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Around and About the Avenues – July 2014

New Hyde Park Community Garden To Serve Those in Need: The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association in partnership with the Trinity United Methodist Church has developed a plan to operate a community vegetable garden on church grounds aimed at providing folks in need with fresh, healthy produce.  A grant has been applied for from the City of Austin, Office of the Mayor’s “Love Your Block, Austin!” program, to get the project off the ground.  The Hope Food Pantry, currently operating at the church, will distribute the food.  Opportunities for volunteer participation in the project will be announced in time for the first planting in the fall.  For more information contact Mark Fishman of the HPNA’s Park & Public Space Committee.

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Celebrate the New Trail at the Ney:  The last few months has seen the creation of the Western Trail addition to the Elisabeth Ney Museum’s Historic Landscape Recreation.  Connecting an opening on Avenue G near the Waller Creek Bridge to a spot along the carriage drive in front of the museum, this trail allows visitors a first-hand experience of the landscape, a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat.  Residents are invited to a gathering on Thursday July 17at 1:00 p.m. to thank the many parties involved in its creation: the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association; Friends of Shipe Park; Boy Scout Troop 1936, sponsored by the First English Lutheran Church and its supporters; new Eagle Scout Sean O’Connor; The Texas Conservation Corps, a Division of American Youth Works; and of course the Austin Parks Foundation, which funded the majority of the work.  Refreshments will be served.

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Graffiti Patrol:  This group conducts quarterly graffiti cleanups in Hyde Park as a group, with.several members also doing considerable work on their own.  Thanks are owed to George Wyche, Liz Lock, Doris Coward, Adrian Skinner and Kate Musemeche for participating in cleanup efforts on March 29 or May 17 or both.  Those interested in participating in the future should contact Lisa Harris.

From the Desk of the Co-Presidents – July 2014

During the past several months, while the Contact Team has been discussing the possibility of amending the Hyde Park NCCDs to allow accessory dwelling units on lots between 5750 and 7000 square feet, one thing that has become apparent is that, despite efforts at explanation, many Hyde Park residents are not clear about just what the Hyde Park Contact Team is and what its relationship to HPNA is.

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and the Hyde Park Contact Team are two entirely separate organizations.  While HPNA has an official liaison who attends the Contact Team meetings and keeps HPNA informed about the actions of the Contact Team, neither organization is a committee or functionary of the other.

In 2000, Hyde Park created a Neighborhood Plan under the direction of the City of Austin.  Other geographical areas did the same, although in all other cases, the geographical areas were not one individual neighborhood like Hyde Park but larger areas consisting of several neighborhoods.  Hyde Park is the only individual neighborhood that has its own Neighborhood Plan.  Several years later, the City of Austin created Contact Teams to handle those neighborhood plans.  Just as Hyde Park is the only individual neighborhood with its own plan, Hyde Park is the only individual neighborhood with its own Contact Team.

The mandate of the Hyde Park Contact Team, according to its bylaws, is “to review and make recommendations on all proposed amendments to the adopted Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan.”  The purpose of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, on the other hand, is 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.”

The Contact Team and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association differ in the following ways:

  • Eligibility for membership: The HPNA is open to anyone who lives in (or within 300 feet of) Hyde Park, both owners and renters.  The Hyde Park Contact Team includes property owners, residential renters, and business owners with a physical Hyde Park address upon which they pay taxes.
  • Dues: The HPNA has dues; the Hyde Park Contact Team does not.
  • Voting requirements: The HPNA requires a 30-day waiting period after an individual pays dues; the Hyde Park Contact Team requires that an individual must have attended a meeting within the past 9 months.
  • Meetings: The HPNA meets monthly; the Hyde Park Contact Team meets quarterly.

In practical terms, what does this mean?  For one thing, it means that if you want to be able to have input into the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, you need to join the Contact Team.  This isn’t difficult; just show up at the next meeting (July 28).  Your voting rights will be secure for the following nine months and you will receive agendas of upcoming meetings, so you can attend those that announce votes on topics that concern you.  For another thing, because the constituencies of the two groups differ, it is possible for the HPNA and the Hyde Park Contact Team to come down on different sides of the same issue.

