Follow Up: La Bajada neighbors miss appeals deadline, but are still looking for legal help to fight the city

By Michaela Rush, Report for America Corps Member

September 18, 2023

West Dallas

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La Bajada residents are struggling to find their footing after the Board of Adjustment sided with homeowners and ignored the neighborhood stabilization overlay, commonly referred to as an NSO, that puts height restrictions on new homes in the West Dallas neighborhood.

Residents missed the Aug. 28 deadline to appeal the decision because they couldn’t find an attorney willing to take on their case. This means their only recourse is to bring a lawsuit against the City of Dallas. They are seeking a pro bono attorney to do so. Neighbors say approving the height variance at 3349 Coronet, which was first heard on July 18, and later granted on Aug. 15, violates the spirit and intent of the NSO.

“La Bajada is a working-class neighborhood. These million-dollar homes do not fit within our working-class character,” Maria Lozada Garcia says. 

The height variance approved by the Board of Adjustments will allow the owner of 3349 Coronet to construct an elevator shaft to have rooftop access, which exceeds the La Bajada NSO height limit. Photo by Kazai Drew

Garcia grew up in the neighborhood, but has since moved to Grand Prairie. She continues to advocate for La Bajada to maintain the legacy of her late father Felix Lozada Sr, an activist and community leader who led the campaign for the NSO.

“What is apparent is that we have to educate them that our way of life is much simpler because we appreciate the things that are truly of value: family, faith, community,” Garcia says. 

John Gallegos, the La Bajada Neighborhood Community Association secretary, says their fight to protect the neighborhood is far from over. He was one of 15 people at the meeting. Most lived in the neighborhood.

“This is not a battle we’re going to let go, and we’re going to keep trying,” Gallegos says. “Change is going to come in the future, and we’re going to keep fighting for our neighborhood.” 

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During the meeting, neighbors also suggested organizing petitions and protests, to keep the attention of the city. The association has reached out to District 6 Councilman Omar Narvaez on several occasions, but he has declined to comment on the NSO issue. 

The association has also been contacting a variety of city officials, including Mayor Eric Johnson, to bring attention to the case.  When Gallegos and the association were gathering signatures for a petition, as submitted to the board, he saw widespread frustration about the new taller and larger homes in the neighborhood. 

“[Neighbors] did agree with what we were doing, but a lot of them aren’t able to go out and take time off their work schedule to speak at City Hall,” Gallegos says. “[One neighbor] showed us and said he wants to stay [in La Bajada], but with that house being built, it makes him think he won’t be able to stay for long.”

Sylvia Lagos, who also grew up in the neighborhood, says representation within the city government, specifically among the board members, is also an issue.

“Our elected officials do not put minorities — there’s not one Latino, Latina, Mexican — on the Board of Adjustment,” Lagos says. “They screwed us royally, because we don’t have anyone who looks like us. How do you say you’ve been in my shoes, when you don’t even look like me?”

The La Bajada Neighborhood Community Association is working with Forward Dallas, a project by the City of Dallas to update land use plans to “advance the livability, economic development, sustainability, and equity throughout Dallas.” Through this partnership, neighbors are investigating options to update the NSO, to further regulate the types of homes that can be built in the neighborhood. Forward Dallas is hosting an open house at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center on Monday, Sept. 18 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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The La Bajada Neighborhood Community Association invites neighbors and other concerned individuals to attend their next community meeting on Sept. 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the New Mount Corinth Baptist Church.

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