Category: News (page 1 of 13)

A Farewell to My Neighborhood

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.

2-15-14 John Kerr - large

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.

–John Kerr

The Accessory Dwelling Unit Survey: Method, Results and Aftermath

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.

ContactTeamSurvey0914

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:

  • The contact team mandate to work on behalf of all stakeholders is not a realistic expectation for any deliberative group in Hyde Park today;
  • Given the survey indication of a nearly equal split in opinions on the ADU issue, it’s probably not worth dividing the neighborhood further by advancing this proposal.

–Larry Gilg

National Night Out

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:

  • Getting all of your neighbors to turn on their porch lights
  • Organizing a block party or some type of neighborhood event
  • Registering online at nnoaustin.org.

For any questions, please contact Carol Welder.

–Carol Welder

HPNA Crime and Safety Chair

Contact Team Meeting Minutes: July 28, 2014

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

Around and About the Avenues – September 2014

Portraiture in the Park:  What does “portraiture” mean? How many ways can you make a portrait? What stories do portraits tell? The Elisabet Ney Museum is sponsoring an event to answer these and other questions. Participants think outside the box and find out through music, demos, art activities, caricatures, poetry for kids and more. They can also picnic in the park from food trucks! This event is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m., Sunday Sept. 21 at the museum (304 East 44th St.). Free admission. For more information, call 512-458-2255.

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A New Restaurant in Hyde Park? Well, perhaps not, but a proposal for such at 4500 Speedway has been sent to HPNA. The initial proposal calls for a small neighborhood restaurant of quality that would cater to nearby residents who will walk or bicycle. A zoning change would be required. The initial proposal does not call for expansion of footprint of the current building, and no public parking will be offered. (Owners are offering to assist the neighborhood in obtaining a parking permit requirement for nearby streets.) That this will be a contentious issue was already made clear by a volley of postings on the Hyde Park listserv in July when this possibility first surfaced. Those in favor talked about the need for more amenities in Hyde Park that one can walk to; those opposed raised problems of traffic and congestion. A few suggested that taking sides is premature in the absence of any detailed published proposal. It could very well be that this issue will find itself on the agenda of an upcoming HPNA meeting.

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It’s That Time of Year Again: Fast approaching is this year’s Fire Station Festival. Celebrating the 40th year of the partnership between Fire Station #9 and Hyde Park, this year’s event is scheduled for the late afternoon of Sunday, October 19. With Deaton Bednar as chair, the festival committee is already at work on ideas to ensure that the festival is a memorable one. Details to follow.

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Save the Date: The 38th Annual Historic Hyde Park Homes Tour is scheduled for Sunday, November 9.  A number of outstanding homes have already been selected to be featured during the tour and to represent the historic development of Hyde Park north of 45th Street. Planning is underway, and hundreds of volunteers are needed to make this a successful event and fundraiser for the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. 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’s chair Carolyn Grimes at 512-426-3559.

 

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Free Tutorial Service: Sponsored by the Austin I.S.D., The VICTORY Tutorial Program provides tutoring to students in grades 1 – 12 in Austin-area libraries. This service is offered to all students in the Austin area, including those who attend private or charter schools or are home-schooled. The program is also seeking volunteers. For information regarding location and times of tutoring sessions and the application process, visit the link above or call 512-797-3098.

 

From the Desk of the Co-Presidents – September 2014

A Meeting with the Mayor about Project Connect

One of the hot issues on this November’s ballot is Project Connect, Austin’s proposed first urban rail line. Mayor Leffingwell invited the officers of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for a meeting devoted to that topic on August 7, one of a series of meetings he held with representatives of the neighborhoods most directly affected by the proposed rail line. Co-president Lorre Weidlich, co-vice presidents Kathy Lawrence and Mark Fishman, co-secretaries Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner, and Transportation chair Mike Pikulski attended.

It has been around 15 years since light rail was on the ballot in Austin. The current proposal has taken several years to develop; and if it is defeated, another 10 years are likely to pass before the issue reaches the ballot again. Many details of the current proposal are still undecided; they will not be addressed unless voters pass the proposal.

Mayor Leffingwell assured those of us in attendance that the proposed line was selected due to metrics. It is, in fact, the combination of two lines that were under consideration. He didn’t explain all of the metrics but did touch on the following items:

  • The proposed line accesses a 28-acre area ripe for development. Given Austin’s escalating population, that was a consideration.
  • There are no matching funds available for the Guadalupe-Lamar line, which made it a less appealing choice.

The Mayor and his staff were open to questions and received several. After around an hour, the meeting broke up. Responses to the meeting were mixed. For example, Adrian Skinner said, “While I appreciate the forum the mayor provided to pose questions, there appears to be little desire on the city’s side to address our concerns and no desire to alter the planned ballot measure.” There was no disagreement with the assessment that Austin’s congestion problem needs to be addressed, but there was serious concern over the selected route, because of its duplication of current rail routes between Hancock and Highland ACC and because of perceived preferential treatment toward the University of Texas.