The best thing that you, as a concerned Hyde Parker, can do is to become a voting member of both groups and attend meetings for both groups.  It is the only way to be sure that you have a say in any and all issues that arise in the Hyde Park neighborhood.


–Kevin Heyburn and Lorre Weidlich

HPNA Co-Presidents

HPNA Meeting Minutes: June 2, 2014

Lorre Weidlich, co-president of HPNA, called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.  The first order of business was a proposed resolution consisting of a membership-requested letter to Austin City Council in which the city was asked avoid in the future the kind of zoning errors made during the permitting process for The Adams House Bed & Breakfast.  A motion to accept the draft resolution was seconded and time was provided for a reading of the resolution.  A proposed amendment to change the tense of the word “supports” to “supported” passed by a majority vote with one no vote recorded.  An amendment to remove “precedent” language in favor of “and should not be used by the City of Austin as a reason to grant future variances” was also passed.  Finally, a requested amendment to change references of “The Adams House” to the address of the property also passed.  The final amended text of the resolution passed by a vote of 20-0-3 and can be found at

Kathy Lawrence led the second order of business: a discussion of infill tools focusing on reduced lot sizes for accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  In April, neighbors heard a presentation at the Hyde Park Contact Team meeting related to the city infill tool that allows ADUs on lots larger than 5750 sq.ft.  Larry Gilg provided a summary of the Contact Team meeting discussion.  (The minutes of the meeting were summarized in June’s Pecan Press.  The primary motivation to modify the neighborhood plan to allow ADUs on smaller lots is to help homeowners stay in their homes.  Neighborhoods continue to lose longtime residents to gentrification and increasing property taxes.  There is a need to ensure that measures are in place in any adopted plan that would prevent developers from building inappropriate structures.

Sharon Brown shared her thoughts on some questions about what this could mean for Hyde Park.  “We all want what’s best for the neighborhood.  The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan identifies areas for density such as along the Guadalupe Corridor.  Would accessory dwelling units on smaller lots bring new unwanted stealth dorms and duplexes?  How will ADUs positively impact affordability?  Who will benefit the most from them?”

Mike Wong from the Northfield Neighborhood Association presented information about the challenges ADUs and other city infill tools have created for our neighbor to the north.  Noting a difference in housing stock age and type, Mike provided an inventory of infill tools adopted in Northfield:  small lot amnesty, cottage lots, secondary apartments, and corner stores.  Presentations by city staff about infill tools were misleading in their representation of the types of units that would be built under infill.  Developers took advantage by purchasing many affordable lots in the neighborhood, tearing down the primary structure and creating undesirable development.

One of the concerns cited about small lot amnesty involves modified row houses with inadequate parking since small lot amnesty allows .65 floor-to-area ratio (FAR) instead of .40 FAR.  Kathy Lawrence posed the question, “What should we do to make this work for us?”  Mike Wong answered, “Make occupancy limits permanent and potentially lower.  Owner occupancy might also help in the first generation.  Increase homestead rights to encourage owner occupancy and discourage sale for profit to developers.  Add protections into the neighborhood plan.  Create a nonprofit redevelopment corporation that promotes the type of development the neighborhood wants and create well-defined design standards.”

The discussion about ADUs ended with affirmation that the conversation would be ongoing and participation from all neighborhood stakeholders ensured.  Hyde Park Neighborhood Association members and residents at large were reminded of the Contact Team meeting voting requirements: you must attend at least one Contact Team meeting within the prior 9 months to be eligible to vote at the next Contact Team meeting, with only one vote per household permitted.  More information is available on Contact Team Yahoo group postings.


–Submitted by Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner

HPNA Co-Secretaries


People with nothing to do

are dangerous.

people with too much to do

are dangerous.

people who walk past a

sliding board

without being tempted

are not dangerous.

They have succumbed.


–Albert Huffstickler

Pecan Press June 2014

PecanPress July 2014

HPNA Resolution Regarding The City Of Austin And The Adam’s House B&B

The following is the text of the letter sent to the City of Austin from the HPNA:

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association resolves to send the following letter to City Council, the Board of Adjustment, the Planning Commission, the Historic Landmark Commission, the City Manager, the Historic Preservation Office, and the Planning and Zoning Department:

The membership of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association wishes to address several issues related to the improper permitting of an addition to 4300 Avenue G, Austin, Texas 78751.

