Minutes

HNA Meeting Minutes for March 16, 2022

Hancock Neighborhood Association

Minutes of the Meeting of March 16, 2022

Held on Zoom and recorded. Coan Dillahunty presiding.

General business and updates

At the January meeting there was concern about the classifications in the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (ASMP- https://www.austintexas.gov/department/austin-strategic-mobility-plan). Bart Whately reported that this is the mobility plan for the streets, which designates streets with Level 1 to 5, level 1 being the narrowest. It doesn’t overlay well on some of the existing streets. Harris Ave. had been classified as Level 2, which allows for protected bike lanes and a right-of-way of 84 feet. For Harris Ave, that could take a resident's entire front yard. Although the city assured us that for older streets, they would never do that, they did reclassify Harris Ave. to a Level 1 street. Citizens can provide feedback using the ASMP website.

The Recreation Center at Hancock Golf Course will be open for in person meetings by our May meeting. The plan at present is to have an in person meeting along with a Zoom meeting.

Cady Lofts

Megan Lasch (Consultant) with Saigebrook Development (https://saigebrook.com), SGI Ventures, O-SDA Industries have partnered in this development project. They are Texas-based, women-owned firms working with the Housing Authority of Austin (HACA) to build 100 continuum-of-care studio units located on 3 lots of land at 39th St and I-35, 1004-1008 E 39th St. Currently the lots are zoned SF3 and LO-MU. The owners of the building will be SGI Ventures and HACA.They have applied to the city for a zoning change to MF-6-NP and a FLUM amendment from single use and mixed use office to multi-family. This would allow them the greatest flexibility in building height and setbacks but their proposal is building only to a height of 45 feet with setbacks of 7.5 and 26 feet. Examples of development sites were included in the slide presentation.

Joy Horak-Brown, President and CEO of New Hope Housing (https://newhopehousing.com), is working with SGI Ventures as consultants with their expertise for stable, affordable housing and services for people on a very limited income. These units would be fully furnished, energy efficient with computer centers and resident services such as health screenings, a fitness center, etc. They provide an integrated care approach with case management to deal with things like addiction, behavioral health and physical health. Emily Ablein, Vice President for Real Estate Development at New Hope Housing, Discussed the population of at-risk individuals that would be homeless if not for this type of housing that provides services for the residents.

The necessary applications have been filed with the city and state with a proposed construction start date of January-March 2023 and a 15 month completion timeline.

Hugh asked about the hearing date for the proposed zoning change. It has not been set but Megan expects that it will be sometime in May. City will send a notice to HNA about the April 7 meeting about the form change.

Josh asked about parking spaces. There will be 29 total under the building. A second follow-up question later in the meeting about parking got the reply that they plan for .3 parking spaces per person and that has always been more than enough for low income people because most of them cannot afford a car.

Robyn asked what Continuum-of-car meant? Joy answered that the residents receive vouchers through HACA to rent the units. In Austin, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) (https://austin.echo.org/leading-system-change/continuum-of-care), is the organization that qualifies individuals for these units.

Joshua Ellinger asked about the name of the Lofts and was told it was named after Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the 19th century advocate for women’s rights and suffrage.

Bart Whately asked about SGI Ventures experience with the density level of this project. The Abali (I-35 and Airport), A senior residence across from the IRS and a planned development at Grover and Koenig was cited. He also asked about the zoning change and what protects the neighborhood from a future developer that might build to the allowable height of which135 ft. Ordinance passed by Austin to increase affordable housing called “Affordability unlocked” (https://www.austintexas.gov/department/affordability-unlocked-developmen...) is like a restrictive covenant that is recorded on the land for 45 years. If SGI Ventures’ project fell through, future developers would be restricted unless they were also providing affordable housing.

Robyn Ross asked how they work with the neighborhood. Megan replied that they work closely with the neighborhoods and listen to any concerns or complaints. They are open for suggestions about anything. Example given was the color of the building. Joy said that the best way to see how these types of projects have been managed over time is to visit some of the existing properties.

Report from the Transportation Committee (Robyn Ross)

Robyn reported on a meeting with TxDot in January. She displayed the diagram of the preferred proposal for the reconstruction of the I-35 corridor through downtown, which is titled “Modified Alternative 3.” In this proposal the upper decks would be removed and the highway would be lowered below ground level. In the downtown area, the construction includes several east/west crossings (aka caps and stitches) to allow easy pedestrian and biking over the highway. The frontage roads are all on the west side and constructed like a boulevard until 15th St. Then they move to the east side but still together until Dean Keaton. North of this the frontage roads go back to the traditional model. The caps and stitches will be installed as part of the project but the city will have to provide the funds for the bike lanes, etc that would be built on the caps. In the Hancock area there are 3 crossings at 32nd, 38 ½ and 41st St, with potential for public spaces. Airport Blvd will be at grade with the freeway running below it. Pedestrian pathways crossing Airport are still not straightforward. Modified Alternative 3 will take 20 less homes through eminent domain.

