Fear and Loathing in Woodhaven
Does urban renewal equal Negro removal on the East Side?
By JEFF PRINCE
At East Fort Worth’s Oak Hollow Apartments, two girls sat reading books, paying no mind to a tabletop still sticky from snack- time remnants — a few drops of orange juice here, a bit of pop there. “I made a 91 on my reading test,” Jamaryuana Behn said proudly, and then turned back to her book. Other children pecked on donated computers in a back room. Kids ages 5 to 12 meet weekdays in this donated apartment, where they do homework, watch instructional videos, learn about health and nutrition, and stay out of trouble. They don’t realize well-to-do folks in nearby expensive houses resent their presence and grouse about falling property values, rising crime, and fleeing retailers.
Homeowners, led by Fort Worth City Council member Becky Haskin, characterize Oak Hollow as the bedeviled worst in a bad bunch of multifamily complexes ruining scenic Woodhaven. The neighborhood is pretty, no doubt, with rolling hills, majestic trees, gorgeous houses, a country club, golf course — and 25 apartment developments offering cheap rents smack-dab in the midst of all this exclusivity. The city of Fort Worth has filed lawsuits against several Woodhaven apartment complexes, calling them public nuisances, even though most are well maintained, at least on the outside. The beef with the apartments, it seems, is in large part an objection to the people in them, particularly the small fraction who drink too much, sell drugs, and generally drive up the crime rate — but also those who commit no other crime than driving old clunkers, wearing baggy clothes, listening to rap music, or simply hanging out in the neighborhood and making regular treks to shabby convenience stores.
In addition to applying pressure through the courts, city leaders are spending $236,000 on a plan to thin out the apartments and people and to create a picturesque “gateway” to a renewed Woodhaven, a once-fashionable neighborhood that, due to numerous events, evolved into a place where haves and have-nots are separated by little more than a street here or a privacy fence there, and where conflicts between them are growing.
Haskin is a lightning rod, revered and reviled. Homeowners tend to see her as St. Becky, a champion of folks who prefer orderliness. Cars on blocks, broken windows, tall grass, weeds, wooden houses on tiny lots, too many people not earning high enough salaries — these situations are abhorred by some people, and they look to Haskin as their spokesperson, someone willing to fight without fear of repercussions. On the other hand, poor folks struggling through life are more likely to see her not as saint, but as a shrill, tactless hatemonger and wonder whether, to quote a popular 1960s phrase, urban renewal equals Negro removal.
In the student-filled apartment, Jamaryuana put down her book and jumped up from her chair when Oak Hollow Challenge Club tutor Shavonda Collins told the children study time was over. For the next half hour, kids could draw pictures and play games. Jamaryuana and a friend began playing checkers. The rest of the kids stayed on their computers.
Collins has lived at this apartment complex for a couple of years with the help of public housing assistance. She came here from the Stop Six projects seeking a safer, nicer environment for her children. Oak Hollow has its troubles, she said, but it’s not the snake pit that people are making it out to be in their desire to tear it down.
“My apartment has never been broken into,” she said. “When I had a car, it was never broken into. I won’t stay anywhere that’s not safe, because I have children.”
She disputes Haskin’s claims that the apartment is a scourge. “She’s a little too quick to judge,” Collins said. “There may be some low-income people here, but everybody is not doing illegal activity. Most people care about where they live.”
Haskin’s patience has run thin with the likes of Collins and those who own or manage Woodhaven apartments. She doesn’t consider them to be her constituents. Most owners live out of state, managers typically live elsewhere, and tenants are mostly passing through, she said. Haskin is representing homeowners fighting for what was. “You can sit here and do nothing and let the neighborhood deteriorate, or try to reverse that and bring people back who have moved out,” she said. “I have so many friends who have moved away.”
