Urban Farm Story Slanted

RECEIVED Mon., April 15, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Although I appreciate that The Austin Chronicle has for years been at the forefront in providing progressive reporting of issues, it's unfortunate that in the recent story on HausBar Farms and the Govalle East Austin neighborhood, the writer chose to inject her own personal opinions and conclusions [“Communication Breakdown,” Food, April 12]. These interjections slanted the story against the neighborhood. The People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources [PODER] and the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood contact team were pursuing a complaint filed by a neighborhood resident. We addressed the HausBar Farms as a specific zoning issue. HausBar Farms, which is located in single-family zoning, was slaughtering chickens and wholesaling them, which is a commercial use.
    It was the city of Austin – not PODER or the neighborhood association – that closed down the operations temporarily. Despite what the story alleges, PODER does not have the power or authority to close down businesses, and that was not our intention.
    With the wave of gentrification in East Austin, many of us are concerned about the lack of affordable housing and about retaining our single-family zoning. East Austin, according to the urban farm ordinance, is the only part of town where people can buy one to five acres of land, regardless of zoning, and create urban farms.
    I am sure that we can work together to keep urban farms without losing our single-family homes and/or single-family zoned lands. We must work together so that all families are growing their own personal crops and sustaining themselves. We look forward to working with the Sustainable Food Policy Board and the city of Austin Planning Commission and City Council.
Susana Almanza
   [Anna Toon responds: Urban farming is an approved use in SF-3 zoning. HausBar Farms does not need to be rezoned to operate as an urban farm; instead, they must meet certain requirements of the urban farm ordinance. The urban farm ordinance allows for the raising of fowl, and for agricultural products raised on the property to be sold from the site. Zoning officials have interpreted “raising” to include slaughtering. Again, slaughtering and selling chickens is allowed on an urban farm in SF-3 zoning in the urban farm ordinance under agricultural uses. I do not give credit to PODER for shutting down HausBar Farms; in the piece, I explicitly stated that “[a]fter an interdepartmental inspection on March 13, city officials shut down HausBar Farms, citing inadequate permits.” It is disingenuous, however, for PODER to not acknowledge their inaccurate and inflammatory statements before the City Council. Additionally, the urban farm ordinance does not state that East Austin is the only part of town where urban farms are permitted. The implication that officials would only want this type of “environmental injustice” on the Eastside is simply not true. It was my intention to represent the intricacies of the overall issue and PODER’s involvement as a piece of the larger puzzle. My quotes were both accurate and in context, and I stand by my story.]
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