to speculate on that, these residents will still be pushed out by rising property values. The homes in the State Thomas district in Uptown that are protected are very expensive, precisely because they are attractive to potential tenants (whether commercial or residential). Short of capping the value of their properties so that their taxes never rise, the reality is that they will be pushed out. If you cap the property values, you will end up with the situation in New York City and San Fran rent controls where the artificial shortage of market rate apartments drives those values sky high, while encouraging people who secured lower rent properties to break the law and sublease them to people to make money.  It's a problem without an easy solution, and I would argue, no solution. The real solution is to help the poor improve their situation through other non-real estate-related schemes. 

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