The Transportation Committee is still concerned about the traffic impact on our neighborhood of the extra lanes for a total of 20 lanes. Frontage roads will be lowered to 35 MPH.

Robyn also reported on the meeting between the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition (NCINC- https://www.ncinc.org/) And TxDot in late February. They questioned TxDot about Project Connect in relation to the number of lanes needed for I-35 since the orange line down Guadalupe and Lamar will be transporting a large number of passengers along with additional bus lines. TxDot referred to a report to be published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University that indicates the number of lanes will still be necessary. There was concern about simultaneously doing all 3 projects (Project Connect, I-35 reconstruction and moving Red River after the Moody Center). The answer was that they were coordinating all of the projects.

Mary Sanger asked if there was still talk about rerouting trucks to 130. Robyn said that there are still too many trucks that have to go through Austin so no plans to restrict that at present. TTI did a study on this specific point.

Report from the Bylaws Committee (Hugh)

Committee has been cleaning up the bylaws. Committee will have one more meeting before the May meeting of the entire association. Everyone will be notified and invited to that meeting when the date is set. Robyn reported a new idea is to add a Talent & Membership Committee that would function somewhat like a nominating committee to ensure that the Association has members running for office by the time of the annual elections. They can scout for potential officers during the year, get them acquainted with what each position entails.

Recorded by Laura Tull

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hnaminutes20220317.docx
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hnaminutes20220317.pdf

hnaminutes_20220317.pdf

hnaminutes_20220317.docx

HNA Meeting Minutes for January 19, 2022

Link to Video

https://youtu.be/mHNx-09uorc

Minutes

President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:01

Harry Swinney moved to adopt the minutes from the December meeting, and Laura Tull seconded.

Coan reminded everyone to pay dues. Dues are $7/adult and the term runs for the calendar year. Instructions are at https://www.hancockna.org/www/join.

Treasurer report from Bruce Fairchild: beginning balance of about $4068, $557 expenses for newsletter, ANC dues and bank fee; $471 gained in HNA dues, ending balance of $3983
Money market account has $2500.

Coan introduced the candidates for officer. Three candidates from last year were able to continue serving: Coan as president, Bart Whatley as vice president, Bruce Fairchild as treasurer. Robyn Ross did not run again for secretary but nominated Laura Tull to serve. Robyn’s nomination of Laura: “Laura has been an enthusiastic volunteer in her 2ish years in the neighborhood, most recently participating in the creek cleanup on It’s My Park Day. She also writes a backyard birding column for the Hancock Herald newsletter and serves on the newsletter’s editorial board. Laura is a retired librarian and has served as secretary in other organizations. She’ll do a great job.” Laura said hello.

The candidates were each nominated verbally by an HNA member. A voice vote was taken and the slate was unanimously approved.

Next was a discussion of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which had been the subject of much conversation on the groups.io. The city of Austin is making amendments to the ASMP and wanted comments by January 30.

Coan showed the city’s website about the project and the map that shows where individual changes might be made on streets. There aren’t many changes to our neighborhood on Level 1 streets; the focus has been on Level 2 (of which there are multiple types). For example, the proposed changes to Harris Avenue are considered a “technical correction,” meaning the ASMP is aligning terminology with actual plans for changes to the street for the bicycle network. The city is encouraging you to comment on the map and submit questions.

Bart also put together an analysis for our neighborhood. He said the changes can look alarming, and the city didn’t do a very good job alerting people to the proposed changes, but the plan is probably not as radical as it might initially seem. He agreed with Hannes Mandel’s email to groups.io about the situation. Bart suspects city planners will modify the standards in the ASMP document to make them fit actual conditions on the ground, but it would be good to hear from the city about how they’d do that. This could be a future agenda item.

Bart said one potential concern is the types of buildings and uses that the city says are appropriate for each “level” of street. For instance, a future zoning request could be justified on the basis that “a level 2 street is appropriate for X denser development.” Bart would like to hear the city say this is all about bike/ped safety and not using ASMP as backdoor tool to justify future zoning requests.

Coan said that if the city were to take property to expand the ROW, there would have to be compensation for that, and as far as he knows pretty much all the bond funding for sidewalks and bike lanes is spoken for. The sidewalks by his house on Red River were recently expanded, and the city’s initial plan had to be revised to take into account heritage trees, power poles, and road elements. Ultimately the sidewalk remained next to the street and just expanded from 5 to 7 feet because of conditions on the ground. Coan assumed a similar dynamic would be in play with these ASMP changes.

Send comments/questions to asmp@austintexas.gov

Hannes Mandel of the transportation committee gave a quick update on I-35. TxDOT was holding a meeting the following week and revealing updates to its plans.
The City of Austin is taking public comment for the cap and stitch project. Their framework is mostly focused on the downtown area, so it would be important for us to comment and ask for additional caps and stitches in our area.
The transportation committee is still planning to invite both TxDOT and Project Connect reps to come to meeting and present/discuss together about I-35.

