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City Council has spent countless hours spread across multiple weeks this year discussing the land development code rewrite process, a topic of such incredible complexity and nuance that no one should be too mad when the hardworking journalists covering it make an honest mistake. And in his May 10 “Public Notice
” column, Nick Barbaro did what I have to assume was just that when he wrote that I had spent part of the May 2 Council meeting “demagoguing about the deed restrictions that nominally bar people of color from property ownership in Hyde Park.”
It was a long meeting and I admit I had to check the transcripts to be sure, but the topic of deed restrictions never came up during the conversations, and I had only mentioned Hyde Park during a discussion about a proposed amendment related to missing middle housing in transition zones.
In previous discussions, I had raised my concerns about carrying over Hyde Park’s Neighborhood Combined Conservation District overlays in a manner that would inoculate the neighborhood from the land use reforms our entire city needs to address our affordability, mobility, and equity problems. I have also pointed out that Hyde Park was established in the late 19th century and infamously marketed as a neighborhood “exclusively for white people.” I have also pointed out on various occasions that our existing land development rules have Jim Crow-era origins and directly contribute to Austin’s standing as one of the most economically segregated cities in the country.
Whether that counts as “demagoguing” is open to interpretation. As we saw during the CodeNEXT process, these issues stir up passions in people. But the diversity of opinions across Austin could be our greatest resource as we move forward on these topics and I’m still personally committed to careful, thoughtful conversation and collaboration to find solutions that correct the sins of the past and position Austin for a much more equitable future.