(An Oak Cliff open-air market which North Dallas reps seek to restrict)
As Oak Cliff slowly shakes off the decades of neglect due to car-first planning which saw the dismantling of our streetcar system, destruction of historic structures in favor of parking lots, the creation of wide one-way thoroufares through the heart of our residential neighborhoods, all of which only benefited the sprawling suburban areas of the city, it’s amazing to see efforts being put forth to stop homegrown grassroots efforts that are actually working. The latest afront is a plan put forth by city staff to regulate and limit the number of open air markets and community gardens in the area by creating a central regulatory body that would oversee the entire process. And why? To protect the Downtown Farmers Market, which has been ailing for years, and definitely deserves our support, but not at the detriment of our own community. The ripple effects here have the potential to end our amazing events like Bolsa’s monthly local farmers market, Make’s Urban Bazaar, Bishop Arts CliffFest, and the handful of new community gardens that are beginning to spring up. Point of fact, Bolsa’s market is responsible for launching new businesses in the area like Dude Sweet, Chocolate, while Make’s Urban Bazaar started off in the Downtown Farmers’ Market but left due to the heavy restrictions put in place by the city.
It’s notable that the councilmembers in favor of regulation are from far North Dallas, in areas that were built well after WWII with sprawling car-only infratructure with an emphasis on decentralization and separated zoning. These regulations do little to hurt their own communities, as they weren’t built with a townsquare/people-first form like Oak Cliff. Their districts also boast an abundance of organic grocery options like Whole Foods, SunFlowers, or are only miles from a Central Market. In the Cliff, these same stores bypass our community due to a lower percentage of college-graduates (which is the demographic most of these use when looking to develop a new store).
The groups organizing our grassroots markets are doing so because we are lacking in our area, and the service they provide is one that allows us and our families a necessary and enjoyable option where we can simply hop on a bicycle, ride a few blocks from home, and purchase fresh vegetables, honey, meats and poultry from local providers. This only hurts the close-in neighborhoods and not those living in Districts far from the city core who have a plethora of options. Can you imagine visiting a city like Florence, Paris, New York, or Austin and seeing city officials restrict open air markets? We’ve already suffered the damage of regulations that make it nearly impossible to open an outdoor cafe, a mixed-use building, or small retail establishment with limited parking…this is not how you rebuild a city.