Yes, now in its 40th year, this year’s annual Fire Station Festival will take place on Sunday, October 19. As preparations are under way, coordinators can already tell that this year will be something truly special.
Hosted by HPNA and sponsored by Grande Communications, the festival will again provide an opportunity for neighbors of all ages to come together on what we hope will be a beautiful fall day, commemorate the saving of our fire station, and celebrate our great community. Indeed, over the years the festival has become the community-building event in Hyde Park. Hundreds and hundreds of people participate.
The festival will kick off in Shipe Park at 3:55 p.m. sharp with a lively 6-block parade. Children, adults, and pets are encouraged to debut their Halloween costumes while marching in the procession, which will be led by a fire truck and drummers of the Eastside Panther Band. Participants in the parade arrive at 3:30 p.m. to line up.
The festivities will lead to Fire Station 9 at 43rd Street and Speedway, where food and live music by Beatles tribute band The Eggmen await.
As always, festival-goers will have the opportunity to enter the costume contest for prizes in categories like scariest, funniest, best pet, and best family. The classic fishing booth will also be returning, this year with a new look and many more prizes to be won from Toy Joy.
Little ones and kids can bet on enjoying a range of crafts and a puppet show by Hey Lolly Productions.
There will also be plenty of activities for the older kids to engage in. Sit for hair sculpture and flash tattoos. Shoot hoops against others for prizes. Take wacky portraits in the photo booth (sponsored by Carolyn Grimes of Coldwell Banker United Realtors).
This year, HPNA is excited to be partnering with BookSpring, a local organization that is dedicated to promoting children’s literacy. Neighbors can help support this cause, beginning now, by bringing gently used K-6 books to Fresh Plus on 43rd Street. There will also be a collection box at the festival.
The Fire Station Festival is the prime fall event for Hyde Park residents to share good spirits, mingle with firefighters, and appreciate our neighborhood’s strengths that make the afternoon possible. All are welcome.
Staff Writer Intern
Such great and welcome news for Hyde Park! On September 9, the Austin City Council approved a 2015 budget package that included a last minute additional request for money to replace 7 pools, including both Shipe Pools. In a recent aquatics assessment, these 7 pools were predicted to “suffer mechanical or structural failure within five years.”
While the City Council could not find the money in this budget cycle to replace all the pools, they did select the Shipe Pools and Govalle Pool to receive $6.3 million, with Shipe receiving $3.1 million for replacement of the aging pools and mechanical systems. The budget also included funds to reopen the new Bartholomew Pool as a year round pool effective as soon as they can schedule the lifeguards and prep the pool.
According to Cheryl Bolin, aquatics director, the money will be received in October and set aside while the process of community input, design, bidding and construction is conducted.
Hyde Parkers will have much to think about as they identify goals for the new pools. What would residents like to see in a new Shipe Pool? Diving board? Swim meets? Or should it retain the same footprint with new facilities? The new Westenfield Pool is a recent example of an aging pool that was replaced with a big pool, along with a fun baby pool area, bathroom, first-aid office, equipment storage area, native landscaping, sculptures and shade structures.
We applaud Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) for bucking the national trend of closing neighborhood pools in favor of big municipal ones, something that has happened in Dallas and Houston. Fort Worth also lost all of its neighborhood pools until the community managed to reopen one of them with private funding. Austin City Council and PARD listened and responded to our requests to keep our neighborhood pools open, in accord with the Imagine Austin plan. We salute Council member Laura Morrison who has chosen to focus on neighborhood pools as one of her legacies and Kathie Tovo for her tireless support of our neighborhoods and parks, including Shipe Park. And we thank Chris Riley, Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and the entire City Council for voting to save Shipe Pool!
Stay tuned to the Hyde Park listserv and the facebook page Friends of Shipe Park or Shipepark.org for more information regarding the community input portion of the process. Exciting days are ahead.
Friends of Shipe Park
From Karen McGraw
There are many questions surrounding the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) resolution initiated by Council Members Chris Riley and Mike Martinez. It was adopted June 12 on a vote of 4-3 (Council Member Spelman and Mayor Leffingwell concurring and Council Members Morrison, Tovo and Cole voting no) to allow small second dwellings on every lot as small as 5,750 square feet all across Austin. The resolution directs the city manager to hold a stakeholder process and come back with a recommendation by October 12.
In addition to reducing minimum lot size for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), the Council resolution triggering this proposal specifically contemplates changes to eliminate driveway and parking requirements, reduce building separation requirements, increase the maximum gross floor area for second-story ADUs, and allow a legally non-complying structure to add an ADU (for example, if your neighbor’s original garage is built on your property line without the setback required under current code, they’d be allowed to add a dwelling unit to it). For details, visit http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=213071.
The resolution would potentially allow two dwelling units on almost every lot in Hyde Park, regardless of impacts on traffic, parking, infrastructure, and the privacy of nearby neighbors without appropriate zoning protections.
It’s been claimed these new units will increase affordability, though given escalating construction costs, rising property taxes, additional home insurance, and ongoing maintenance, the math on this is far from clear. Further, homeowners contemplating such an addition should be aware that they will lose their homestead property tax exemption on any portion of their property that is rented out, as one City Council member recently learned the hard way.
ADUs have also been touted as a way to increase available housing stock in Austin, but the current proposal makes no mention of prohibiting their use as short-term rentals (STRs, aka hotel rooms). Absent such a prohibition, many of these new units will likely not provide actual housing options for Austin residents.
