Early last month the Lightsey home at 1805 Lightsey Road was torn down to make way for approximately 31 new homes to be built by PSW Real Estate. The Lightsey home was built in 1932 and sat prominently with a view of downtown at the highest point in the neighborhood. It was located near the intersection of Del Curto and Lightsey (also known as Dead Man’s Curve) which is very close to the geographic center of SLNA.
Over the past year the Lightsey home historic zoning case was heard many times including at the Historic Landmark Commission on March 23rd, the Planning Commission on June 23rd, and lastly at City Council on August 13. Despite the Historic Zoning Commission having voted 4-1 to initiate historic zoning, City Council voted 5-5-1 not to preserve the home. Council members Tovo, Pool, Garza, Casar and Kitchen voted for preserving the home; Houston, Zimmerman, Troxclair, Renteria, and Adler voted against; and Gallo abstained. The preservation of the Lightsey home was overwhelmingly supported by members of the neighborhood, and Council member Ann Kitchen (our District 5 representative) vigorously advocated saving the home. However, the arguments largely fell on deaf ears at City Council.
PSW has said numerous times that if given the demolition permit, they will reuse material from the Lightsey home as site features around some of the heritage trees and especially at the entry along Lightsey Road (http://austintx.swagit.com/play/06232015-880/2/ Item C7 @44:08). This diagram shows the location of some of these features:
Specifically PSW has said:
- We will fully document the existing home; Pictures of each façade and pertinent architectural details, dimensioned site plan existing structure, and historic narrative of the property and its residents
- We are willing to use materials/elements in a site feature that evokes the feeling of the architecture of the existing home
- Use stone from existing home in the tree wells and retaining walls along the Aldwyche Dr extension
We are very much looking forward to seeing the creative ways PSW fulfulls their promise of reusing the materials salvaged from the Lightsey home. We cannot overstate the importance of developers trying to preserve some of the original character of SLNA, so much of which has sadly been lost in recent years.
During the course of hearings defending the demolition of the historic home, PSW’s representative Glen Coleman said that while they appreciate wanting to honor history, “Think about the history we are making”. Making history? Time will tell, Mr. Coleman, time will tell.
The City of Austin Watershed Protection Department held a public meeting on September 3rd to discuss the flooding and drainage issues in the West Bouldin Creek Watershed. This watershed is the area along West Bouldin Creek as it flows from the Zilker neighborhood through SLNA. The watershed department presented a detailed discussion of the problems, and a solution that would be implemented in two phases:
- Phase 1: Construct “small-scale” projects to improve drainage and reduce flooding
- Phase 2: A larger project to address flooding identified in the Preliminary Engineering Report.
Phase 1 is expected to begin in 2016.
The materials presented at the meeting are a very interesting read, and are available online at the links below. We encourage you to have a look. They discussed how projects get prioritized, how storm drain systems work, the history and scope of the problems seen in the Del Curto area, the Preliminary Engineering Report which identified the need for additional inlets, upgrades to existing pipe, additional pipe, and keeping the storm drains within the public Right-of-Way; as well as issues raised such as cost, South Lamar construction, and time-frame.
Twenty small projects were identified as possible enhancements to be made in Phase 1, which is expected to begin in 2016. One of the projects discussed was the “Green Streets” project on Iva and Delcrest, which would reduce the road-way widths and change the streets to be 1-way. The longer term, Phase 2 work would see some preliminary work happen concurrently with Phase 1, but the detailed design would not begin until after Phase 1, probably in 2018.
The Watershed Department staff identified ways that all of us in SLNA can help:
- Avoid building in drainage easements
- Clear easements of obstructions
- Report flooding and drainage concerns to 3-1-1. The “squeaky wheel gets the grease”.
- Email email@example.com and request more information about flood-proofing
We encourage you to read the presentation materials that we have put on the website. You can find them at:
- September 3 Meeting Presentation
- Del Curto Project Area Phase 1A Study
- Del Curto Project Area Phase 1A Maps
It is very exciting to see these efforts to address the problems that we have seen in SLNA, problems which have gotten significantly worse with all of the infill development. Stay tuned!
We all know the words “Memorial Day” and “flood” are no strangers to each other in Austin. With the increasingly wet and stormy weather forecast for this weekend, we encourage everyone to be extra careful around flooded areas. Thankfully, SLNA has not seen a double-digit rainfall flood in well over a decade. With the possibility of flash flooding being forecast, and our ever-changing landscape here in SLNA, there is no telling what would happen should we get a significant flood event. We do have creek drainage crossings on Del Curto, Clawson, Lightsey, Thornton, and Cinnamon Path, and low areas near the train tracks, where extreme caution should be exercised.