Bradley Price, HNA’s Leeaison with Lee Elementary, introduced himself. His sons went to Lee and now his grandchildren attend. He said that a bike lane on Harris would help the many kids who ride bikes to school – the Lee principal encourages people to take alternative modes of transportation. Bradley helps with the chicken coop at Lee and runs the Styrofoam recycling project (the blue bin) – he takes full loads to the Recycle and Reuse facility, where it’s turned into a liquid that can be turned into more plastic on site.

Guest presentation: Michelle Myles, director of the Office of Violence Prevention, spoke about her team’s work. Ms. Myles has two degrees in psychology and training to work with people with severe mental illness. She has worked in drug treatment centers and with the homeless population in Austin including at supportive housing locations. She previously worked for the Homeless Strategy division, on projects including the response to encampments around the ARCH in 2019 before the pandemic, and the city’s efforts to provide food and information to people experiencing homelessness during the early days of the pandemic.

The Office of Violence Prevention aims to create safety for every Austinite to thrive. It takes a public health approach to violence, with an equity focus. A public health approach looks further upstream and asks, what do communities with no violence have in common (food, shelter, jobs, community support, relationships with friends and neighbors)? And where are the inflection points between that situation and the opposite, which is crisis response/police involvement? The office is trying to work further upstream and provide support to communities to reduce the likelihood they’ll need police response.

Origin: In 2019 the Gun Safety Taskforce suggested the need for an OVP. The Reimagining Public Safety process also called for an OVP. Council Member Alison Alter really championed it. The office was established early 2020, initially funded with $1.9m in FY21 reallocated from APD, and Ms. Myles was hired June 7, 2021.

The OVP’s value proposition: choose interventions with impact and hold ourselves accountable. The goal is to make health, peace and prosperity accessible to all Austinites. Build trust between community and the city/OVP. Interventions will be data informed and OVP will be transparent about showing results. OVP wants to partner with community orgs and other city departments and government agencies. The OVP will use evidence-based practices (that have been shown to work elsewhere) but tailor them for local Austin conditions. Technical advisors who are national leaders are helping the office build its plans. Ms. Myles also noted that the word “violent” can be used to stigmatize communities and populations and cause further harm.

Focus for 2022: The office became fully staffed in December with three FT permanent staff plus some temps. It hired Dr. Chico Tillman (a violence prevention expert based in Chicago) to identify hotspots with the highest incidence of violent crime. Community-led interventions will be targeted in those areas.
The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and Cities United are other organizations supporting OVP. Austin is among 16 cities selected by the Biden administration to work on community violence intervention, and through this initiative technical advisors have been assigned to Austin.

Programs in development:

  • Limiting impact of firearms. Lock Arms for Life is a safe gun storage awareness campaign and gun lock distribution. This will launch in March.
  • Firearms surrender protocol – relates to the nexus between domestic violence and gun violence. Goal is to establish a protocol for surrendering firearms (there isn’t one right now). Also to give the person who is causing harm the resources they need to stabilize.
  • Investing in youth: school-based programs for kids experiencing behavioral disturbances; art projects in communities impacted by violence, to build social cohesion among kids from Latinx and African diaspora communities
  • Community violence prevention intervention: connected with Dr. Tillman, in high-risk areas
  • Trauma recovery centers: these offer psychotherapy, case management, assistance applying for victim services dollars, legal assistance, hosing assistance; these are put in communities most impacted by violence. Texas doesn’t have these yet. There are 39 across the country.
    Community rooted mini grants: to invest in community organizations doing violence prevention/healing work; proposals open in March.
  • Community violence interruption initiative: projects with Dr. Tillman and the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. These look at violence as a public health issue and work with people who have witnessed violence or have experience with the criminal justice system.
  • Address Your Stress campaign: to raise collective awareness of how stress impacts behavior; the pandemic and all its side effects have raised ambient stress levels across the board, making it more difficult for people to control impulses

More information: https://austintexas.gov/ovp

Question: If people in the neighborhood own firearms, what should they do to create a safer environment?
Answer: Secure your firearm. A gun lock secures it (from children, accidental shootings, etc.) but also can interrupt impulsive behavior. see lockarmsforlife.org for free gun locks.

Question: How can we be an ally or receptive to the work of your office?
Answer: Have compassion for yourself and others. Be more in tune with the ways we create small harm to our selves and others. Realize systemic racism and structural problems continue to influence our world today, but we have the ability to create new things. Understand and have compassion for what happened before and also be open to opportunities to change.

Question: Where is the dashboard you mentioned (regarding local violence data)?
Answer: It doesn’t exist yet but will be on the OVP website. We’re meeting with other cities and figuring out what data to collect and how to display it. We don’t want this process to further stigmatize communities. The hotspots we’ve identified include Rundberg, St. John, Dove Springs, Downtown. There are backstories that influence people’s behavior including institutional racism, generational trauma and extreme stress.