Hyde Park neighbors spent years working to establish a type of zoning called a Neighborhood Conservation Combining District (NCCD) to protect many of the things we all love about this area. Our NCCDs allow two-family use on lots at least 7,000 square feet with standard city parking requirements (currently three spaces for two-family use in the urban core, or four spaces elsewhere.) Since two of the required parking spaces may be “tandem” or stacked in a driveway, we already have extra cars on the street for many existing dwellings. Waiving all parking requirements for these new units will only add more cars to our streets.
Council Member Kathie Tovo countered (seconded by CM Morrison) the R/M proposal by suggesting it be established as a planning tool of choice, to be implemented only via the well-defined neighborhood planning process but these proposals were rejected by the makers. Because each neighborhood is different and certain areas within neighborhoods present different lot sizes and parking patterns, this sensible approach would allow for more fine-grained changes, ensuring that any new additional units do not overburden existing infrastructure or negatively impact the health, safety and privacy of immediate neighbors. It does not make sense to override all neighborhood plans by forcing this type of change as a blanket citywide policy. While the HP Contact Team has been discussing this issue and has not reached a position, it remains that the City Council could enact a measure that could completely override Hyde Park’s NCCDs. This is the reason for a stakeholder process and I think we should participate in that opportunity.
The current chair of Hyde Park’s Contact Team, Pete Gilcrease, stated at the September 8 Hyde Park Neighborhood Association (HPNA) meeting that if City Council enacts a version of an ADU proposal that applies citywide to all neighborhoods without any qualifications, “it won’t matter” what neighbors think. For this reason, I strongly believe we should weigh in on this issue as a group during the current stakeholder process and we should consider the issue as individuals in deciding whom to vote for in the upcoming City Council election.
To that end, I have asked the HPNA Steering Committee to place the item on the October 6 agenda for discussion and the November 3 agenda for a vote. I have also requested the Hyde Park Contact Team take a position on this issue at its October 27 meeting. The City Manager is expected to bring the ADU proposal back to City Council on October 12, but action will not likely occur before the November election.
In closing, I believe the City Council should respect the city’s well-established neighborhood planning process and allow changes such as this only after careful local consideration and widespread notification and input. I hope you will join me in urging a more considered approach to a proposal that has the potential to change the fabric of our neighborhood—and the daily lives of many residents—for a long time to come.
From Adrian Skinner
Much press has been given to matters concerning Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) over the last several months, both at the city and local level. As residents and property owners in Hyde Park have debated the issue locally, City Council is considering a new ordinance, led by Chris Riley, which would ease parking requirements and other restrictions in an effort to encourage the development of homes less than 500 sq. ft. on existing residential lots around the city.
Many of our community members are concerned about the impact a citywide ordinance could have on Hyde Park. Austin is growing and with growth comes change; the central question in the ADU debate is how Hyde Park ought to grow and change with Austin. Opponents of the Riley ADU proposal fear the worst—bumper to bumper parking up and down the avenues, eroding property values, loss of green space, and mounting noise and trash issues as the neighborhood population increases. Some have also concluded that building affordable housing in Hyde Park through ADUs is not financially feasible.
I agree that these concerns must be given their due attention. The city has a responsibility to enforce the codes around trash left curbside and noise violations that disturb the peace. However, it would be misguided for us to assert a “right to park” on public streets. The public street in front of my house does not belong to me; and unless a resident parking permit zone is established, anyone may lawfully park there. Certainly, I’d rather have a view of my neighbor’s lawn and trees but the equity of public services, like our streets, is that they exist for the good of all.
Rather than focus on personal household decisions like financial feasibility, we ought to view the current Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan requirements that allow some property owners to build an ADU through an equity lens. Provided that the requirements pertaining to impervious cover, floor to area ratio, setback, off street parking, design compatibility, and preservation of heritage trees are met, is it equitable to treat the property owner of a lot smaller than 7,000 sq. ft. differently from the property owner of a lot larger than 7,000 sq. ft.? It is not.
We should adopt a philosophy of equity instead of focusing on our fears and asserting property rights that are more akin to a caste system. By doing so, we can address the big city problems that affect our daily quality of life together. Instead of dividing our community by property lot size, let’s come together and find solutions that are equitable for everyone.
In his September article in the Pecan Press (“The Accessory Dwelling Unit Survey: Methods, Results and Aftermath”), Larry Gilg cites the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (HPNPCT) directive to “work on behalf of all stakeholders in the neighborhood planning area” as the justification for promoting smaller lot sizes for accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Let’s look at the efforts of the HPNPCT to try to determine stakeholder interests and the results of those efforts.
In regard to the survey, while the HPNPCT survey was certainly a well-meaning attempt to determine stakeholder feelings, it did not include appropriate controls to ensure the response of a representative sample of stakeholders, response by stakeholders only, and only one response by each stakeholder. Consequently, it did not advance the cause of quantifying stakeholder opinion. The critique of the survey by the meeting attendees was not out of line, especially considering that meeting attendance included people trained in survey construction and analysis and at least one statistician.
Two HPNPCT meetings have been devoted to ADUs. The July 28 meeting described in the article was a regularly scheduled meeting; according to the HPNPCT bylaws, “Meetings shall be held quarterly during the months of January, April, July and October, on the 4th Monday from 7 to 8:30pm.” Its date and agenda, which consisted almost entirely of the ADU issue, were publicized through the appropriate channels: the neighborhood group list and the HPNPCT group list.
Despite that, few supporters of reducing the lot size for ADUs attended the meeting. I heard only one person speak in favor of such. On the other hand, numerous stakeholders opposing such a change attended and spoke. When someone at the meeting proposed a vote, another attendee objected, stating that all the constituents were not in attendance. That raises the question, why weren’t they, considering that this was a regularly scheduled meeting with an advertised agenda?
