The gold rush is on in East Austin! On Thursday, August 27, for-profit land developers will push the city council to massively and speculatively rezone numerous tracts in modest and low-income communities of color in East and Southeast Austin.

They are hoping to pass these upzonings under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately impacting Austinites of color. The city’s staff and most of the council members appear to support these rezonings, seemingly indifferent to the fact that the properties are located within areas identified as vulnerable to displacement by UT-Austin’s “Uprooted” report.

Over 30 acres of land zoned for single-family homes (SF-2 and SF-3) is proposed for upzoning to higher density at this Thursday’s council meeting. That’s an area of land equivalent to more than 220 residential lots—and the city’s Planning Commission is currently considering recommendations to upzone an additional 14 acres elsewhere in East Austin. And that’s just what developers are pushing for this week.

Some council members and staff arrogantly believe they know what is best for these neighborhoods, and the neighborhood plans that local residents have drawn up are not being respected. Most of the residents understand that these changes are not for them—and that whether the actions of the council displace people by removing existing affordable housing or by increasing land value and taxes, they are being forced to exit their beloved communities. Sadly, upzonings like these have been responsible for much of the displacement of people of color from our city.

Area residents have gathered sufficient valid petitions on a number of tracts to invoke their protest rights. With a valid protest, they need only three of the city council’s 11 members to stick with them and vote against the upzonings. Developers and staff are putting enormous pressure on the council to give them what they want, raising this question: What matters more—the voice of land developers or the voice of East Austinites?’

Please contact Mayor Steve Adler and the rest of our city council and tell them to stop displacement, support the residents’ protest rights, and end this unwanted and unwarranted wave of rezonings. City Hall talks a lot about the need for diversity, fairness, and preventing institutional racism. But it seems to have no qualms about removing people of color through redevelopment and gentrification. Does gold or fairness rule Austin?

This week’s zoning cases before the Austin City Council, with links:

Agenda ItemZoning Case LinkCase NumberAddressCurrent ZoningProposed Zoning
Item 1282020-014129 ZCC14-2020-00225010 & 5102 Heflin LaneSF-4A-NPSF-6-NP
Item 962020-052464 ZCC14-2020-0044316 Saxon Lane and 6328 El Mirando StSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
Item 952020-043147 ZCC14-2020-00396201 Clovis St and 301 Kemp StSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
Item 972020-043107 ZCC14-2020-0038508 Kemp StSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
Item 942020-037120 ZCC14-01-0060200 Montopolis Dr; 6208 Clovis StSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
Item 1252020-037091 ZCC14-2020-0031.SH5201 E Martin Luther King, Jr. BlvdSF-3-NPMF-6, then MF-3
Item 1182019-231905 ZCC14-2019-01643500 Pecan Springs RdSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
Item 1232017-011497 ZCC14-2017-00104500 Nuckols CrossingSF-2MF-4
Item 1032019-155980 ZCC14-2019-0098914 Shady LaneSF-3-NPSF-6-NP

This week’s zoning cases before the Planning Commission, with links:

Agenda ItemZoning Case LinkCase NumberAddressCurrent ZoningProposed Zoning
B052020-074386 ZCC14-2020-00621907 Webberville RdSF-3-NPSF-6-NP
B3NPA-2019-0003.012201, 2203, 2205, 2207, 2209, 2211 & 2301 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 1805 & 1807 Ferdinand Street and 1803, 1805 & 1807 Chestnut AvenueSingle FamilyMixed Use