Haskin is a longtime Woodhaven resident (she graduated from nearby Eastern Hills High School in 1977). The neighborhood is located at the northwest corner of I-30 and Loop 820 on the East Side. An estimated 11,000 people live within 1,000 acres, and about 90 percent of the neighborhood’s 5,648 housing units are apartments. A councilwoman for 12 years, Haskin lives in a home built in 1978 next to the golf course, a house once owned by millionaire T. Cullen Davis, who was so famously accused but acquitted of murder.
Haskin and homeowners deny that black people in their midst are motivating their attempts to demolish some of the apartments. It’s a “quality of life” issue, they say. It’s just numbers: too many units, too many people, too many crimes, regardless of whether the people are white, black, or purple.
In three short decades, Woodhaven evolved from scenic ranchland to a luxurious country club neighborhood to a crowded, predominantly African-American neighborhood where the median income is almost half that of the rest of the city. And now the same city that allowed block after block of apartments to be built is gung-ho to tear them down, uproot tenants, and nudge the neighborhood back toward its previous luster.
“A community can only absorb so much,” Haskin said. “The pendulum has swung too far.”
In 1990, almost all of Woodhaven’s residents were white, whether they lived in houses, condos, or apartments. By 2000, two-thirds were black. Yet few African-Americans attended a recent meeting to discuss redevelopment plans.
The meeting, held on a Wednesday evening at a regional library, was well attended by middle-aged white homeowners, who studied designs that call for removing as many as six apartment buildings and replacing them with upscale commercial development, new housing, pedestrian walkways, and green space. The plan requires public funding, perhaps through creation of a tax-increment financing district (TIF) and community development block grants. Haskin helped establish Woodhaven as a neighborhood empowerment zone in 2003, increasing community leaders’ ability to rehabilitate housing, offer tax abatements to commercial developers, promote economic development, and improve public services. The city is paying Gideon Toal Inc. to craft the redevelopment plan and offering a $21,000 bonus if a developer jumps on it quickly. (A final presentation is set for June 1.)
The plan “isn’t about displacing poor people,” it’s about preserving the integrity of single-family housing, James Toal said. After the presentation, audience members applauded.
“I’ll take that as an approval,” Toal said with a smile.
Standing in the back of the room was Eastside activist Louis McBee, who is challenging Haskin for the District 4 city council seat on May 7. He spoke quietly with two apartment managers who had attended but stayed silent.
McBee liked many elements of the plan but saw two red flags — tearing down perfectly good apartments and using public money and municipal powers to seize privately owned properties. “It’s about creating a TIF and taking whatever you need by eminent domain,” he said. His citizens’ group has challenged the city in court for what it sees as other abuses of that process.
Standing beside him was Dorene Branum, president of the Woodhaven Apartment Managers Association. She didn’t say much, being surrounded by people with dim views of apartments. Several days earlier, however, she had spoken to Fort Worth Weekly about her opposition to Haskin’s gentrification efforts and the city’s methods of building a case against apartments. She and other apartment managers describe a systematic process whereby the city is turning its back on the neighborhood and allowing crime to fester, creating an atmosphere that reduces property values and makes it easier for the city to take over — a theory described as preposterous by city officials, police, and many others.
“It’s so aggravating to call police and not be able to get anybody out here,” Branum said. “We’re doing our part in the clean-up, but we need help from the police department.”
Apartment managers said police respond slowly or not at all to service calls, even though a neighborhood police station is nearby. Police were once responsive and worked with apartment managers to deal with problematic tenants and crime, Branum said, but now seem to have distanced themselves. Apartment managers blame the fiercely willful Haskin and her influence.
Branum has managed Woodhaven apartments since the 1980s and spent much of that time living in the neighborhood. She currently manages Woodstone Apartments, which are manicured and attractive, a far cry from Haskin’s general characterization of Woodhaven complexes as dreadful and crime-saturated. The first time Branum recalled introducing herself to Haskin was last year at a crime prevention district meeting. Branum invited the city councilwoman to meet with apartment managers. “She was rude and ugly and smart-mouthed,” Branum said. “She wanted to burn us down. I couldn’t believe the way she talked about our apartment residents out here.”