Larry complained about the attendees of the meeting: “… the survey and its results were not discussed…. It was implied that it was simply an amateurish attempt to sway decision-makers at the city level. That ended the discussion on discerning the interests of stakeholders.… I daresay the makeup of attendees at the meeting was even less representative of the stakeholder demographic than the survey, but that didn’t stop the members from attempting to vote down any further consideration of allowing ADUs on smaller lots in Hyde Park in spite of the published agenda that stated no votes would be taken.” His conclusion? “The contact team mandate to work on behalf of all stakeholders is not a realistic expectation for any deliberative group in Hyde Park today.”
To the contrary, the original meeting notice and agenda contained nothing about a vote one way or the other, and the HPNPCT bylaws do not preclude a motion from the floor resulting in a vote. Moreover, no data were presented that the meeting attendance was not representative of the stakeholder demographic. Why then does Larry believe Hyde Park is full of supporters if they don’t show up? For him, the problem was the stakeholders who attended the meeting, not the stakeholders who couldn’t be bothered to attend!
All of this leads me to the question of just who are the stakeholders for this issue. Those who can’t be bothered to participate in the process must not believe they have much at stake. Hyde Park supporters of reduced ADU lot size either don’t exist or don’t care much. Democracy is a participatory process; and to quote from John Kerr’s final Pecan Press article, democracy works far better at the local level than at the state or federal level. Hyde Park is a forum in which individual opinion can count. It is an abuse of authority to use the interests of those who don’t care enough to participate to override the interests of those who do, as happened at the HPNPCT meeting when the chair refused a motion from the floor. Even more, it is grossly inappropriate to disparage the stakeholders who responded, who seem to be in the majority, and who are willing to assert their position.
Larry Gilg responds:
The reason I believe there is support among Hyde Park stakeholders for allowing ADUs to be constructed on lots between 5,750 and 7,000 sq. ft. is that I personally contacted all owners of such lots that I could identify. I wanted to make sure that there was good support among that group of neighbors before I even brought it up with the contact team. I presented the results at the April Contact Team (CT) meeting. Of the 292 properties south of 45th St. that have a size larger than 5,750 sq. ft. but smaller than 7,000 sq. ft., 140 were canvassed. 53 owners were spoken to, of whom 30 supported ADUs on lots smaller than 7,000 square feet, 17 needed more information, and 5 opposed. Postcards were also mailed to 100 non-resident owners, 15 of whom responded, with 14 supporting a change in ADU regulations, 1 opposing. All of the owners received flyers with information about the proposal and the upcoming meetings. I judged that there was enough support to go forward.
The agenda of the July CT meeting in the Pecan Press and elsewhere did in fact say nothing about not voting on ADUs, as is correctly stated in the letter. However, at the June HPNA meeting, there were a number of attendees who strongly urged that there be no vote on ADUs at the July CT meeting because “things were moving too fast.” This was agreed to by Pete Gilcrease, CT chair.
In regard to the reference of one person who spoke out in support of ADUs at the July CT meeting, what occurred to me at the time was the courage she exhibited in asserting that support in the midst of the withering opposition being voiced by others. It is not implausible to suggest that others may have shared that belief but not felt comfortable saying so. It’s my hope that residents will continue to speak out for their beliefs, regardless of the stands taken by members of HPNA and CT, whose combined membership is something like only 6% of the adult residents of Hyde Park. Is having a subset of this already small number of residents come to a meeting to “assert their position” really the best we can do to discern the voice of the neighborhood?
Editor’s Note: In May, HPNA hosted a discussion between District 9 candidates Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley. At the time, organizers were not aware of the candidacy of Erin McGann. She was thus invited at the September HPNA meeting to answer the same questions originally crafted by the HPNA Steering Committee, plus questions from the audience. Her answers are excerpted below, as transcribed by Lorre Weidlich. (Chris Riley addressed the audience beforehand, and Kathie Tovo joined McGann in the forum, but their remarks and responses are not included here. For excerpts of their original responses to the questions, see the June issue of the Pecan Press.)
Please share your thoughts regarding the role of the city manager in the new 10-1 form of city governance. Does a strong city manager enhance or limit single district council members in providing constituent services? How could the relationship between city manager and council members be improved?
Erin McGann (EM): I’m concerned about the relationship between the current city
council and the city manager in that it does not seem as if a lot of information is shared with the council. They shouldn’t be surprised by anything that’s going on with the city. The structure of the communication now is poor and I don’t know which way this is not working, if it’s coming from the city manager over this way or if it’s coming from the council to the city manager, but it does not seem as if the staff is sharing enough information with council so that they can make good decisions based on what they need to know. It seems to me that they have to go outside the government in order to find out a lot of things, which they should be doing in some cases, but in a lot of cases this information needs to be shared inside. I will work to insist that the city government work with the city council and not look at the council as just temporary people who are going to go away at some point. With that kind of leadership, you will see more functioning happening with the city in a more cohesive way.
A recent neighborhood poll revealed that two issues that concern Hyde Park residents the most are neighborhood preservation and development. Other central Austin neighborhoods have also indicated that these issues are a concern in District 9. Older, affordable single-family homes continue to be lost as developers replace them with poorly formed new houses, super duplexes, and other structures that are out of character in our neighborhoods. What have you done during your career to preserve the character of central Austin neighborhoods? What do you plan to do if elected as the District 9 representative?
EM: I live in the south end of the Bouldin neighborhood where I’ve seen this very clearly. When I moved into my neighborhood 12 years ago, which is when I moved to Austin, all of the houses in my neighborhood were little bungalows, including the one I live in. I don’t want to say a majority, but a good many of them have been torn down and been turned into David Weekley homes, some of them have been turned into giant duplexes, others of them are super modern homes. I was very concerned about this. The people who lived in my neighborhood have basically turned over in the time that I’ve lived there.
