This information came from the program about Code Compliance put on by the city.
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MEETINGS (published April 6, 2015)
Park in Fact As Well As in Name?
Editor’s Note: Every April for 10 years, Hyde Parkers were amused or confused or sometimes totally fooled and outraged by articles published under the pseudonym of Rollo Treadway. We now know their author was in fact John Kerr, a longtime resident of Hyde Park who sadly passed away this past August. His April pieces were such masterpieces that it just seemed right to give them a second life. The one below was first published in 2007, and reprinted here with minor modifications. Enjoy.
About a year and a half ago, at a monthly HPNA meeting, neighbor Sophie Forsythe proposed turning the stretch of Avenue G between Shipe Park and the Ney Museum into a public space. With the approval of the general membership, a “Paseo Committee” was formed to explore various possibilities. After several encouraging meetings with public officials, the proposal was dropped when vocal opposition developed among some of the neighbors.
However, unknown to the neighborhood, the planning at the city’s Transportation and Land Use Department continued on. The department’s initial recommendation, released in early March, goes far beyond the concept explored by the Paseo Committee and proposes to close all of the lettered north-south avenues in lower Hyde Park, routing vehicular traffic through substantially widened and improved alleys.
The idea is new but not unique. Three other small, upscale communities have undergone similar transformations: Carmel Palisades in California, Grosse Pointe Estates outside of Detroit, Michigan, and Turtle Cove in Dallas. The overwhelmingly positive response of those communities, despite bitter initial opposition, convinced Austin officials to proceed with the project.
Heading the Transportation & Land Use planning team was Ed Reisenweber. A graduate of Stanford’s regional planning program, Reisenweber said the idea was the brainstorm of Stanford’s legendary regional planner Akiro Tanaka, who came up with the idea after viewing the impressionistic 1982 environmental documentary, Koyaanisqatsi. “We all watched the film together,” said Reisenweber. “Tanaka was just blown away. He said he suddenly realized that automobiles and transportation corridors are utilities, just like sewer and water lines. They are absolutely essential, but social interaction and neighborhood aesthetics are best served by keeping them out of view.”
As currently envisioned, alleys would be widened 8 feet on either side and paved. Those between Guadalupe and Avenue A, Avenues B and C, Speedway and Avenue F, and Avenues G and H would run one way north. The other alleys would run one way south. Speedway would remain open to two-way traffic as would all the numbered side streets.
“This is already going on in Austin on a smaller scale,” said Reisenweber. “Look at Central Market or Hancock Center. Imagine how messy it would be if all the trucks unloading merchandise for those stores parked in the regular parking lot. All we’re doing is taking that idea one step further.”
Under the new plan, all vehicular traffic, including UPS and FedEx deliveries, emergency services, and parking would be made through the alleys and the numbered side streets. The Avenues between 38th and 45th Streets would be closed to all except pedestrians and cyclists.
If approved by the neighbors, construction would begin shortly and be completed by the start of the HPNA Historic Homes Tour. Costs would be shared between federal, state and local government agencies. Hyde Park residents would be expected to provide between 2 and 5 percent of the costs, depending on negotiations still underway.
“This is major surgery,” Reisenweber said, “especially if you have to move or shorten your garage. I don’t want to underestimate either the challenges involved or the emotional gratification of the final result.” That sentiment was shared by Richard Tumlinson of Turtle Cove in Dallas. Contacted by phone for this article, he agreed with Reisenweber’s assessment. “It was a royal pain in the keister, I guarantee you,” he said. “But then when it’s over, you look out your front door and ‘Voila!’, a Zen garden.” He said all his neighbors were struck by the sense of calm that descended over a once busy street. Neighbors along his stretch of Lilac Lane pitched in to build a planter down the center of the street, planting it with plumbago, daffodils, and azaleas with a drought-tolerant miscanthus grass border.
The city is putting substantial resources into selling the concept, which it would like to replicate in several other Austin neighborhoods. It is offering to send up to four tour buses to Dallas in early June to allow interested Hyde Parkers to see the Dallas project first hand and talk with the neighbors there. Buses would leave from the Hyde Park Baptist Church parking lot at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning and return by 6 p.m. that evening, with the city providing a box lunch. At the May HPNA meeting, Reisenweber and his team will present the plan, answer questions, and sign up neighbors for the Dallas trip. A final vote is scheduled for the July meeting.
