West Dallas groups agree ‘GAF’s gotta go’ but take different tacks on how the polluter should exit

By |Published On: October 30, 2023|Categories: West Dallas|

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As roofing manufacturer GAF Materials plans its exit from West Dallas, neighbors are working to make sure their concerns about the future of its site on Singleton Boulevard are heard. 

West Dallas residents have been vocal about wanting polluters out of their neighborhood. The GAF facility historically has been a significant source of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide emissions. Both substances can hurt people’s lungs. 

Read more: How West Dallas is leaving a history of environmental racism in the dust

Singleton United neighbors began organizing in late 2021 and launched a ‘GAF’s Gotta Go’ campaign. Photo by Nitashia Johnson

Collectively, West Dallas organizations are concerned about making sure GAF’s land is properly remediated and put to positive use after the shingle manufacturer leaves. They disagree on how to ensure the City of Dallas or GAF will actually make that happen.

Below is a summary of what has happened between GAF and West Dallas groups around GAF’s exit plan.

Recap of GAF’s announcement to exit West Dallas

May 2022: Singleton United neighbors publish GAF’s Gotta Go: The Case for City Amortization with collaborators including Paul Quinn College, Downwinders at Risk, Sierra Club, West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice, Southern Sector Rising, the Neighborhood Self Defense Project and others. This report compiles data from Purple Air monitors, testimony from residents and compilations of 311 complaints, home valuations and other sources to establish GAF Materials’ harm to the community.

Read more: Singleton United/Unidos: The new neighborhood on the block

Summer 2022: GAF announces they will voluntarily cease operations at their West Dallas plant after almost 80 years there and leave by July 29, 2029. GAF hires real estate consulting group Masterplan to push a rezoning application through the City of Dallas process so industrial uses would be disallowed on the property going forward. This also potentially raises the resale value of the land.

September 7, 2022: GAF files a zoning change application with the City of Dallas. Its zoning proposal, a mixed-use “planned development district” or PD, would disallow industrial uses on GAF’s property after 2029. The application is still under review.

November 2022: Masterplan kicks off a series of six public meetings to create a “community-informed design” for future uses of GAF’s 26-acre site, which they would bring to Dallas’ City Plan Commission and City Council.

Read more: A major West Dallas polluter is leaving — but not fast enough for neighbors

January 25, 2023: Brandon Mogan, the president of environmental advisory group Tora Consulting, leads the second community meeting held by GAF. The topic is emissions data. Tora Consulting conducted a study reviewing Purple Air monitor data from April 2020 through June 2022, and their conclusion was that GAF’s operations have no significant effect on particulate matter levels in the neighborhood. Mogan also shared this statement about GAF’s plans for remediating their site:

  • “Although GAF is not under any legal or regulatory obligation to conduct remediation, GAF has offered to begin a remedial investigation before final shutdown so that we can be prepared to undertake any necessary cleanup shortly after shutdown. The first steps will likely be decommissioning and demolition of some or all of the site structures. A remediation plan will be developed depending upon the findings of the remedial investigation and the site will be remediated to the standards that will allow for future mixed use (commercial and residential) development.”

After this meeting, GAF effectively cancels the series. GAF and their attorneys instead start meeting privately with community organizations, including West Dallas 1, Singleton United and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.

March 2023: Singleton United neighbors declare that they will not support GAF’s zoning change request unless the shingle manufacturer leaves West Dallas sooner than 2029.

April 2023: West Dallas 1 launches its Community Education Series, with the first two meetings focusing on environmental issues in West Dallas. We learn that:

  • GAF says they’re on track with the timeline they provided in November 2022. This suggests GAF has found a new site with appropriate zoning, and they will acquire the permits to use that site by the end of this year.
  • Legal Aid of Northwest Texas is investigating GAF’s emissions data and how much time GAF really needs to wind down production at its West Dallas plant.

