Category Archives: When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Here They Go Again

Short epistle posted by me to a couple of neighborhood lists in response to attempts to rally the usual suspects behind an effort to enact rental registration in order to supposedly stop “stealth dorms”.

I promise I’ll get back to Rapid Bus someday.

Here’s the actual note I sent:

 

 

 

The attempts to tie this rental registration initiative to stealth dorms seems very similar to attempts to justify the McMansion ordinance based on a supposed “drainage emergency” (remember?).

Given that this resolution claims to be a boon for renters, has there been any outcry, at all, from renters or people who purport to represent them, for a solution like this? As a landlord who occasionally has to bother my tenants by entering the dwelling they’re paying to inhabit for things like supervising a repair crew, I have a hard time believing they’re enthusiastic about additional mandatory visits (inspections) from people they don’t know and don’t approve.

Or has this been pushed solely by nearby homeowners against certain problematic behaviors they associate with renters, such as noise and trash? If so, why are the existing enforcement mechanisms insufficient, or if they are not, in what ways will these new enforcement mechanisms somehow succeed in discouraging the real problematic behaviors being experienced (noise, trash)?

Has the affordable housing community weighed in, at all, about the sometimes-mentioned reduction in “unrelated tenants” from 6 to 4? And on the registration fee’s impact as well? (I’ve seen a posting on another neighborhood’s list from a homeowner who rents two rooms to people to help pay his mortgage and has indicated he’ll likely have to stop, and sell, if the fees are non-trivial).

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is really about stopping properties from being rented in Central Austin in general. And I cannot support measures like that, nor do I have a lot of respect for those who would.

- MD

A message I just posted to the Hyde Park NA list

In response to this site and calls to support it. Some links added as I find them. The post to which I replied, paraphrased, is something like “We believe in urban density but not these boarding houses / dorm duplexes”. Don’t want to quote without permission, but that was the gist.

My response was:

So I too believe in urban density, and these buildings stink. I’m eager to meet new converts to the cause! Having lived for years on E 35th next to a big duplex and across an alley from a small apartment complex, I can tell you that even with a wonderful, responsive, landlord; the apartments beat the duplex hands-down for being good neighbors.

In the past, both Hyde Park NA and NUNA fought VMU on Guadalupe and then retreated to a position of demanding no parking reductions when the first battle was ‘lost’ (which effectively prevents all but the most high-dollar developments from materializing). The neighborhood plans call for minimal increases in density (in NUNA, it would be impossible to even rebuild some of the older apartment complexes on Speedway, for instance). NUNA fought the Villas on Guadalupe. Apartments and renters are demonized on this list. On and on and on.

So, I’m assuming those against these ‘dorm-style duplexes’, which are catering to an unmet-for-decades demand for student housing close enough to ride bikes to UT are going to be in favor of increased MF development not only on the edges of our neighborhood but on good transit corridors such as Speedway and Duval, right? New morning and all?

Mueller Grocery – Suburban or Urban?

Image of Mueller "Market District" from 2010
Urban or suburban?

This image is from the 2010 presentation of the Mueller “market district”. The big box in the lower right is the grocery store, which is now apparently going to be an HEB.

But the most important question by far: will it be urban or suburban? Let’s ask our old friend David Sucher of City Comforts:

Urban Starts With The Location Of The Parking Lot
Urban Starts With The Location Of The Parking Lot

 

As Chris put it,

The parking lot will be much nicer than average, but this makes the development merely suburban chic not urban.

Sadly, par for the course for our supposed ‘new urban showcase’. I’ve covered Mueller irregularly in the past as has Chris. Notice we’re in 2011 now; no sign of the Town Center; relatively little multi-family development; but the single-family homes and strip malls – they are still there and doing fine. Sigh.

As for how green and sustainable this will be, what with energy efficiency, water efficiency, etc.; a wise ass man on twitter once said this:

Green building vs. sustainability

The Austin Neighborhoods Chronicle

Not a big surprise to me, but Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro donated money to Kathie Tovo. Note that their endorsement article did not point out the conflict of interest (although the news coverage, to their credit, did; that conflict being that Kathie Tovo in particular and the ANC in general are very closely tied to Barbaro and especially his wife, no-growther, i.e., defend-the-landed-gentry-at-the-expense-of-sustainability-er Susan Moffatt).
Hence, Chron guys, horribly biased. As I said on twitter, I may be biased, and I’m not even media by the most generous definition, but even I would disclose a conflict of interest of this nature – and not buried in the accompanying news article, but right at the front of the endorsement. And I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about a race in which I donated money to one of the candidates.
It so happens I don’t need to worry about it because I have never met (or even received e-mail from) two of the three candidates I endorsed (I have corresponded with Chris Riley a few times and have met him in person a couple of times over the years).
At least the subsequent news coverage was thankfully fact-based and fair. It is left to the reader to decide whether the editorial board, which split in favor of Tovo, is more disingenuous or naive.