The meeting adjourned about 8:33 pm.

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/notes-from-january-2022-hna-meetin...
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/notes-january-2022-hna-meeting-pub...

Notes-from-January-2022-HNA-meeting-for-publication-2.16.22.pdf

Notes-from-January-2022-HNA-meeting-for-publication-2.16.22.docx

HNA Meeting Minutes for December 8, 2021

HNA regular meeting, December 8, 2021

President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:03 pm.

Coan summarized the online meeting the Parks and Recreation Department led on December 2 about the Hancock Golf Course. The course has made more than a $70K profit in 2021, which the department surmises is due to people’s activities changing during the pandemic and increased interest in golf across the board. The 2022 fiscal year is also off to a good start. PARD began by recapping the process it’s gone through; the focus on Hancock Golf Course began with a revenue shortfall and the city putting forward the idea of a concession agreement to bring in more money. Most recently PARD had said it would reevaluate its options after analyzing 2021 revenue. Now that those numbers are in, PARD has decided to continue running the course as it is, without a concession agreement. PARD wants to enhance the hybrid model and partner with other nongolf uses in the space. There are still challenges with equipment needs and safety corridors and a continued emphasis on financial solvency. There was some discussion at the meeting about concerns about the methodology of the survey PARD distributed about the future of the space. Timeline going forward: PARD plans to provide a memo to council, likely in January, about revenue improvement for the golf division and Hancock in particular, and include ideas about shared use.

The Parks committee did not have any updates at this time.

Officer nominations: Coan explained that our bylaws state that nominations need to be made 30 days in advance of the January meeting. As we did last year, we can take nominations via groups.io. If you’re interested in serving, you can volunteer/nominate yourself, or have someone nominate you by December 19. If folks are interested in meeting to talk about the experience of being an officer, we could hold an ‘open house’ at Jo’s during happy hour.

Due to increasing work and family obligations, Coan is not running for a second term. For similar reasons Robyn Ross is not running for a second term as secretary, but she will continue running the newsletter. Robyn encouraged people not to assume they’re not qualified to run for office simply because they haven’t been involved in a committee before.

Coan moved to adopt the minutes from the September 15 meeting, Hugh Bender seconded, and his dogs thirded the motion. The group voted to adopt the minutes.

Denise Cavanaugh, recreation programs specialist from the Hancock Recreation Center, gave an update on the Rec Center. She has worked with the city six years and oversees after-school programs, toddler programs, day camps and summer programs, and special events like the candlelight trail on the golf course. The Rec Center is not doing the trail this year but instead will host a virtual gingerbread-house-building contest (the Rec Center provides the kits). The Rec Center is also hosting virtual storytime with Mrs. Claus at 11 am on Saturday, Dec. 18 on Zoom. Staff will also be at this Saturday’s art fair at Fresh Plus.

Ms. Cavanaugh would like Hancock neighbors age 50 and older to complete a survey about programs they’d like to see at the Rec Center. Staff are planning to expand the number of programs for this age group. The survey is at this link:
https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=9hleXKumRUux0L5GCKmm...

Coan asked when we might be able to meet at the Rec Center again, and Ms. Cavanaugh said they’re hoping in 2022. She shared her email address: Denise.Cavanaugh@austintexas.gov

The Transportation Committee gave an update about I-35.
Hannes Mandel explained that the committee submitted the statement HNA voted to adopt in September to TxDOT. In mid-October we received a response that just said, “We received your input.” TxDOT held another public meeting in September but didn’t offer new information.

Hannes said he hopes there has been progress between the city and TxDOT as council members have become more outspoken on the issue of I-35.
He shared information about an upcoming virtual meeting (visit this page any time between December 15 and January 15): austintexas.gov/atxcapstitch
The cap-and-stitch plan is good for downtown, but we would like to see those efforts in our area too.

Next steps: We plan to invite representatives from TxDOT and Project Connect to present in January or, if that’s too soon, perhaps at a special meeting in February or at our March meeting. The idea is to get past the standard TxDOT presentation and have these two experts talk to one another about TxDOT incorporating (or, thus far, not incorporating) Project Connect ridership projections into its model. Having both of them in the room at the same time would increase the chance of actually getting answers. To do this successfully, we will need to determine the best possible questions to ask them. Hannes will share a few ideas via groups.io in the next couple weeks. Some other ways to approach the argument are by scrutinizing TxDOT’s logic about the amount of local traffic on I-35 and its refusal to consider sending some traffic to SH 130, and to scrutinize TxDOT’s approach to traffic modeling, which has produced some inaccurate results in the past.