The Ice Cream Social

Shipe Park proved to be a pleasant meeting place for this annual social, and we want to thank Kathy Lawrence and her team of volunteers for making it a success. Several City Council candidates showed up to join us, and we all enjoyed cones and bowls of cool, sweet, and fattening pleasure.

Upcoming

With the descent of fall, the temperature may drop but political activity in Austin is reaching a boiling point. Look to upcoming neighborhood association meetings for opportunities to meet candidates and hear issues discussed.

–Kevin Heyburn & Lorre Weidlich

HPNA Co-Presidents

Pecan Press September 2014

Pecan Press September 2014

HPNA Meeting – September 2014

The September meeting for the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association will be held on Monday, September 8th at 7 pm at the Griffin School. This month we will hold a potluck dinner, so please bring a dish to share with neighbors. The Nomination Committee will introduce candidates for Steering Committee for the next term. The Contact Team will report about the most recent Contact Team meeting.

Hundreds Attend Shipe Pool Party

July 12th marked the 6th Annual Shipe Park Pool Party, hosted by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and sponsored by Grande Communications. Parents, children, and neighbors alike enjoyed food from Best Wurst and Café Hornitos, late-night swimming hours, and The Lego Movie.

Shipe Park Austin TX

Live music from Brazilian band Os Alquimistas also added to the lively soundscape of laughing children running on the green, watchful adults socializing, and of course, splashing. With hundreds in attendance, the night was a great testament to both community interest in Shipe Park and the bonds between our neighbors.

The impressive turnout came as no surprise to the party’s organizer and Shipe Park activist Adam Wilson, who experienced first-hand the community passion and interest that saw the Shipe Mosaic Mural to its completion last year. While the event was a well-seized opportunity to celebrate the privilege we share in having a beautiful community hub, it was also the time to raise awareness about the threat of losing it.

Shipe Pool Austin TX

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) announced in 2011 that the 80-year-old pool had a mere five-year life expectancy. This summer, shell leakage and pump issues forced temporary closure; and although the immediate problems were addressed, restoring the pool will take more work. The fate of the pool may hinge on the upcoming 2014 PARD Aquatics Assessment report, which aims to determine if city funding would be better spent on smaller neighborhood pools or larger regional pools and splash pads.

Shipe Pool and Park Austin TX

District 9 city council candidates Erin McGann and Kathie Tovo were there to shed light on their campaign views, including the polarizing topic of funding for neighborhood pools. McGann spoke mainly of promoting local business and increasing infrastructure spending, yet expressed a desire to maintain public parks on a regular basis. Tovo declared her commitment to the neighborhood pool system, citing her belief that access to these smaller pools are crucial to sustaining the quality of life for families in the expanding city of Austin. She added that she and her daughters once relied on Shipe Pool while living in a nearby neighborhood, as many without a local pool do today. Ian Davis, who made a brief statement on behalf of candidate Chris Riley, acknowledged his own connection to Shipe Park as a former camp counselor and reflected Riley’s regard for community building.

Shipe Park Austin TX

If you agree that the Shipe Park facilities are an invaluable asset to the strength of our community, there are ways to become involved in advocacy efforts. Jill Nokes, a Hyde Park resident and founding member of Friends of Shipe Park, recommends the following ways to show support:

–Mary Lynam

Staff Writer Intern

Still Inching Forward?

In the February issue, my “Inching Forward” article was an update on the Upper Airport Boulevard Form-Based Code (FBC) Initiative. The title of this new update reflects the pace of developments over these last six months.

An Advisory Group to the initiative was established by City Council in 2010 to represent specific organizations (developers, large and small local businesses, and property owners) with an interest in the Airport Boulevard Corridor between Lamar and IH-35. The group was formed to assist in public outreach and to provide feedback for future development that would foster mixed-use, walkable, bicycle, and transit-oriented development. In December 2011, I was appointed the HPNA representative.

Advisory Group meetings, community open houses, and neighborhood association roundtables were held by the City of Austin Planning and Development Review Department (PDRD) though June 2012. Since that time, the Advisory Group has received periodic updates from Jorge Rousselin, the PDRD Development Services Process Coordinator, regarding the progress of the first draft of the FBC. This working draft was reviewed by city staff, revised with staff input, and then was to be integrated with CodeNEXT initiatives to revise the City Land Development Code (LDC). In an April 2014 email from Jorge Rousselin, the Advisory Group was informed that the CodeNEXT Consultant (Opticos Design) was being brought on board to assist in the completion of the Airport Boulevard FBC.

