Constant dollars

Austin at Large: ‘No Meaningful Impact’: On Unforced Errors, Ugly Legacies, Double Standards and Loving Your Neighbor – News

Right now we have in the headlines two long-planned urban projects, in different departments and in different parts of the city, which at least temporarily went to FUBAR, because angry and frightened neighbors rang the bell. alarm about these LULUs. (“Locally undesirable land uses.” You can ask your elders about the other.) If we really achieved our goals as a city and community for equity and justice, these two scenarios would be much more similar than they actually are.

Because you read the the ChronicleYou already know of these two projects – the proposed new home for the Downtown Austin Community Court in the old municipal building on W. Eighth and the planned new jet fuel depot on US 183 at the airport. We reported on both controversies last week, and we have more on the fuel depot this week, as it promises to be the main event of today’s City Council meeting (Thursday, April 7) . The airport’s angry and frightened neighbors, who are mostly Latinx families of modest means, will likely be told to suck it up, but in a much more politically crafted way, as the Council tries to honor the efforts of Vanessa Fuentes to defend her Del Valle voters who were left out of the decision to relocate and expand the AUS fuel depot several years ago. While everyone agrees there’s no neighbor benefit here, the city and its aviation department themselves are concerned that the airport formerly known as ABIA will lose flights and passengers and billions of dollars because there is no fuel storage at the exact time everyone in this solar system wants to fly to Austin.

The same age as Luka Doni

Our airport, barely old enough to drink (opened in 1999), has lived an enchanted life, growing steadily beyond projection while maintaining a reputation as one of the best, most charming and one of the most laid-back places in the country to catch a flight. . Those good vibes translate to happier CEOs of companies who then move here, happier airlines bringing us more direct flights to more cities, and happier downtown hotels and convention businesses. Money spent on bailing out your airport is a pretty reliable investment in economic development.

The 150 million gallon fuel tanks aren’t very buoyant, but when the AUS runs out of fuel, it screws up travel for miles and other airports, and people in suits get very upset. When the repository obtained the required environmental clearance from the federal government in 2020 – a “no significant impact conclusion”, universally uttered, “Fonzie!” – it was supposed to be almost a decade away from being built, all the time to check in with these neighbors across the US 183, maybe offer them buyouts, maybe show them around facilities in other cities , maybe develop a cohesive environmental justice policy for the city of Austin, maybe Google “tank farm” and “East Austin” – lots of options.

But things have accelerated, and here we are. Perhaps the city and AUS leaders involved and their consultants can identify, in hindsight, the point in the process when they should have realized that moving giant tanks of explosive chemicals to a highly visible location in the western end of the airport property would attract trouble. be careful, no matter how safe the tanks really are or how easily the neighbors’ concerns seem to be easily addressed in their professional opinion. Can’t fix what you don’t understand!

But older than these lofts

Back downtown, the residents of the Brown Building and their high-ranking defenders weren’t asked to suck it up. Their silly, clueless and embarrassing objections to homeless people receiving help a few blocks closer to their first Aughts condo conversion (it was once an office building with a colorful history, roughly same age as the old municipal building) not only put the relocation of the DACC on indefinite hold, but gave downtown stakeholders an opportunity to open up the entire DACC model for review. It’s as if the answer to the AUS fuel depot flap was, “Maybe we shouldn’t be flying planes after all.” Let’s get off the beaten track.

A key role here is played by the Downtown Austin Alliance, which isn’t really NIMBY by nature and has been at the table for most of the long task of crafting a workable homelessness policy in Austin, while that other local real estate interests were writing checks to Save Austin now. It seems plausible that the DAA’s now targeting the DACC also reflects broken engagement processes and communication loops — that they tried to voice their concerns and were ignored in Austin’s rush to solutions. during the last years of crisis. DACC is flawed, as are all other actors and programs in the homelessness system, which like AUS struggles to keep up with growing demand; perhaps the DAA could turn its spin process improvement gaze to Integral Care or Caritas of Austin or Front Steps next. (We hear stories.) But it’s also arguably the DAA’s mandate and legacy, more than anyone else, to help downtown residents with homes build relationships with downtown residents. without them. If they don’t want to do this job, we have to find someone to do it.

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