I was talking to some people over at the Owana neighborhood meeting last week. They told me that they had put a historical district in their neighborhood and that’s why there weren’t all of these big changes in the types of housing going in. But they also told me that the city makes it very difficult to get historic neighborhood designation. I was talking to another neighborhood that said they wanted it and I think that’s something that should be considered. It shouldn’t be that difficult to make a neighborhood a historic neighborhood. When we’re looking at our neighborhoods, I really would like to see the changes in the neighborhood being the changes that you all want to see. I don’t like the way the house that was built across the street from me looks. It doesn’t look like it’s within the (McMansion) guidelines but it really is. And I think that’s part of the problem.
The cost of living, and housing in particular, continues to rise in Austin. It seems that our secret is out—Austin is a great place to live—yet affordability continues to be a challenge in the face of rising demand for centrally located housing. Please share your views on housing affordability and what you would do as the district representative to address the imbalance between supply and demand, create affordable housing opportunities for low income households, and help prevent current residents from being taxed out of their homes. What is your approach to balance affordability with preservation of neighborhood character?
EM: Austin is not affordable anymore. I couldn’t afford the house that I live in today. And I hate that; I wish more families with children could afford to move into my neighborhood. When I first moved in, there were lots of people with families and now there are not. I would like to see council stop approving giant buildings that are single small dwellings, 500 square foot apartments, micro units, that sort of thing. Those are the kinds of things that are driving people with children out of the city. If you can’t find a place to live with your three children, you’re not going to stay here.
We have two opportunities coming up very soon. One is the 45th Street and Bull Creek property, and it looks like the legislature is likely to close down the Austin State School, so there will be that property available as well. That’s at 35th and MoPac. In both of those properties, the council will have the opportunity to approve development that can benefit everyone in the city. There is quite a large leeway that council has in approving these kinds of developments and what I would like to see in both of those places is completely mixed development—with affordable housing, with apartments, with townhomes, with duplexes, with standalone homes, and with all of the homes being a variety of different prices so that a lot of different kinds of people can move in there. Basically it’s creating a community. And also include in there disabled housing and protected elderly housing, both of which we have a severe lack of in town. We also have to, if we’re going to be building these kinds of things in those areas, shore up the infrastructure there because right now neither of those areas are capable of taking on any kind of infrastructure for any kind of building there.
We also need to bring in the (City of Austin) homestead exemption for homeowners because we can’t keep paying for everything. And we need to just look at the budget and take out a lot of the extra stuff.
The Hyde Park Nominating Committee is honored to submit its slate of candidates for the upcoming elections for the HPNA Steering Committee:
Co-Presidents: Lorre Weidlich and Kevin Heyburn
Co-Vice Presidents: Kathy Lawrence and Adrian Skinner
Co-Secretaries: Artie Gold and Reid Long
Treasurer: I.J. Aarons
At-Large Steering Committee: Heidi Bojes, Jessica Charbeneau, and Sharon Brown
These candidates include mostly incumbent members and officers who are hoping to sustain their roles in HPNA leadership. It includes three people who will be new to their positions in the neighborhood association:
Adrian Skinner, Co-Vice President Nominee
Adrian and his wife Sarah moved to Hyde Park in 2011. They selected the area because of the excellent location, charming older homes, and walkability; they were also pleasantly surprised by the engaging community. Over the last three years, Adrian has restored their 1939 cottage on Duval room by room. He enjoys commuting by bicycle to his office at the Texas Attorney General and has a special interest in the traffic congestion that Austin faces. Aside from traffic, Adrian believes Hyde Park has a unique challenge balancing the preservation of neighborhood character while adapting to the changing needs of the population. He believes in civic activism and has petitioned City Council on a number of issues affecting Hyde Park.
Reid Long, Co-Secretary Nominee
Reid Long has lived in the northern part of Hyde Park on Caswell for just over 6 years. He is interested in being involved in HPNA to help the neighborhood grow, develop, and remain a vibrant place to live. He is a scientific advisor for an intellectual property law firm. He has a whole stack of degrees from UT Austin, culminating in a PhD in chemistry.
Sharon Brown, At-Large Steering Committee Member Nominee
Sharon was born in San Antonio, graduated from UT, and returned to school for her master’s in the mid-80s from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She and her husband Don moved into their home on Avenue F in 1982 and have lived there ever since. She has worked in various roles in the public sector, including serving as a policy analyst for a welfare agency. Sharon is very active in politics. She is the VP for Central Austin Democrats, and will soon be its precinct chair. She says she volunteers on campaigns to support good people and for her own mental health. Sharon’s hopes are for the Hyde Park community to participate actively in all the decisions that affect us, for our children to have excellent public schools, and for everyone to have a level playing field in life. She said she is “looking forward to working with the talented neighbors who give time and energy in so many ways to Hyde Park.”
The HPNA Nominating Committee is made up of Kathy Lawrence, John Williams, and Adam Wilson. The committee is deeply grateful to all the returning and new Steering Committee members who are committed to transparent governance and making Hyde Park a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful community. Voting for the new Steering Committee members will occur at the general meeting on Monday, October 6.
Nominating Committee Chair
The September Hyde Park Neighborhood Association meeting was organized around our annual potluck dinner. Neighbors from around the avenues cooked their specialties and shared a meal with each other. Despite our differences at times, we were reminded that we are one community.
The meeting began with a rolling start around the potluck line as everyone mingled. Lorre Weidlich began by presenting the official business agenda around 7:30 p.m. and announcements were the first order of business.
John Williams provided an update from the Nominating Committee regarding HPNA Steering Committee officers and members for the coming year.