Reisenweber said the final outcome would make Hyde Park “a park in fact as well as in name,” but added he was anticipating opposition. “Anytime you try to take a forward step, there will always be a small but highly vocal clutch of mossbacks, naysayers, enviromaniacs and little old ladies in tennis shoes that comes out of the woodwork to fight you. I don’t expect this will be any different.”
In February, 2014, Austin City Council adopted an occupancy ordinance that limits the number of unrelated individuals in duplexes and homes to four, down from six. The ordinance is limited to two years. As a part of the occupancy ordinance, the Austin Planning Commission was asked to study and make recommendations on code enforcement and violations.
At its February 15, 2015 meeting, the planning commission unanimously adopted recommendations on the occupancy limit ordinance to be sent to the new city council. The recommendations include:
1) newly permitted buildings with designs typical of over occupancy must agree to an inspection after one year (the inspection will ensure that buildings are in compliance with the occupancy limit ordinance);
2) grandfathered structures with repeat violations of the Property Maintenance Code will lose the status that allows them to house six unrelated individuals;
3) Code Compliance investigate housing for over occupancy if there are violations of the Property Maintenance Code;
4) Code Compliance establish a system of escalating fines for repeat offenders, and coordinate communication between departments in order to track violations;
5) City Council institute civil proceedings for code violations, rather than resolve violation complaints through criminal proceedings;
6) City Council extend the occupancy limit boundaries to neighborhoods outside the McMansion Ordinance boundaries (properties from Research Blvd to William Cannon Drive and from Loop 360 to Ed Bluestein Blvd).
In an effort to stop the misuses of single-family zoned property, the Planning Commission recommends creating a new zoning category called “multifamily lite” to encompass duplexes, fourplexes, and sixplexes.
The commission also recommends that council review the effectiveness of the ordinance and consider expanding it beyond the two-year limit. The new council has had one briefing on stealth dorms. They will discuss the issue in more detail in the newly formed special council committees.
Hancock Neighborhood Association
I arrived at Shipe Park on the morning of Saturday, March 7 around 7:30 a.m. to start setting up for the annual It’s My Park Day (IMPD). First thing to do was to set out traffic cones to reserve parking along Avenue F for Austin Fire Department’s Engine #9. Firefighters were expected to show up at the park to meet all the volunteers and sell some cool firefighter t-shirts. Next, members of the City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department (PARD) pulled up with some new park benches and a trash can, which they installed over the next few hours. Landscape materials had been delivered the day before, which were distributed by volunteers—Dillo Dirt at the playing field and mulch around all the trees
By 8:00 a.m. many more folks started showing up, including IMPD project leaders, Rhonda & Philip Baird, who received this year’s second annual Friends of Shipe Park (FoSP) Park Hero award, and Jack and Jill Nokes, with tools, t-shirts & their kind love of all things natural and beautiful—and on and on until we increased our number to easily 300 people. Folks from the Wheatsville Food Coop, the Austin Software Council, and members of a UT fraternity were a few of the larger groups that arrived for the occasion.
By 9:00 a.m., banners from It’s Shipe Park Day sponsors, HPNA & the FoSP, were flying. Participants then swarmed over the park and must have completed in three hours an amount of work which would have normally taken three months. This year’s entertainment, the Lost Pines Band, was thoroughly enjoyed by all. All seemed to be smiling ear to ear; and if they weren’t working, they were dancing.
Thanks are owed to all the organizers and participants. By any measure, IMPD 2015 was as good as it gets. The work performed was perfectly executed by a community of folks who love their neighborhood.
Chair, HPNA Parks & Public Space Committee
In her March article in the Pecan Press (“Invitation to Direct Democracy”), Lorre Weidlich states that “direct democracy can be a disconcerting business.” I agree with that view, but unfortunately she glosses over its real, and deeper problems.
All democratic processes will find it challenging to satisfy the three conditions James Fishkin’s lays out as necessary for real democracy: deliberation, participation, and equality at the same time. HPNA‘s direct democracy seems to me to fall short on the latter two conditions.
First, Hyde Park has thousands of residents (in addition to business and non-resident property owners) who are affected by HPNA decisions, and so widespread participation using face-to-face meetings is an almost impossible task. This could be addressed somewhat by technology, but it would require that the organization be open to change and be determined to do the work needed to overcome such a challenge.
And second, because the votes and deliberations are taken only at monthly meetings, those with commitments to family and work (or indisposed for whatever reason) have a less equal chance of having their views taken into account. It does not necessarily mean that these individuals do not care about what gets voted on at HPNA. To take the ADU issue as an example, when the Contact Team offered the opportunity to take an online survey on ADUs or when Friends of Hyde Park sponsored an online ADU vote, people cared enough to register their opinions on the issue in significantly greater numbers than voted in person at an HPNA meeting.
