DALLAS — As Dallas continues to be a hotspot housing destination, some community members in west Oak Cliff are uneasy about a new zoning plan that will be the basis for future conversations.
The West Oak Cliff Area Plan, also known as WOCAP, will be put to a vote on Thursday by the City Plan Commission.
This has been the culmination of more than two and a half years of discussions and outreach through the West Oak Cliff Area Planning Task Force.
Gerardo “Jerry” Figueroa has spent the last few days going door-to-door to inform neighbors and business owners of the plan.
The more than 150-page WOCAP final draft focuses on ways to preserve, expand and accommodate the growth in west Oak Cliff.
In the extensive final draft, here are some of the following items that are mentioned:
Protecting single-family neighborhoods
Incorporating the “missing middle housing” options into some neighborhoods through duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes
Building affordable housing
Creating a walkable community
AUTO-SHOP OWNERS’ FEARS:
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 that could mean the end of auto shops and car washes, along Clarendon Drive, to create a more walkable environment.
Clarendon Drive is a busy street filled with Hispanic-owned auto-shops, car washes and restaurants.
Figueroa moved to the Oak Cliff area around the age of 12. For the last eight years, he’s been the owner of J&E Express Auto Service along Clarendon Drive.
When Figueroa learned about this wording, he and other local groups quickly organized to express their distaste with that WOCAP draft.
Figueroa helped form the Automotive Association of Oak Cliff, which is made up of about 50 shops in west Oak Cliff.
Evelyn Mayo, a co-founder of Rayo Planning, a nonprofit planning organization that works with residents and grassroots organizations to ensure that land-use planning processes are inclusive and accessible to all people, helped explain the wording to the auto-shop owners.
“We got involved with the Automotive Association of Oak Cliff because of the concerns of their shops becoming non-conforming land-uses which opens up the can of worms to potentially be removed via a process called amortization,” Mayo said.
Once the concerns were brought forth to the city, the wording was changed.
“We thought it was impossible, but apparently, you know, change can happen,” Figueroa said.
CITY REWORDS WOCAP
The community of Oak Cliff is in Dallas Council Member Chad West’s district. He’s been a big proponent of seeing a firm plan in place to deal with the rapid growth.
Council Member West says that the West Oak Cliff Area Planning Task Force, who he appointed from those very neighborhoods, were the ones who constantly had an ear to the ground.
“City staff took those comments, they adjusted the plan accordingly, and incorporated language so that it could protect those who have been in business and want to survive, while still allowing, you know, new development, new things that are coming up to encourage that walkability,” West said.
HESITATION FROM COMMUNITY
Despite the language being changed to protect auto-shop owners like himself, Figueroa is still uneasy, adding that many people, from the predominantly Hispanic community, are still unaware of WOCAP.
“I think the plan should be cut into smaller sections and there should be more community input and more Hispanic input,” Figueroa told Spectrum News 1, while he was educating residents on Sunday afternoon at the Oak Cliff Brewing Co.
Figueroa says the language and age barrier is leaving many elderly residents clueless about the area plan.
“Like all the people that were forced out of Bishop Arts, we don’t want that to happen to our community as well,” Figueroa added.
COUNCIL MEMBER’S RESPONSE TO UNEASINESS
Council Member West says they’ve held 14 bilingual public meetings and received nearly 850 bilingual surveys in the last couple of years. While he acknowledges more can always be done when it comes to outreach, West says the time to move forward with a plan is now.
“It’s not perfect, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” West said.
West says a plan needs to be passed, if Oak Cliff is to survive the rapid growth it’s seeing.
“If we do absolutely nothing, then what will happen is we will lose more historic buildings, which is happening left and right in Oak Cliff,” leading to developers, “coming in, buying up large swaths of property,” West said.
If the WOCAP is passed, it goes to Dallas’ Office of Economic Development for approval before getting the last word from the city council.
The City Plan Commission will take a tour of west Oak Cliff on Thursday morning before voting.
Community members like Figueroa and other local activist groups plan to post up in some areas to express their desire to see more community input.
For Figueroa, he says it’s about preserving this community’s history and protecting its residents.
“We don’t want to be Bishop Arts; we want to be Oak Cliff,” Figueroa said.