Carol Welder reminded neighbors that October 7, from 7 – 9 p.m., is National Night Out in Austin—an annual event that allows neighborhoods and law enforcement to partner against crime. The Austin Police Department provides information about the event. During the event, neighbors are asked to turn on their porch lights, lock their doors and spend the evening outside with their neighbors, police officers, firefighters and EMS paramedics.
Pete Gilcrease spoke about the October Hyde Park Contact Team meeting to be held at the Trinity Church at Speedway and 40th on Monday, October 27 at 7 p.m. The planned focus for its next meeting is neighborhood sidewalks.
The remainder of the meeting focused on our local District 9 candidates who are running for election to the 10-1 City Council this November. Erin McGann, Kathie Tovo, and Chris Riley were present during the meeting. Neighbors had an opportunity to hear Erin McGann’s thoughts and positions on issues important to Hyde Park. Neighbors also had an extended opportunity to pose questions directly to candidates. One consistent concern expressed during the open Q&A session was our missing and eroding sidewalk grid.
Following the meeting, neighbors had an opportunity to mingle and speak with City Council candidates, Austin mayoral candidate Steve Adler, and AISD trustee at large, Kendall Pace.
This year’s annual potluck was so popular that the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association will consider making this special event semi-annual.
–Submitted by Artie Gold & Adrian Skinner
Congratulations to Kathy Lawrence, co-vice president, for organizing another good meeting. It was wonderful seeing all the people who attended our Autumn pot luck and stayed for our second candidates’ forum. We strongly support events like these, in which Hyde Parkers can gather to socialize and connect. We also appreciate the opportunity to hear from our third District 9 candidate, Erin McGann, and hear again from our other two candidates, Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley.
The Contact Team has put its proposal for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on hold pending the result of the city resolution. This simplifies the situation somewhat because it means that Hyde Parkers need only consider one proposal, the resolution passed by the City of Austin in a 4-3 vote. The resolution was supported by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Bill Spellman, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell and opposed by Council Members Kathie Tovo, Sheryl Cole, and Laura Morrison. As many of you know, Councilmembers Riley and Tovo are two of the candidates seeking election to the newly created city council district that includes Hyde Park. And Councilmembers Cole and Martinez are two of the candidates running for mayor.
By the time you read this, the meeting for public input will already have taken place. An ordinance that modifies current City Code may not yet be in front of City Council, but presumably it will be part of the agenda for the post-election City Council. It’s not yet clear whether or how that ordinance will affect Hyde Park, because it depends on the exact draft of the legislation, but it’s possible that it will have a major impact on our neighborhood. Hyde Parkers need to be aware of the possibility and be prepared to express their feelings on the subject to City Council.
From the brink of loss to a $3.1 million budget – now that’s progress! Our pool will be rebuilt, thanks to the efforts of all the people who worked to save it: Mark Fishman, Alison Young, Jack and Jill Nokes, and the Friends of Shipe Park. We owe these people our profound thanks. They illustrate what committed stakeholders can accomplish for the community with their work and energy
Fire Station Festival
We anticipate another wonderful event, thanks to the efforts of Deaton Bednar and her team, and we look forward to seeing all of you there!
–Kevin Heyburn and Lorre Weidlich
Hyde Parker To Receive Much-Deserved Honor: Congratulations to Dorothy Richter, who will be inducted into the Austin Women’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, October 22. The time and place of the induction has not been announced as of press time, but should be available on the City of Austin website closer to the event.
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38th Annual Historic Hyde Park Homes Tour: Planning is well under way. To get a sneak peak at the wonderful North Hyde Park homes that will be featured on the Sunday, November 9 tour, go to the event’s new website at www.hydeparkhomestour.org. If you would like to help in any capacity (and receive a free ticket to the tour), contact the tour’s volunteer coordinator, John Williams or the tour chair, Carolyn Grimes.
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Contact Team Updates: The agenda for its upcoming quarterly meeting on Monday, October 27 will have the following agenda items: introductions, sidewalks—the main topic (how to encourage more of them), open discussion of issues, and other business. As usual, meeting time is 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church on Speedway and 40th.
ADUs in Hyde Park will not be on the agenda of this meeting. Discussion has been tabled until it becomes clear what the particulars will be of a city resolution, with changes to ADU regulations yet to be defined. (Pete Gilcrease, chair)
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Any Lessons for Austin and Hyde Park?: The disconnect between America’s housing stock and its changing demographics is documented in a new study from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP (“Housing America’s Older Adults: Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population”). A central thesis of this new study is that housing stock and neighborhood design are skewed towards the young and mobile. By 2030, 73 million people in this country will be 65 or older, which is 33 million more than at present. The bulk of this population lives in the suburbs in private single-family housing, where very little if anything is within walking distance, bedrooms are often on the second floor, expansive lawns require significant upkeep, accessible hallways can be narrow, entryways are a step up, and public transportation is, to put it mildly, inadequate. To add to the challenges ahead is a dearth of affordable housing. The study discusses the advisability of communities allowing more accessory dwelling units (ADUs). A proposal to relax barriers to building these in Austin has been proposed at the City Council level. A proposal to allow them in Hyde Park on lots as small as 5,570 has been under discussion, but faces opposition.
Editor’s Note: Sadly, John Kerr (1944 – 2014) passed away on Thursday, August 21, after a short struggle with leukemia. Originally conceived this spring to be a posthumously published interview, this piece eventually became the article as it appears below. What most struck me, and others, is the serenity and peace with which John approached his death, supported as he was by his firm belief that he would soon be rejoining his wife, whose death preceded his by three short years. He was a gentle and kind man, whose conversation and writing were marked by grace and wit.
