When I first drove into this city five years ago, I fell head over heels in love.
Lately, my undying love for Austin has been challenged.
I’ve learned the hard way that writing about Austin as though I’ve lived here a long time will provoke scorn, but to hell with it. Even within the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen rapid growth that makes one’s head spin.
Austin has been in influx for decades, but it’s hard for anyone to argue that the “big city” changes have been most prevalent these past 5-10 years.
Unlike LA and NYC- who came into their own decades ago- we’re watching a city grow and mold right before our eyes.
Readers make fun of writers who talk about Austin as though they’ve lived here a long time because they write articles titled this: “Austin is ch-ch-ch-changing: Give up the hate and embrace the non-natives who make our city great.”
This article, which I wrote in January of 2012, was from the perspective of someone who was confused as to why Austinites were leery of out-of-towners moving here.
It was written by someone who thought that the metamorphosis occurring in Austin was purely positive, without any thought as to how much steam the change bandwagon would be picking up.
Worries of Austin becoming “Dallasified”- rampant development and loss of character- have been spoken for years, but now the fear seems all the more possible.
My undying love for Austin is challenged every time I drive down South Lamar Boulevard and see the dozens of condos sprouting up like weeds. When I pass The Broken Spoke and see construction on three sides of this Austin landmark. When I drive by the old Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and know that a mix-used development will be rising there in the near future. Condo development is not restricted to just this area; one will see widespread development in every Austin neighborhood.
My undying love for Austin is challenged when I read about how the City Council voted to repeal the city’s “project duration ordinance“. Under this repeal, expired development projects could find new life without having to adhere to current development standards- which could affect our environment.
My undying love for Austin is challenged when I read about the City Council’s discussion to take away parking requirements for downtown businesses. This discussion is under the guise to encourage more citizens to bike, bus or light rail it downtown, but Austin has neither a solid light rail or bike pathway infrastructure.
My undying love for Austin is challenged when I read about the proposed changes to our already wonderful Barton Springs Pool.
My undying love for Austin is challenged every time I sit in traffic.
My undying love for Austin is challenged when my friend is victim to an attack by six teenagers and instead offering their support, the APD makes fun of him for not being able to “take” six teenagers. Or when the APD arrests a respectable young man for videotaping police abuse. Or when the APD shoots someone’s dog at the wrong house.
But this article is not about bashing Austin; this city is still a wonderful place to live.
I still wake up every day happy to be living here- I just have to remind myself a little more frequently of all the wonderful little things that make this town special:
Like when I hear that Austinites have donated closed to three million dollars in twenty-four hours to their favorite local charities via the Amplify Austin campaign.
Like when I eat at The Omelettry, where the crusty table clothes and $10 and under menu gives me a glimpse of old Austin.
Like when I can go to my neighborhood cafe, run into new and old friends and can leave my computer unaccompanied for a few minutes while I order another beverage or go pee.
Like when I see the chicken shitting on a bingo board at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.
Like when I see all the hard work Planned Parenthood of Austin is doing though their funding has been cut, and all the citizens who support them.
Like when I see an expensive cocktail at $10 or $12, I still know its substantially less than cocktails in NYC and LA.
Like when I pass a community garden.
Like when I see a funky or freaky marathon or cycling group weaving their way through the city.
Like when I read about all the amazing work that Austin Pets Alive! is doing to help keep Austin’s animals safe and healthy.
Like when I run into a citizen, a business owner, an activist- anyone!- who is actively working to make this city the best place on Earth.
Our elected officials may not care about what Austin could turn into, but we sure do.
P.S. Thank you for your comments. I encourage you to disagree and debate all that you would like, but please, no rude comments! Opinions are welcome here, but mean and thoughtless statements or responses will be sent to the trash.
I think this happens to everyone about five years in to their run in this city. I know it did to me.
The key is perspective. I’m not devastated by the giant, Parks & Recreation (circa seasons 1 and 2)-style pit where the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar used to be, because I remember that strip mall before the Drafthouse moved in. I can understand the old-timers who look at the changes coming on Red River and see it as another step in the evolution from Vulcan Gas Company to Armadillo World Headquarters to Liberty Lunch to Emo’s to — well, whatever it is that comes next. When Rainey Street is all condos, you might feel a twinge of loss, but it’ll be easier, because you’ll know that it didn’t always used to be this cool strip of quirky bars in old houses, and it’ll hurt less.