Project Connect: At this point, most meetings are about the Orange and Blue lines that are not in our immediate neighborhood. Hannes encouraged people to continue to be involved. Right now PC is holding meetings about the design of stations along the Drag. At some point the Gold Line (on Red River) will be part of the conversation.

Kitten Holloway said that we first need to get TxDOT and Project Connect to agree to attend a meeting, and then the task will be to develop specific and structured questions so we don’t get same canned responses we’ve gotten before. If you have questions, ask via groups.io “re: transportation committee.” Kitten said that her team could use some help figuring out how to structure these questions – if you would like to help with this project, please post to groups.io and we’ll get in touch.

David Guarino asked whether anyone has asked the US Department of Transportation about its position on I-35. Hannes said that in the past, Brendan Wittstruck (the leader of the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition) has been skeptical that USDOT would intervene. It has intervened in the proposed expansion of I-45 in Houston, but the conditions are a bit different. But we should investigate this; the idea of removing highways instead of adding them is gaining traction nationally.

Leila Levinson announced that the art fair would be held Saturday. It’s officially called the Hyde Park Art Fair because it’s physically in that neighborhood, but it’s for both neighborhoods and has been organized by Leila L and Mary Trahanovsky, both HNA members. The fair will have 34 booths with 31 artists (including David Guarino), mostly from Hyde Park and Hancock, and a literary table.

Hugh Bender reported on a zoning issue pertaining to parcels of land on the frontage road north of Concordia. It has resurfaced after coming before the Zoning Committee in the past. The Zoning Committee, then consisting of Hugh, Bart Whatley, Linda Guerrero and Carolyn Palaima, met with the developer over six months, researched the issue, and last August brought it before HNA. Members voted that we would support a height of 90 feet, not 120 as requested, and we wanted to see firm commitments to including affordable housing since the current PUD was written so poorly that builders can get around complying with affordable housing requirements. HNA also asked for conditions regarding the use of reflective glass; parkland; and green buffering with the neighborhood, with the additional height. There’s been no news since then, and the Planning and Zoning Commission and Austin Water rejected the height increase. The developer is still requesting the additional height and offering nothing in return – this will be considered at the Planning Commission on December 14, which Hugh said earned a strong ‘no’ vote from him personally. Coan will relay the previous HNA resolution to the commission.

Proposal to increase HNA dues:
HNA Secretary and newsletter editor Robyn Ross explained that our newsletter is designed, printed and mailed by a company called Neighborhood News. NN charges $250/issue, or $1500/year for six issues. Paper and postage costs have been increasing, but our current contract goes through May 2022. Our current dues of $5/household are not sufficient to cover this cost. This year we dipped into our savings to support the newsletter, but a sustainable model would be better going forward.

Therefore, the following changes are recommended:
Charge dues per member, not per household, which also facilitates easier recordkeeping: one person, one membership fee, one vote.
Charge $7/person.
We currently have about 250 members. If we retained this membership, $7/person would generate $1750, more than enough to cover the newsletter. If we went this route, most households would pay $14 rather than $5. However, we are not limited to 250 members – we can encourage others to join, which is good for a number of reasons.
Robyn said that similar neighborhood associations charge a bit more than we do (and we haven’t raised dues in at least 10, maybe 20, years).

A motion was made to raise dues to $7/person and passed unanimously.

Robyn reminded people to contribute their stories about Little Free Libraries and about Lee Elementary for the January newsletter.

Coan adjourned the meeting.

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hna-meeting-12821-notes-posting.docx
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hna-meeting-12821-notes-posting.docx

HNA-meeting-12.8.21-notes-for-posting.pdf

HNA-meeting-12.8.21-notes-for-posting.docx

HNA Meeting Minutes for September 15, 2021

Video of the meeting: https://youtu.be/vQ8GRKN57VE

Minutes from our September 15, 2021 HNA meeting

HNA President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:03 pm.

Coan gave an update on the golf course. At the latest Parks Board meeting in August, staff gave an update on the budget. The fiscal year ends at the end of September, and for the first time in a long time the course will be profitable. A record number of rounds have been played, and the course made a $71K profit. PARD will come back with more community engagement opportunities after the final budget numbers are in, maybe October-November.

Treasurer Bruce Fairchild reported on our financial situation. Our checking account started with about $4284, added $35 in dues, spent $250 for the newsletter, and ended with a balance of about $4068. The money market account remained steady at $2510.

Bruce moved to adopt the minutes from the July meeting and the motion was seconded by David Guarino.

Joanna Wolaver announced the upcoming Waller Creek cleanup on Saturday, November 6, It’s My Park Day. Joanna has organized volunteer cleanup days in a professional capacity in the past. Volunteers should meet at the northwest corner of Hancock Golf Course and will go up and down the creek between 9 and noon.

Coan encouraged members to get in touch if they were interested in serving on any committees, such as parks, transportation or zoning.

Andrew Clamann and Staryn Wagner of the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department presented about Waller Creek’s water quality and riparian stewardship. Andrew oversees the city’s water-quality sampling program, and Staryn is an environmental scientist.