Pamela Adams has lived in Woodhaven apartments for 10 years and until recently served as sales director at Cherry Hill Apartments, a complex on the city’s hit list. Police response time there is agonizingly slow, she said, and when officers arrive they put the responsibility back on apartment managers. “They come out, but they say the apartment industry needs to get [bad tenants] out,” she said.
Debra Wehunt has managed five complexes in Woodhaven since 1991, including Cherry Hill. She also sees a vendetta led by Haskin. “She refused to shake the hand of the owner of our management company,” Wehunt said, adding that Haskin characterizes apartment tenants as cave dwellers. “It’s not the apartments she is against, it’s the people who live in them.”
Assistant manager Kelli Scarbrough has attended city council meetings and seen Haskin roll her eyes. “When we get up and speak, Becky Haskin doesn’t want to hear what we say,” she said. “She wants to get rid of apartments and put a mall in here.”
A sign that Haskin was set on driving out apartment tenants came last year during bond discussions. Apartment tenants asked for a recreation center for children. Haskin spoke out against the idea, saying that the “majority of the community” didn’t want it, even though the majority of Woodhaven is comprised of apartment dwellers. She and others worried about hoodlums and the sheer numbers of kids that would visit a rec center. “You couldn’t build a facility big enough,” she said. “The community is scared you will create a haven for crime.”
Eastside activist Wanda Conlin recalls a conversation with Haskin. “She told me that over her dead body would there ever be basketball in Woodhaven,” Conlin said. “She said, ‘If you provide those services, those people will stay,’ and that’s a quote.”
Homeowners jump to Haskin’s defense. “The rec center was made a racial issue by the people who supported it,” said Joe Epps, president of Woodhaven Community Development Corporation.
He too said Haskin was simply representing the majority of the community in fighting against the rec center, although later in the same conversation he agreed that the majority of Woodhaven residents are apartment tenants, and the majority of apartment tenants probably favored the rec center. But it was never a racial issue, and Haskin is not racist, he said. “I know Becky quite well and that is a totally wrong statement,” he said. “There’s been many a meeting where she was there with mixed races, and I’ve never seen a problem in that area. I’ve never heard her make any [remarks with] racial overtones.”
Apartments owners could convert underutilized tennis courts to basketball, but they don’t. Few recreational outlets means kids hang out anywhere they can find space. Adults sit on porches and play dominoes, listen to music, work on cars, hang out. And Haskin complains about loitering.
“The only person that can judge anybody is God, and she is not God, but she wants to be,” Scarbrough said.
Robbie Burns is president of Legend Asset Management, which oversees three apartment complexes that were sued for nuisance abatement last year. “It’s been a long plan by Becky Haskin and some of the homeowners to reduce the density of multi-family by whatever method they need to do it,” she said. “There is no excuse to blatantly let crime happen.”
About a year ago, Burns attended a Woodhaven Neighborhood Association meeting. She is a well-spoken businesswoman, professionally dressed, who carries herself well. Haskin snubbed her when she tried to introduce herself. “I’ve never been so embarrassed and humiliated in my life, for a public official to stick her nose in the air and refuse to meet me,” Burns said. “She looks at us like we’re evil.”
Scarbrough spoke in favor of apartments at a city council meeting in December and said police trailed her the next day. She pulled to the side of the road, got out of her car and approached the police officer, who quickly drove away, she said. “I was upset about it,” she said, calling the incident intimidation. “I called Chief [Ralph] Mendoza’s office.” She left four phone messages and never received a return call, she said.
Police paint a different picture. They provide service when called, work closely with apartment managers to train staff and screen tenants, and have seen these efforts result in reduced crime, Police Lt. Greg Schnake said. In 2003, Woodhaven reported 1,159 major crimes, police records show. The number dropped to 983 in 2004.