The thing that’s hard about the way that people like us seem to feel about the city is that it’s personal. I gather that for you, coming to Austin felt very much like suddenly coming home to a place you didn’t even know existed. It was the same for me, and it was pretty magical. I’ve wanted to protect that, but what I’ve found is that the essential character of the city hasn’t changed at all since I got here in 2002. Some stuff I really loved is gone now; some stuff I really love has moved in. (I’ll never get over the Drafthouse dumping their original chocolate cake recipe.) There’ll always be room for The Omelettery and Ginny’s Little Longhorn — and if not those, then other things that are still every bit as much Austin as those things — and it won’t matter too much if Barton Springs looks a little bit different, or if the Drafthouse on South Lamar is in a bigger building. The important stuff doesn’t change much.
I loved reading this, Lauren. The reasons you love Austin make me excited that I’m moving there. The changes make me sad too, and remind me so much of the gentrification and changes Berlin faces too.
This is disgusting. You dare write about the subject of Austin like you have a clue? Excuse me! YOU are among the outsiders that have ruined Austin and continue to destroy my lifetime hometown of Austin! 2012? You are part of the problem of the demolishing of affordable housing, high rents to accomadate you & others tripping over themselves to move here. You created gentrification, which created more homelessness of not only individuals but also whole families; seniors, disabled are also affected, including me and my family — locals who have to MOVE OUT — because of YOU. You’ve got some nerve. I hope the bottom falls out and the boom becomes a bust. Maybe then you all will move. You destroyed lives and stolen quality of life from the locals. APOLOGIZE & GO AWAY!!!
Just so, Dan, and the point about the South Lamar Drafthouse is a great example. I wonder how many people will even get your reference to the Armadillo; extra funny for the fact that its demise used to be the marker for nostalgia about old Austin.
“My undying love for Austin is challenged when I read about the proposed changes to our already wonderful Barton Springs Pool.”
This should make your love for Austin even greater. For the past 30 years, the city has neglected to care for Barton Springs Pool almost to its detriment in 2005. Now thanks to several concerned citizens, the city of Austin has been pressured to do the right thing and take care of our sacred Barton Springs Pool.
When are they putting a goddamned heater and some chlorine in that “pool”? Most (not all) La Quinta’s have better pools than that E Coli breeding ground.
(Also, maybe less bike racks around the alleged pool area so I don’t have to smell so many peoples’ sweaty Toms when I want to get my staph infection swim on!)
Man I hope your undying love has driven you to the ballot box for every election you’ve lived here through.
B I N G O.
You could use a serious lesson in transportation planning and in City Council’s record with regards to promoting and developing alternative transportation strategies. Nothing represents the dreaded “Dallasification” than more highways and cars. I recommend this article on why parking minimums are deadly for healthy, vibrant cities and encourage you to get out of your own vehicle more often and live closer to work rather than complain about traffic. http://www.uctc.net/papers/351.pdf
Keep the bikes off the roads or make them pay taxes to ride them. Requirements for cyclist should be insurance, license, mandatory course (so they know the laws), headlights, taillights, and for them to know to ride in the bike lane or have bike license suspended. Or does our lovely city council think that this would be discriminating?
meet these requirements, I encourage you to go to the Texas legislature to ask them to pass these regulations, as that is the entity that sets the requirements. I don’t know that these requirements would really improve the way some bikers ride, any more than these requirements make auto drivers drive more responsibly.
How about we actually charge driver’s for the externalities they impose? The environmental costs would no doubt make your paycheck vanish. That’s just the pollution impact. The negative impact cars have on community, public health (obesity first and foremost), the form of development, costs (infrastructure costs 30% more in dispersed development versus compact development). Not to mention the free or undercharged parking you already get subsidized, the roads you are subsidized through federal matching…. think about all that before you start wanting bicycles to pay, as they have virtually no impact on pavement and thus require no road maintenance, and no negative externalities on society in general.
Your comments are as ignorant as they are asinine. First, every single cyclist in this town has had to endure someone brushing past them in the mandated 3-foot zone on a road that *does* have a bike lane. Often, bike lanes are used by cars as parking spots, forcing the cyclist to veer into the car lane.