Further, the lack of renters and non-resident property owners in HPNA also speaks to its lack of equality. The first group represents 80% of the residents, but only a small fraction of the HPNA voters; and the second group commands a significant share of Hyde Park property values (apartments, churches, businesses) but are not even allowed to vote.
The reason that participation and equality are important, and that this is not just a tempest in a teapot, is that the positions of HPNA are relayed to the city as the voice of “the neighborhood,” with the intent of influencing city officials. It could be said to exercise power in other ways also. For example, anyone seeking a variance from the city is asked whether they have talked to “the neighborhood,” when what is meant is whether they have talked to HPNA.
No one is arguing that HPNA is a not a democracy for those who show up at meetings, but it would be hard to argue against the view that more participation and equality would make HPNA a more democratic and responsive neighborhood organization. In looking to the future, I would hope that it becomes less self-satisfied and self-congratulatory, and more self-critical, acknowledging its shortcomings and working diligently to pursue the voices of more if not all neighborhood stakeholders.
Are you interested in sponsoring a Hyde Park Local Historic District sign topper? The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and the City of Austin Transportation Department are partners in the effort to install additional signs throughout the neighborhood.
$100 to HPNA allows you to designate a sign location (within the LHD boundaries) and be recognized as a sign sponsor in the Pecan Press!
Contact Mark Fishman, HPNA Parks & Public Space Committee Chair at 512-656-5505 to sponsor one of these great signs!
Editor’s Note: In December 2012, Oliver Franklin was appointed Museum Site Coordinator (effectively “director”) of the Elisabet Ney Museum. As the following interview reveals, his background, interests, and intellectual perspectives made him a wise choice for this position. His plans for this historical museum located in Hyde Park are ambitious, which will be of particular to neighbors. He has a strong sense of place and a deep love for Austin, a city he originally moved to with his parents in 1971 when he was still in grade school.
Pecan Press: Like Elisabet Ney, your parents had an artistic, bohemian lifestyle. Can you talk a bit about growing up in that environment?
Oliver Franklin: My father, George Franklin, was born in Llano County. My mother, Anne Lacorne Franklin, was Parisian. They ran and owned the Austin Want Ads from 1971 to 1987. Before I was born, though, my parents were deeply involved in theater and the arts in both the US and Europe.
My first home was in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Greenwich Village cold-water flat where my dad spent the late 1950s. As a result, I had an intimate awareness of twentieth century creative history. There are a million stories about my mom, my dad and their luminary friends that I could trumpet but, I suppose like Lorne, Elisabet’s son, I find the stories thrilling but also frankly a bit exhausting. Convention held a very low priority in our home. That said, my parents were wonderful people and had a nurturing impact on many. The resonance with Elisabet and Edmund, her husband, is palpable.
PP: When you were still in elementary school, your parents moved to Austin. How did the move affect you?
OF: I was familiar with Austin because we would spend summer months on the family ranch, and we’d often venture into town to cool off at Barton Springs. I was in the fourth grade when we moved here, so I was too young to sense much culture shock. But it was a beautiful, sweet, tolerant, and thoughtful town. We quickly embraced Austin music, thanks to KUT, KMFA, and KOKE! My parents enjoyed the opera on KMFA every Saturday morning and then Waylon and Willie in the afternoon. By my late teens, my buddies and I cottoned to the ‘Dillo, Luckenbach, and Soap Creek. Then punk rock hit. It was an awesome time, and Austin was a wonderful place to grow up.
PP: Given your background, should we assume you majored in the arts in college?
OF: Well, I did take a lot of art classes; but UT and Austin were so laid back, I didn’t know or care much what I’d major in. After graduating from Saint Stephen’s, I enrolled in Plan II; but I left that program to take random classes I liked until I could figure out what appealed to me. Eventually, I discovered that I was closest to graduating in geography. As it turned out, that was ideal. I loved thinking about how “places” work, how they form and inform people and culture, and vice versa. To this day I am deeply influenced by the intellectual foundation I got from these studies and my professors, notably Robin Doughty, Shane Davies, and Karl Butzer. I am a geographer at heart.
PP: At that point, did you have a career goal in mind?
OF: I aspired to be a professor of geography. I was fascinated and perturbed by the difference between “landscape” and “real estate.” My master’s thesis, “Listen to the Walls Speak: Murals and Symbology in Austin Texas,” explored that notion. The city’s landscape became quite precious to me. It still is. My goal was to earn my PhD elsewhere and return to my beloved Austin to teach.