His passing is a great loss for his friends and family, and also for this neighborhood as a whole, which he served so well in his 4 decades as a resident of Hyde Park. To just single out his contributions over the years in one area, his role on this publication has been crucial. One of its earliest editors, with the nom de plume of Squirrel Nutkin, he was the individual who named it the Pecan Press. This editor selected him to be on his Advisory Board, where his advice was always welcome and valuable. In this article, he also reveals a clandestine role he has had with the Pecan Press these past 10 years.
It is with deep gratitude that the community bids you farewell, John.
As my life, which was neither long nor short, comes to a close, I am grateful that I spent most of it in Hyde Park.
The neighborhood has changed so much since 1975 when we moved from Mexico City to what was then a declining inner-city neighborhood. Lovely old, crumbly homes, which were quite inexpensive, were being torn down to make room for student housing and the expansion of the Hyde Park Baptist Church (which has since become a model neighbor). Almost all the houses were white; virtually none had central heating and air conditioning.
We took a chance on being urban pioneers at the urging of neighborhood activist Agnes Edwards, who told us about the recently formed neighborhood association that planned to fight to save the neighborhood.
Among the attractions of Hyde Park was its proximity to the University of Texas and high walkability. It turned out to be wonderful place to raise children. Back then, Shipe Park had all the politically incorrect play equipment: a tall slide, a merry-go-round, a jungle gym, and a seesaw. For years I walked my two children, Andrew and Ellen, to Lee Elementary School. In the company of my wife, Susan, I enjoyed thousands of evenings on our front porch, taking in the view and chatting with passing neighbors.
Both of my children worked as life guards at Shipe Pool. In the 1970s, the pool opened the day after school was out and closed the day before school resumed. It was open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week, and was drained every evening and filled overnight. This was before Daylight Savings Time, which meant that as I swam my laps the morning sky was filled with clouds the color of cotton candy. I thought I had found paradise.
Hyde Park is rare in the high degree of sociability of the neighbors. I’ve never known of a neighborhood where the residents entertained each other so frequently. Or pulled together so magnificently for presentations to the City Council or City Planning Commission, and for functions like the homes tour.
Also rare is the effectiveness of neighborhood influence on the workings of city government. In 1988, for example, we were told that our fire station would be closed. There would be no negotiations this time, the city said; the money simply wasn’t there.
Agnes Edwards was passionate about keeping the fire station open. With German thoroughness, she plowed through several boxes of documents she obtained from the Austin Fire Department and discovered some incendiary material. I wrote a fiery letter attacking the fire chief to Mayor Lee Cooke, which the HPNA president signed. Several days later, the Austin American-Statesman ran an article that included excerpts from the mayor’s letter to the fire chief with the issues we had raised. The closing was quietly dropped.
The tasks I undertook for HPNA, including a couple of terms as president, editor of the Pecan Press for a year, docent for most years of the homes tours, and other jobs meant that I met a lot of interesting people. Although I didn’t enjoy the contentious aspects of neighborhood politics, I found it fascinating to meet with City Council members and staff, as well as neighbors, to get things done. What I take away from this is that democracy works far better at the local level than at the state or federal level.
I had plenty of help; there is not enough space to thank all those who gave freely of their time to fashion the place we love and where so many in Austin would like to live.
Finally, I must own up to writing the 10 April Fool’s spoofs under the name Rollo Treadway. My mind tends to run to worst case scenarios; and after long years of experience as a journalist, I knew what a straight news article was supposed to sound like. I was president of HPNA when I wrote the first one, so I couldn’t use my own name, and chose the name of a Buster Keaton character from the silent film, The Navigator.
Over the years, many neighbors were angered by the pieces, but editor Grant Thomas always graciously protected my anonymity. I would like to think the articles made neighbors grateful for what didn’t happen. As a fortune cookie once put it, “The way to love something is to realize you might lose it.”
Thanks to editor Michael Nill for allowing me space for this goodbye note.
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (HPNPCT) has as one of its fundamental responsibilities the directive to “work on behalf of all stakeholders in the neighborhood planning area.” In fact, this directive is in the adopted bylaws of the HPNPCT, and was “mandated” by the City Planning Department in the form of the template that was provided to the residents who set up a contact team in the first place. Trusting that what stakeholders care about will lead to good decisions may be considered radical today, but it offers the only real benefit to Hyde Park in having a contact team at all.
This does, however, lay some serious demands on the HPNPCT and how it carries on its business. This article will focus on just one aspect of that directive, gathering input that helps the team to better understand stakeholders’ interests on any particular issue before recommending action.
The particular case in point is the recent SurveyMonkey questionnaire that was online from June 27 to July 21. It was a simple 9-question form that tried to gauge whether there was an interest by the stakeholders of the Hyde Park planning area in making changes to the local ordinances governing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The survey was developed by a group of neighbors who seemed to have very different perspectives on the issues. Some seemed to be supporters, some seemed opposed and some were undecided. All had an interest in making the survey language neutral so as not to lead respondents’ answers. Some of the team who had survey experience cautioned against reading too much into the responses from such an informal survey. My reading was that the drafters of the survey felt that it could provide guidance to the contact team in its deliberations. When I completed the actual survey online, I was pleased that it was short and clear, and a little surprised that it made me stop and think about the issues and my position on them.
The survey was announced briefly in the June and July issues of the Pecan Press and posted on the Hyde Park Yahoo group listserv, the Contact Team listserv and the HPNA membership listserv. The survey was completed by 149 respondents, of whom 110 claimed to occupy their own home in Hyde Park. ADUs were defined in the survey as “Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are often called by different names. Some of the more common names include garage apartments, carriage houses, alley or granny flats, or secondary dwelling units. More accurately, an ADU contains all the necessary functions of a home within a smaller space; bedroom/living room, bathroom, and kitchen.”
