Community Joins Not-For-Profit Fighting Eviction from West Dallas Community Center

The people who live in West Dallas' La Bajada neighborhood have been fighting to keep what they call the 'heart' of their community.

"I don't know what happened," said Frank De Leon, a community activist who grew up going to the Bataan Community Center. "Because it's the core of the neighborhood. As kids, everybody came here."

De Leon is now in his 70's and an activist in the ongoing fight with the foundation that runs the community center, the Lucious Williams Foundation.

People who live in the area and grew up near Bataan Community Center said they fear an eviction notice was part of a larger plan to change the neighborhood.

On July 19, the Lucious Williams Foundation put an eviction notice on the front door of the Bataan Community Center to kick out lease-holder, Beyond Baseball, a non-profit that runs programs for children.

"Yeah, I guess sometimes that's what makes my angry," said De Leon with a tear rolling down his cheek. "It's not for me; for the kids, the seniors."

NBC 5 spoke with Lucious Williams by phone on Wednesday afternoon. Williams said his foundation has "not been allowed access" to inspect the community center, but also claimed it's made repairs. What appeared to be mold or mildew in a room off the kitchen last year was still on the walls. Ceiling tiles that showed signs of leaking last summer looked the same on Wednesday. Beyond Baseball disputes all of those claims.

Williams claimed Beyond Baseball "is not living up to the terms of the lease" by allowing a church to hold services in the community center, essentially sub-leasing the building without permission or insurance to do so.

"They look at dollar signs," said De Leon of the Foundation. Many in the community have expressed concern that the Bataan Community Center, which has a view of downtown Dallas, would be sold for development, mirroring what is happening in nearby Trinity Groves. Williams told NBC 5 by phone it is not listed for sale and that he has no plans to sell it.

People who live in the area and grew up near the center said they fear the eviction notice is part of a larger plan to get rid of the largely Hispanic population and make way for something more modern.

"A lot of the owners of the homes in this community are seniors, fixed income who cannot afford taxes to skyrise. So, if it does get sold it just makes it easier to for this community to go," community member Maria Lozada Garcia said.

The foundation that runs the community center used to be called the West Dallas Community Center Inc., but was changed to the Lucious Williams Foundation. When asked why the name change, Williams said he had "to go" and hung up the phone.

There is a hearing on Beyond Baseball's eviction set for August 12 at 1:30 p.m. A community meeting is planned at the Bataan Community Center Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.

"I pray that everything comes out right," said De Leon.

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