The Daily Hustle: 12/10/10

The Marshall debate, in speakers own words

A ray of sunshine at Marshall Apartments
A ray of sunshine at Marshall Apartments (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Yesterday, City Council’s Austin Housing and Finance Corporation unanimously passed a controversial $2.5 million rehab for the Marshall Apartments (not to mention other proposals for PSH and low-income housing initiatives in south Austin and southwest Austin, near Circle C).

We’ve got debate highlights below the fold.

Making a strong case for the opposition was Swede Hill resident Rob Seidenberg. (His remarks and all others are taken from City Council transcripts; we’ve cleaned them up a little, but errors may still exist):

At the most recent ANC meeting, council members Cole and Morrison said that the city's PSH strategy needs to be discussed and better formulated before being put into effect, yet here we go again, running full speed into a wall of dynamite. Despite strong community opposition and the fact that adding PSH to Marshall flies in the face of the still unrealized plan for east 12th street. Nearby residents have suffered from decades long neglect of the street, and now you are about to make this your first significant investment on the corridor. So this is the idea. While studying the negative and positive effects of placing PSH into neighborhoods, still unknown, we'll just try this little experiment and if it fails, well, it doesn't really matter because there's nothing over there anyway but a bunch of empty lots and junkies. Does that sound cold and crass? We think so. But it appears that that may actually be the way our area called home is viewed. How about this for an experiment? Let's rid the area of the drugs and prostitution first that continue to thrive. I think that's a far nobler idea. It's hard to imagine that you really believe that the Marshall proposal will help kickstart development along 12th street. Do you honestly believe, as spencer actually offered to the press, that adding PSH to Marshall would be a, quote, great investment for east 12th street, because those who live there beg to differ. Do you want to know what would be a great investment on 12th street? Here's just the top of a list: adding urban rail, burying power lines, improving bus stops, assisting small businesses, incentivizing the relocation of a large company on to the corridor.
Speaking in support was former Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods president Rudy Williams, also speaking broadly to larger questions affecting 12th as well:
Mayor, city council members, my name is Rudolph Williams. I'm the president of Blackshear neighborhood association. We have not taken a position on Marshall apartments, but I want to say as a former president of OCEAN and as a president of Blackshear neighborhood association we are glad to see that Kealing has become an active neighborhood with a neighborhood association that is more than willing to step up and stand up for their particular interests. I think it's important that we take Kealing's recommendations since they are the ones where the Marshall apartments exist. Along with that the Marshall apartments is 50 years old. It should be refurbished. It should have been refurbished a long time ago, and if we have an opportunity to refurbish it without necessarily displacing the people that live there, then that is a good thing. … We do not want to turn it into mixed use with high-end housing. We want to make sure that poor people have a place to stay. These people are part of our community, and we accept them as part of our community. We've also accepted as part of our community those people who live in upper income, high-end housing, but we're not complaining about them moving into our neighborhood. [Laughter] –  maybe some of us are. But anyway, nobody is talking about pushing any of them out. And as far as 12th street goes, 12th street, if 12th street looks like 11th street does now, there would be no minorities on 12th street. 12th street has been -- I mean, 11th street has been almost totally gentrified, small businesses for minorities are basically nonexistent, and on 12th street there's a lot of small minority businesses who are not here. I don't even consider them to be part of the so-called 12th street business association. They're concerned about being pushed off of 12th street. Marshall apartments has been there for 50 years. They deserve to stay. They deserve to be refurbished, and we have no problem with accommodating the homeless.

Ultimately, council, as the AHFC, voted to approve all the projects. Comments from the council members that elected to speak below.

Sheryl Cole: “We are one city, and more importantly, we are not a city of east and west Austin. Today we approved projects for not only east Austin but south Austin on 35 and also west Austin, and we have every intention of placing this housing throughout the city of Austin and also doing a better job of educating the public on exactly what it means, but it is a sincere effort to move people to self-sufficiency, and that helps the entire city.”

Mike Martinez: “You know, everybody wants us to do something about homelessness in Austin but nobody wants it done near them or around them. The first project for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, I proposed in my own neighborhood because I knew nobody would want it. Guess what, my own neighbors didn't want it either, but it's something that we're going to have to continue to address. This is just a minute tip of the iceberg. We have so much more work that we need to do, and hopefully we can come together and have a better level of understanding as opposed to constantly butting heads on this issue, because while you may have concerns, I also do believe that you do want to address this issue.”

Laura Morrison: “It's been a lot of very intense conversation, and I do believe folks have been listening to it, but I think that our commitment – I can speak for my commitment, and I think it's for the rest of the council – it is an adopted council policy that we will have geographic dispersion, and we need to figure out how to make that work in all kinds of housing in all parts of town. And this is one part of it. I do think that this is, for me, one of the particular items that's so important about Marshall is that it brings us 99 years of affordability. Preservation of affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges that we have in this city, and this is an opportunity to be able to put a stamp on some preservation of real affordable housing.”

Randi Shade: “Not all of them have done prison time and not all are homeless and not all are disabled. Not all of them are the result of domestic abuse and all the other social service organizations that you've heard talked about today. All kinds of circumstances have contributed to it, but the fact of the matter is we have too few units that people can rent on an ongoing basis, not as temporary shelter but on an ongoing basis, as long as they can pay their rent they can stay here, and that's in that lowest income bracket.”

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