Read more: What’s next for GAF: West Dallas 1 picks up where public meetings left off

The latest in negotiations between West Dallas, the City and GAF

May 19, 2023: The Texas Legislature passes SB 929. The bill concerns how a city treats a property that becomes a “non-conforming use” after its zoning is changed. If the city orders a business to close because of non-conforming land use — a process called amortization — the city must pay the costs associated with shutting down and decreased property value. The bill analysis appears to make indirect reference to GAF’s West Dallas facility:

  • “In one case, a city threatened to drive a roofing materials factory that employs 150 workers from their property without giving them a dime even though they legally called the factory their home of 80 years. Facing certain abuse of the city’s amortization ordinance, the company relented and plans to shut down its plant in just seven years and vacate the property, likely carrying the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars. Often, businesses facing amortization close for good or move their factories and jobs out of Texas.”

July 2023: The last known private meeting between West Dallas community groups and GAF takes place. 

Aug. 28, 2023: Cisneros and an economist hired by Singleton United meet with West Dallas Councilmember Omar Narvaez. Cisneros shares a petition signed by 108 West Dallas residents asking Narvaez to initiate the amortization process. The economist shares a report calculating the costs of amortizing GAF under SB 929, in addition to how long it would take to do so: The city would need to pay between $36 million and $45 million over two to three and a half years. Cisneros asks Narvaez to file for amortization by Sept. 8, 2023, which was the next Board of Adjustment filing deadline.

September 2023: Reacting to SB 929, the City of Dallas attorney’s office proposes to amend the city code for zoning changes that may result in the creation of a nonconforming use, and the requirements for initiating amortization.

Sept. 8, 2023: The Board of Adjustment website has been updated to state: “The city is not accepting applications for the board of adjustment to establish a compliance date for a nonconforming use.”

Sept. 28, 2023: Cisneros attempts to file to begin the amortization process and is denied.

Oct. 3, 2023: The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee [ZOAC] meets to vote on the amendment. SB 929 requires the city to pay costs associated with amortization, but the city attorney’s office takes it a step further. Executive assistant city attorney Casey Burgess says staff is recommending that all amortization requests require City Council approval because “under the new system, it’s really treated as eminent domain, not amortization … Really only the City Council can authorize eminent domain.”

Community members speak at this meeting against the code amendment, including members of Singleton United, West Dallas 1 and Downwinders at Risk. The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee postpones voting on adoption of the ordinance until Nov. 14, 2023.

Oct. 3, 2023: Cisneros again attempts to file to begin the amortization process and is denied

Oct. 16, 2023: Singleton United asks Narvaez for an in-person meeting before the next ZOAC meeting.

“Even after everything I went through with both attempts to file with the City of Dallas and the treatment I have received (and documented via the press), Councilman Omar Narvaez has failed to reach out to fenceline residents. I have not heard directly from Omar Narvaez. There is something very wrong when a councilman does not acknowledge or communicate with constituents who have been denied participation in a democratic process that is currently law. All we are doing is fighting for clean air to breathe,” Cisneros tells us.

GAF recently communicated with West Dallas 1 saying they want to have another meeting — without Singleton United. West Dallas 1 tells us they don’t want to meet without fenceline neighbors involved. 

However, West Dallas 1 leaders, along with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, say they are open to amortization but concerned about its long-term impact. Right now, they are focused on keeping lines of communication open with the City and GAF while Legal Aid continues its investigation into GAF’s operations.

West Dallas 1 will host a community meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023 at 6 p.m. at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center to share updates about what has transpired since their Community Education Series meetings.

Transparency notes: Raul Reyes Jr. has worked for Dallas Free Press as a community engagement contractor. 

Sona Chaudhary emailed the office of Omar Narvaez, District 6 Councilman, asking about his meetings with Janie Cisneros and why he didn’t advocate for her request to file for amortization. This request for comment was received by the city’s Communications, Outreach & Marketing department, but we did not receive a response from Narvaez’s office before publishing this story.

Correction: The original published piece stated West Dallas 1 leaders aren’t interested in pursuing amortization. Dallas Free Press regrets the error.

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About the Author: Sona Chaudhary

Sona Chaudhary is a Dallas-based geologist, writer and journalist working on environmental justice issues in Dallas and throughout the Southwest United States. “I want to be involved in Dallas, and I want to help make it better,” Chaudhary says. “I think Dallas Free Press is the greatest learning opportunity there could be, amplifying the voices of people involved in some radical, empathetic and transformative work on the local level.” In addition to writing for environmental change, Chaudhary is a physical scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency. They are a Cancer Sun, Aries Moon fueled by chai tea.

Official Title:

Environmental Justice Freelance Reporter