Calls to police are typically received and dispatched from downtown, and a computer system tracks response times. Personnel shortages or communication problems can occasionally result in delays in responding to minor crimes, Schnake said, but police typically meet their goals for response times: 6.5 minutes for Priority One calls, 16 minutes for Priority Two, and 35 minutes for Priority Three. However, he would not provide specific information about actual response times, other than to print out January’s statistics, which showed police responded in a timely manner. He then refused to allow the reporter to keep the printout.
Haskin regularly refers to Woodhaven as the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhood, but Schnake hesitated to support her claim, saying different crimes occur in varying amounts across the city and that no two neighborhoods — or crime studies — are alike. “It depends how you define it,” he said.
Woodhaven does appear to have one of the highest major crime rates in the city despite its small size, barely a mile and a half square. It’s no coincidence that it also has one of the highest concentration of apartments. On the city’s West Side, a slew of apartments were built along Las Vegas Trail at about the same time Woodhaven apartments were going up. Schnake has worked both neighborhoods and said they face similar challenges, although Woodhaven is a bit denser and its crime rate a bit higher.
Perry Pillow, director of government affairs at the Apartment Association of Tarrant County, said he has heard complaints that police are purposely allowing the neighborhood to go to seed. “I don’t know that I believe it, and I don’t know if you could prove it even if it was going on,” he said.
Most people interviewed for this story said solving Woodhaven’s density and crime problems will take a city leader who can bring together apartment owners, managers, tenants, homeowners, and developers and get everyone to buy into a mutual plan. Haskin hasn’t cut it. “I truly believe she cares,” Pillow said. “Becky’s problem is her attitude, her manner, and the way she goes about things. Her challenge is building a coalition with her council colleagues. It’s more about her methods, the way she treats people. It’s just her manner and the way she operates more than anything else. That will ultimately be her undoing.”
Then again, homeowners organize and vote much more than “cave dwellers.” And Haskin has a new ally — an apartment owner who has resented her in the past and endured her wrath many times, before finally being won over by her conviction.
The sprawling, rolling rangeland about six miles east of Fort Worth was called Boaz Ranch after land trader W. J. Boaz pieced together 740 acres in the 1860s. The ranch stayed in the Boaz family for a century, until an investment group with some high profiles — former Governor John Connally, oil tycoon Perry Bass and his son, Sid, and Dallas mega-developer Mike Myers — bought the land with intentions of developing something extraordinary. The community they planned did turn out to be unique, but ultimately flawed.
The ranch wasn’t inside city limits, so in 1969 the developer had 635 acres of it annexed and zoned. Of that, 335 acres (including the golf course) were zoned for houses with minimum 5,000-square foot lots. Multifamily zoning took in 192 acres, allowing up to 32 living units per acre. The remaining 108 acres was zoned for intense commercial use, which could include malls, movie theaters, and 12-story office buildings in addition to grocery stores, cleaners, convenience stores, and such. Later, the developer added several hundred more acres for retail and apartments. Thirty-six years later, the zoning remains about the same, with a third of the land built out with apartments. Developments like Woodhaven wouldn’t fly today; recent city councils have typically insisted on no more than 9 percent apartment zoning.
Myers pegged Fort Worth-based Carter & Burgess to design the project. Myers envisioned a golf course and country club surrounded by houses, circled by apartments for upwardly mobile singles and childless couples. Add retail and office buildings, and, voila, an exclusive community could be born.
Fort Worth in the late 1960s and early 1970s wasn’t the boomtown of today. Residents were moving to suburbs such as Arlington, where new houses, apartments, and shopping centers were sprouting. The idea was for Woodhaven to capture some of those dollars being lost to suburban flight.