Andrew began by explaining the water-quality sampling program, called the Environmental Integrity Index. Its goal is to protect the chemical, biological and physical integrity of Austin’s surface water – not just in the creek itself, but the entire riparian zone. This program monitors 50 creeks, and the quality of any section of creek can be viewed via an interactive web map at ATXWatersheds.com

The EII measures several aspects of creek health, including nutrients, bacteria and physical habitat. Nutrients are primarily forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, which, in excess, contribute to the overgrowth of algae and decrease of oxygen available for fish. In urban neighborhoods, sources of these nutrients include lawn fertilizer and waste from cats, dogs and chickens.

What can residents do?

  • If possible, don’t use fertilizer at all.
  • If you must fertilize, apply the minimum amount, and avoid doing so before a rain.
  • Keep lawn clippings and brush out of the creek (they cause problems as they decay).
  • Try to mulch these or leave them on your yard, or set them out for the city to pick up.
  • Scoop the poop, including in your yard.

The part of the creek that runs through Hancock is called the Waller 3 reach. Its most recent quality assessment rates it “fair,” and it ranks in the bottom 20% of creek health. It rated lowest for “contact recreation,” meaning the quality of the water for human health. Quarterly sampling has revealed e.coli bacteria, which is typically an indicator of the presence of other pathogens. In terms of quantifiable values of creek health, below 126 is “good” for e.coli, and anything greater than 399 is bad. Average values for Waller Creek are over 1000, so this is an issue. Culprits could include feces from wildlife, dogs and cats, as well as potential leaks in the wastewater lines that run down the middle of the creek. (The city tries to identify suspected leaks, but it can be difficult to pinpoint them.)

Another challenge for Waller Creek is “urban creek syndrome,” in which urban creeks fill up right after big rains and then are practically empty again the next day. In the lower reaches of urban creeks there’s often not enough base flow to support habitat for aquatic life, and the banks are eroded. Creeks outside the city tend to have more even, constant flows as the entire riparian zone absorbs and releases water. Urban creek syndrome results partly from impervious cover causing lots of runoff during storms.

How can we reverse that trend? We need to slow down stormwater and give it a chance to clean itself and soak into the soil.

  • Use rain gardens – sculpt your lawn so it hangs onto water rather than letting it run off
  • Use rain barrels to capture water that hits your roof
  • A rule of thumb is to retain the first 1.8 inches of rain
  • Plant plants with deeper roots. St. Augustine grass has very shallow roots, but plants and grasses with deeper roots help break up the soil and let rain soak in.

To protect the health of the creek we can also report polluters (someone throwing their lawn waste into the creek or a car wash that lets soap run off) via the 24-hour pollution hotline, 512-974-2550.

Andrew also encouraged us to support political leaders that support the environment, because sometimes the City of Austin is limited in the rules it can make by other governmental entities.

Staryn Wagner then spoke about riparian zone stewardship. The riparian zone is the interface of the terrestrial and aquatic environments and plays a critical role in the health of streams. A good riparian zone has a flat or gently sloping floodplain within 50 or 100 feet of the stream, with plants that slow down water in flood events.

Helping riparian zones improves both water quality and water quantity. When the land near the creek can hold water in the soil, the creek has more base flow in dry times. Healthy riparian zones slow down storm water, reduce erosion, build healthier soil and sustain base flow and life in the creek.

The city has made a major shift to help riparian zones through its Grow Zone program, which started in 2011. The Watershed Department has jurisdiction over the stream in the creek channel, and the Parks and Recreation Department has jurisdiction over the area outside the channel. At about 50 areas across the city, Watershed and PARD agreed that PARD would stop mowing for 10 to 50 feet from streams that run through parks. This has helped plants near the creek grow larger and grow roots that help hold the soil together.

The city and residents have worked on several riparian zone restorations where an amazing number of plants have returned to creek banks in less than a decade. The closest one to Hancock is Willowbrook Reach in the Cherrywood neighborhood, and everyone is encouraged to go check it out.

Watershed has created a creekside homeowners’ guide with best practices for creek health and recommendations for types of plants to use in landscaping. If you live near the creek and would like to talk about how to help, contact Andrew or Staryn at 512-974-2550.

During the Q&A, a question was asked about the use of fertilizer on the Hancock Golf Course. The answer from Watershed was that it would be good to ask PARD this question. We do know the course uses reclaimed water, which is high in nutrients, for watering. Watershed did a study on golf courses and parks that use reclaimed water to see what effects it has on creeks, and the stretch of Waller Creek that runs through Hancock did not show an overload of nutrients from that source.

Next, Stephanie McDonald of Central Health spoke about the healthcare district’s plans for the Sears building at Hancock Center.

