Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Paved A Way: Shingle Mountain


There's a pattern that runs through Collin Yarbrough's book. The neighborhoods he reports on all suffered from infrastructure development. The tools used against the neighborhoods were sometimes simple neglect, sometimes they were explicitly targeted. The end result was almost always the same: discrimination, disinvestment, deterioration. The patterns of racism continue to the present day.

I'm reading "Paved A Way: Infrastructure, Policy and Racism in an American City" by Collin Yarbrough. The city is Dallas, Texas. I'm blogging as I go, using whatever parts of the book catch my attention. Today, we look at Shingle Mountain.

The history we looked at so far sometimes goes back to post-slavery days, sometimes to the early years of the 20th Century, sometimes as recently as the widening of Central Expressway in the 1990s. All reveal a pattern.

Of the five neighborhoods of color we covered:
  1. Four dealt with a highway or road widening coming through the neighborhood
  2. Four had public housing projects located in or near them
  3. Four dealt with zoning and/or eminent domain issues.
It’s a White supremacy toolkit.
Paved A Way

Today, we close our review of "Paved A Way" with one final case study, ripped from the headlines of 2021. It's the case of "Shingle Mountain" in South Dallas.

Marsha Jackson moved to a semi-rural area of South Dallas called Floral Farms in the fall of 1995 because it provided space for her daughters to have horses and practice their roping and barrel racing.
Paved A Way

Eventually, city development came to her, specifically the Blue Star recycling company, which set up operations next door, dumping and grinding up old roofing shingles. Zoning ordinances allowed them to do it, helped by a whole lot of looking the other way. Marsha Jackson relates.

"They started putting concrete right over by my fence, less than fifty feet from my bedroom...and they start this shingle business." Within a short amount of time, the pile grew into a sixty-foot shingle mountain.
Paved A Way

Marsha Jackson began a three-year battle against Blue Star, involving City Code Compliance ("nothing was getting done"), Dallas City Council ("he didn't return my phone calls"), formation of an ad hoc coalition ("Southern Sector Rising"), enlisting The Dallas Morning News to cover her story, complaining to TCEQ, making public protests ("members of the coalition built a parade-float-style trailer with an eight-foot-tall Shingle Mountain replica and dragged it around Dallas"), and holding press conferences ("just two hours before the press conference, the City pulled Blue Star's certificate of occupancy"). Yarbrough tells the whole story, which finally appears to be at an end with the removal of Shingle Mountain and its nearly 140,000 tons of hazardous waste from Marsha Jackson's neighborhood.

Yarbrough concludes the story of Shingle Mountain by saying, "Shingle Mountain never would have had a living chance to exist in predominantly White North Dallas." That's probably true, but regardless, Yarbrough closes his book by offering advice to residents and urban planners to help ensure such an injury doesn't happen again anywhere. To residents, he passes on Marsha Jackson's hard-won realization of how crucial a role education plays in community organizing. To planners, Yarbrough advocates "planning by the people for the people".

Traditional development, as I am defining it in the context of this book, follows a top-down, developer-driven approach. For example, a developer may have an idea for a building, shopping center, or neighborhood and bring that idea to the community. Rather than involving the community from the outset and using community feedback to shape the vision for the development, traditional developers propose a solution based on what they see from a distance.
While positive strides have taken place in public engagement since the 1940s, the large proportion of decision-making in our cities lies within the hands of those who build and shape it. If we are seeking to build equitable cities, stakeholder diversity and engagement needs to grow.
Paved A Way

Collin Yarbrough doesn't have any magic formula achieving stakeholder diversity and engagement, but he does have more to say. You'll have to read the book to find out. I'm stopping my already too-long book review at this point. Read the book. First, it will inform you of how we ended up with the city we now have, and second, it offers advice on how to avoid making the same mistakes again as we build out the city of tomorrow.

All excerpts of "Paved A Way":
Paved A Way: "Dallas Doesn't Give a Damn About its History"
Paved A Way: Extermination as Government Policy
Paved A Way: The Battle of Village Creek
Paved A Way: Redlining
Paved A Way: Boulevards and Parks
Paved A Way: Freedman's Cemetery
Paved A Way: Deep Ellum
Paved A Way: Little Mexico
Paved A Way: Tenth Street
Paved A Way: Shingle Mountain
The End

1 comment:

Kirk said...

This book tells the stories of five neighborhoods in Dallas and how they were shaped by racism and economic oppression. The communities look nothing like what they did during their prime. Their declines were intentional; their foundations were chipped away over time. The book is an eye-opening look at the various factors that led, and continue to lead, to dissolution of neighborhoods. And it offers solutions to reverse these age-old practices. - Kirk Miller