The responses were almost evenly split between those who live on a property that does not have an ADU and those who do, or wish to build one. The key issue that prompted the survey in the first place was described in the survey itself: “Generally, Accessory Dwelling Units are permitted in Hyde Park on residential lots that are larger than 7000 sq. ft. The Contact Team is gathering information about the possibility of changing the neighborhood zoning code to lower the minimum lot size required for an Accessory Dwelling Unit to 5750 sq. ft.” About 40% of the respondents supported the change, about 40% opposed, about 20% were undecided.
We asked respondents to rate a number of parameters that we hoped would help to narrow the specific issues (parking, property taxes, trees and green space, aging in place, local business, etc) that were most important to respondents, both pro and con. These responses, it was hoped, could provide the Contact Team with information that would help the undecided come to a decision. The top issues cited by all respondents as likely to get worse were parking, property taxes and trees and green spaces; issues cited as likely to get better were care for family/extended family, local business and aging in place. This list can help form strategies for addressing concerns about this issue.
The entire results file can be downloaded from the HPNA web site.
In short, although there were no startling developments exposed by the survey, it seemed to me it had done a good job for what we expected. I was looking forward to a good discussion of the issues at the Contact Team meeting on July 28.
The meeting started with several presentations on the change we have been considering with respect to ADUs, namely permitting ADUs to be built on residential lots sized greater than 5750 sq. ft. Questions were deferred to the end of the meeting when all attendees would have a chance to speak. There was a presentation on the results of the survey, which also was posted online several days earlier.
During the Q & A portion of the meeting, the survey and its results were not discussed, other than to be denounced as an unscientific, statistically non-valid instrument. It was implied that it was simply an amatuerish attempt to sway decision-makers at the city level. That ended the discussion on discerning the interests of stakeholders. There was no discussion on how to improve the data-gathering of stakeholder interests that would inform the Contact Team decision, but simply a recitation by several attendees of a litany of the ills of urban life that allowing ADUs on smaller lots in Hyde Park would exacerbate. I daresay the makeup of attendees at the meeting was even less representative of the stakeholder demographic than the survey, but that didn’t stop the members from attempting to vote down any further consideration of allowing ADUs on smaller lots in Hyde Park in spite of the published agenda that stated no votes would be taken.
A couple of takeaways for me from this experience:
National Night Out (NNO) is a great opportunity for citizens and law enforcement to partner against crime. We invite you to host an event on your block, meet with your neighbors and commit to helping law enforcement reduce crime in our community.
This year, NNO is on Tuesday, October 7, from 7 to 9 p.m. Neighborhoods must register before September 13. This annual event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support and participation in crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police community relations and let criminals know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back
During the event, neighborhoods are asked to turn on their porch lights, lock their doors, and spend the evening outside with their neighbors, police officers, firefighters and EMS paramedics. Events such as cookouts, block parties and neighborhood walks will occur simultaneously throughout the city and nationwide.
This year’s NNO kickoff event will take place lakeside at the Mueller Airport Development on Saturday, October 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can join the National Night Out event by:
For any questions, please contact Carol Welder.
HPNA Crime and Safety Chair
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Contact Team was brought to order by Pete Gilcrease, chair. He announced that a new subcommittee has been created to review the neighborhood’s relationship with the Austin State Hospital. Whoever is interested in serving on this subcommittee was asked to contact John Williams, Adrian Skinner or Mike Pikulski.
The main order of business for the evening was a continued discussion of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The chair introduced the discussion with the following background and observations: the city currently has this issue under discussion; there has been interest in the neighborhood in exploring the impact of changing Hyde Park and North Hyde Park’s NCCDs to allow the construction of 850 sq. ft. ADUs on lots as small as 5,750 sq. ft., as opposed to the current requirement of 7,000 sq. ft.; neighbors are concerned about the increase of property taxes and hope that rent from an ADU would allow some homeowners to remain in their homes; and some neighbors would like the option of providing affordable housing for parents and relatives.
A series of presentations by members of the ADU subcommittee followed. These reflected the ongoing work of the subcommittee and were meant to clarify definitions, offer data on the current situation in the neighborhood and provide results of a recent survey of neighbors to gauge current opinions.
The first presentation was offered by Kathy Lawrence, co-vice president of HPNA. ADUs have a sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom. They include garage apartments, granny flats, guest houses, carriage houses, and cottages. These units are distinct from accessory buildings, which do not include a kitchen sink. The subcommittee has discussed common concerns offered by neighbors about possible changes to the NCCDs, including parking, preventing demolitions, requiring owner occupancy in one structure, protecting heritage trees, and maintaining standards such as FAR, impervious cover, and setbacks. At this stage in the discussion, the ADU subcommittee will continue its work and recommends that no changes in the NCCDs be made unless there are protections from the city to prevent developers from demolishing houses.
Lawrence’s presentation then moved to a new city resolution from Council Members Riley and Martinez. This resolution, if it proceeds, has the potential to change the discussion. It passed Council in a 4 to 3 vote on June 12. The resolution directed the city manager to “develop an ordinance that reduces regulatory barriers to the development of ADUs that are less than 500 sq. ft. on a lot containing at least one owner occupied structure.” Further, it directed the city manager to “convene a stakeholder process” in 120 days to develop additional recommendations for ADUs of any size, including the following code amendments: reduce minimum lot size, reduce building separation requirements, increase maximum gross floor area for second story ADUs, create design standards and allow a legally non-complying structure to add an ADU if located on a lot with sufficient area.