The golf course opened in 1973. Large homes were built along the fairways, along with a smattering of town homes, golf villas, and condos. There was disagreement about apartments from the beginning — and, apparently, plans to build with even higher density. Eastside resident Wanda Conlin said her husband, Dean Conlin, a Carter & Burgess planner, argued against building so many of them. “My husband almost lost his job over that,” she said (Dean Conlin died in 1991). “Mike [Myers] blew up. He was kind of volatile anyway. He said, ‘You can do it my way or get off this job.’ Finally he calmed down, and they didn’t go ahead with that many apartments.”
Still, there were plenty. And why not? They were designed for singles who liked to golf, play tennis, and hang out by pools — people who didn’t require a lot of city services. “They were after that upscale singles crowd and seniors who didn’t want to fool with a yard,” Conlin said. “There are no amenities, schools, churches, parks, playgrounds — nothing.”
Fort Worth’s zoning commission did things differently in the 1960s and 1970s. If someone approached them about getting property changed to multifamily zoning, the commission paid little attention to what was surrounding the property, said U. S. Rep. Kay Granger, who lived near Woodhaven. She would prompt changes in the 1980s. “The Woodhaven situation was the reason she got on the zoning commission, to put rules in to consider what was around a piece of property when you rezoned it,” Granger’s media director, Pat Svacina, said.
Back then, speculators bought land in sparsely populated areas primed for growth and changed zoning to multifamily before anyone was there to protest. Neighborhood associations hadn’t yet gained clout at City Hall, and developers and elected officials didn’t have to face politically astute soccer moms and retirees. Consequently, Fort Worth is inundated with multifamily zoning. “Even today, if you were to examine our zoning maps, you’d find we have several times more land zoned for apartments than the market could possibly absorb,” said city Planning Director Fernando Costa.
The city isn’t inundated with apartments because backlash from homeowners in the 1990s prompted city leaders to cap the number of units per acre. But the backlash might have gone too far, Costa said. Multi-family dwellings benefit a city when planned correctly and with proper infrastructure, he said. Apartments make good use of space, promote pedestrian traffic, and provide shoppers to businesses that in turn pay taxes.
“The maximum density in multifamily was reduced to 24 units per acre,” Costa said. “I would argue that that’s too much of a restriction. In most cities of our size, a maximum density of 24 units per acre would be considered laughable.”
In the early 1980s, Woodhaven’s first apartment complex was finished. One of the first tenants at Woodhaven Apartments was former Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Bruce Millar, now a writer based in Washington, D.C. He recalled the apartments as upscale with a thriving singles scene, including pilots and flight attendants drawn by the close proximity to DFW Airport. “There was a golf course surrounding it,” Millar said. “It was wide-open green space, very pastoral. I could leave the windows open, there wasn’t any crime that I was aware of. It was a cool place to live, and it was on the eastern fringe of Fort Worth so I could get to Dallas easily, where I had friends.”
Still, he noticed flaws. “They were crudely built,” he said. “They weren’t built with a lot of careful workmanship; they were sort of slapped together. Not a lot of detail.”
Former Fort Worth City Council member Bert Williams discovered another flaw. Black people like him weren’t welcome, at least not on the golf course. “Personally, I would like to just forget it,” he said recently, sitting in the living room of his east Fort Worth home. Two pillows on a couch are embroidered with the message, “I believe in angels.”
Williams doesn’t seek conflict and prefers to work out problems quietly. Even in the early 1980s when Woodhaven’s discrimination was smacking him in the face, he refused interview requests with 60 Minutes and other national news shows and told the NAACP that he would rather work things out without the group’s involvement.
Back then Williams could see the Woodhaven golf course from a 25th-floor window at his insurance office in downtown Fort Worth. An avid golfer, he belonged to the Woodcrest Country Club in Grand Prairie, owned by the same man who developed Woodhaven. Williams played both courses, since members had access to both courses. It wasn’t until he and African-American minister A.E. Chew sought membership at the closer and more convenient Woodhaven Country Club that a problem arose. Their applications, submitted during a campaign to increase membership, were rejected.