It is 100% legal and completely safe for a cyclist to operate their cycle in the road. Check cycling laws around the United States and you’ll find very similar rules and regulations for cyclists.
I bet you’re one a’them small government conservative types. So three cheers for more regulation on a machine and the behaviors of those who rely on them.
By the way, headlights and taillights are required by law in the city of Austin. Cyclists do get pulled over for disobeying traffic laws, just like you get pulled over for doing 50 in a 35 down Guadalupe, a bike that is listed as a “green route” for cyclists on the Austin Cycling map. You haven’t lived until you feel the hot breath of a 1994 Toyota Tercel climbing up your rear on a 100º day.
A couple years ago, I nearly lost my own life to a careless driver. My shoulder was rolled over by a Dodge Durango after the driver cut me off and I flipped over the handlebars. I live to tell the tale. I’m one of the lucky ones. And what was I doing? Riding my cycle lawfully and within the bike lane on a residential road. A woman cut me off *after passing me* on a downhill. She turned directly into my path and into my lane, causing me to lose control of my bike. I was lucky she had insurance.
Cyclists take huge risks on Austin roads, and your absolutely small minded and disgusting comments not only insult responsible riders but also those who ride for fun, health, and happiness. But I guess we can’t tune in to Rush Limbaugh while on our Trek cycles, because we’re too busy avoiding jerks like you.
Show up at a meeting to voice your opinion. Maybe then you’ll learn the laws too.
While I support cyclists’ right to ride, I can understand the grievances other hold against that segment of the population (e.g. not stopping at stop signs and stop lights).
While you may be one of the good ones (and I honestly appreciate people who KNOW the law and follow it), a large percentage of the Austin cycling public view themselves more as pedestrians rather than vehicles, and that has to stop.
If you wish to be respected, respect others. I know it may sound stupid, but cyclists should drive just as defensively as motorists do.
Just don’t slow down traffic. Stay to the side and let cars pass you. You may have the legal “right” to be in the road, but you don’t have to be an asshole about it.
“Cyclists take huge risks on Austin roads”… Have you ever heard of the Veloway? Go ride your bike there, and leave the roads to the automobiles they were made for.
Huh, roads were made for automobiles, you can argue that the exressway system was, but roads were made for the carriage of goods and people. Automobiles just happen to be the majority and currently preferred use of roads. I assume you are using automobiles as short hand for buses, coaches, tractor trailers, motorcycles, horses and trams, trains and other sorts of transport…
So really you are just biased against bikes right or is it anything other than cars?
Make us pay taxes to ride our bikes haha what world are you living in thats ridiculous!
I’m guessing you are ignoring the fact you don’t pay sufficient taxes as a car driver to build and maintain the roads and that much of the expense for you to drive a car comes from other forms of taxation that cyclists do pay?
I also take it that you think most cyclists don’t drive cars? My car is likely to have cost much more than yours, it doesn’t have great gas mileage, I keep it fully registered, insured and in every other way pay the same tax as you and possibly more for it if you include the tax on the purchase… and I yet I still choose to ride my bicycle for leisure and to commute.
Well, MDG living closer to work sounds great, but when a person works at Whole Foods downtown for $8.50 an hour it’s a little hard to afford a $500,000 500sq Ft Condo to live in.
This is a valid concern, but since the average American now spends 30% on transportation, I think you would find that when considering both housing AND transportation costs, close-in areas tend to be less expensive. I encourage you to look at the Housing & Transportation Affordability Index and check out Austin: http://htaindex.cnt.org/map/
There are ton of livable houses on the East side of Austin for < $200k that are anywhere from 2-4miles from Whole Foods HQs. That's a 45-90 minute or a 10-20 minute bike ride (give or take).
Sure, those houses might have other issues (maintenance/disrepair, not always the 'best' neighborhood/neighbors, etc) but those houses also might have awesome issues (within walking distance to the great bars/eateries/new businesses on 5th, 6th, and 11th Streets, great diverse neighbors from a variety of life experiences, walking/biking distance to a nice/new HEB on Pleasant Valley, etc).
And, maybe living in one of those places and owning it (instead of a 500 sqr foot condo) would allow you to feel more at home in Austin..? Maybe it would allow you to stop working for $8.50 for a giant corporation and instead get a job at a local(ish) business nearby your new home?
