Success! After community members voiced strong opposition and filed a valid protest-rights petition, the real estate developer that was seeking a drastic zoning change in Austin’s historic Montopolis neighborhood has withdrawn its request.
The proposed rezoning would have changed the designation of a single-family lot located 508 Kemp Street from SF-3 to SF-6, allowing the construction of 33 units in the middle of a block of well-established single-family homes. The developer’s request was so egregious that City Hall’s own staff recommended that our city council deny it due to the plan’s extreme incompatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.
Council Members Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Natasha Harper-Madison, Pio Renteria, Paige Ellis, Jimmy Flannigan, and Mayor Steve Adler supported the land developer anyway, and they were scheduled to take a vote on the measure this Thursday. Had they moved forward with the plan, it would have opened the door to similar rezoning efforts in residential neighborhoods throughout Austin.
A group of longtime Montopolis residents mounted a public campaign against the plan because they understood it would lead to displacement in the immediate area of the site—and then to a vicious cycle of new land speculation, further rezoning requests, rising taxes, and even more displacement.
In the end, the public spotlight was evidently more than the land developer and its allies on the council could handle. Austinites need to keep their guard up, though: Soon after the November 3 elections, we are sure to see more out-of-control rezoning attempts like this one. Please stay vigilant!
Community leaders in Montopolis were ecstatic at the developer’s admission of defeat:
Victory! And we couldn’t have done it without all the supporters of equity & Justice. Developers of 508 Kemp have withdrawn their zoning request to build Condos & Townhomes. Affordability Unlocked, coined as “Unaffordability locked” was blocked from entering Kemp Street. This is the second time the Montopolis community has united to fight upzoning on Kemp Street. Victorious once again with so many supporters! Thanks to everyone for staying on the path of justice. Now let’s make sure the City Council gives Housing Bond funds & other funds to the Montopolis Community Development Corporation to build low-income housing.
The developer made verbal promises to build affordable units on the lot, but the commitment would not have been enforceable. Austin-area developers are notorious for breaking their word to neighborhoods, and our city council does not require legally binding restrictive covenants for affordable housing (even though it has the power to make that demand).
Even if built, the “affordable” units would not have been within the financial reach of Montopolis’s current residents. To make its rezoning request, the developer relied on the so-called “Affordability Unlocked” program, which defines an affordable home as one that a buyer making 80 percent of the city’s median family income (or roughly $78,000) can afford. As of today, Montopolis’s median family income is only $30,000.
The moral of the story: Community action makes a difference! After next month’s elections, developers will likely try to rezone pockets of its other single-family neighborhoods on an illegal “spot” basis, and Austinites need to be ready to organize and fight back—just as the families of Montopolis did.
Early voting ends on Friday, October 30, and Election Day is on Tuesday, November 3. If you haven’t voted, please make sure to do so—and do so wisely. Click here for a list of voting locations.
Together we can build an Austin for everyone!