PP: But something happened to change your direction, leading to your first museum job in the Rio Grande Valley. Can you talk about that?
OF: Well yes. I had an “unstable” ex-girlfriend…and felt I had absolutely no choice but to leave town, immediately. So I packed a bag, threw it into my ’67 Bug, and headed to the border! But while there, I miraculously landed a job as museum educator at what’s now the Museum of South Texas History, in Edinburg.
PP: You had no experience or training in museum work. How did you approach that challenge?
OF: I was scared to death. I was in a place I barely knew. I had traveled in Europe and Mexico but after New York never actually lived out of sight of a moontower. I was terrified of public speaking. I didn’t even really like museums!
At first I figured I’d give it a year, then get my PhD. But I soon fell in love with the work. The kids I taught were amazing: loving and delightful and yet so utterly poor and deprived. I thought I could perhaps apply my studies to help them. If ever there was a community that needed a “secular church,” one that celebrated the place/community itself, it was the Valley. And the history was fascinating! So I arranged with school districts to bring whole grades—district-wide—through that museum. I also got very involved in the whole region, on both sides of the Rio Grande, in historic preservation, arts programming, film, theater and much more.
A few years, some terrific stories, and a couple of healthier girlfriends later, it was time to come home. I got an educator job at the Capitol. And then I got married (which I no longer am), and had two enchanting kiddoes of my own.
PP: You eventually worked at the Harry Ransom Center in outreach. For most of its history, it really seemed to do little outreach. Were you hired to change that?
OF: Yes, that was my job, Executive Curator for Public Programs. In 2003, the Ransom Center, with its spectacular collection, had just expanded into the old Huntington Galleries. It was utterly new. At the time, hardly anyone off-campus knew anything about the Ransom Center. I was tasked with changing that.
PP: What do you see as some of your accomplishments there?
OF: I enjoyed so much, but the exhibit-related American ‘Twenties Music Series, featuring sixteen Austin bands playing 1920’s inspired music in five downtown nightclubs including Emo’s (!), with a ribald “Flapper” fashion show to boot…that was amazing. But so were productions featuring local artists like Luke Savisky, Peter Stopschinski, Graham Reynolds, Tosca String Quartet, and more. Fortunately the Ransom Center staff was great, and that made my time there even more special.
PP: Recently then you came to the Ney as the director. What drew you to this position?
OF: I always wanted to manage a facility. And, frankly, the Ney is an astonishing “facility,” a massive kaleidoscope of storytelling. When you look at the legacy of the site, the extraordinary individual at its heart, and the community that surrounds it—all are rich beyond belief. People don’t usually come to historic sites expecting to be challenged. Interested, yes. Inspired, perhaps. But amused? Surprised? Touched? Confused? Never. A big box—a conventional museum—isn’t nearly as much fun. This is terrific.
I would add that the notion of working for the City of Austin itself, and its Parks and Recreation Department, was very compelling. My co-workers, at all levels, are dedicated, smart, and tireless.
PP: Early on, the way the sculptures were exhibited at the museum changed? Why?
OF: We felt that the sculptures had a voice, a unique and distinct one. Indeed, these pieces were absolutely Elisabet’s way of telling stories. She too was in essence a storyteller. The sculptures were her medium. And their voice had become lost. We needed to give that back.
So we stripped away the text. You’ll notice that there are almost no words on the first floor. The more conventional second floor mixes personal items (including her extraordinary bed) and text. But the Tower, a room Elisabet designed for Edmund to write in, is almost exclusively words. That was his medium. Visitors have his words and a typewriter up there with which to ruminate on themelves. That room is about thought, contemplation and, ultimately, sharing. But also silence.
PP: The Ney is a museum without changing exhibits. How does a director maintain ongoing interest, get people to keep coming back?
OF: We will always be exploring opportunities to adjust, to shift focus, and so forth. That said, there are oceans of people in Austin who still have never been to the Ney, which means more people that we can tell her story to.
As for repeat visitors, I firmly believe that museum storytelling—or “docentry”— is a genuine art form, not unlike documentary filmmaking. We push our docents to experiment, to craft their own voice. We also reject the notion of scripts. As a result, one visit can be very different from the next.
Furthermore, what really propelled Elisabet was engagement. She was always cultivating community at Formosa. She sustained that with her ever active mind, always willing to converse, challenge, and inspire, and ask that of her visitors. So we aim to follow her example through vigorous programming.
