Tenth Street

In 2013, the nonprofit bcWORKSHOP hosted Neighborhood Stories events, including one in the Tenth Street community, where people wrote their hopes for and memories of their neighborhood (photo courtesy bcWORKSHOP)

Editor’s Note: Preserving the historic neighborhoods that have shaped Dallas should be a priority. But despite historic district designations, Black neighborhoods that were home to Dallasites before, during, and after redlining are seeing a troubling amount of demolitions of homes that, residents insist, would be saved if in other historic districts — predominately white historic districts — in the city.

Over the next weeks and months, we will be taking a look at two of those neighborhoods — Tenth Street, and Wheatley Place. Last week, we looked at three homes in immediate danger of demolition. This week, we look at one way the neighborhood is fighting back.

The lawsuit Tenth Street residents have filed against the City of Dallas does not mince words, nor does it pull punches.

“Tenth Street has historically been subject to de jure racial segregation by the City of Dallas,” it reads. “The City has a history of enforcing racial segregation in some neighborhoods by ordinance through direct decisions of its City Council.”

Much of this history is well-documented and comes courtesy of the government’s own record keeping. Redlining consigned Black families to specific sections of town, where the amenities and even necessities were not as robust as in white-only neighborhoods, if they existed at all.

1930-circa area description of Tenth Street by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (click to enlarge)

That history is something Jorge Jasso, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, can prove easily. Jasso and other attorneys at Legal Aid are representing the Tenth Street Residential Association in their suit against the city.

Jasso points to a 1930s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (or HOLC) map that has been digitized by the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University that demonstrates the redlining that happened in Dallas.

To be clear, Tenth Street has been home to Black Dallasites for more than a century, and is one of the few remaining intact Freedmen’s towns in the nation. Settled by freed slaves after the Civil War, many of those families continue to hold on to the homes and land their newly-freed ancestors were undoubtedly proud to own.

The neighborhood’s genesis was in the 1880s, as it took shape south of the Trinity River in one of the few spots the Black community could own land. By now, the neighborhood would be considered the northeastern edge of Oak Cliff, bounded by Interstate 35, East Eighth Street, and Clarendon Drive.

Personal timestamps on a neighborhood map (photo courtesy bcWORKSHOP).

In 1944, the city designated the Tenth Street community a “Negro only” area. In 1947, the neighborhood was zoned for duplex and single-family residential use only.

But to add insult to injury, as desegregation became a drumbeat in the 1960s, construction of Interstate 35 was routed through the neighborhood. (more…)

5800 Palo Pinto guest house

District 14’s Philip Kingston is proposing a change to city ordinances that will allow the construction and rental of guest houses like this one at 5800 Palo Pinto, as well as garage apartments. Some M Streets residents object.

Head over to Stonewall Jackson Elementary tonight at 6:30 tonight as Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston will be hosting an informational session regarding the recent proposal to allow homeowners to build and rent garage apartments and guest houses inside the district.

Right now, city code precludes the construction of a full-sized kitchen in an “accessory dwelling.” To add one constitutes a duplex — two separate residences on one lot — which is another zoning category entirely. Of course, we have heard that what constitutes a “full-sized kitchen” varies significantly depending on who you talk to at Dallas City Hall. But as more people choose to tear down homes in the M Streets and build new, the lure of rental income compels many property owners to go ahead and put an apartment on top of that detached garage while they’re at it.

Proponents of urbanization and say that in order to generate the density that will create the kind of critical mass for truly walkable neighborhoods, garage apartments and their more innocuous relative the “granny flat” will become a necessity. Plus, with property values soaring and tax assessments climbing in step, more people are being priced out of the M Streets. Building and renting a back house is a great way to generate income, helping people afford their homes and providing affordable rentals, all in one step.

Sounds simple, right?

(more…)