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Erin McGann at the HPNA District 9 Candidate Forum

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.

 

Candidate McGann articulates her views for attendees at the September 8 HPNA meeting. Photo: Adam Wilson

Candidate McGann articulates her views for attendees at the September 8 HPNA meeting. Photo: Adam Wilson

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.

And the 2014-15 HPNA Nominees Are…

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.

–Adam Wilson

Nominating Committee Chair

HPNA Meeting Minutes – September 8, 2014

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

HPNA Co-Secretaries

From the Desk of the Co-Presidents – October 2014

September Meeting

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.

ADUs

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.

Shipe Pool

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

HPNA Co-Presidents

Around and About the Avenues – October 2014

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.

*          *          *          *          *

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.

*          *          *          *          *

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)

*          *          *          *          *

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.

 

Pecan Press – October 2014

Pecan Press Oct 2014

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

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