“That was a shocker,” Williams said.
They were told that five of the club’s 700 members had voted no — enough to deny an application, according to club bylaws. At the time, no African-Americans belonged to Woodhaven or to any of the city’s half-dozen private country clubs. Williams wondered aloud whether a discrimination lawsuit might be in order.
“I can assure you there is no discrimination in our corporation,” the club’s manager told the Star-Telegram in October 1983. “But the owner and manager have no say [over membership].”
A lawsuit was never filed. Instead, Williams worked with sympathetic members to change club bylaws. The number of required negative votes was raised to 20. Williams and Chew waited a year to reapply (per another bylaw) and submitted new applications in 1984. Again they were denied — this time by 20 votes. Again the club manager said discrimination wasn’t a factor. “They kept saying it wasn’t racial, but they wouldn’t give a reason,” Williams said.
Compassionate club members helped find a solution. Rather than wait another year to reapply, Williams urged an African-American doctor, Clarence Brooks, to apply. Brooks was accepted in 1985 and became the club’s first African-American member — indeed, the first black member at any of Fort Worth’s private country clubs. The ruckus helped shed light on the city’s latent discrimination and opened doors at the other clubs.
Millar doesn’t recall seeing black or brown faces among apartment tenants in the 1980s, although two of the city’s largest African-American communities — Polytechnic and Stop Six — were just across the freeway. At Woodhaven, young white people flocked to the scene, and new apartments kept blossoming until the real estate market went bust. Land prices fell, and savings and loans companies were stuck with bad loans, prompting numerous changes in apartment ownerships. Oversight seemed to diminish with each ownership change. At the same time, fair housing laws opened the doors to families. “The apartments were developed back when you could do adult-only communities; you can’t do that anymore,” said Pillow, with the apartment association. “You can’t deny single moms or families with kids.”
The sheer numbers of apartments created a glut that led to pricing wars. By the 2000s, interest rates on mortgages were falling to historic lows, and many apartment tenants moved out and bought starter homes. Occupancy rates were shot, some falling below 50 percent. Woodhaven apartment owners, worried about staying afloat, recruited Section 8 public housing tenants because the federal government was seldom late with a check. Absentee landlords didn’t have a stake in the city, and apartment maintenance declined and rents dropped, attracting residents from poorer neighborhoods. Yuppies skedaddled. Homeowners frowned. And someone used spray paint to modify a sign, changing “Woodhaven” to a racial epithet.
Racial concerns continue to simmer. “There is an underlying racial overtone there, and it needs to be addressed,” Pillow said. “Crime is bad, and there are definitely some things that the apartment owners could do to help alleviate that. Definitely the police could do more. There are things the tenants could do. It’s going to take a concerted effort.”
The Gideon Toal presentation on renewal plans ended about 8 p.m., and Haskin agreed to sit for an hour and talk to the Weekly. She walked through the library lobby and stopped to talk briefly to a couple of employees. Settling into a cushioned chair, she vigorously denied that renewal efforts were unfair to poor people or aimed at minorities. She isn’t racist, she said. Woodhaven’s renewal plan is simply the right solution to an escalating problem. From that point on, she bulled her way through the hour, ignoring questions when she chose to and accusing the Weekly of continuously being led astray by naysayers who resist anything beneficial that the city attempts. (She nodded her head in acceptance, however, when the reporter responded that an alternative newspaper considers a variety of perspectives and gives voice to minority opinions.)
Haskin, a relentless advocate for tidy neighborhoods, was elected to the city council in 1992, just as Woodhaven’s apartments began transforming into what she has described as a ghetto. “It’s been a long, tedious process for the past 10 years,” she said.
The Gideon Toal plan takes into account concerns of tenants as well as homeowners, she said. High vacancy rates at 25 apartment complexes means plenty of room to absorb families forced to move from apartments pegged for demolition. Occupancy rates would increase, and apartment managers could be pickier about tenants and deny those with criminal backgrounds, she said. A 2003 study showed 95 federal parolees, including nine sex offenders, living in Woodhaven. There were also 324 Section 8 residents.