Central Health is the Travis County healthcare district, a local government entity with taxing authority that provides healthcare for people with low incomes who otherwise would not have access to care. Central Health partners with Ascension Seton and offers the Medical Access Program for people who meet income and other eligibility guidelines. Most of this care is provided through CommUnity Care Clinics (including the one at Hancock Center, which has offered Covid testing and other services during the pandemic). Central Health also offers the Sendero HMO insurance plans for people who have low incomes but are able to pay premiums.

Central Health has purchased the Sears building to consolidate administrative operations in the upper floor. The bottom floor will likely be transformed into healthcare space, perhaps for the provision of cardiology and neurology. The basement under Sears is no longer built out. Central Health will be working on the design in the fall, and Stephanie can update us when they are farther along.

Finally, HNA members discussed a response to TxDOT regarding its plans to expand I-35 through Central Austin. Hannes Mandel, Kitten Holloway and Robyn Ross are the Transportation committee and drafted a statement for the neighborhood to review.

Robyn presented background about TxDOT’s process so far:

TxDOT’s overall project is called the I-35 Capital Express and runs from SH 45 in Round Rock to SH 45 in Buda. The Capital Express Central section is the 8 miles from 290 in the north to Ben White in the south.

The Transportation committee has been working with NCINC, the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition, which was formed in 2000 and comprises 12 neighborhoods focusing on the area from roughly MLK to Airport. Some NCINCers have been monitoring I-35 developments for 20 years and have been a good source of expertise.

What’s already been decided:

  • In response to community feedback, TxDOT is going to remove the upper decks and lower the roadway below ground level through central Austin.
  • It’s also going to add two managed lanes in each direction.
  • Managed lanes = non-tolled but prioritize buses, carpools and vanpools.

TxDOT Public Scoping Meeting #1 (online), Nov. 12-December 31, 2020

TxDOT presented three alternatives and a no-build alternative.
Alternative #1 The main lanes were lowered below street level, and the managed lanes were tunneled under them.
Alternative #2 The main lanes and managed lanes were side by side, lowered below street level. In our part of the project this was 19 total lanes across including the main lanes, managed lanes and frontage road.
Alternative #3 was the same as #2, with main lanes and managed lines side by side, but with “managed lane overpasses at Airport Boulevard and Woodland Avenue.”

TxDOT Public Scoping Meeting #2 (online), March 11-April 9, 2021

TxDOT did not present new alternatives but took feedback on the alternatives it had already presented. At this point TxDOT said it had received more than 2,300 comments, which included
requests for it to evaluate impacts to community health and equity, consider other design alternatives including decks over the freeway or replacing I-35 with an urban boulevard, analyze climate change and greenhouse gases, prioritize safety, and divert traffic to SH 130.

TxDOT Virtual Public Meeting #3 (online), August 10-September 24, 2021

TxDOT has eliminated Alternative #1 (tunneling the managed lanes) because of concerns about cost and emergency vehicle access. In NCINC meetings and at the recent Cherrywood open house we heard that a number of people had preferred that alternative. TxDOT has not released the “votes” for each alternative.

Alternatives #2 and #3 both remove the upper decks and place all the lanes next to each other.

  • In our neighborhood this is mostly 18 lanes across, including frontage lanes.
  • Downtown, the plans show a lowered freeway and crossings at 8th, 7th, 6th and 5th as well as a train and bike crossing at 4th street. This adds connectivity between east and west in downtown.
  • The only difference between alternatives 2 and 3 between Airport and MLK is that Alternative 3 elevates the managed lanes from the rest of the freeway to cross Airport and the railroad tracks there.

Right-of-way impact:

  • Between 30th and 38th ½ on the east side the difference is notable. Half of the block between the frontage road and Robinson is taken for the freeway – this includes the Stars Café, the Days Inn, Escuelita del Alma preschool, Chicas Bonitas, Dreamers and so forth. On the west side, the ROW is significantly expanded to the walls of the Public Storage building, the Austin Chronicle, the Bank of America, and Dura-Tune.
  • There is not a significant change at the Concordia site or St. David’s.
  • It looks like one house at the end of 43rd is directly affected.

Next steps for TxDOT:

  • Sept. 24 is the public comment deadline for this round.
  • Fall 2022: TxDOT will present its “preferred alternative.” The public will have 60 days this time to provide comments.
  • Summer 2023: TxDOT will present its “selected alternative.”
  • Construction begins late 2025.

The transportation committee was informed by four main principles:

  • TxDOT’s mission is to facilitate the flow of traffic, but the committee does not think this should come at the expense of other quality of life concerns, like the noise and pollution in our neighborhood, and our ability to travel in ways other than cars.
  • Traffic gets very congested on I-35 and a solution is needed, but in many other settings adding lanes has not fixed congestion. New lanes quickly fill up as people choose to use them and additional freeway-dependent development is built. This is called “induced demand.”
  • The committee is concerned about vehicle emissions’ contribution to climate change and the fact that the TxDOT plans don’t fully take into account the Project Connect public transit plan Austinites voted for in 2020 and will be paying for going forward. TxDOT says 85% of I-35 traffic is local, and Project Connect’s buses and light rail are designed to take local vehicles off the roads. As of March 2021, TxDOT representatives said they had not modeled the impact of Project Connect.
  • Neighborhood volunteers are not engineers and should not be expected to provide a structural solution for I-35. But they are experts on what it’s like to live near I-35, and TxDOT should listen to us for that reason.