Opticos Design also recently completed a review and assessment of the city’s LDC. This lengthy Code Diagnosis document, released in May, can be found at http://www.austintexas.gov/department/documents-1.This 92-page document is worth scanning by anyone wishing to be informed about potential changes to the current code. The Upper Airport Boulevard FBC will eventually be integrated with a revised City of Austin LDC.

–Doris Coward

HPNA representative to Upper Airport Boulevard Advisory Group

HPNA Meeting Minutes – July 2014

HPNA Meeting Minutes: July 7, 2014

Lorre Weidlich, HPNA co-president, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. First, an announcement by Adam Wilson about the upcoming Shipe Pool Party on July 12 (see the story on p. 1). Adam mentioned current maintenance issues of the pump and leak in addition to the fact that Shipe Pool is among the few pools in Austin of an age and condition considered to be near the end of life. A report next month from staff of Parks and Recreation will inform a long-term plan for city aquatics. The question is whether the city will choose to maintain smaller neighborhood pools or move to larger centralized pools. Adam stressed that Friends of Shipe Park are advocating for all neighborhood pools.

The main order of business was transportation, the first of two issues being the light rail proposal. Scott Gross, Austin’s Urban Rail Program Manager, presented information regarding the recommended alternative of rail from Highland to Riverside. This is envisioned as just the initial corridor of a system of light rail. Current plans call for 16 stations and four park and ride stations, with estimated ridership of 18,000 weekday riders, resulting in 10,000 cars off the road each day. Alignment would be primarily at grade, with dedicated right of way. $22.1 million is the estimate of yearly operation and maintenance expenses, which would begin in 2022. Fares would cover about 22% of these expenses, with other funding coming from a variety of sources such as sales tax, federal money, and savings from duplicative services. For example, bus routes 7, 10, and 20 would be reworked or reduced/eliminated.

The Central Corridor Advisory Group took action on this recommendation and CapMetro endorsed it, as did the Austin City Council. In August, City Council is expected to finalize the language for a bond proposal, which will also include funds for roadway projects. The bond election would be held this November. Should the bond be approved, this would trigger a few years of study and refinement of plans, including environmental impact statement and details of alignment, station locations, bridges, and tunnels. For more details, visit projectconnect.com.

Scott Morris, from OurRail Political Action Committee, also spoke in favor of light rail, noting reduction of carbon and operation and maintenance costs per passenger mile that are less for rail than buses. However, disputing some of the data used by Project Connect, his group opposes the proposed northern section of the route, favoring instead the currently more dense Guadalupe-Lamar corridor. He argued that the city needs to stop using transportation infrastructure to shape speculative future growth. In other words, its approach needs to change from planning for future growth to serving the existing population.  For more on this group’s perspectives, visit centralaustincdc.org or ourrail.org.

Mike Pikulski, HPNA transportation chair, concluded the transportation presentations with an update on Mobility35. The purpose of this program is to identify and implement short- or mid-term strategies to improve mobility and connectivity along the I-35 corridor from Georgetown to San Marcos. Significant changes are under consideration. One change being studied is the addition of one lane in each direction of I-35, which could be a general purpose, HOV, or toll lane. One proposal would close the ramps at 32nd and 38th. Of much importance to Central Austin are proposed major changes to the frontage road and the entrance/exit ramps at Airport Boulevard and 51st Street. Improving east – west connectivity is also a major focus of planning. Improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists are seen as key by the Department of Transportation. More information is available at http://www.mobility35.org.

–Submitted by Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner

HPNA Co-Secretaries

Right Behind – Poem

I’ve been a lefty for two weeks, now,

What a difference two weeks can make,

I eat very slowly, now,

I feel like my 16-month old grandson,

He is learning to eat—he does not have 100% efficiency, yet

1st pass

He knows that “thing” carries oatmeal to his mouth

2nd pass

The food is on that thing

3rd pass

Got it! Whoops—didn’t make it to the mouth

4th pass

Thing is just thing with a fleck of oatmeal

5th pass

Screw it – I’ll just go direct (at which point, he sticks his face into the bowl)

 

To those of us, watching, me, this is hilarious,

Wait—not so hilarious as practical,

I eat with my left hand (can’t raise the right—surgery on the shoulder)

New understanding—I can identify with my grandbaby,

 

Another interesting bit…

I do the Sudoku and the Scrabblegram, in the newspaper,

Every morning, to kick start my brain,

 

I’m terrible at Sudoku, but, now

As a lefty, I am kickass

 

Must be the right brain opening up,

There are worse things than having to use the non-dominant arm,

I mean, what if I didn’t have one?

 

–Herzele

3/23/13

Taking Leave – Poem

Morning light—clear as

That light inside you somewhere—

A trading post in some small

Town in northern New Mexico—

I don’t remember the name—it

Doesn’t matter—wandering among

The gewgaws for tourists and

The necessities for natives,

Looking for something to take

Back with me, something to

Remind me of all this when I’m

Back home, feeling my chest

Tighten thinking of leaving

This state that has such

Enchantment (yes, enchantment)

For me, going back to work.

