Dallas Neighborhoods Fight Toxic Zoning

Communities in south and west Dallas are working to introduce zoning reform that would reduce industrial pollution and hold companies accountable for their impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

2 minute read

March 10, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Interstate 635

skys the limit2 / Flickr

Patrick Sisson profiles the residents fighting to clean up the communities of southern and western Dallas. "Ringed by highways and dense with cement plants, warehouses, factories and landfills, these once-rural tracts of land are now the most contaminated in the city."

To fight polluters, residents, environmental activists and public health advocates have had to take on another powerful, mostly invisible foe: the zoning regulations that forced Black and brown communities on the wrong side of I-30 and the Trinity River to bear the brunt of industrial pollution.

Now, local activists are looking for ways to use zoning to their advantage. "'Zoning has been a tool to weaponize land against communities of color, and now communities of color are saying, wait, this is a tool we can use to restore our neighborhoods,' says Collin Yarbrough, a local activist and author of Paved A Way: Infrastructure, Policy and Racism in an American City, which explores Dallas’s legacy of economic segregation."

These efforts have gotten attention at City Hall, too. "In August 2021 the city launched Forward Dallas, an effort to reform future land use in the city. Citing the need to 'reevaluate existing land use policies and adopt new, more equitable and sustainable strategies,' the city’s rezoning initiative promises to acknowledge the systemic failures and injustices that drew its zoning map, and fix them."

The article points out that "The history of zoning and environmental injustice intersects with property values and the long history of redlining. The least expensive neighborhoods, those with fewer resources and support, tend to be where lower-income residents and communities of color can set down roots, as well as where highways and polluting industries are directed." Advocates are using science-based evidence to push for zoning reform that would regulate industrial uses to protect vulnerable neighborhoods.  

According to Dallas director of planning and urban design Julia Ryan, "the planning department is reaching out to neighborhood groups and hopes to have a draft plan by the middle of next year." Ryan "intends to study the plans developed by different neighborhoods, establish land use policies that include buffers for certain uses, and 'look at areas from an environmental justice standpoint and follow up with recommendations for zoning changes.'"

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Bloomberg CityLab

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Amtrak Acela Express train passing through Harrison station in Newark, New Jersey

‘Train Daddy’ Andy Byford to Oversee Amtrak’s High-Speed Rail Efforts

Byford, who formerly ran NYC Transit and Transport for London, could bring renewed vigor to the agency’s plans to expand regional rail in the United States.

March 28, 2023 - StreetsBlog NYC

Buses in downtown Seattle on the dedicated 3rd Avenue bus lanes

Seattle Bus Lane Cameras Capture Over 100,000 Violations

An automated traffic enforcement pilot program caught drivers illegally using transit lanes more than 110,000 times in less than a year.

March 28, 2023 - Axios

View of Statue of Liberty with New York City skyline in background

Immigration Grows, Population Drops in Many U.S. Counties

International immigration to the country’s most populous areas tripled even as major metropolitan areas continued to lose population.

March 31 - The New York Times

Detroit Sports Arena

$616 Million in Development Incentives Approved for District Detroit

The “Transformational Brownfield” incentives approved by the Detroit City Council for the $1.5 billion District Detroit still require approval by the state.

March 31 - Detroit Free Press

A red sign reads, “Welcome to New Canaan.”

Affordable Housing Development Rejected for Lack of Third Staircase in Connecticut

The New Canaan Planning Commission rejected a development proposal, including 31 below-market-rate apartments, for lack of a third staircase, among other reasons, at a time when advocates are pushing to relax two-staircase requirements.

March 31 - Stamford Advocate

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.