The membership of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association is concerned and disappointed about the way the City of Austin mishandled the permitting of the 4300 Avenue G addition. The inability of the City of Austin Planning and Zoning Department to apply the standards clearly stated in City Code led to loss of time and money, confusion, and disagreement.

The HPNA supported the owners of 4300 Avenue G in their attempt to request redress from the City of Austin. However, the HPNA resents being put in the position of having to choose between our neighbors and our protections. Our support for corrective action is limited to this particular circumstance and should not be used by the City of Austin as a reason to grant future variances.

As a result of numerous permitting errors observed over a period of years, we insist city zoning be applied correctly under any and all circumstances. Further, we expect the city to invest in additional resources and staff training and to renew its attention to detail in order to avoid such errors in the future. Hyde Park already provides an advisory body, a Development Review Committee, to assist with the development process. However, the final responsibility for correct permitting and code enforcement lies with the City of Austin, and we rely on the City to do it correctly.

It is our fervent hope that in the future the City will apply the Code as written, so that the protections it provides for our neighborhood – our NCCDs, our Local Historic District, and the McMansion ordinance – will never again be put into jeopardy, and property owners will not be subjected to stress and expense.

District 9 Candidates Speak At HPNA Forum

At its May meeting, HPNA hosted a discussion between District 9 council candidates Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley. Erin McGann, a more recently announced candidate for District 9, and any other candidate who emerges will be invited to a similar HPNA forum at a later date to be determined. Official filing for candidates does not start until July 21.

The discussion consisted of opening remarks, questions crafted by the HPNA Steering Committee and submitted to the candidates beforehand, questions from the audience, and closing remarks.

Candidates’ answers are excerpted below. The questions are italicized. Because of space considerations, I elected to concentrate on the questions crafted by the Steering Committee. Those interested in hearing the entire discussion can contact me for the audio file (

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 the city manager and council members be improved?

District 9 Candidates


Councilmember Chris Riley: One of my frustrations is that the City Council in its current at-large system has not really done that well in regard to city services. When I was growing up, Jake Pickle was always a mentor. One thing that he was known for was his great constituent services. This council has had a harder time doing that. I’m hopeful with this new 10-1 system that there will be a councilmember to go to, someone whom you know. This council member needs to be responsive, needs to go to the city manager, and needs to know that he is going to get a good response.

I think that the city manager needs to be proactive about providing information to the council. We’ve had some issues with that over the way things have been working. The manager needs to be responsive when the council acts; we need to get a good and timely response.

The last thing I’ll say is that the manager needs to be open to change, especially at this time as we enter a new system. Our citizens have clearly indicated that they want a change in the way our city government is handled. Our manager frankly has not been that open to change in the past. Staff don’t feel free to speak up. We need to get better about embracing change, both within city staff and in regard to changes requested by council members.

Council Member Kathie Tovo: A lot of our job really is constituent services. One of the things my staff spends a lot of time doing is responding to various queries that come in. It is really important to have a city manager whose staff understands that they need to work with us a little more directly.

The question asks about a strong city manager form of government and some people have asked about whether it would be appropriate to consider at this point a strong mayor form of government. I really support the balance as it currently exists; but there is at times a tension between the city manager and the administrative functions of the city and the council and its policies. Our city manager has several times said he has not worked in a city where the council brought forth so many initiatives and that just shocked me. Part of how we respond to our constituents’ needs is by introducing initiatives or responding with new programs or other kinds of resources that we feel are appropriate. He indicated to me that in the previous cities those kinds of things really came through the staff or it came through more of a committee function.

I feel that our elected officials need to be accountable to the people. They need to be able to respond to the needs that they see in the community. [She discussed two examples: cemetery cleanup and a safer housing initiative.] In the new system, I think the current balance we have works but we have to elect council members who are going to stand up and say, My constituents want this to be a public discussion and we are going to put it on the agenda.

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 as a council member to preserve the character of central Austin neighborhoods?  What do you plan to do if elected as the District 9 representative?