PP: What are your major goals at this point?
OF: I never want to do anything that’s ever been done before. So we challenge ourselves to come up with terrific new ideas for programs, interpretive strategies, events and installations, ones that will be insightful, unexpected, and fun. Increasingly creative collaborations are coming that we think will really excite people. You can count on that. And it’s gratifying that PARD is willing to let us be creative here.
PP: You will also be working on the buildings and grounds. What’s on the horizon?
OF: Well, the historic prairie recreation is doing precisely what we hoped—becoming a beautiful natural landscape, with some spectacular spring and fall flowers. There are precious few spaces in the central city like it. It’s also a unique educational asset, and subdued interpretive signage will appear soon.
The north side of the creek, essentially a void for so long, is prime now to assume its own character. I am very pleased with the way our events, the new signage at 45th, and the Lodge paintings have infused personality there. It’s so nice to see people picnicking under the trees. Within the next few years, we hope to have “the Lodge” renovated into our offices, classrooms, and galleries. That’s also urgent because we yearn to open the main building’s spectacular basement to visitors.
The main building will also undergo another phase of major work in order to provide the best environment possible for the house and its contents. To accomplish all this, we will have to raise money—mostly through grants. This effort will start in earnest this spring.
PP: The building is historic. Any chance it could become a National Historic Landmark?
OF: It would be a high honor. The Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion are Austin’s only NHL’s. But we have a strong argument to make for the Ney, one that will only strengthen as more people become aware of us.
PP: How do you see the Ney and Hyde Park having a mutually beneficial relationship?
OF: When Elisabet built Formosa, Hyde Park was in its infancy. The Elisabet Ney Museum has been a part of Hyde Park forever and it will be forever. We benefit so much from the love and care our neighbors have for Elisabet’s home. The Ney has increasing international stature, and people from all over the world come and are enchanted by Elisabet, her story, her home, and her community. All in all I believe that as the years go by, the neighborhood and the museum will continue to enrich each other symbiotically and organically. I certainly will do everything I possibly can to ensure that that relationship remains robust, healthy, and intimate.
Adapted from the New York Times
We have a small flock of hens, so we’re always on the lookout for delicious ways to use lots of homegrown eggs! Currently, we have three hens—Chicksie, an Ameracauna who lays bluish-green shelled eggs; PioPio, a Silver-laced Wyandotte (brown eggs); and Fauna, a Gold Star (brown eggs). We raised them from day-old chicks and enjoy watching them forage in the yard.
If you are interested in backyard hens, the Funky Chicken Coop tour is on April 4 this year and is a great way to learn more about keeping chickens and different types of coops. For more info, visit http://austincooptour.org/
This dish is great reheated and served the next day. Perfect for making the day before a party, or to pack as lunch during the week. It is easier to make than it might seem and is really delicious.
Time: About 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
375 grams all-purpose flour, about 3 cups, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ pounds washed greens (a mix of chard, spinach or other greens) – or one 10 oz. and one 16 oz. package of frozen spinach (or other leafy greens), thawed and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing pastry layers
3 cups diced onion
Salt and pepper
Grated nutmeg, to taste
1 cup ricotta
3 ounces grated Parmesan
9 large eggs
2 teaspoons sugar, optional
(Editor’s Note: Are there readers out there who have other great recipes to share with neighbors? If so, please submit them to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.)
As noted in the February issue of the Pecan Press, I am now serving as the chair of the Hyde Park Tree Preservation Committee. I am excited to take on this role and look forward to tre(e)mendously serving the neighborhood!
Dendrolatry and tree preservation are embedded in the soul of Hyde Park. Monroe Shipe, the original developer of Hyde Park, understood the value and mythical nature of trees; and a number of his original plantings remain along our streets and avenues. Attention was certainly given to the preservation of the Central Texas ecosystem in the envisionment of the neighborhood as evident with the many heritage trees that remain today. Frank “Fruit Tree” Ramsey, whose nursery existed for decades north of his 45th and Avenue B residence, continued this legacy by making pecans, crepe myrtles, and other fruiting trees available to residents.
A host of Hyde Parkers have served in various roles of tree preservation in the neighborhood and throughout Austin. For example, Dorothy Richter and Margret Hofmann were involved with the original Tree Preservation Ordinance as well as the Heritage Tree amendment in 2010. In addition, other dedicated neighbors played a significant role in documenting the historic landscape at the Elisabet Ney Museum, as well as assisting with readjusting the clearance standards for tree trimming along utility right-of-ways.