Residents have a say in the future of Oak Cliff

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Are these cranes being built or demolished? It’s a question many Oak Cliff residents ask when we walk or drive through our community.

One of the most painful takedowns in recent memory was El Corazón de Tejas to Davis and Beckley. A historic restaurant of a prominent local Latino family has been lost. In its place? A chain of generic pharmacies.

After that demolition, I was elected to the Dallas City Council, and one of the top priorities I heard from across Oak Cliff was residents and business owners asking for demolition protections for at-risk neighborhoods. and commercial properties. Neighbors pointed to multi-family zoning not mirroring existing single-family neighborhoods in the Jimtown neighborhood, and zoning allowing fast-food passageways along Clarendon Road in the Sunset Hill and Hampton Hills neighborhoods. Residents have expressed interest in requesting changes, so we have launched Authorized Hearings to re-zoning in these areas.

This is where the West Oak Cliff area plan comes in.

For the past 2 1/2 years, WOCAP has empowered residents and business owners to have a say in the future of their neighborhood, providing guidance for future zoning cases. Historic and Conservation District statutes currently provide protections for neighborhoods like Winnetka Heights and Kessler Park from being destroyed or altered in ways their residents do not intend. Residents of other Oak Cliff neighborhoods like Jimtown and Elmwood deserve the same level of empowerment and respect from our municipal government, and WOCAP is giving them the path to get there.

Residents have also expressed concerns about their neighbors being displaced due to rising property taxes and gentrification. The lack of housing supply across the city, coupled with the rapid growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is the cause of rising housing prices and rents everywhere. And while some change is inevitable, more housing in high-demand areas such as Oak Cliff will undoubtedly help ease the price burden.

In addition to recommending the deployment of numerous housing strategies such as neighborhood empowerment zones to mitigate displacement, WOCAP encourages the exploration of future zoning changes to allow for additional and more accessible housing choices such as duplexes and quadplexes in suitable areas close to public transportation, while also recommending most of the unused parking lot at Hampton Station be turned into a neighborhood-scale mixed-use development with dedicated affordable apartments. It’s a way to encourage growth in Oak Cliff that connects housing, jobs and public transit. The type of development recommended at Hampton DART station – the repurposing of DART-owned parking lots – is already underway across the region and addresses an important question: what is the best use of public land: vacant parking or housing for the essential manpower?

Community input was fundamental in drafting the plan’s recommendations. City staff held dozens of bilingual in-person and virtual meetings, surveys and contextual events to gather ideas. Although improved walking was a goal envisioned by almost every resident, the original draft of the plan included recommendations that could have jeopardized the future of self-help businesses and auto repair shops in areas of West Oak Cliff. Through the diligent work of Somos Tejas and others, this blind spot was brought to the attention of staff, and the final version removed these recommendations.

Every resident, family, and business evicted by inadequate city protections is a failure of the city and makes Oak Cliff less special. I urge the City Plan Commission to endorse WOCAP as it is our best tool to prevent the unwanted destruction of neighborhoods and businesses from causing further damage to Oak Cliff.

Chad West is a Dallas council member for District 1, representing Oak Cliff. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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