Complaints about heavy-handedness don’t faze her. She views apartment managers as minions; owners have power to make changes, and they haven’t been inclined to sit down and resolve issues, she said.
Slow response from police is expected because the number of calls is overwhelming. “We have so many calls in the community that it reduces the response time to all of them,” she said.
Retailers have fled — Steak and Ale, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and others. “The community is inundated with so many people of need that we can’t sustain retail,” she said, although Dollar Stores are thriving.
Tarrant Appraisal District records show the value of Woodhaven-area apartments dropped from $118 million in 1987 to $84.7 million in 2002.
Add it all up, and it’s a mess needing a solution, she said. “Developers won’t come unless you can change the environment,” she said. “It’s a vicious cycle. You have to change it. We’ve allowed the criminal element to drag us all down.”
Nearby homeowners have erected privacy fences and done their best to separate themselves from the apartment community and have not seen the same declines in property appraisals. Haskin’s home is currently appraised by TAD at $360,000.
Former city leaders and zoning commissioners share the blame for poor planning, but that’s spilled milk. “It’s real clear to see what we did wrong,” she said. “What we’re trying to do now is build a vision to do it right,” she said.
Of the apartments being eyed for removal, Woodstone is among the nicest. It’s visible from I-30 and well maintained. Owner Philip Cascavilla, president of Dallas-based Vickery Development, is managing partner for three Woodhaven complexes with a combined 710 units. He’s owned them since 1992, making him one of the most tenured owners as well as the one who lives closest to that neighborhood. “On every property we have we are losing money,” he said. “I guarantee you all the others are, too.”
Tearing down Woodstone and others would increase occupancy rates at his other apartments and intensify screening efforts. “In this business, you don’t put criminals in [apartments],” he said. “Once you do that, it’s over for the apartment community. Apartments can be a real problem, especially when the ownership is out of state and doesn’t care. When you’re sitting in California, you don’t care about East Fort Worth.”
He’d be willing to sacrifice Woodstone to give his others a boost. “I’d like to keep my apartments even though they are not performing that well, because I do believe in the area in the long run,” he said. “But if it means getting that intersection to be nice, I’ll probably sell even a little below market value.”
Cascavilla also owns apartments in Dallas, where occupancy rates are even lower than in Fort Worth. People such as Haskin have kept a tight rein, and he’s received his share of angry calls from her. He used to resent them but realized that she made sense despite her occasional lack of tact. “There are too many apartments and not enough qualified people to occupy them,” he said. “If [apartment owners] would come to these meetings and see the problems and we could all be on the same page, we could solve these problems. But the ownership is fragmented.”
Despite the popular trend of bashing Haskin, he doesn’t blame her for the fragmentation. “If I hadn’t worked with Becky over the past years, my initial reaction would be that she is coming down too hard on the apartments,” he said. “But if it weren’t for Becky we’d never solve this situation. I’m on Becky’s side, and I didn’t start out that way. She’s doing it because she cares about the community. I’m not saying Becky’s style sometimes is not a little bit tough. Becky can be tough with anybody ... . She cares.”
Former city councilman Williams understands Woodhaven’s dilemma and empathizes with homeowners. He too would be upset if his neighborhood near East Loop 820 bordered crime-ridden apartments. Williams was a member of the city councils that pushed through ordinances for fair housing and dispersing low-income families and public housing throughout the city rather than clumping them together. Bringing all parties to the table smoothed resistance back then and could do so again today, he said.
“Twenty-one years ago, there was lots of discrimination in the Woodhaven area,” he said. “Today, you still have an awful lot of discrimination and discriminatory practices in the Woodhaven area. You still have people who don’t want to sit down and resolve these problems like intelligent human beings.”
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