Bridge to Somewhere

Across the new Trinity bridge, a long-neglected but suddenly desirable neighborhood waits and hopes.

Bridge to Somewhere
Danny Fulgencio

The white paint on Felix Losada's home in West Dallas is wearing away. His brittle wooden porch swing seems ready to snap at any moment. Old but neatly maintained, the house fades into a swath of similar homes, worn and seemingly attached to the ground by winding roots rather than foundations. Residents of La Bajada, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, are firmly settled here. That much is clear, even on a brief drive through the neighborhood.

Losada, whose parents were born in Mexico, will be 90 next year. His five children grew up in his home on Bataan Street. His father died in one bedroom, his first wife in another, and his second wife has lived with him since 1999. He wants to spend the rest of his life peacefully in the same space where he's lived out his most significant memories, but he's worried. In the past several years, investors have realized that land in his neighborhood is cheap, close to downtown, and perhaps most important, at the foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the sleek white arched pathway that will provide a new link to West Dallas when it's completed. Men with money and an eye to the future have been knocking on doors offering to buy properties, and he fears rapid development could boost property values, leaving him unable to pay his property taxes from his modest fixed income.

Losada doesn't care much about bridges, and he hasn't been downtown in years. He cares even less about his property value unless its increase would mean moving. This is why for the past year and a half he has attended every planning meeting about the fate of his neighborhood and has become one of La Bajada's most outspoken advocates for a zoning restriction that would preserve the area for single-family homes. "If they come here, the value of the land is going to skyrocket," he says, "they" being developers with plans for high-rise apartments. "I've seen too many changes, too much water going under the bridge." So this time, he's doing his best to shore up his property against the threat of a rapid tax increase, which could reshape his flood-prone neighborhood even more than the many deluges it's seen throughout the years.

Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
Danny Fulgencio
Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.
Danny Fulgencio
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.

What Losada and many of his neighbors want is called a neighborhood stabilization overlay (NSO), a system of zoning restrictions established by the city in 2005 to maintain the character of residential neighborhoods. Twelve Dallas neighborhoods have adopted overlay ordinances, and La Bajada is poised to be the next.

The small neighborhood just across the Trinity River from downtown has been Losada's home since long before most of the other small cottage-style houses were built. He recalls shooting rabbits and squirrels with a rifle in the 1930s, and even before that with a slingshot. He was a small child when his family moved from a farm south of Dallas and settled in the neighborhood in the mid-1920s. His mother raised chickens, and his father was a sharecropper until a hail storm drove him out of business and into La Bajada, where he secured a job fixing trolley rails.

Neatly dressed, robust and wearing gold wire-rimmed glasses, Losada appears more properly suited for a beach-side retirement condo than the modest home he bought for $4,250 in 1961. His living room is as neat as he is, with photos of family and friends gracing every shelf, table and wall. Portraits of his five grown children sit alongside a snapshot of the neighborhood baseball team he coached when his children were young. "That's the sentimental value that money can't replace," he says. "I've had letters asking me if I wanted to sell my home, but I'm not interested." He threw the letters in the trash without even noting who sent them. He wouldn't sell for a million dollars.

The zoning restrictions Losada supports would restrict the heights of new buildings in his neighborhood. Currently, the city is determining what the limits should be, then residents will sign a petition, the city will verify signatures, and after the planning commission holds a public hearing, the city council will vote on the NSO. The neighborhood, dotted with signs reading, "Not 4 Sale, Support NSO," buzzes with rumors of property sales, comings and goings of developers and with cautiously optimistic chatter about the future of West Dallas.

In a city where development and gentrification have often arrived on bulldozers scraping away older, working-class neighborhoods, Losada and his neighbors have reason to worry. On the far side of a signature bridge that is the symbol of Dallas' costly program to reinvigorate the Trinity River corridor, La Bajada sits squarely in the path of city planners and real estate investors' plans for progress.

City Manager Mary Suhm sees the Trinity riverfront area becoming the city's "front door instead of the alley." Hope for the neighborhood's future comes from a new approach to development led by community-minded urban planners whose goal is to meld neighborhood preservation and development. They're busy sketching a future in which people like Losada aren't priced out of their homes but are instead part of a livable, walkable neighborhood that stitches people of all incomes into a community. Of course, how that all works out will depend partly on how developers implement the West Dallas plan.

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19 comments
BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

A very balanced, fair and thoughtful accounting of what is happening in West Dallas. The CityDesign Studio is to be given a standing ovation for their smart, inclusive, win/win vision for evolving the area in a senstive way.

In contrast, I live in North Oak Cliff in the heart of something I read about in the paper several months back as the new Bishop Arts Village Something or Other. I had never heard a thing about it until I read about it in the paper. Havent heard anything about it since. Was never invited to participate in its design and if I had not liked some of it, probably would have been ostracized like the people who challenged the Davis Street land use plan were.

There will always be greedy, scheming, behind-the curtain good old boys in Oak Cliff and West Dallas who are out for their own good and couldn't develop in an ethical way if their lives depended on it.

Even if the final result of this skews off-target, at least the target was noble and the people who designed and put up the target had everyone's best interests at heart. It will be the leadership of West Dallas and Oak Cliff, not the CityDesign Studio, we all can blame.

John Finley
John Finley

I was thinking this was going to happen when plans for the bridge were announced. The city should have thought about the people in that neighborhood first. The same thing is happening along Samuels Blvd. in Fort Worth with the new developments there.

