A little while ago I drove by the Junius Heights house with the turf lawn — the one featured in this weekend Dallas Morning News story about the resident-versus-city fight over an artificial lawn in a designated historic district. The property on Worth Street is sweet, tidy and unassuming, (a few others in the neighborhood are not so neat).

According to the article, owner Jose Escobado has taken good care of the house. He replaced the roof, repaired a rotting railing on his porch, fixed a city sidewalk in front of his house, and tried more than once to grow genuine grass, but he wasn’t able to make it stick. So when he heard about leftover athletic turf up for grabs, he took it and paid to have it professionally installed (to the tune of $1,000). But because of the neighborhood’s protected ‘historic’ status the folks at the city preservation office say he needs to have real grass—not turf.

The story kind-a hurts my heart because here you have a guy who is sincerely trying to make his property look nice. The way he sees it, he is taking pride in his home and his neighborhood — isn’t pride in the ‘character of a neighborhood’ what residential zoning is about? Could this ruling by the preservation staff do more harm than good? I think, maybe.

I appreciate the conundrum here. Tons of study, surveying, and minutiae go into designating a historic district, and they are put in place for noble reasons, but this tiny lawn is something that can be fixed at any time — not as if Escobado is tearing down and building a monstrosity, or letting his house fall into irreversible disrepair. The preservation people say, in the article, that this is about the long-term success of the historic district — so, here you’re dealing with a disabled man trying to support a family and be a good neighbor (his neighbors, by the way, are not opposed to his faux grass) and it just seems like this is a battle that could be fought at a more appropriate time under kinder circumstances. 

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