Residents group sues Dallas for demolitions in city’s historic black neighborhood

A map of the Tenth Street Historical District in South Dallas.
A map of the Tenth Street Historical District in South Dallas. Courtesy City of Dallas

The City of Dallas violated fair housing laws by demolishing more than 70 significant structures in its last freedmen’s town, according to a lawsuit filed by the Tenth Street Residential Association (TRSA) on Thursday.

The Tenth Street area is a historic African-American neighborhood that was settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. It overlooks the Trinity River and downtown Dallas.

“Instead of protecting the historic structures from demolition, the City has used demolitions to make those dwellings unavailable because of race...,” the lawsuit reads in part. “The refusal to apply historic preservation protections to the predominantly minority occupied Tenth Street area is intentional discrimination as shown by the City’s application of the historic preservation protections to residential structures related to white non-Hispanic history in predominantly-white historic districts in the City.”

In 1993, the City of Dallas designated the Tenth Street neighborhood a Landmark Historic District through a city ordinance. Since then, 72 of the 260 houses have been demolished. Half of those demolitions took place between 2011 and 2015, according to the complaint, which says the ordinance should have acted as a protection for the neighborhood.

As a result, TRSA members and residents of the Tenth Street neighborhood claim they have faced “increases in crime and illegal dumping; diminishing property values; unreliable or absent municipal services; unsightly neighborhood appearance; increasing flooding and lack of drainage.”

The lawsuit also details that in the same 25-year period, only 21 structures were demolished across eight historically white districts. If the Tenth Street Landmark District is eliminated, Wheatley Place will become the only black history landmark in the city.

“If the Tenth Street Landmark District is eliminated, there will be no City-designated Landmark District for which the working class and low-income renters are part of the historic culture being preserved,” the lawsuit states.

TRSA is represented by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas in Dallas. Attorney Jorge Jasso said Tenth Street represents the history of African-Americans and should be preserved instead of torn down.

“This is important to TSRA and should be important to the City of Dallas, too,” Jasso said in an email. “It is important to file this lawsuit now to halt the disproportionate rate of demolitions in the neighborhood as they have been cited by the City of Dallas as a reason for removing the area’s Landmark status. This City designation is the main reason the neighborhood has been able to maintain its distinct character up to this point.”

The Dallas city attorney’s office had no comment on the litigation.

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