Steve
Steve

I just read the entire damn thing at work.

Excellent.

I hope Pagoda makes it. :)

Guest
Guest

The zoning restrictions Losada supports would restrict the heights of new buildings in his neighborhood.

What's the point of that when "the ground" has been shown to be a very flexible concept in Dallas real estate?

Art101
Art101

"Cartoon" in the sense that Larry Beasley referred to it is a common technical term for a large preliminary drawing for a fresco painting; Michelangelo and Leonardo drew them, not Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. One might have assumed that Dallas had long ago evolved to the point where its movers and shakers -- and writers -- would understand the distinction, but evidently not...

Coleman
Coleman

*coughstanleeisn'tanartistcough*

sheik yerbouti
sheik yerbouti

The City of Dallas sees only one color and it is GREEN...the poor of any color need not apply.

craig
craig

Everytime I hear the words "signature bridge" I chuckle.

It's SOOOOO Dallas.

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Yeah I agree. Sort of like saying "It is SOOOOOO...". Cause you really hear people in Chicago and Boston talk that way.

cheapoldgeezer
cheapoldgeezer

Bridge to somewhere....like maybe to a Mexican drug cartel. Who the hell would want to live in an apartment on Singleton Ave.

Monicaannetterodriguez
Monicaannetterodriguez

Look mister old geezer,I live in West Dallas, grew up there all my life in my grandfather's house and still live there to this day. I go to college (SMU), work hard to pay for my tuition, and tutor kids from the neighborhood to encourage them to do the same. If you took your head out of the ground and quit stereotyping all Mexican neighborhoods as drug havens, you would realize that things have changed and there's a new generation coming up. We will do something with our lives despite all the bad mouthing from you!

Rderrickwhite
Rderrickwhite

what a rascist load of crap. not all poor people are criminals. get out of north dallas once in a while, would you...

Bob
Bob

uhhh not all racists are from north dallas

also, there wasnt really any indication of racism, I believe YOU are the one linking socioeconomic level/location to race

not really in agreement with OP, but your response was just as weak/lame/stereotypical...gotta work on your trolling brah! :)

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Uh Bob heal thyself. Rderrickwhite's point is that there are Caucasians and Blacks living all around Singleton and West Dallas not to mention Latinos from Guatemala, Costa Rica etc.. To describe the area solely as Mexican...and then say it is Mexican drug cartel.

Yeah, dude, that would be racist. Like saying Preston Hollow is nothing but Italian mobsters.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Yep when the city is not trying to close existing established business they can focus on forcing people from their homes by raising property values so the resident's tax bill will sky rocket. And to think that last legislative session the city (along with the county of Dallas and Collin county) spent around $600.000.00 of tax payer money with former rep turned lobbyist Fred Hill (the darling of municipal spending enabling) to lobby the leg about property taxes. Remember that Fred won awards from municipalities on his work against the proposed lowering of the cap that the appraisal district can raise the taxable value of your homes from 10 percent to 5 percent per year. The city loves it when they drive people out of their homes all for more squandering of tax dollars.

Catbird
Catbird

I hope it works out for the residents but I really think that the "donors" who pay Brent Brown and his little crew down at city hall probably have ideas of their own for the "front door" of Dallas and aren't worried so much about people like Mr. Losada. Nice story though.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Good for Mr. Losada. Your home doesn't have to be in Preston Hollow for it to be precious to you. La Bajada and the community around the old Bataan Rec Ctr are the same kind of neighborhoods that Jerry Jones wiped out in Arlington. Generations of memories mean nothing to politicians. If Rawlings is elected Mayor, Mr. Losada will be forced to move and paid pennies for his home. With Arlington's Mayor & council's help, Jones paid "residential" prices for taking people's homes and land that was going to be used for commercial development. That's what will happen to Mr. Losada, and Rawlings and his cronies will say it's good for Dallas. Homeowners like Mr. Losada are good for Dallas -- people who have roots, commitments and memories. Thanks for posting this thoughtful story.

Catbird
Catbird

Sharon Boyd is accurate - the eminent domain "taking" process is supposed to be governed by an unbiased panel of appointed citizens.

The big problem in Dallas County (everywhere really) is that the politicians who appoint the panel who decides how much a contested property is worth are obligated to the people who want the take the property in the first place...and many of whom are paying Brent Brown's salary and providing him free office space in city hall.

Its the same circle jerk that went on with the old "Dallas Plan". Don't believe that anyone has your back because nobody does.

If I could say anything at all to the individual land owners in West Dallas,I'd say that they should see their end of the Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge (the bridge to somewhere?) as the business end of a shotgun held by a twitchy thug in a brazen armed robery.

It can't get anymore serious than this people - you are about to lose your homes. The only thing in question is how much money you can leverage out of the public/private developer class holding the gun.

Band together now and get yourself the best lawyer you can afford...and not Domingo Garcia either, he and his wife are not on your side.

If you don't you'll be on the street very soon with nothing to show for your decades of hard work.

The is true.

Its so sad
Its so sad

Absolutely true. You won't be able to stop "progress" but you can get enough out of it to survive. The Arlington folk that held out the longest made the most money.

So Mr Losada & friends, band together, retain counsel, threaten lawsuits and stall, stall, stall. You will eventually get paid your millions!

Sorry about the memories, but life goes on.

 
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