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Eastside residents criticize Galindo condo project

Thursday, June 5, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Place 4 Council candidate Cid Galindo is facing criticism from some East Austin residents over development in their neighborhood. They are accusing the former member of the Planning Commission of contributing to the gentrification of East Austin by developing high-end condominiums in one of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods.


Galindo is a partner in City Bloc Development, LLC, which has several homes under construction. Critics gathered Wednesday in front of two of those on one lot at 2108 Haskell which they said highlighted the disconnect between Galindo’s professed commitment to affordable housing and his actions.


“He’s been saying he’s for affordable housing…for him to say those kinds of things, then to find out he’s building these big old huge…what they call condos, which are selling for over $500,000 each, then causing all the property tax increases in this neighborhood, I’m very disappointed,” said Sabino Renteria.


The company’s web site lists one of the units as a two-story home at approximately 850 square feet, and indicates it recently sold for the list price of $215,000. The second, larger unit on the property is listed as available and is priced at $425,000. The Travis Central Appraisal District values several other existing homes on Haskell St. at between $163,000 and $216,000.


Other East Side residents said they were upset about the continuing trend of new, expensive development in an area that has traditionally been more affordable. “It’s not that we don’t want diversity, it’s not that we don’t want economic justice, but we want it in a planned way so citizens are not displaced,” said Ora Houston. “It’s hard to believe that you say you’re a proponent of affordable housing, and yet you come into a community where the modesty of the neighborhood is so apparent, and you build eyesores like this. What does that say to the people who live around you?”


Galindo said he was surprised at the reaction to the project, since it complied with city regulations and included one unit within the general market rate for the immediate area. “I think it’s kind of bizarre that I’m being criticized for this,” he said. “What I am doing in East Austin is really developing the way that we would hope developers in Austin will develop.” The increased density on the lot, Galindo said, was in keeping with the goals of the city and the neighborhood. “We are taking advantage of the rules that have been set out by the neighborhood to create more affordable units in the neighborhood as it evolves,” he said, “and we are doing it all under the rules of the McMansion ordinance, which were to some degree created by my opponent. So I’m doing all three of these things which my opponent supports, and yet I’m being attacked for that.”


Laura Morrison, who is facing Galindo in the June 14 runoff election, attended the news conference called by the group of East Austin residents on Wednesday. “It certainly has detrimental impacts in terms of increasing other people’s property taxes when they’re on a fixed income and they’ve lived here for a long time,” Morrison said of the new units on Haskell St.


“All of a sudden they are having to pay much higher tax bills on something that is just their home. I’m troubled by the fact that we’ve been listening to Mr. Galindo’s concerns about affordability, while at the same time he’s been engaged in something that’s been discussed very explicitly as a problem, but he hasn’t come forward to talk about his involvement,” Morrison said.

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