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?


Well, you’d be wrong.
Randi Shade has gotten more people to donate money to her – and Kathie Tovo, the supposed ‘voice of the neighborhoods’, is loaning herself money that most of us couldn’t afford to get to a run-off. Shade has deeper and broader support among the population as a whole, obviously, while Tovo is relying on the fact that the Austin Neighborhoods Council, the most conservative political entity in the city representing purely the interests of the wealthiest central homeowners, is a turnout machine especially in the lowest-turnout elections (run-offs).


Statesman story


Wait a minute, I hear you saying, the Austin Neighborhoods Council? Conservative? Rich?


It’s a dirty little secret, occasionally alluded to even in the horribly biased Austin Chronicle, that the Austin Neighborhoods Council is really representing what one of their writers called the landed gentry. For instance, as I wrote back in the days of the McMansion Ordinance in this post:

Continue reading “Poor Little Rich Girl”

Laura Morrison’s McMansion

In the past, you’ve seen me point out the hypocrisy of two or three folks heavily involved in the McMansion Task Force for living in homes which violated the expressed spirit, if not technically the letter, of the ordinance. The spirit being “out-of-scale houses (McGraw) and/or homes which ‘tower over the backyards of their neighbors’ (Maxwell)”.

Somehow, I missed this.

Laura Morrison chaired this task force – and lives in a home which, according to TravisCAD, at the time of this post is worth $1.4 million and has 8,537 square feet. Pretty big, but I had previously assumed it fit well within the 0.4 FAR required by McMansion. Yes, this is a big old historic house, but that’s not the metric of the ordinance (it doesn’t say “big houses are OK if they are stunners”, after all). Also pretty expensive for somebody whose negative campaign ads try to paint Galindo as the rich candidate.

A few days ago, though, I was alerted by a reader that Morrison’s lot is actually too small — but she’s not subject to the ordinance anyways, because according to said reader, her lot is zoned MF-4 (the McMansion ordinance only applies to single-family zoning). A little history here: the Old West Austin neighborhood plan (which I worked on in a transportation capacity) allowed landowners to choose to downzone their lots from multi-family (most of the area was zoned that way after WWII even though existing uses were houses) to single-family (SF-3) if the property was still being used that way. Apparently Morrison passed on this opportunity (many others took it up; I remember seeing dozens of zoning cases come up before City Council on the matter).

So let’s check it out. Unfortunately, TravisCAD doesn’t have the lot size, but Zillow does.
Home size: 8537 square feet
Lot size: 20,305 square feet
FAR (before loopholes): 0.42

Caveats: I do not know if Morrison is using the property in ways which would be comforming with SF-3, but I found it very interesting that her ads are attacking Galindo for building duplexes which actually comply with her ordinance yet the home she herself lives in would be non-compliant in a similar scenario, or require loopholes to comply. It’s often referred to as a “converted four-plex”, and the owners’ address is “Apt 9”, which may suggest continuing multi-family use, which would also be evidence of hypocrisy given her stand against any and all multi-family development in the area except for a few cases where that plan mentioned above quite effectively tied her hands. Either way, Morrison clearly broke the spirit of her own ordinance and her own activism against multi-family housing, and anyways when you write the ordinance, as she did, it’s really easy to make sure your own property is just barely compliant. You notice that you’re right over the edge; so you exempt attached carports, for instance, which, oops, you just happen to have!

Again, I can’t believe I missed her the first time around – her hypocrisy on this ordinance is more odious than that of McGraw and Maxwell combined. I apologize for my lack of diligence on this matter.

(Hey, BATPAC: yes, your latest cowardly anonymous attack on me did indeed motivate me to finally take the time to write this! Good show! And I feel very confident that my readers find your accusation that I “like Republicans” to be one of the funniest things they’ve read in quite some time!)