Kathie Tovo: I got involved in local issues through my neighborhood association (Bouldin Creek). We had tremendous development pressures. There was a lot of discussion within the neighborhood about how we could preserve the character of that ‘hood. Long before I was on council, neighborhood preservation was a focus of mine. I was involved as a citizen down at city hall advocating for the McMansion ordinance, and a lot of other zoning and land use issues, and also as a planning commissioner.

As a council member, I have stood with neighborhoods time and time again on controversial zoning cases that I thought really threatened neighborhood preservation and character. [She discussed two examples: the rezoning of property in the Allendale-Brentwood area for Little Woodrows and an amendment to the downtown Austin plan.] Austin will grow but it is up to us to decide how it does and make sure it happens in accord with our community values.

Chris Riley: I was president of the neighborhood association downtown for five years. I was appointed to the Planning Commission; I served there for six years including two years as its chair. When it comes to neighborhood preservation, even going beyond zoning cases, I have always strived to be accessible and responsive to neighborhoods. There are so many issues about neighborhoods that go well beyond any particular zoning case. There are issues about noise that come up; there are issues about parking. [He gave examples of issues for which he sponsored resolutions: relocation of billboards, noise from refrigerator trucks, notification of a contact team whenever fee in lieu was approved instead of a sidewalk being built, and extension of the life of demolition permits.]

One area that has been a particular interest of mine is dealing with parking issues and that continues to be a big problem, especially in areas that are close to a commercial corridor. I sponsored the ordinance implementing a parking benefits district program that’s now in place in places like West Campus. Now, as a result of that program, they are generating hundreds of thousands of dollars per year that they are putting toward creating a better sidewalk network.

 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?

Chris Riley: This is a huge issue and at the top of our list. A lot of it came up in the context of the occupancy limits ordinance that we put in place. I was a co-sponsor of that item. We needed to put that in place but it really wasn’t going to address the underlying problem. The underlying problem is that there is a huge pressure, development pressure, on the area. A lot of people want to live around here and they want to live in places that are fairly close to the university and the central city, and they are willing to live in fairly small units. We are going to see those pressures manifest in other sorts of ways.

And in order to really address the problem we have got to make meaningful progress towards the goals that are set out there in our comprehensive plan. It envisions a variety of housing options available all across the city to meet the changing needs and preferences of our ever-growing and changing population. We’ve got a lot of great single-family housing; we’ve got some medium size apartment buildings; we’ve got some high rises in West Campus and downtown, but there’s not a lot in between. Other cities have a broad spectrum of what they call the missing middle type of housing options that include things like row houses and triplexes and 4-plexes. That’s the sort of thing that we’re going to have to get better at allowing here in Austin. I’ve been sponsoring efforts to make more housing options available all across the city [He discussed micro-units as an option.]

One option I think we should be considering is easing up on some of the parking requirements. If someone is willing to live in a smaller unit and give up their car, that option ought to be available to them at least in some place like a transit corridor. [He discussed other examples of housing options that included not owning a car.)

West Campus has been kind of a laboratory for a lot of creative affordable housing options. [He discussed the fee in lieu program used in West Campus.] We’ve had a lot of success with other affordability programs elsewhere.

Kathie Tovo: On council, I’ve been very supportive of our affordable housing efforts. When the bond failed in 2012, I advocated that we find some money within our surplus of that year to provide some matching money for some of the projects that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. A few meetings ago I sponsored a resolution to look at several tracts of publicly owned land and to look at them across a variety of criteria to see which might be available for the development of family-friendly housing. One of the criteria I identified had to do with our schools. One of the ways that the city can really work with school districts to try to effect changes is to look at the areas of town where we have those under-enrolled schools, which are primarily in the central city, and try to put some family-friendly housing in there.

One of the frustrations for me was watching the council not use the tools that we had in our toolbox. [She discussed two examples: the downtown density bonus program and how developers ask for rezoning instead of using that program and the planned unit development program, which requires a community benefit, one of which is affordable housing.] We have tremendous development taking place throughout our community and it’s appropriate to ask, as people are asking, if developers are coming forward and asking to build a higher building, a bigger building, and that’s compatible and appropriate given their context, we should be asking for them to help us meet this huge gap in housing in our community.

