East Austin Overlay Ordinance
PODER also worked with El Pueblo (a network of East Austin neighborhood
groups) and City of Austin officials to establish an East Austin Overlay Ordinance
to protect East Austin residents from further industrial development threats. The
ordinance requires that neighborhood residents be notified and given an
opportunity to voice their concerns any time an industrial facility seeks to locate or
expand its operation in East Austin.
From this effort stemmed other PODER accomplishments including:
Collaborating with various organizations and neighborhood associations in
a network called "El Pueblo," which was successful in passing the East
Austin Overlay Ordinance
Informing area residents about transportation issues and garnering thousands
of dollars of transportation improvements for East Austin residents.
Working at the state level with the Trans-Texas Alliance, and at the national
level serving on the Advisory Board of the Surface Transportation Policy
Project, an organization working toward transportation reform nationwide.
Conducting a transportation and safety issues campaign that has created
bus shelters, street realignments and sidewalks, along with additional
streetlights and street signs.
Working with members of the community to establish a Bus Riders Union
and mentoring young community leaders through it Young Scholars
In 2000, PODER's college interns and high school students initiated a
successful Juvenile Justice Project.
HISTORY OF EAST AUSTIN
In 1928, the City of Austin’s Master Plan designated East Austin as the area
where all industries, African Americans and Mexican American communities
would relocate and reside. Prior to that, there were African American and
Mexican American communities throughout Austin. Although Austin has an image
of a progressive city, poor race relations are at the heart of many issues. For
instance, Austin is the only metropolitan city that has at-large elections for city
council members. That is to say, we do not have districts, wards or smaller units of
representation on the council. In the 1960’s there was a “gentlemen’s agreement”
that designated one city council seat for an African American and one for a
Mexican American. On November 6th, 2012, Austin residents voted to approve
single member districts.
For more than 35 years, East Austin residents had lived next to several bulk
fuel storage tank facilities (“Tank Farm) that devastated the land and our
community. The tank farm was located in a predominately Latino and African
American neighborhood. Millions of gallons of petroleum products were stored at
the Tank Farm. The Tank Farm was a 52 acre site with above ground fuel storage
tanks owned by six major oil companies: Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Star Enterprises
(Texaco), CITGO and Coastal States. In 1992, PODER discovered that the
companies had violated air emissions and had contaminated the groundwater.
There were numerous health problems in the community.
PODER and EAST sponsored a “Toxic Tour” of the area on February 10,
1992. Elected officials from the city, county and state level, as well as
neighborhood association representatives and school leaders participated. As a
result of the support of several elected officials, community involvement, and
continued queries by PODER and EAST, soil and groundwater contamination at
the site were brought to light.
In 1993, through PODER’s community organizing, the Tank Farm relocated
out of the community and the companies agreed to remediation. Later the
properties were rezoned to less intense use and now the neighborhood is in the
process of creating a redevelopment plan for the area.
HOLLY POWER PLANT (HPP)
The HPP had noise levels that exceed the Housing, Urban, and Development
(HUD) federal standards for residential areas, and elevated EMF (electro
magnetic fields). The HPP was the largest stationary source of nitrogen oxide
which contributes to ozone. Several fires at the site raised additional public health
and safety concerns. PODER’s Young Scholars for Justice have conducted a
community health surveys and participated in a press conferences to voice
community concerns. Ongoing community pressure led the City Council to close
the HPP on September 30, 2007.
BROWNING FERRIS INDUSTRIES (BFI)
BFI, a multinational waste management company, was contracted by the City
of Austin to collect recyclables such as plastics, glass, cans and newspapers of
over 350,000 households. The site became a “mini’ landfill causing an infestation
of rats, alarming residents’ public health concerns.
The neighborhoods called for a relocation plan and in 1996 the City bought the
property, relocated BFI and rezoned it to neighborhood office.
GOVALLE/JOHNSTON TERRACE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN
This community plan was approved by City Council in March 2003, making history
by re-zoning over 600 properties from industrial to less intense uses and more
compatible with residential areas. Included in this rezoning were properties that
were zoned industrial but the actual use was residential. While numerous
properties have been re-zoned, many facilities which store hazardous chemicals
are still located next to schools and in residential areas. PODER will continue to
organize for relocation.
GUADALUPE NEIGHBORHOODGENTRIFICATION: Phase I
The Guadalupe community was one of the first neighborhoods to be hit with a
wave of gentrification. Escalating property taxes forced families to leave the
community and many families actually lost their properties. Gentrification is
occurring at a faster pace in East Austin now that it has been designated the
Desired Development Zone, as part of the city’s Smart Growth initiative and due to
the new zoning categories under the City’s new Neighborhood District Plans.
Today, very few of the original Mexican American and African Americans families
still reside in the neighborhood. The newcomers have also obtained historic
zoning which exempts property owners from paying a majority of taxes. The
surrounding neighbors, however, still have to pay exorbitant taxes. A detailed
report on gentrification in East Austin is available upon request. PODER has
made numerous recommendations and worked to pass Affordable Housing