As always, if you do see flooding, please take photographs and/or video. This can help the city understand where our problem areas are, and take action to mitigate them.
Please keep your eye on the skies and have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday!
Hello Neighbors! As we move into the new year we are also moving into a new chapter in Austin’s history with the adoption of the 10-1 geographical districting plan. Our District 5 Councilmember, Ann Kitchen, greeted us at our first 2015 Membership Meeting held on February 19. Councilmember Kitchen wanted us to know she is working on our behalf, and she gave us the contact information for her and her staff. She wants us to be involved in our city government and gave us information as to how to participate in the process.
We have already seen Councilmember Kitchen in action, helping with some SLNA neighborhood issues, and we are very grateful for her leadership and dedication to serving those in her District.
Click here to read her handouts – here is an excerpt:
Our goal is to be your voice for South Austin. We work for the citizens of District 5 and the city. Please contact us whenever you have a question, a problem you’d like our help with, or an idea for how the city can work better for you and your neighbors.
We are working to:
• Obtain your ideas on key issues and potential solutions
• create opportunities to talk with and be available to people who are not able to come down to City Hall
• Help individuals receive quality city services
• And keep our District 5 informed about key issues
Councilmember, District 5
Senior Policy Advisor
Senior Policy Aide
Do you remember when our neighborhood was peaceful and quiet, and this time of year you could, at long last, open your windows to enjoy the cool fall weather? It’s hard to even imagine that now with all of the construction noise, dust, and smells wafting through the neighborhood!
This seems like a very good time to update you on the status of the South Lamar Mitigation Plan. As you recall, the City Council passed a resolution directing the City Manager to come up with a mitigation plan to address the negative effects of infill development in our neighborhood. The City Manager was to give a presentation to the Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Council Committee by August 4, and report to Council by August 15, with a timeline for the Mitigation Plan and a detailed approach to develop the recommendations for the enhanced tools and related opportunities for the CodeNext effort.
Here’s what has been happening and the results to date of this Resolution:
- May 1 – City Council unanimously passed the South Lamar Mitigation Plan, Resolution No. 20140501-042
- July 9 – residents met with city staff to present issues of concern
- September 4 – City Staff gave their Briefing on the South Lamar Neighborhood Mitigation Plan to the Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee, addressing the South Lamar Neighborhood infill issues, city staff’s general findings, possible revisions to the Land Development Code, and next steps. The presenters were Mark Walters, Planner Senior, Planning and Development Review; Robert Spillar, Director, Austin Transportation; and Jorge Morales, Engineer, Watershed Protection. You can view the video of the presentation here (it is Item #5) and view their presentation document here.
- October 3 – Greg Guersney, Director of the Planning and Development Review Department, sent a Memo to City Council which is the City Staff response to the resolution with their recommendations. You can read that memo here.
There are certainly some items of concern in this memo and we hope you read it and get engaged in this ongoing process!
UPDATE 10/6/2015 – Recent proposals by COA Watershed Protection Department to address flooding and drainage issues were presented at a public meeting on September 3, 2015. See details in this post: Del Curto Storm Drain Improvements – West Bouldin Watershed
Neighborhoods all over Austin are experiencing rapid growth, and certainly South Lamar Neighborhood ranks among the top for development and density increase. You have probably heard or read about the “South Lamar Neighborhood Mitigation Plan”, a resolution passed unanimously this year by City Council directing the City Manager to develop a plan to address the negative effects of infill development specifically in our neighborhood. The resolution strives to address the years of development we have experienced which has led to our problems of flooding, traffic, and lack of supportive infrastructure.
The mitigation plan is a positive development towards improving our future. But perhaps even more important, we now have the opportunity to influence our own future by electing our District 5 representative in the upcoming City Council elections.
In order to get acquainted with the candidates, SLNA is participating in the District 5 Three-Neighborhood City Council Candidate Forum, along with our neighbors in two adjoining neighborhood associations Barton Oaks and Zilker.
This forum was originally scheduled in September, but cancelled on account of threatening weather. Now it has been rescheduled for Thursday Oct. 9, 6:15-8:30 at Faith United Methodist Church, 2701 S. Lamar.
We will be conducting 15-minute interviews of all (we hope) of the District 5 candidates.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Dan Buda http://www.danbuda.com/
Jason Denny http://www.dennyfordistrict5.org/
Dave Floyd http://www.floydfor5.com/
CarolAnnRose Kennedy no website
Ann Kitchen http://kitchenforaustin.com/
Mike Rodriguez http://www.mikerodriguezforaustincouncil.com/
David Senecal http://www.davesenecalatx5.com/
The idea is to ask questions of each candidate in isolation, so that they won’t pick up from each other and there won’t be interplay between them during the interview.