Then I want to address the parts of the question that talked about current residents being taxed out of their homes. In the last budget cycle, we did a lot of work to try to keep that tax rate level. It wasn’t easy and it took several of us really combing through that budget identifying places for cuts. There are other things we need to keep our eye on such as utility rates. I fought back against the huge Austin Energy rate increase. We do invest as a city in incentives for businesses. At a time when lots of businesses are coming to Austin without those, I think we need to seriously reevaluate whether or not to support them and provide public resources in the form of incentives. I certainly have supported some incentives, but the last few, I haven’t, because I think we are at a point in Austin where we’re experiencing such growth—it’s such an appealing place to come—that we don’t need to provide those.

Infill In Hyde Park: Some Cautionary Considerations

The infill option of allowing secondary dwelling units on lots smaller than what is now legally allowed has been raised in several issues of the Pecan Press and at Contact Team meetings. It’s important to think carefully about what’s been presented and to ask serious questions.

According to The January 27, 2014 Contact Team minutes, Councilmember Riley referred to options that Hyde Park currently has in place, specifically higher density corridors along outside edges of neighborhoods, so that pressure can be lessened on the interior of the neighborhoods. The same density choice is in the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan approved by City Council, number 8 of the Top 10 Priorities: Develop a corridor plan through future Smart Growth corridor planning effort for the Guadalupe corridor.

Would secondary dwellings on smaller lots deter stealth dorms/super duplexes?

Now that City Council passed reduced occupancy limits, the primary way to discourage stealth dorms is for the city to enforce limits, thereby making such structures less profitable in the future. Fortunately, the original part of Hyde Park is a Local Historic District. The part of Hyde Park north of 45th street is not so protected, which means demolitions are easier to do in that area. Therefore, it could be economically viable for a developer to buy a small lot, demo the existing structure, and build a sizeable house with a garage apartment for multiple renters with multiple cars in each.

How would second dwellings offer affordability?

Affordability relates to rent and to the construction of the second dwelling. At the April 28 Contact Team meeting, architect Michael Gatto estimated that a 1-bedroom/1-bath apartment in Hyde Park would rent for $1200 to $1500 per month. For whom is that affordable?

Mr. Gatto also estimated the minimum construction cost for that apartment to be $100,000. The increase in homeowners’ taxes would reduce any profit from rent.

If this cost in relation to potential rent doesn’t result in a beneficial bottom line estimate, Mr. Gatto suggested a deal with a financial entity that would lease the second dwelling portion of the lot and split the rent by some percentage over 30 to 40 years. That definitely would require expert advice to understand.

Who could potentially benefit from the secondary dwelling units on smaller lots?

Here are some possibilities: homeowners on lots less than 7000 sq. ft., commercial short-term rental owners with small lots on which to build more such units, developers who buy houses on small lots and add a secondary dwelling, and the financial entity mentioned in the previous question.

What would change as a result of secondary dwelling units on smaller lots?

Here are a few ideas: additional housing in Hyde Park, more cars parked in the neighborhood, some on very narrow streets; more impervious cover, even if it is within the legal amount; and, most important, unanticipated events when the five-year assistance is over or if the houses are sold. In addition, since many trees grow at the back of lots, some would be removed to make space for secondary dwellings and parking areas off of alleys. I’m guessing all of us have noticed, when turning off streets that border our neighborhood, that it is immediately cooler as we drive on our shady streets.

Is it reasonable to trust the city to apply building codes correctly and to enforce codes for affordable rent, impervious cover, and numbers of cars and residents?

When representatives from Austin’s permitting and code enforcement staff gave a brief talk at a HPNA meeting several months ago, one of them said frankly that they have a huge turnover in their staff, which means they cannot do everything the city needs. Many neighbors are aware of serious problems for homeowners and neighbors that this situation has caused.

How can we get the city to require affordable housing in all new apartment construction?

Councilmember Tovo at the HPNA meeting on May 5 commented that she supports requiring developers to include affordable units when they build new apartment buildings.

We’ve been offered statistics on local and national trends and anecdotes from other cities that are worth noting. Most important is that we preserve the character, beauty, trees, safety, and treasures of Hyde Park—the reasons we live here. For most of us, our home is the biggest investment we’ll ever make and we must think carefully about any permanent changes that might jeopardize what we and others value in Hyde Park. I look forward to more conversations with more neighborhood stakeholders regarding this infill option of secondary dwelling units on small lots.