I'm not casting stones here, just pointing out that there are places to live within a reasonable distance at a reasonable price that would appreciate in value and would let you get to work sans car.
I so appreciate your passion for this great city, and I’m sorry, but much of this post– most specifically the thoughts about development– is written in so much ignorance. And I see this so many times when I hear Austinites complain about recent developments based on their own subjective opinions. Urban planning is a science based on fact, research, and world history, and many Austinites would be likely be surprised to find that our city is– with a few other smart cities– leading the pack in our otherwise poorly-planned nation.
To me, it feel as if several Austinites walked into an open heart surgery, and with no medical training whatsoever, started criticizing the doctor and demanding an explanation for his every action. They have no objective basis to judge, and without realizing it, are likely impeding the doctor’s positive work.
But if you look into modern urban planning tenets, you will find that the end result is not a Dallas. It is, in fact, a Portland. It is a city built to establish “place” and community. Look it up, and you will find that Portland has been working for about 30 years now to develop in a positive way. The bold work of city planners is the only way that is has become the wonderful place that it is now. In many ways, it is the poster child for modern American urban planning. Austin’s very wise city planners and law makers have working hard to embrace similar ideals. Many times, those actions are hard for locals to embrace (e.g. the loss of parking downtown, which every urban planning study cites as a positive step). But they are necessary means to an end.
And I hate that Austinites always associate an increase in city size with a decrease in character. There is no correlation there. Almost all of the world’s largest cities have tons of creative and unique culture. I think we Austinites often are blinded by Dallas and Houston– our closest references– so we can’t see beyond those places to see that big cities can actually have heaps of culture without feeling like they have sold out or lost their unique spirit. One trip to Seattle or New York or a lot of the major European cities will prove that.
(As a side note, most Austinites would be happy find that Dallas and Houston are often considered the jokes of the American urban planning industry, so know that no one is looking towards those city for inspiration or precedents as to how to grow.)
I look upon almost all of your examples of Austin’s “negative growth” with great pride. Luckily, we live an phenomenal city where passionate leaders have preceded this development with creative, unique, well-thought, well-informed, and beneficial legislation and initiatives that help guarantee that new construction conforms to standards that are best for this city and our one-of-a-kind culture. Campaigns like Great Streets are a huge testament to that. It’s like the city planners said “Hurry, let’s put all of these standards in place before the out-of-town, douchey developers come and try to change Austin.” So with all of these examples that you mention, I am proud to know that they are, in fact, based on researched and practiced standards that will benefit our city. And trends show the future will only hold more of that for us. Read the minutes from any city council meeting in the last year, and you can see that those guys are still passionately fighting just as hard to guarantee that the city remains the special place that it is.
I would just suggest that not just you, but any Austinites with complaints, read Jeff Speck’s ‘Walkable City.” It was published less than six months ago, and contains some of the most up-to-date and relevant information about urban planning and creating a wonderful, unique cityscape. By the end of the book, I think you will no longer be frowning on Austin, but instead, beaming with pride, knowing that Austin is– as always– fighting against negative American cultural norms to blaze a new trail in urban planning that will eventually create this wonderful, walkable, bursting-with-life city that still holds all of the the special characteristics that have always made Austin great. Your love for Austin will not be challenged, but instead, revived.
That books sounds awesome. I will definitely check it out. And I really enjoyed your thoughtful comment.
I’m glad *you* live here. Thank you.
Native Austinite living in Dallas here– Dallas has an amazing culture and arts scene. Our character is the gorgeous historical homes, the world-renowned museums, the friendly neighborhood pubs. These are some of the MANY facets of Dallas that keeps me here, not to mention THE PEOPLE! I can’t stand the hate. It’s really not the shitty place people (who don’t live here) make it out to be. I love it here and don’t plan to move back to Austin, though I will be back for all major holidays to visit family.
I have to agree with you here. I moved to Dallas from Austin kicking and screaming. I no longer live in either city (I’m in New York now), but I made some of my closest friends while in Dallas, ate at some of the best restaurants, and always got a chill when driving into the city and seeing the skyline. Dallas isn’t as bad as people may think. Austin has a loooooong way to go before it even resembles the Metroplex.