My endorsements

In case anybody cares.
Chris Riley is still the best choice in Place One. I have been disappointed in Chris’ unwillingness to push harder on many issues we share a similar position on but his votes are almost always what I would prefer for the urbanist/pro-transit agenda. (My disappointments also stem from him being unwilling to stop the Red Line from its inexorable process down the “kill the urban rail line in its cradle” track). His challengers are so unworthy of consideration that I don’t even think it’s worth discussing this race, and won’t.
Randi Shade is the clear choice in Place 3, for a variety of reasons – she’s fundamentally serious, as you can tell in her answers to Austinist questions (compare her one credible challenger here) and she’s pro-density for the most part. I wrote this piece on the questionable way this race has been framed yesterday. Don’t fall for the typical ANC tripe that they represent the average citizen. The average citizen is exactly who the landed gentry are keeping out of central Austin by fighting density.
I’d vote for anybody short of Jim Skaggs over Laura Morrison in Place 4. I’ve settled on K. Toby Ryan Hill largely because I suspect he has the best, although slim, chance. He’s dead wrong on parking, though – but I’ll yield on this issue to get the automatic ANC rubber-stamp off the Council if that’s what it takes.

Poor Little Rich Girl

So if you had two candidates for city office in a city where campaign laws limit donations to a fairly modest sum to prevent undue influence by the rich, and you saw a story like this one:

(Candidate B) appears to be gaining ground. She raised $44,885 in the past few weeks, loaned her campaign another $40,000[...]
(Candidate A) has raised nearly $170,000 since the fall — nearly $100,000 of it from early January to early April, the period reflected in Thursday’s finance reports.

which one of those candidates do you think the media could, responsibly and rationally, call the “little guy” or the “establishment candidate”? Which one do you think would be painted as the rich one in bed with the old money in Austin, and which one do you think would be painted as the voice of the masses?

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Austin environmentalists continue proud tradition of harming the environment

My most recent Austin Sierran arrived (guess what? M1EK is a life member!) and as I usually do, I read the minutes from the monthly meeting. In it, I learned that the board apparently opposes plans to build a bike/pedestrian bridge across Barton Creek (to fill a huge gap in the bicycle commuting infrastructure in that part of town – where the frontage roads end on either side of the creek). They oppose this bridge because the construction of the pilings would likely impact the creekfloor and a few other features – in a part of the watershed that’s very close-in already (arguably not contributing to the springs at all) – a likely one-time disturbing-the-sediment impact akin to the kinds of floods we see ten times a year in a rainy year.

The geniuses behind this decision suggested more improvements to South Lamar, which is only a couple of miles, a couple of extra hills, and another freakin’ expressway out of the way for cyclists trying to commute to the center-city from points far southwest and west. Yes, there are people who commute from this far out – not as many as we would like, of course, hence the issue.

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Board of Adjustment versus Urbanism

Short and not-so-sweet; still no time for this.
Those who didn’t think it was a big deal when the ANC crowd were appointed en-masse to several critical boards and commissions should be ashamed of themselves.
Go to this video. If it doesn’t advance automatically, go to C11.
What’s here? Well, it’s just ANC guys Bryan King and Jeff Jack pressuring a property owner on a downtown block to tear down a deck so he can add more off-street parking. Note that not a single time in this entire conversation does anybody, to be fair, including the applicant, even mention the fact that some people patronizing this small business or living in the apartment might not drive every single trip. Only once does anybody bring up the fact that ample on-street parking exists (of course, gasp!, people would have to pay!)
This is downtown, people. This isn’t the suburbs. For those who think the government influence on development is mainly to force density, this ought to be (but probably isn’t) a wake-up call: the primary influence of the government is to force car-dependent development patterns to continue even downtown.
And those who think the ANC crowd and their patron Laura Morrison are going to leave downtown alone and just focus on keeping the neighborhoods suburban should think again, too. Nowhere is safe from these people; right before this video I watched the Planning Commission fail to come to a recommendation on a hotel at 5th/Colorado because the ANC contingent wanted to force another couple hundred grand in concessions for affordable housing (used as a convenient crutch in this case; none of those people actually have any interest in affordable housing or they’d support more multi-family development in their neighborhoods).
Sickening. You were warned; but most of you didn’t listen.

Updates

1. Like AC, I’m adding the new blog Keep Austin Wonky to my list. Welcome.
2. This article from AC is actually making me nauseous as I contemplate the damage that will be done to our city in the next few years. I will be writing more on this in a couple of days, but in the meantime, those of you at the Burnt Orange Report and Austin Chronicle who endorsed Morrison ought to be kicking yourselves in the ass. (Or let me do it for you). This is exactly what I and a few others predicted she would do, after all; she was never a candidate of balance as y’all convinced yourself she had become despite her history – she was always a NIMBY reactionary and had never tried all that hard to hide her stripes.