The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed things down for many of us, but our developer-friendly Planning Commission has been anything but idle. It spent the last few months working its way through a list of rezoning requests by land speculators eager to redevelop areas of East and Southeast Austin that haven’t already been gentrified.
The Austin City Council will hear the latest case this Thursday, December 3. The land developer who filed it seeks to upzone a pair of properties in the city’s Stone Gate neighborhood (5010 and 5102 Heflin Drive), one of the last single-family, owner-occupied areas of East Austin where the majority of residents are African-American.
If approved, the rezoning application would allow for the construction of an unknown number of new housing units in an active floodplain, an issue local community members raised in scores of protests filed with the city.
Help us stop gentrification, displacement, and environmental degradation in Stone Gate! Contact the city council today and ask its members to vote against Item Nos. 74 and 75 on the December 3 agenda (the Heflin tracts).
Residents of the Stone Gate neighborhood started working in good faith with Thrower Design, the developer’s agent, shortly after the rezoning application was filed, in early 2020. They also attempted to work with James Shieh, who is both a member of the Planning Commission and the project’s architect, as he sought to shepherd the development through the planning process.
Stone Gate residents had concerns about the project’s impact on affordability and traffic, and they requested a limit on the number of new condominiums, so as not to worsen future flooding:
“The increased density of projects at MLK & Tannehill and directly across the street at the T-intersection of Webberville and Stone Gate will make it impossible to navigate traffic. Or cross the street to walk in those lovely foot paths that every developer promises. Of perhaps greater concern is that the increased impervious cover will exacerbate flooding in this already flood-prone neighborhood.”
—Delaine L., Stone Gate resident
“Since purchasing our home in 2012, the number of times our house has flooded has increased steadily as development in the area has increased. We have already replaced floors and had to have a professional install an expensive drainage system for our house.”
—Amanda W., Stone Gate resident
“I am at a low middle class income level and as senior citizen who is trying to retire next year and will be living on a fixed income, what will happen to property taxes?”
—Moodi L., Stone Gate resident
According to neighborhood residents, the developer postponed the application in August in order to work on these issues with the community. But no further outreach occurred until just before Thanksgiving, when the rezoning application suddenly reappeared—with none of the concessions sought by residents.
In a November 13 email to the neighborhood, Thrower Design announced that its client was pursuing a development with “no limitation on the number of units,” and declared that “area residents are usually misguided.”
The families of Stone Gate are not misguided. Many of them have lived in their homes for decades, and they know more about the risks of overdevelopment and gentrification than most Austinites. They worked hard to buy their houses and create a supportive community, and they don’t deserve to have all of it taken away by arrogant land developers and their allies in City Hall.
Contact Mayor Steve Adler and your representative on the Austin City Council today using the information below. Tell them to vote against Item Nos. 74 and 75 on their December 3 agenda, and tell them to stop the East Austin gold rush! Check this map if you aren’t sure which council member represents you.
Together we can build an Austin for everyone!
You may send a single email to the mayor and all council members using this form.