Speaking of walkability, you may want to check out this article from the austinist, published just yesterday:
“Depending on where you live, you may or may not be surprised to hear that Austin’s walkability ranked 31st in a national survey of the 50 largest cities, which is not at all impressive. For reference, both Houston and Dallas ranked ahead of Austin scoring 23rd and 30th respectively.”
I agree with Dan. I’m probably the only person who actually had fond memories of Beauty Ballroom/new Antone’s when it used to be the old Kaos club in my college years. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a new live music venue in that area. As for traffic, the city has been plagued with that for years before you or I moved to this city. Austin is off a major north-south highway and in between the state’s 1st and 3rd largest cities. When you only have that and MOPAC, then navigating through the city becomes troublesome. The City Council, like MDG said, is actually trying to address that. We may not have the light rail infrastructure now (plans for a bond are in the works supposedly), but if we continue to build parking spaces, then they will continued to be used if and when that infrastructure eventually follows, thus negating its benefits. And the project duration ordinance, while not the best move, did come after the state AG basically ruled against it. Not much the council could do about that right now. As for the “Dallasification,” the same people complaining about traffic and sprawl are many times the same ones also bitching about condos and high rises. Building up is better than taking away the rest of our greenspace and building out, which only creates more traffic. But as with everything, it’s about finding a balance.
I cried when they turned the big cement box with awful sound known as The Backroom into… a big cement box with awful sound know as Emo’s. I was gutted. Absolutely gutted.
I wish I lived in a city like Detroit where no one was building condos because no one was moving there. I certainly hate living where people are willing to plunk down a few hundred thousand dollars to live in a city and then continue to do things like pay property taxes and HOA fees. We only want transients with zero discernable value who will appreciate decrepit strip-malls and empty surface parking lots in this city!
What’s good for the goose ain’t good for the gander, you really smart people with desirable talents — GTFO.
In short, would you all stop putting down roots and just visit during SXSW/ACL Fest/F1/some goddamned footrace/a hot sauce festival, so we can complain about tourists instead?
Hey, that sounds like College Station you’re describing! 😉
In my entire life, I have never, ever heard anyone ever say they wished they lived in the D, lol. Detroit is the supernova of metropolis. It’s what big cities become when they die.
Just so you’ll know, you are one of the reasons for the population boom that has driven the development. Unfortunately there isn’t a person out there named “Last Person In” and so the door didn’t shut behind them.
Most folks came from somewhere else and they need a place to live; or do we prefer higher rents that force people to live in surrounding communities and drive in, intensifying the nightmare of driving and increasing costs of housing even more, as what has happened in San Fran and Santa Fe? If we want Austin to keep it’s charm, we need to support the small local businesses rather than the new upscale ones; buy local homes and keep them intact instead of building McMansions. If we want to keep Austin Austin, we have to support locals before they go away.
Buy “local homes”? You mean there’s a way to buy a home built outside of Austin — maybe from China or Oklahoma — and import it into Austin? Those aren’t Austin builders and Austin plumbers and Austin architects designing and building new homes in the core/East Side?
I understand what you’re saying with respect to something like a Newcastle Home being built in Circle C or Cedar Park… maybe.
If someone wants to move to Austin from LA or China or Oklahoma or Waco, buy an older falling apart home in Hyde Park or Swede Hill or wherever, level it, and build a brand new home with their own money: GREAT. They’re committed to living in our city and beautifying it with something that’s almost certainly more energy efficient, etc than whatever bungalow they tore down.
– The Alamo South Drafthouse stripmall is just being renovated and will return, with both Highball and the Drafthouse present
– The end to the parking space requirement is, in my view, such a good thing. “Expensive” street parking will never be as costly as parking in a garage, and continued scarcity may be just the thing we need to kick the city’s ass into getting *actually* bike-friendly and creating mass transit. Folks, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the East coast at all, but parking issues are simply a reality of city-ness and don’t reflect poorly on the city. Unless the city decides to respond by erecting more and more hideous parking garages — is that really what you want?
Also, waiving this requirement does much to speed up the opening of cool new places that, under the current restriction, are getting caught up in a lot of parking-creation-related red tape and expense.
