Oak Cliff land use plan to be voted on Thursday
DALLAS — As Dallas continues to be a hotspot housing destination, some members of the West Oak Cliff community are concerned about a new zoning plan that will serve as the basis for future conversations.
The West Oak Cliff Area Plan, also known as WOCAP, will be put to the vote on Thursday by the city plan commission.
This was the culmination of over two and a half years of discussion and outreach through the West Oak Cliff Area Planning Task Force.
Gerardo “Jerry” Figueroa has spent the past few days going door to door telling neighbors and business owners about the plan.
The 150+ page final version of WOCAP focuses on ways to preserve, expand and accommodate growth in West Oak Cliff.
In the detailed final draft, some of the following are mentioned:
Protect single-family neighborhoods
Incorporate “missing intermediate housing” options in certain neighborhoods through duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes
Build affordable housing
Create a pedestrian community
THE FEARS OF AUTO-SHOP OWNERS:
Figueroa first learned of WOCAP around March 2022. A local activist group, known as Somos Tejas, told Figueroa that a draft of the plan, at the time, included wording which could mean the end of auto shops and car washes, along Clarendon Drive, to create a more walkable environment.
Clarendon Drive is a bustling street filled with auto shops, car washes, and Hispanic-owned restaurants.
Figueroa moved to the Oak Cliff area when he was 12 years old. For the past eight years he has owned J&E Express Auto Service along Clarendon Drive.
When Figueroa learned of this wording, he and other local groups quickly organized to express their disgust at this draft WOCAP.
Figueroa helped form the Oak Cliff Automobile Association, which is made up of approximately 50 stores west of Oak Cliff.
Evelyn Mayo, co-founder of Rayo Planning, a nonprofit planning organization that works with residents and local organizations to ensure land-use planning processes are inclusive and accessible to all, helped explain the wording to landlords car workshops.
“We became involved with the Oak Cliff Automobile Association due to concerns that their stores were becoming non-compliant land uses, which opens Pandora’s box to potentially be removed through a process called depreciation,” Mayo said. .
Once the concerns were reported to the city, the wording was changed.
“We thought it was impossible, but apparently, you know, change can happen,” Figueroa said.
THE WOCAP AWARD CITY
The community of Oak Cliff is in the district of Dallas Councilman Chad West. He was a big proponent of having a firm plan in place to deal with rapid growth.
Councilman West says the West Oak Cliff Area Planning Task Force, which he appointed in those same neighborhoods, was one that had a constant listening ear.
“City staff took that feedback, they adjusted the plan accordingly and incorporated language so it could protect those who have been in business and want to survive, while still allowing, you know, new development, new things coming in to encourage that practicability,” West said.
Despite the change in language to protect auto shop owners like him, Figueroa is still uneasy, adding that many people from the predominantly Hispanic community are still unfamiliar with WOCAP.
“I think the plan should be broken down into smaller sections and there should be more community input and more Hispanic input,” Figueroa told Spectrum News 1, as he educated residents Sunday after -noon at the Oak Cliff Brewing Co.
Figueroa says the language and age barrier leaves many older residents unaware of the area’s map.
“Like everyone who has been kicked out of Bishop Arts, we don’t want this to happen to our community as well,” Figueroa added.
COUNCIL MEMBER’S RESPONSE TO DISCOMFORT
Council member West says he held 14 bilingual public meetings and received nearly 850 bilingual surveys over the past two years. While he recognizes that more can always be done when it comes to raising awareness, West says now is the time to move forward with a plan.
“It’s not perfect, but don’t let perfection be the enemy of good,” West said.
West says a plan must be adopted if Oak Cliff is to survive the rapid growth it is experiencing.
“If we do absolutely nothing, then what will happen is we will lose more historic buildings, which is happening right and left in Oak Cliff,” leading developers to “come in, buy large swathes of properties,” West said.
If the WOCAP is adopted, it is subject to the approval of the Dallas Office of Economic Development before having the final say of the city council.
The City Plan Commission will visit West Oak Cliff on Thursday morning before voting.
Community members like Figueroa and other local activist groups plan to show up in some areas to express their desire to see more community feedback.
For Figueroa, he says it’s about preserving the history of this community and protecting its people.
“We don’t want to be Bishop Arts; we want to be Oak Cliff,” Figueroa said.