Kitten then introduced and read the statement and took feedback and questions, paragraph by paragraph.

Snow White and Coan asked about “stitches” (multimodal connections between east and west) and Hannes showed the roll plot map of the freeway sections and stitches near Hancock.

Lynn Saarinen suggested the addition of stated concerns about neighborhood traffic and noise, and Trevor Hackett suggested finessing the language in the action items. Kristene Blackstone pointed out a copyedit.

Beth Kelley moved that HNA adopt the statement with these changes, and multiple people seconded. The vote to adopt the statement was unanimous.

Hannes encouraged everyone to submit individual comments to TxDOT by Sept. 24 and highlighted an upcoming TxDOT public meeting on Sept. 30 as well as Project Connect meetings tentatively slated for later in the fall.

The final statement, as follows, was submitted to TxDOT by the Sept. 24 deadline:

The Hancock Neighborhood Association opposes TxDOT’s current plans for the I-35 Capital Express Central project. The schematics provided on August 10, 2021, reflect TxDOT’s insufficient attention to community feedback and represent unnecessary harm to north central neighborhoods.

Expanding I-35 to 20 – and in some areas 22 – lanes will induce thousands of additional vehicle trips per day through central Austin, offsetting potential gains in traffic safety, increasing emissions and noise pollution, degrading air quality, exacerbating health conditions, likely contributing to further neighborhood traffic congestion, and obstructing Austin’s Community Climate Plan target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All this for an expansion that will not relieve con­gestion, as stated by TxDOT’s own District Engineer Tucker Ferguson in a presentation to Austin City Council on August 31.

We find these plans to be indefensible in light of the already unfolding climate crisis, which requires that we all think more carefully and creatively about how we travel. We also find them to be outdated, as they do not sufficiently take into account – let alone strategically integrate – the Project Connect plans for extensive light rail service and additional bus service that will reduce Austinites’ need for vehicle trips.

We do applaud TxDOT’s intent to remove the upper decks, which bring noise into the entirety of our neighbor­hood and exacerbate the division between Hancock and our eastside neighbors in Cherrywood, Wilshire Woods, Mueller, and East Austin. We also applaud TxDOT’s openness to reconnecting downtown with a cap and stitch plan and adding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

However, with only two “stitches” between US 290 East and MLK Blvd, and no definite plans for any “caps” in this 3.5-mile stretch, north central neighborhoods like ours will disproportionately bear the considerable negative outcomes of an expansion of I-35. It is already exceedingly difficult and dangerous for us to travel east to Cherrywood or Mueller on foot or by bicycle. We can only imagine the additional challenges posed by a 20-lane thoroughfare, including up to 4-lane frontage roads, no matter the particular design. What is more, the overwhelming majority of up to 147 displacements and 32 acres of right-of-way required for Alternatives 2 and 3 are located in north central neighborhoods, including Hancock.

In 2020, Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg vowed that plans for I-35 in central Austin would be “no wider and no higher.” With its dismissal of community alternatives and the removal of Alternative 1 from study – the only alternative that approached this claim – before the public was able to comment on it, TxDOT has not kept this promise.

Furthermore, TxDOT’s Alternatives 2 and 3 are practically identical, leaving no opportunity for the community to participate in the project in a meaningful way. North central neighborhoods affected by this proposed expansion deserve a direct, open dialogue with TxDOT to develop a reasonable alternative that produces positive impacts for the people living and working along the I-35 corridor, now and in the future.

We therefore join other north central neighborhoods in rejecting TxDOT’s current plans. We would like to engage with TxDOT to identify solutions that balance TxDOT’s mandate to move traffic with our neighborhoods’ needs to breathe clean air, travel safely on foot and by bicycle, and keep our homes and businesses from being demolished to make room for an even larger highway.
 
We ask TxDOT to heed our concerns and design an I-35 corridor that

  1. truly connects us, instead of dividing us further;
  2. preserves the integrity of our neighborhoods, instead of uprooting businesses and families;
  3. reduces I-35’s footprint, if anything, instead of expanding it further;
  4. works hand in hand with Project Connect, helping reduce traffic and pollution, instead of increasing them further;
  5. serves the needs, health, and safety of all Austinites engaged in all modes of transportation, of this and many future generations, instead of doubling down on the mistakes of the past.

The meeting concluded at 8:49 pm.

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hna-september-15-meeting-notes.docx
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/hna-september-15-meeting-notes.pdf

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