The proposed zoning for the former East Austin gasoline tank farm comes up again tomorrow (June 3) at Council. We went over some of the history two weeks ago when the item first hit the Council agenda. Council agreed to a postponement at the urging of Council Member Vanessa Fuentes.

As noted in that article, nearby East Austin residents have long expected that there would be major redevelopment at the site. The current proposal, however, is more major than they envisioned, with two 93-foot office towers proposed. East Austin residents are understandably concerned what such a dramatic change could bring to an already rapidly gentrifying area. 

A coalition of groups and individuals this week issued a “A Call To Action, Resist Further Gentrification of East Austin (see graphic at top).” The coalition includes key people involved in exposing the pollution from the tank farm in the ‘90s and getting it shut down. The call to action listed concerns in a number of areas that the proposed developers will likely have to address at Council tomorrow. 

The coalition’s electronic flyer said they will support sixty-feet height with “community benefits and compatability standards.” The coalition flyer points out that, “The location of this development along the Springdale corridor goes through the highest census tracts of minority communities in Austin.” They add that approving 93 feet would set a precedent that “will domino along this corridor, and can influence similar cases in other Neighborhoods.”

Also sure to be a topic of discussion is how much remaining pollution there is and whether the proposed uses are safe. The staff report in the Council backup says, “This site was remediated in the 1990s but not to a level that would allow redevelopment with residential land uses; only office, commercial, and limited industrial land uses are permitted.” The flyer asks for a postponement to give more time to study technologies that might clean up any remaining contaminants.

In ordinary times this would be a classic Austin land use donnybrook with a huge crowd at City Hall. Tomorrow, however, it will all play out virtually, with the Council on a screen and all public speakers weighing in by phone. 

However, Council proceeds tomorrow, East Austin residents and many others will be urging them to consider the history of this tract. Council might also want to ponder how history will look back on whatever decision they make.


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