West Dallas residents won a victory in their battle against industrial pollution this week, with the City Council voting unanimously to deny with prejudice a specific use permit for a concrete batch plant in the neighborhood.
“What we want is the same thing North Dallas has, the same thing the Park Cities have, the same thing Highland Park has,” lifelong West Dallas resident Debbie Solis told council members Thursday. “We just want to have clean air. We want to be able to enjoy our homes. We want to be able to live here and not have cement plants at every corner.”
Latino’s Ready Mix has been operating near West Commerce Street and Sylvan Avenue for years, but in 2019 the city told the plant it had 18 months to move. That was more than 24 months ago, and the batch plant asked for a new permit to continue operating in the neighborhood earlier this year. (It hasn’t stopped operating in the meantime, said Councilman Omar Narvaez, who represents the district.) The City Plan Commission had already recommended a denial before the City Council’s vote this week.
In documents recommending against a new permit, city staffers pointed to a number of municipal plans that discourage having this sort of heavy industry right next door to people’s homes. They also noted new residential development in the neighborhood since 2009, when the batch plant was first approved.
Of course, people lived in West Dallas in 2009, too. Part of what’s changed between then and now is that residents have had more success organizing and fighting back against the heavy industry that Dallas has historically shunted off to poorer, mostly Latino or Black parts of town.
It’s one industrial polluter in a neighborhood that’s full of them. There may be more on the way. There are plenty of fights ahead. But this permit denial is a significant win for the kind of community-led activism we’ve also seen in Floral Farms in southern Dallas, the site of Shingle Mountain. Permit approvals within the last five years around the site show a few uses incompatible with this sort of industry: a townhome development and an animal shelter. City staff said as much in its recommendation of denial.
“Due to changes that have occurred in the surrounding area since approval of the original SUP in 2009, the applicant’s request is no longer compatible with surrounding land uses,” reads the city’s case report. “Additionally, the large concrete trucks associated with the proposed use rapidly degrade the public infrastructure within West Commerce Street.”
West Dallas resident Emmanuel Glover told council members this week about how pollution in his neighborhood frequently forces his family to stay indoors to protect their health.
“I do not think or believe that anyone has to live this way,” he said.