By Pamela Ortiz
Residents in Sunset Heights take pride of their neighborhood. They work together, live together and even fight together. Every so often, the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association meets underneath the Hal Marcus Art Gallery to discuss vital issues that will affect their area.
On their recent July 12th meeting discussing the new district eight city council representative, resident and blogger, Sito Negron, said that he wanted someone who would preserve Sunset Heights with its historic charm.
“The neighborhood has a certain feel and look to it, if they want to remodel they have to go thru a process because of the historical look and character it has to it,” he said. “If the design didn’t meet their criteria then the neighborhood as a whole comes before the city council to oppose something, (we need someone who will) stand with us and listen to what we have to say.”
Just recently the association fought hard to prevent a 70-foot cellphone tower from just outside the Sunset Heights neighborhood. The building would have stood just 100-feet away from the historic boundaries, where residents felt it would look completely different from the architecture.
“The Verizon Wireless Company wanted to put a cellphone tower that would be close to UTEP and Sunset Heights and we didn’t want that because of the history of our community,” said resident Mary Wells. “The owner of the property had said it was a good idea because it wasn’t going to affect them, also because it was going to drag more cash and that’s all they cared about, ” Mary said.
The iconic El Paso neighborhood was the first urban living neighborhood that was built when the city began to boom. Some of the homes date back to the late 19th century, where wealthy Mexican Americans had built their mansions and lavish living space.
“It was built in 1881 and (El Paso) was a sleepy little town,” said Robert Diaz, local historian and Vice President of the El Paso County Historical Society. “In ten years El Paso went from a town of 700 people to a city of 10,000, over the years El Paso continued to grow so in about 1890 there was a desire to spread out from the central city and start settling in other areas of the county. Sunset heights became one of the first suburban neighborhood in El Paso, it was still close to downtown but in a different area and little by little the area became developed ,” Robert Diaz said
While Sunset Heights began as an affluent neighborhood, it now has become a mixture of wealth and struggle. Some of the homes have become dilapidated over time or abandoned, while others have preserved the history and structures to withstand the Sun City heat.
“I think what attract people is because of the downtown area and because of the University, also I think the architecture of the houses. It’s a more interesting neighborhood than any other. Living here is enjoyable since it has a very different diverse community”, Kelly Blough.
El Paso has been developing downtown with new apartments, a trolley system, and a potential arena, where residents in the neighborhood feel worried that some will no longer be able to afford higher rents or property values.
“If you become our next representative will you help our association and our neighborhood protect the integrity by avoiding gentrification, also as mention we are in the top 10% and in the some communities the taxes are not as high as in our if we have the arena built,” Mendoza said. This shows the dedication of the Sunset Heights to preserve the community. “Sunset Heights is the heart and soul of El Paso”, Mary said.