We have an important job opening to fill. We hope to see you there on Thursday!
One of our neighbors, Ed LeBrun is a biologist with UT who studies invasive ants, and he recently sent us this informative and disturbing message:
There is a relatively new invasive ant species that is spreading in Texas and the SE US: tawny crazy ants. Until recently, in Texas this ant was mostly confined to areas around Houston. Unfortunately, this year many populations have been reported within Austin. These ants most commonly colonize a neighborhood by hitchhiking on landscape materials and nursery products. Their arrival in our neighborhood would be a very bad deal. These ants can reach truly enormous densities and they nest and forage inside people’s houses in large numbers. There is no proven way to eradicate them once they are established. Control inside structures requires continual treatments with nasty pesticides that only licensed pest control operators can apply. Expensive and very undesirable. With all the new construction in the neighborhood, I thought that it might be wise to contact the builders and make them aware of this threat. Many populations start as a result of commercial scale landscaping projects. The message for the builders is to get nursery products from local (absolutely not from the Houston area or East Texas), trusted sources, and inspect them for ants prior to planting. I am attaching a fact sheet that might be useful to incorporate into the neighborhood news letter.
Let’s all be on the lookout for these ants and take action to alert Wizzie Brown or Ed LeBrun if you see them. The information on how to identify and collect the ants, and how to notify these experts is in the Tawny Crazy Ant fact sheet. A big thanks to Ed LeBrun for keeping us informed about this invasive ant.
At our next neighborhood meeting on Thursday August 15th, we will be voting for the proposed name of our pocket park that we present to City Council. This does not guarantee that the park will be given this name, but our nomination will be considered in the City’s naming process. Here is a note from the Park Committee regarding the nominations.
I wanted to share the names that were submitted for our neighborhood park.
There were 5 names submitted (in no particular order):
South Lamar Pocket Park
Del Curto Park
South Lamar Neighborhood Park
Frank and Iva Del Curto Park
Voting for the park name will take place at the August 15th SLNA meeting.
If you are unable to make the meeting you may absentee vote. Click HERE for the voting form.
You may only vote one time and you must be an SLNA member by August 5th to vote.
To become a member, visit the Membership Page
If you have any questions please let me know!
Park Naming Committee Member
We received the following information from TreeFolks that we wanted to pass along to you.
TreeFolks, a local nonprofit organization, is offering free street trees to residents throughout the Austin Energy service area as part of the NeighborWoods program. Each year NeighborWoods delivers roughly 3,600 trees within the Austin Energy service area to shade streets and combat the urban heat island effect. Our staff places flags in eligible homeowners yards where the trees should be planted and doorhangers on their door. Eligibility for this program depends on the amount of space available to plant a tree along the street. If you were offered one or more free trees through this program, please send in your postcard to receive your tree(s). For more information about the NeighborWoods program, please visit http://treefolks.org/neighborwoods/ or call (512) 443-5323.
We want to update you on the progress on our very own neighborhood park which, as we speak, is being constructed by the City of Austin on the site of the old Unity Church on Del Curto. As you may or may not know, residents of SLNA have been trying for over a decade to get a park built within our neighborhood boundaries. These efforts are finally seeing the light of day.
If you drive along Del Curto past the new park, you might have noticed the area is completely fenced off. It’s easy to miss with the whirlwind of construction taking place both across the street and behind the park. The anticipated opening of the park is in September, just a couple months away.
Here is the construction timeline given to us by the City of Austin about a month ago:
1. Tree protection/ removal: PARD completed the tree protection and temporary erosion controls and has removed the trees scheduled for removal. June 2013.
2. Site Work: Grading at the park for the installation of the sidewalks, playscape, pavilion and basketball court is expected to begin in late July 2013.
3. Playscape: The installation is expected to be towards the end of August 2013.
4. Benches and Trash Receptacles: These items have already been purchased and will be delivered to the Parks Department by mid-July, 2013.
5. Kiosk/ Pavilion: PARD is finalizing the contract with the City of Austin Contract Management Department for the purchase of the kiosk and pavilion. Installation is expected to be a the beginning of September 2013.
6. Basketball Court: Installation of the court is expected by mid-September 2013.
I hope you and your family are just as excited about our new park as we are. As a reminder, you will be able to vote for the new park name nomination. See the details about that at the July 1, 2013 post on the SLNA website. The vote will take place at the next neighborhood meeting on August 15th. We will not be voting for the name outright, but for the name that we suggest to the City. The City has a formal policy it uses to decide the actual name and the name that we suggest is part of that process.
We would like to thank our Park Committee Chair, Bruce Evans, for diligently guiding/pushing/shoving the City of Austin into getting this project on track. We are getting closer to having our very own neighborhood park!