– As for the condos: more people are moving here, yes, and they need places to live. Would you prefer they start vomiting up huge McMansions with big drought-defying lawns? Condos are actually a great, low-density, environmentally friendly housing solution. The juxtaposition of the condos you mention with the Broken Spoke does create a starkly contrasting, snapshot of new and old. Bittersweet, but Jesus Christ, please consider the context. The Broken Spoke is bordered on its other side by a cluster of fast food restaurants and strip malls and a cloverleaf of three highways. By the looks of them, these strip malls have been there awhile and their presence doesn’t seem to have harmed the Spoke in any way.
I, too, moved here from an already developed, very large city and am alarmed by the rate of change we’re experiencing in Austin. I live in the midst of the South Lamar construction. While I welcome newcomers (especially my east coast brethren), am I looking forward to sharing the same stretch of road with thousands of new people all at once? Hell no.
I’m glad to be here in a time of growth, rather than decline, but I feel the growing pains. The one constant in Austin is the constant battle of new vs. old. Funny to find yourself on the opposite side of the discussion after only five years. But I’m right there with you.
This has to be one of the most ill-informed opinions I’ve ever read. I really don’t even know where to start. Honestly, it just sounds like you don’t know all that much about this city, the projects you point to, or urban planning in general. What is happening in Austin is the opposite of what you would find in a city like Dallas or Houston.
I think Reeves said it best. I follow Austin developments religiously, and can tell you pretty much anything that’s going to break ground or happen in our city. I’m sorry your love is challenged because we’re working towards building an infrastructure that’s NOT catered to cars. Ok, so we currently don’t have rail…so let’s just throw out any future plans for alt transit? I really cannot stand people who blurt out things they do not understand just to sound more like genuine Austinites.
Ok, and condos….Really? WHAT’S YOUR ALTERNATIVE FOR PREVENTING URBAN SPRAWL??? We do need more affordable housing in the CBD area, but the idea that mixed use developments are evil is really tiring and uneducated.
“When I drive by the old Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar …” uh, ok ;-), yeah, that old stuff, lol
[…] yesterday’s post provoked the wrath of Khan, so I’m going to write about something warm and fuzzy today… […]
I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but this discussion reminds me of a saying I heard that everyone wants to move to Austin, and then close the door to anyone trying to move in after them.
The simple fact is that Austin is growing, and going to continue to grow. And that simply means that some of the old attributes are unsustainable. Low traffic and easy parking everywhere. Cheap mid-sized, or medium priced large, centrally located houses. Low or medium density with little sprawl.
The fact is that we’re either going to have to grow up, or grow out, and most likely a combination of both. Facilities like Barton Springs are going to have to expand and be developed some to accommodate more people. We’re going to have to get used to downtown condos unless we want more sprawl and traffic. We’re going to see more development like that on South Lamar that hopefully preserves some original businesses while increasing overall density with mixed used developments.
Changes are going to happen. We need to figure out how to do it right, and not just obstinately refuse to accept any change at all.
As a local, I’m still trying to get over my haterade-drinking desire for all the transplants to just pack up and go home. I miss the city I grew up in, flawed though it was (and still is).
Disclaimer: I know *jack shit* about Austin, but I know *a little* about urban planning and the history of cities.
Every city seems to go through a phase where it is both a livable city with character and minimal traffic *and* a relatively easy place to find parking.
As a city grows, it must make a choice: will it be an easy place to find parking or a livable city?
I’ve never been to Houston or Dallas but I imagine that their downtowns resemble the downtown of White Plains, NY: a collection of parking lots, parking garages, and expensive street parking.
Often, cities have to do things like get rid of parking minimums BEFORE they can improve their transit system and bike infrastructure. If they keep the parking minimums, the resources that would have gone into transit and biking infrastructure will go into maintaining the parking lot (and the subsequent increase in traffic caused by the parking lot) instead of creating transit alternatives.
I’d say the bigger worry isn’t that Austin could turn into Dallas but that it could turn into New York City, where the character of many neighborhoods is preserved, albeit with giant condo towers overhead, and a higher cost of living in areas with “character.”
In NYC, due to an odd collection of laws and due to the effects of geography itself, there is an abundance of character and walkability, but it’s unaffordable. You open a bar in a neighborhood, and one hip-looking person steps in, and the whole neighborhood is suddenly unaffordable even for that lone hipster.