One issue that has concerned neighbors is property taxes. Lawrence contacted Marya Crigler, chief appraiser for TCAD, and learned that ADUs are not covered by a homestead exemption. This includes long- and short-term rentals, as well as offices.
Several neighbors had questions following Lawrence’s presentation, particularly concerning the Riley/Martinez resolution. They asked if Hyde Park could opt out of Riley/Martinez if it is ultimately approved? And they asked if anyone from the city had contacted Hyde Park to participate in the stakeholder discussion and if we needed to act on the resolution now or if it was best to wait and see how the issue and resolution evolve? Council Member Kathy Tovo, who was present at the meeting, noted in response that it was not yet clear how the resolution would apply to neighborhoods with established plans. If Riley/Martinez is a city-wide ordinance that amends city code, it would require changes to neighborhood plans. The 120 day period began on June 12, and we will know results by the next Contact Team meeting.
Lawrence’s presentation was followed by Theresa Griffin’s, ADU subcommittee member. She offered further data about the current situation in the neighborhood and the potential number of lots that would be affected by this change to the NCCDs. She distributed a color map produced by the city: “Secondary Apartment Infill Option Possible Application in Hyde Park.” Her presentation pointed out that the neighborhood plan addresses ADUs and recognizes that they are part of the established neighborhood pattern in some areas [Secretary’s Note: see Chapter 1, Goal 1, p. 15, “Two-family development is a characteristic pattern of the neighborhood including garage apartments and small residences facing side streets. These developments should be permitted in a controlled way as an alternative to converting or adding to a primary structure to achieve a legal duplex development.” And Chapter 6, Goal 6, p. 45, “Foster a genuine community of neighbors of every age and background.” Objective 6.1: Promote and maintain a diverse culture of young and old, students and workers, civic groups and merchants, of various races and cultures….”]
Currently, Hyde Park includes 643 lots (37%) between 5,750 and 7,000 sq. ft. However, some of these already have an ADU or are in the Speedway/Duval corridors or on corner lots that are given exceptions in the NCCD to build an ADU on a smaller lot. According to the city, there are currently189 garage apartments or 2-family dwellings (11%), many of which were built in the 1920/30s. In the Historic District there are 56 garage apartments, 33 of which are on lots larger than 7,000 sq. ft. and 23 on lots smaller than 7,000 sq. ft. North Hyde Park currently includes 133 ADUs.
Adrian Skinner, HPNA co-secretary, then presented the recent survey and its results, which have been posted to the Contact Team yahoo page. In general, he reported that 148 people participated in the survey and that opinion was evenly split between support and opposition, with roughly 20% of survey respondents undecided.
Following the presentations, the floor was opened to discussion, which was wide-ranging. This summary reflects topics by category, rather than chronological order.
A number of neighbors expressed concerns that the Contact Team needs more refined data so that it can assess how many lots might be impacted and where they are located in the neighborhood. They also noted that the data needed to take into consideration that the NCCDs already allow for ADUs on corner lots and in the Duval and Speedway corridors, and that these rules are already looser than the current city ones. A number of neighbors asked for more information about affordability. They observed that building an ADU would not be affordable for everyone and that an increased number might lead to higher rents or might mean that only developers could afford to build them, rather than homeowners.
The majority of the comments and questions focused on the impact ADUs on smaller lots might have on the quality of life of the neighborhood. Many comments noted parking and the impact of more cars on already crowded streets. Additional cars, they pointed out, might make it even more difficult for ambulances or fire trucks, as well as trash and recycling collection. ADUs would have to follow the general parking regulations, which provide for two cars for the main dwelling unit and one car for the additional unit.
Along with parking, fears were raised that allowing ADUs on smaller lots might encourage further demolition of homes, particularly in North Hyde Park. Neighbors suggested that the subcommittee ask the city for an opinion about what our possible options for preventing demolitions might be so that we can design effective rules that will prevent further demolitions.
Other comments identified continuing concerns about the impact of more dense building on trees and on flooding in the Waller Creek area, in addition to the loss of backyards and loss of privacy from second story ADUs.
Also, of particular concern in North Hyde Park was the issue of larger lots. In some areas there are lots up to 12,000 sq. ft. Those living in those areas are concerned that a developer could build up to four ADUs, but not require extra parking.
Some neighbors suggested that any proposed rules should include requirements for appropriate scale and size so as to maintain neighborhood integrity. Several neighbors cautioned that we not allow the kinds of developments currently occurring in Crestview, where condo units are changing housing values.
Neighbors also asked if we needed to include rules that do not permit an ADU to be turned into a short-term rental (STR). This led to questions about how expanding the number of ADUs might affect the 3% limit on STRs in Hyde Park?
A number of neighbors critiqued the survey questions as biased towards favoring the changes to the NCCDs. It was suggested that the results of this non-scientific survey should not be presented to the city as such.
A number of neighbors asked that the Contact Team and HPNA follow the progress of the Riley/Martinez resolution and make an effort to participate in the stakeholder discussion. Neighbors asked that if the looser rules only applied to owner-occupied lots, what would happen upon resale of the lot? How would this apply to lots that are currently non-compliant? (The current resolution includes lots that are non-compliant.)
Several neighbors commented, based upon the serious concerns about possible impact, that more information was needed. They also noted that the ADU discussion had now dominated two Contact Team meetings and that they would like a vote at the next meeting on whether or not to proceed with the discussion or to table it pending further information and the results of the Riley/Martinez resolution.
The meeting concluded at 8:30 p.m. Gilcrease thanked everyone for attending and reminded the Contact Team that the next meeting will be held on October 27 at 7 p.m. Reminders and the agenda will be sent out on the HPNA listserv and the Contact Team Yahoo Groups site.
–Submitted by Mity Myhr
Contact Team Secretary