Internecine Warfare Among the Landed Gentry

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 17, 2006

Dear Editor,
    I suppose the McMansion ordinance does protect "you and me" so long as "you and me" doesn't include the working and middle class families struggling to stay in what is rapidly becoming a childless city [Best New and Potentially Sexy Zoning Ordinance in Austin, “Best of Austin,” Oct. 13]. And no, I don't mean rich people who think they need a 4,000-square-foot McMansion to raise one or two kids.
    I'm talking about people who have to stretch to afford the smallest house on the smallest lot. Already that is beyond the means of a first-time buyer making the median income in practically all of central Austin. They buy hoping to expand later, perhaps funding it with a garage apartment or converting to a duplex.
    (The Planning Commission, in fact, commented on the Task Force's hostility to secondary dwellings and duplexes and suggested modifications – which the City Council ignored in the face of NIMBY pressure. I thought we wanted more density and less sprawl?)
    The standard response is to say these families just need to go for approval to the “citizen review board” composed of the same mix of singles, DINKs, and affluent families who came up with this ordinance. Can they not see how this institutionalizes middle- and working-class families as second-class citizens in this dictatorship of the bohemitariat? A family should not have to go before a board to see if their fellow citizens – particularly those who have no concept of the challenges of raising a family – find them worthy to remain in their own home.
    You also state that this protects "the little guy" from "yuppies.” How does someone who can afford a $350,000 "bohemian" bungalow in Hyde Park or Bouldin not qualify as a "yuppie"? This is not about protecting "the little guy,” it's internecine warfare among the landed gentry.
Chris Cosart
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