–Sharon Brown

Editor’s Note: For a related article, see “The Proposal For Secondary Dwelling Units On Small Lots”.

The Proposal For Secondary Dwelling Units On Small Lots: A Report From The Contact Team Meeting

On April 28, The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (HPNPCT) held an open forum for neighbors to consider an amendment to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan that would allow secondary dwelling units on residential lots of 5750 sq. ft. or more. For most of Hyde Park today, the minimum lot size for a secondary dwelling unit is 7000 sq. ft.

The HPNPCT is a group of individuals designated to be the stewards or advocates of their adopted neighborhood plan. They work with city staff towards the implementation of their recommendations, review and initiate plan amendments, serve as community points of contact, and work on behalf of other neighborhood stakeholders. A contact team is different from a neighborhood association. The latter generally takes on a wider range of neighborhood issues, while the former focuses on implementing the neighborhood plan.

The recent meeting was the first step in determining whether stakeholders in Hyde Park support the idea of allowing secondary dwelling units (SDUs) on lots smaller than now allowed, and the issues that might stand in the way of this being adopted by neighbors. After introductory remarks from Pete Gilcrease, Contact Team chair, there were presentations and remarks from Michael Gatto, Larry Gilg, and Bill Spelman. Time was then allotted for questions and expressions of concern from among the 75 attendees.

Michael Gatto, an architect with the Austin Community Design and Development Center, is a principal in the Alley Flats Initiative (AFI) in Austin, a collaborative project of The Austin Community Design and Development Center, The University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development, and The Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. The long-term objective of the Alley Flat Initiative is to create an adaptive and self-perpetuating delivery system for sustainable and affordable housing in Austin. The “delivery system” would include not only efficient housing designs constructed with sustainable technologies, but also innovative methods of financing and home ownership that benefit all neighborhoods in Austin.

Michael presented information on several housing types built as secondary dwelling units in the past several years and discussed issues with site development regulations, funding models and demographics that illustrate how affordable housing units in Austin have been forced to the margins of the city since 1998. Michael’s presentation can be downloaded from the Contact Team Yahoo group.

This was followed by my presentation on the specific proposal up for discussion at the meeting, with some preliminary data on the number of lots and population of Hyde Park. This presentation in also online on the website cited just above.

The number of new residents that this proposal will realistically bring to the neighborhood is about the same as the population decline in Hyde Park from 2000 to 2010. Developed by Hyde Park Residents, the Neighborhood Conservation Combining District (NCCD) is an overlay to the city’s zoning code that provides specific land use regulations for Hyde Park. The NCCDs currently allow SDUs on lots as small at 5900 sq. ft. in certain areas of the neighborhood. This proposal would require an amendment to the NCCDs to allow SDUs on all lots greater than 5750 sq. ft. Among the reasons for making this proposal are the following:

• Create new housing units while respecting the look and scale of the single-family neighborhood
• Make more efficient, low impact and sustainable use of land and infrastructure
• Provide a mix of housing that responds to changing family needs and smaller households
• Serve as a means for residents, particularly seniors, single parents, and families with grown children, to remain in their homes and maintain connections to the security, companionship and resources that they have developed in the neighborhood
• Provide a means for adult children to give care and support to a parent in a semi-independent living arrangement
• Help ensure that Hyde Park remains a walkable community, with neighborhood businesses, churches, public services and civic organizations that can rely on neighbors’ patronage for their viability.

City of Austin Councilmember Bill Spelman was the final presenter and reinforced some of the statistics that were presented earlier about the growth of Austin and the resulting housing needs. He emphasized the necessity for getting input from a broad group of stakeholders and to make sure we work to address concerns that arise.

Following these comments, we opened the floor to questions and concerns. Among the concerns raised at the meeting were:

• Fear that developers will demo existing homes and build a “stealth dorm” on the site
• The property tax increase on residential lots with the addition of an SDU is too high to make the finances work
• It not clear that this addresses the affordable housing issue
• Traffic and parking in Hyde Park will get worse
• The number of new units that could be built is nowhere near the number needed
• The city should focus on more housing options in transit-oriented developments with much higher density along corridors outside the neighborhood
• UT should provide housing for its students
• Previous attempts to work with UT have not produced good outcomes.