I’d hate to see any other city suffer that same fate. Since Austin isn’t NYC, and doesn’t appear to have both geography and laws working toward making it unaffordable, I have high hopes for it. 🙂
Thank you for expressing your concerns about our wonderful city and some recent events that feel disturbing. I have lived in Austin for 35 years,I love it deeply, and I agree with you! The growth of Austin is understandable, it was nearly paradise, and remains so in many ways. I do share your concerns of recent Council actions, especially some you mention. If Council feels current development requirements are unnecessary and shouldn’t apply to all, then get rid of them! Stop these games. Parking issues. I am very supportive of bikes, of walking, of transit and sick of cars (unless I’m in mine, right?). I agree the action is fragmented and myopic. More people will walk and ride bikes only if there is a stepped up bike lane system for downtown, unqualified support of transit, and a far better parking management program. Can’t just take something away and expect it to work, it takes real committment to make it work WELL and safely for all. The Council needs to stop welding disfunctional, piecemeal requirements as a way to get things done. Thank you for your incite on the Austin that we love and that we want to grow in a wonderful and healthy way! Keep writing!!!!!
I’m not an Austinite, but two comments on removing parking requirements are important:
1. It doesn’t appear that the Council is considering PROHIBITING Downtown businesses from providing parking, just removing the requirement. They’re still free to provide it, if they’re laboring under the (probably mis-) perception that they can’t live without it.
2. Reducing parking requirements does not have to be preceeded by a giant transit construction program. The two go hand in hand–one supports the other. If you demand that all the transit go in first, it won’t happen. People will say “Oh what a waste to spend all this money on transit when I can just drive downtown.”
The fundamental question is do you want a downtown that’s good for people, or good for cars? It’s really not possible to have both.
Wow people get soooooo rowdy! As a friend of mine used to tell her son “calm your body down.” Deep breaths everyone okay? They are called opinions, everyone has them and it’s impolite to just attack someone for voicing their feelings. You may have all forgotten but Austin is a part of Texas, and Texas is in the south. And here in the south, we have MANNERS. So let’s all try to be civil and avoid being condescending and rude. I’m not going to give my thoughts because I honestly don’t care. When you live in Austin for your whole life, you tend to let these things just roll off your back. Roll with the punches, smile, and try to enjoy the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.
It’s called the Broken Spoke.
Chin up. I’ve noticed that Austin changes its citizens as much as they change it. All you can do is vote. And listen to Reeves.
Nicole, your comment had me cracking up. People really DO hate on Dallas. Especially Houstonians. It’s nice to know the hate is misplaced. Houston also has its moments.
To the author: Writer to writer, doing some quick research on an issue before blogging it can prevent “the wrath of Khan.” I didn’t know half the stuff I learned from these comments, either. But you should expect some informed responses when writing about something so complex. Congratulations on the popularity of your post.
Nothing more amusing than progressives trashing progress.
Love this city….Love my hometown. These “challenges” have been going on forever, and will continue.
The growth Austin’s projected to undergo in the next 30 years is unsustainable.
And the price tag’s just going to go up because of it.
All the while bring on the condos, forget the public transportation, and watch while a few people who own a shit ton in Austin get Rockefeller rich while the population skyrockets.
I was rabbit-holing through your blog (as I am wont to do on occasion) and came across this post. As a former resident of Austin who now lives in San Antonio and goes to Houston and Dallas often, I actually realized I really am not in love with Austin anymore. I started coming back more during 4th year of medical school because I have time. Austin suffers from a serious lack of ethnic and cultural diversity and this misplaced idea that they’re the only liberal city in Texas. They’re not. It’s a severely segregated city. The suburbs have the second highest rate of poverty in the country. There are still impoverished parts of town, far away from most people’s radars, that are unincorporated and don’t receive basic amenities. They have a large homeless population, and are only just starting to deal with it with some small houses dotted through the city (look up Haven for Hope in San Antonio if you want a real, progressive, compassionate way to deal with the homeless). Leslie and Jennifer Gale were treated more like cute mascots for this city than real people. There isn’t a Chinatown or Little India or Ethiopia; there isn’t a really great museum. The scene for LGBTQ people is probably better in SA, Dallas, or Houston (more integration, more gay families). Traffic is a mess, and the public transport is horrible (although transit is a problem throughout Texas). The music scene is more about quantity than quality many times. No real independent theatres anymore, getting harder to go see foreign films. The people are a little smug and are constantly shocked when you live in another Texas city and actually like it. And the activism in Austin (having been involved in a lot of it) is actually a lot more shallow and of the bumper-sticker variety than in a lot of other places.
