Public Notice: Ends at Odds
Good deeds, bad deeds, restricted deeds
You can read about last Thursday's special called City Council meeting about the Land Development Code rewrite (see "A Code, Foretold," May 10). Council's recommendations are an aggressive attempt to move the status quo, and there's plenty to talk about there. But what's disturbing isn't the recommendations themselves, but the angry and vindictive tone of much of the debate, with Council members seeming to treat every issue as a zero-sum game, rather than looking for solutions that might work for both sides. Just one example, but a particular low point in this regard, was CM Natasha Harper-Madison demagoguing about the deed restrictions that nominally bar people of color from property ownership in Hyde Park. (Ed. note: See CM Harper-Madison's response at end of article.) These have been ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable, but neighbors who started the process to remove them some years back were told this would require written support by 100% of property owners (including all absentee landlords in an area that's over 70% renters) and/or an act of the state Legislature. Moreover, according to a UT study, racially discriminatory deed restrictions such as this exist in every Council district that was within the Austin city limits in 1950, including Harper-Madison's own. If she really wants to help the situation, instead of just trying to count coup against her perceived enemies, perhaps she could join HPNA in that effort. (Hyde Park's deed restrictions were put in place in the 1880s; shockingly, others were still being added as late as 1949; that was in what's now Greg Casar's district.)
Vintage Steve Adler Quotes
2017 State of the City Address: "For starters, let's agree we will not force density in the middle of neighborhoods. There's no sense in shoving density where it would ruin the character of the city we're trying to save in the first place, where it's not wanted by its neighbors, and where we would never get enough of the additional housing supply we need anyway. ... I would also urge that neighborhoods be given significant influence in deciding how these transition areas are done in those neighborhoods, so long as each accommodates an appropriate share of the city's needed housing supply."
2018 State of the City Address: "I am encouraged that the most recent staff recommendation for [CodeNEXT] is closer to the Austin Bargain of preserving and respecting neighborhood identity and quality of life, [and] focusing our housing supply growth on our major corridors."
Attention property owners: Wednesday, May 15, is the deadline to file a protest regarding property valuations which will be used to calculate this year's taxes. The Travis Central Appraisal District has said they expect a record number of protests this year, in view of some steep hikes in valuations. They recommend e-filing as "the easier, faster way to resolve your protest"; see www.traviscad.org/eservices for info.
Speaking of things you can look up online: The final adopted Austin Strategic Mobility Plan document is now available at www.austintexas.gov/asmp. Some map updates are still TK.
The Austin Humane Society has opened registration for their seventh annual Summer Kids Series, free sessions for kids 12 and under, with several sessions each week, June 4 through August 13, on various topics, "to help kids dive a little deeper into the world of animals." All sessions are free; register online at www.austinhumanesociety.org.
The AIA Austin 2019 Awards Celebration is Thu., May 9, 6pm at Fair Market, 1100 E. Fifth, honoring winners of the architects' society's annual Honor Awards and Design Awards – "celebrating excellence in design while enjoying pop-up lounges, food trucks, cocktails, music, and other surprises." 6pm cocktails, 7pm awards, 8:30pm afterparty. Tickets are $30-35 at www.aiaaustin.org.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge will offer guided nature walks on the preserve the next three Saturday mornings, 9-10:30am. It's free, but requires reservations; call the visitor center at 512/339-9432 Mon.-Fri., 8am-4:30pm, or see www.fws.gov/refuge/balcones_canyonlands for more info.
District 1 CM Natasha Harper-Madison responds:
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.