Longing. We’re talking about

Longing, longing for the

very space that surrounds you.

Something quixotic, something

Very sad here. This was one

Of my early trips. Later, I

Learned wisdom, learned to

Walk away from it, taking

Nothing with me. That’s the

Good way, that’s the clean way.

 

–Albert Huckstickler at Dolce Vita, June 6, 2000

Agent – Poem

I love to watch the morning come awake

(that’s iambus) sitting in front of the

coffee house on my bench happily observing

the bustle—now that I’m not part of it:

the women so fresh, the men so determined,

the sparrows who nest in the eaves so

pert and eager. I take it all in.

I am the timeless observer, sent here

to record and pass on the complexities

of this planet’s culture, charged not

to interfere. I sip my coffee, light

a cigarette, write it all down. I’m

not in a hurry but I’m aware of time. I

want the record complete when they beam up.

 

–Albert Huffstickler at Quack’s, June 8, 2000

From the Desk of the Co-Presidents – August 2014

This month, we are going to continue the process we began in last month’s letter: clarifying some of the terms that have been discussed—and often confused—during the recent discussions about accessory dwelling units. What is the difference between the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan and the two Hyde Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCDs) and what is the relationship between the two?

What is a Neighborhood Plan?

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan is just what its name implies: a plan. Imagine Austin is a plan for the entire city; it updates the original 20-year-old city plan. The neighborhood plans for the various geographical areas in Austin are additions to the city plan.  A neighborhood plan provides goals that the neighborhood wants to achieve and a vision of the way a specific neighborhood wants to develop over time.

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, which applies to all of the greater Hyde Park area, specifies the following goals:

  1. Preserve and enhance the unique historic and residential character of HP.
  2. Preserve and enhance the unique and historic streetscape patterns of HP.
  3. Promote a neighborhood-friendly system of transportation.
  4. Maintain and improve public infrastructure consistent with existing neighborhood patterns.
  5. Protect and enhance the Guadalupe corridor and other commercial areas.
  6. Foster a genuine community of neighbors of every age and background.
  7. Preserve and enhance the natural beauty, open spaces and watershed systems of the neighborhood.
  8. Promote safety and reduce crime.

Each of these goals has a list of objectives that make the goals more specific.

What is an NCCD?

An NCCD is very different. It is a city ordinance; specifically, it is a zoning overlay. It modifies the basic city land development code. It can make the stipulations in that code either stricter or looser, depending on the patterns prevalent in the neighborhood to which it applies. If an issue is not specified in an NCCD, basic city land development code applies. For example, the Hyde Park NCCD does not specify FAR (floor area ratio). Therefore, the FAR specified in Austin land development code (set by the ordinance known as the McMansion ordinance) applies in the parts of Hyde Park covered by the two Hyde Park NCCDs.

Those two NCCDs are the Hyde Park NCCD, which covers greater Hyde Park south of 45th Street (south to 38th Street, between Guadalupe and Duval), and the North Hyde Park NCCD, which covers the remainder of the greater Hyde Park area (north of 45th Street, between Guadalupe and Red River). Any zoning revision that intends to change the land development standards of greater Hyde Park needs to address and modify both of these NCCDs. The two NCCDs (like the LHD) are designed to implement the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan. That is why they are more precise and more recent than the Neighborhood Plan.

Follow Up to Last Month’s Letter: Advocacy

A further similarity between the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and the Contact Team is that both advocate for their stakeholders. The Contact Team bylaws state the following: “It is also the responsibility of the Hyde Park Contact Team to work on behalf of all stakeholders in the neighborhood planning area.” The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association does the same thing. HPNA bylaws state the following: “HPNA exists to foster a closer, more genuine community of neighbors and to preserve the historic and unique character, amenities, and ecology of the community of Hyde Park. This is accomplished by providing a forum through meetings of HPNA and its committees for pursuing a variety of goals beneficial to the community and by combining the efforts of the residents in effecting the improvement, restoration and preservation of the Hyde Park community.” HPNA advocacy activities range from adopting resolutions intended to promote the welfare of the neighborhood (for example, the occupancy limits resolution) to working toward legislation designed to protect the neighborhood (for example, the NCCDs and the LHD). The crucial difference between the Contact Team and the HPNA is the stakeholders in each group and the scope of each group’s mandate.

Thanks to the Friends of Shipe Park

Our appreciation goes to the Friends of Shipe Park for their organization of our sixth annual pool party. TheLego Movie and wonderful music added up to a great evening of entertainment. We look forward to another great Shipe Park event in August, when we gather there for our annual ice cream social.

–Kevin Heyburn and Lorre Weidlich

HPNA Co-Presidents

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