I sound like I hate Austin. I don’t. I like it just fine. But I think a lot of the people who live here don’t have a good perspective about it. It’s highly imperfect, and a lot of the imperfections no one talks about. I still like it, and might even move back after residency, but I see it much more for what it actually is now than before.
The problem I have with this article is the first sentence. “When I moved here five years ago”. Its just sad when someone who has no concept of what old Austin was can publish an article about their ever-changing opinion so as to differentiate themselves. I was born and raised here and I grew up in 78704 at the heart of the city. By moving here five years ago (AUTHOR) you helped ruin my city and by exemplifying and promoting this city and its culture you have helped destroy it. I am incredibly bitter as a result of losing my neighborhood to McMansions and yuppies who want a “local” feel. Those of you moving here are creating an environment completely separate from the Austin Ideal while also driving up rent and pushing out the local business that made our city so appealing but now it doesn’t matter. So move here and push our Black Population out of the city while you party it up because now its no longer Austin and I don’t want to be a part of this new population. You’ll find that other Austinites agree with my opinion (if you can find them), they just wont say it to your face.
I understand your frustration and I apologize for moving here.
I am astonished that anyone could champion the uncontrolled growth that Austin has seen in the last 15 years. Austin is perfect example of the poorest kind of urban planning — i.e. unrestricted. I agree with you that this kind of thing challenges my love for the city. Uncontrolled growth is another way of describing cancer and from the air that’s what Austin looks like. Mile after mile of boring ugly strip malls. Austin is truly becoming more corporate than weird every day.
[…] Make Our City Great,” but one year later I questioned Austin’s rapid growth with the article “Austin Changing: Why My Love for Austin is Being Challenged.” Sometimes I felt like a […]
Wow, so many outdated views about Dallas urban planning! The comments on here just ooze in Austin’s pretentiousness — a city that likes to pretend that they are as weird as Portland and have the amazing urban planning of Seattle. Meanwhile, Dallas is an urban planning nightmare. Let’s correct the nonsense right now:
1. Dallas has relaxed its minimum parking requirements and zoning practically prohibits building setbacks. See Uptown for example. You pretend like Austin is free of parking lots and strip malls.
2. Dallas is more walkable and pedestrian friendly than Austin. This isn’t even up for debate, it is a fact. Dallas has a higher walkscore and transit score. For those that disagree, I encourage you to explore Dallas on foot. Walk around Downtown, Uptown, Deep Ellum, Lower Greenville, Oak Lawn, etc. You TELL me how any of Austin’s neighborhoods can compare. There is nowhere in Austin that has the urban streetscape of Oak Cliff’s Jefferson Blvd or even the wide sidewalks of Greenville Ave. No trolleys, hardly any light rail. The population density is even higher in Dallas. These neighborhoods are designed for self sufficiency, so that you don’t necessarily have to leave them unless it’s for work. I’m not going to pretend that Dallas is like the Northeast or even Seattle, but it is a fact that the average Dallas neighborhood has more sidewalks and walkable amenities than equivalent ones in Austin.
3. Klyde Warren Park – Need I say more
4. CityMAP – Dallas and TXDOT partnered to analyze the economic benefits/costs of removing, rerouting, or maintaining highways around the urban core. It is the FIRST study of its kind. The push from the general public and at least half of our city council is to tear down I-345 and reconnect Deep Ellum with Downtown.
5. Conversion of 1-way to 2-way – Haven’t seen this in Austin, but this has been happening in Dallas.
6. Widening of sidewalks
7. Downtown Revitalization (Regaining its “Soul”) — renovated hotels, street-level restaurants/retail, more greenspace, new apartments & townhomes, conversion of office buildings to residential, etc.
8. Patrick Kennedy – Y’all don’t have this brilliant mind in urban planning. He’s played a critical role in Dallas’s urban transformation.
So to all you Austinites, quit the bashing and stereotyping. Maybe you can learn a few things from Dallas instead of bashing and hating on it. It reflects poorly on you, not Dallas.