The Contact Team plans to follow up with a questionnaire for those who attended the meeting to determine the level of support for the proposal, and to make sure concerns are noted and addressed. An expanded questionnaire will be posted on SurveyMonkey from June 15 to July 15. Please let me know if I’ve missed something in this report.

Editor’s Note: For a related article, see “Infill in Hyde Park”.

A Better Use For Hancock Green Space

Today, like just about any other beautiful spring day, I witnessed 23 parents and about the same number of children at the soccer field which is crammed into the northeast corner of the large tract of land known as the Hancock Golf Course. Playing golf: less than a dozen people. These numbers are typical of many days throughout the year: two to four times the soccer players as golfers on 10% of the land for soccer and 90% for golf.

Sometimes I see young adults in what appear to be pickup soccer games. I think this is an unauthorized use of the field, which contributes to the premature seasonal destruction of the turf. Yet the parents of the pickup players pay the same taxes for this land as do the golfers, as do you and I. They no doubt feel entitled to their public land.

I’ve long considered Hancock to be a jewel in the neighborhood crown—but it’s a crown scant few of us ever touch. We can’t even set foot on the course without violating the rules: golfers only. I wonder why we are paying for such a huge park-like setting that loses money every year as a golf course when we are so starved for any kind of parkland in this area. I do believe it’s time for the neighborhood associations of Hyde Park and Hancock to take another look at this issue.

I love history and I love the idea of having the oldest public golf course in Texas. What I love even more, however, is beautiful parkland available to all people within walking distance. Have you ever been to Central Park? Have you seen how many people flock to its various settings? We have such a possibility right here in our midst. I struggle to understand our protective love affair with the sacred cow called Hancock, which runs in complete contradiction to so many of our other values: unpolluted waters, equal access to all taxpayers, natural open spaces, and family-centered parkland.

I propose we ask the city to sell or lease a small corner of Hancock for development and use those funds to develop the entire grounds into a proper park for all citizens. Let’s admit defeat: virtually no one plays golf there and it’s costing us to prop up that myth. Let’s convert that defeat into a success: change a losing operation for a dozen golfers into an inner city park for hundreds to enjoy every day.

–Paul Carapetyan

Pecan Press June 2014


Scrambling For Eggs

What an amazing day for the Second Annual Hyde Park Egg Scramble at Shipe Park! With a glorious clear sunny sky overhead and morning temperatures in the low 70s, we had a fabulous attendance of neighborhood families at this HPNA event. In its second year of what we hope will become an annual neighborhood tradition, the event wowed over 100 kids of the community with a fun-filled egg hunt. In the words of Adam Wilson, one of the Friends of Shipe Park, “It was an awesome, wonderful, lovely gathering in the sunshine at the park today! So great to see so many bright, smiling faces!”

Egg Scramble 1

After a quick welcome speech by HPNA co-president Lorre Weidlich, the egg hunt was kicked off by HPNA past president John Williams. First up were the littlest ones, ages 0 to 2. It was indeed a great photo opportunity for parents, with their toddlers dressed in their best outfits. Quick to follow were the 3 and 4 year olds, obviously experienced from previous years in picking up as many eggs as they can handle. And finally, the ages 5 and over group. This year, the “5 and ups” lined up and raced across the bridge to hunt eggs on the other side of the creek. Two lucky children found Free Play Passes inside golden eggs donated by Liza Wilson of Toybrary Austin. Afterwards, Lorre Weidlich remarked, “The egg scramble is a great community event. We need more events like it. They’re the glue that holds us together as a neighborhood.”

Egg Scramble 2

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Grande Communications, popcorn, snow cones, and cotton candy were free for all attendees. While the little kids played inside the bouncy house, the older kids fought their way through the bouncy obstacle course. All of them cheered enthusiastically at the much-anticipated arrival of the Egg Scramble Bunny! Even though he is very busy this time of year, he took lots of pictures with kids in the photo booth, provided by Carolyn Grimes of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors. And what a long line for Jasper the balloon twister! Who knew this would be the most popular part of the festivities. It looked like Elsa and SpongeBob Squarepants were the most requested balloon figures! “It was absolutely perfect,” said neighbor Nancy Mims, “I loved getting to chat with neighbors and friends while the kids went bonkers. It was great! And the balloon guy was pure magic.”

