How Old Lubbock’s Future is Being Stolen and What to Do About It
There is a new city outside Loop 289. It was enabled by and built for, those who wish to flee our city, and Old Lubbock is paying for it. As the new city grows with unneeded, unchecked rapidity, Old Lubbock is suffering. Our citizens did not vote for this. The full version of this report provides further details on the presented problems and potential solutions. See it here.
OUR HISTORY OF CREATING DISPARITY
Lubbock has never investigated or accounted for the true cost of its rapid southwest growth.
We need to know how much a neighborhood gives vs. how much it receives. We need an impact analysis comparing the city’s current growth strategy vs. smart-growth redevelopment.
Lubbock’s elected officials are unpaid.
This means middle and working-class citizens are all but prohibited from holding office. Those who do manage to secure a position are at the mercy of special interest groups seeking political patronage, particularly property developers. How can Old Lubbock be properly represented if its residents can’t participate in municipal change?
Roadways are crumbling in Old Lubbock, including 54 miles of dirt roads. We can not ignore Old Lubbock’s needs while building Dallas-style suburbs outside LISD enabled through an unaccountable “bond” fund.
At $800,000 per mile, it would cost $43 million to repave Old Lubbock’s dirt roads. In FY 2019-2020, the city budgeted just $400,000 in dirt road maintenance. If all those dollars went to paving, Lubbock’s dirt roads would be paved in 108 years. Meanwhile, $46 million went to renovate Citizen’s Tower, a facility that’s use could only be justified if city departments set their future projected staffing needs to zero. Some $124 million dollars has been extracted from Old Lubbock and overwhelmingly used to pay for Southwest Lubbock roads through a regressive utility tax, more than bond elections where citizens vote for projects, only city elected officials and special interests determine how it’s used.
Neighborhood inequality, resource extraction, and systemic racism are embedded into city policies and land use plans governing neighborhoods of color in East and North Lubbock.
Lubbock’s first land-use plan created an industrial buffer zone between Black and White residents to enforce Jim Crow segregation. Ideally, we could leave this in the past and embrace a future without segregation, but industrial projects have continued their dogged pursuit of minority neighborhoods. Whatever their intentions, to a city with policy rooted in segregation, minority neighborhoods are easy prey.
Old Lubbock neighborhoods almost all have the same fundamental flaw: A lack of community spaces, reasons for people to stay inside the neighborhood besides school. At present, many of these neighborhoods are treated like adult dormitories.
Most neighborhoods in Old Lubbock lack any embedded neighborhood-sized commercial zoning activity. The two exceptions, Tech Terrace and Monterey-Wheelock both show higher surrounding property values; living there is more desirable. Old Lubbock’s commercial retail zoned property fills mile-long strips that prevent benefits from aggregation and foot traffic. Lubbock’s antiquated zoning does not allow for blended residential/commercial neighborhood design.
Lubbock’s job opportunities moved to Southwest Lubbock. The city made no alterations to our feeble public transit. Low-income citizens have no access to these new jobs.
Our transit has potential. Citibus has a cost recovery ratio of over 50%. That means this public good pays for over half of what it costs to provide. That rate is among the best in the nation. With no connectivity to Milwaukee Avenue, how are our citizens expected to reach these new economic corridors? With no access to these high paying jobs, they cannot access the high-cost houses or the separate school district. Old Lubbock citizens are trapped, by design, inside Loop 289.
Loop 88 will stretch economic activity too thin, and further the exodus of wealth away from Old Lubbock.
Now inaccurately referred to as Loop 88 (originally proposed to be a new loop encircling all of Lubbock), this project will only connect far South Lubbock to a north-south component near Wolfforth. Milwaukee Avenue made Old Lubbock economically brittle. We cannot handle any more extractive growth. If our commercial activity is stretched out any further, we will be left with boarded up businesses, a failed school district, and continually degrading roadways.
Lubbock’s zoning places undue pressure on schools, forcing them to be the greatest asset of a given neighborhood, the only means to attract and retain new residents. The destruction of Dunbar High School, the pride of East Lubbock, illustrates this.
Dunbar High School, named for black poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, was an athletic and academic powerhouse. Under the guise of enforcing desegregation, Dunbar was gutted, half of the students sent to Estacado. Estacado was rapidly built to contain the minorities of Lubbock into that area, to preserve the Whiteness of Monterey and Coronado. This illegal cycle of segregation continued until the Department of Justice intervened directly. The scars of this deplorable cycle remain on our city. Without the community that prospered around Dunbar, teachers and students living as neighbors, all that’s left behind is a neighborhood that mourns the social fabric it once had.
The dehumanization and displacement of North Overton left many Old Lubbock residents wondering if they are next.
By the ethical standards of urban designers, the temporary displacement of individuals during a redevelopment process is acceptable when the redevelopment process is designed with them in mind. This is true so long as those residents can return to the neighborhood, provided with housing options that fit their income level. In the case of the North Overton development, not a single unit of affordable housing was built after the displacement of over 4,700 predominately low-income minority citizens. That a purely private-sector driven urban renewal process would maximize rent and land value by building a “neighborhood” of multi-family apartment complexes for TTU students is a telling example. Historically, the what the city will allow and Old Lubbock neighborhoods’ best interests are not the same.
THE WAY FORWARD
Old Lubbock has a future through smart-growth.
The premise of smart-growth is simple; cities should understand whether new developments will pay for themselves. Not just the costs of building, but in perpetuity. Impact fees (fees a developer must pay before starting a new project), are an important first step, but only account for the initial cost of infrastructure, not its maintenance. These alone cannot save Old Lubbock, but imposing the maximum amount on new South and Southwest sub-division development and none for Old Lubbock developments is a necessary first step. Smart-growth incentivizes building within areas that already have robust infrastructure, which is Old Lubbock’s strongest asset.
No more of Old Lubbock’s money needs to be spent on building a different city.
All communities desire to thrive. Lubbock’s neighborhoods need to be empowered to make changes that correct the flaws in their zoning. No more adult dormitories.
Lubbock can off-set a southwest construction downturn by deregulating the construction of accessory dwelling units in any Lubbock neighborhood, currently prohibited by city ordinances written by the Lubbock Apartment Association.
In order for minority neighborhoods to trust in Lubbock’s redevelopment goals, there needs to be a reckoning for what happened in North Overton. Prevent slum lords hiding behind convoluted holding structures with a landlord registry. If Airbnb owners can be registered, so can they.
Revitalize 34th Street, an important roadway in Old Lubbock. Reducing the speed limit to create walkable spaces, and collapse it to two lanes. Bicycle lanes, pedestrian walkways, and commercial properties can bolster 34th Street’s functionality. Allow property owners to build in their parking lots to create a dense street scape.
Stop managing public transportation like a business, and treat it like the public good it already is. The benefits of a good public transportation system far outweigh the costs. Public transit is a core element in any revitalization strategy.
Every year, a Lubbock-based development is eligible for ~$20 million in tax credits allocated to West Texas in exchange for incorporating affordable housing into their strategy. Lubbock has the ability to shape what projects win this award by creating a special document called a Concerted Revitalization plan.
Begin the removal of toxic release sites and industrial activity that chokes East Lubbock neighborhoods. There is strong resistance in city hall to displace industrial sites in East Lubbock. The creation of a mixed-use, mixed-income modern neighborhood in East Lubbock can open Lubbock’s eyes to the area’s potential.