Egg Scramble 6

Other sponsors for the event included Walgreens, Bounce Around Austin, and McKinney York Architects. Special recognition is due the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and all the volunteers from It’s My Park! Day for keeping Shipe Park looking so beautiful and readying it for this event.

Egg Scramble 4

The success of this event would not have been possible without all of our volunteer: Summer Seibert, Ashleigh Brown, Phil Seibert, Adam Brunson, Jordan Schmid, Jenna Williamson, Glenda Ripley, Chandler Sager, Edward Harris, Debi Rivier-Harris, Alice From Hyde Park!, Krista Box, Brent Baker, Craig Mitchel, Jake Box, Faith Koehler, Michael Horowitz, Betsy Clubine, Rodney Gibbs, Maury Sullivan, Jose Cabada, Lorre Weidlich, David Conner, Vince Williams, Carmela Williams, Alicia Cabada-Luyet, and Joaquin Reynolds. Special thanks to Todd Pruner for providing the PA system and John Williams for compiling the music playlist.

Egg Scramble 3

And, finally, a thank you to all of our neighbors who came out for the event. We hope to see all of you and more at this event next year on Saturday April 4, 2015. Mark your calendars!

Egg Scramble 5

–Michelle Rossomando and Tim Luyet, Co-Chairs

Recording And Experiencing History

The Pecan Press’s very own photo editor, Lizzie Chen, had the rare opportunity to assist former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8-10th. Kennerly won a Pulitzer in 1972 in Feature Photograph for his Vietnam War portfolio. He has also photographed every American president since Richard Nixon.

Awesome Team

At this event to mark the 50th year since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, President Barack Obama was joined by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Jesse Jackson

As Lizzie tells it, “What an experience this was! I definitely learned a lot from Kennerly and the team of LBJ photographers, including former White House photographer to George W. Bush, Eric Draper. As a photographer, I could not believe I would be editing the photos of photographers whom I admired so much. What I really took away from this experience is to shoot everything; you never know when you are capturing a moment that will become history.”

Bernice King

Besides assisting the White House photographers, Lizzie also had an opportunity to photograph a few of the speakers, including Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s daughter, Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. “It was truly an honor,” she says, “to stand in front of our civil rights leaders and activists who formed a pathway to equality in America. I am still decompressing from this historical event. On the other hand, as Lyndon Johnson said in 1968, ‘We have come some of the way, not near all of it. There is much left to do.’”

Poetry Webinair

They read poetry on the Plaza

on very certain days

during the semester’s seasons

from September until May.


The readers’ words float upwards

from mouth into the sky

trying to catch an intense thought

or a curious slice of life.


For poetry is the distillation

of the moment when everything turns,

spiraling out to latch onto,

and then encase an idea’s germ.


But my little dawn of realization

on this day when the wind is fair:

is the Black Widows’ annual great migration,

on the spider webs in the air.


Their silvr’y strands glint in the sun

as they sail by overhead,

ensnaring the words and thoughts

of poets long thought dead.


Does she follow a twangy vibration,

moving stealthily in for the kill?

Only to find her incisive venom

no match for the writer’s quill?


Then flying away with purloined phrases

no wonder it’s so hard to hear,

I only catch snatches of faraway places

so I’m off to imbibe a beer.


- At UT HRC Plaza, Spring 2013 – E.S.Cuny

Parisian Persemphony

Far beneath the city lies a maze of catacombs,

where the wind courses round whispering over bones,

where mossy stacks of skulls that stare without sight

are revealed to wandering souls in the flickering light.


From somewhere overhead rumble Metro trains,

pushing musty air down their tunneled lanes.

The passengers are dressed in their winter blacks,

swaying silently in unison over staccato tracks.


Then they bustle up the stairs or take the escalators,

past Ukrainian klezmers and the Gypsy beggars,

but the crowd bursts out to an unaccustomed sight –

the overcast has given way, the sky is blue and bright!


Red and yellow flowers signal Springtime has arrived;

people doff their dreary coats – and Paris comes alive!


To Paris, with love – E.S.Cuny

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