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Casa de Luz looking for solution to parking quandary

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Threatened with closure in June, Casa de Luz still has not solved its parking problems.


Time is running out on a court-ordered deferral requiring the restaurant’s owners to submit an off-site parking site plan by the end of the day on Tuesday. Casa de Luz, which is located in South Austin near Town Lake Park, has never had enough on-site parking, according to city guidelines, and in Dec. 2010 it got a citation from the Code Compliance Department.


The city has temporarily closed the nearby Butler Shores parking lot to the public due to expansion of the Zach Scott Theater. Casa de Luz is not permitted to use the lot, but it has been linked to the struggle for more parking nonetheless.


“Legally and technically we aren’t using it,” Eduardo Longoria, steward and founder of Casa de Luz, told In Fact Daily. “It’s not helping us comply with code. Although we’d love to pay Parks and Recreation for some space.”


It is doubtful that will be happening anytime soon. The Parks and Recreation Department first denied Casa’s request to use the parking lot in 1993 and has not wavered from that stance since.


“We’re not allowed to give up our city parkland for private use,” explained Victor Ovalle, public information officer with the Parks and Recreation Department.


A city notice about the Butler Shores temporary parking closure reiterates the sentiment. “Parkland parking is not intended or authorized for general public use to citizens who are simply in the vicinity to eat at a private restaurant, who live in area condos, or who are running errands unrelated to active use of the park facility,” it states.


Longoria is now looking into renting parking from former Schlotzsky’s owner John Wooley, who is willing to rent to Casa de Luz instead of Chuy’s. Longoria described this solution as  “fine and good for crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” but noted, “The fact is that no new parking is going to be created.”


“I’m told by the code enforcer, Matthew Noriega, that we’re not the only ones having this kind of parking problem within the secondary tier of downtown,” said Longoria. “If you want my opinion, of course we’re part of downtown. There just happens to be a river running by there.” Longoria is aware that such an expansion of the borders of downtown would have its detractors.


“Laura Morrison, as you know, voted against the PUD for that eight-story building,” said Longoria. “She emphatically said that she would not support this area being called ‘downtown,’ because she thinks that there needs to be a natural barrier between downtown and the neighborhood. I think that Barton Springs is that barrier.”


Legal troubles aside, Longoria does not see a lack of parking as a detriment to Casa de Luz’s business. “When parking doesn’t become available, we’re going have to rely on people who are going to walk there, use public transportation, or use their bicycles,” said Longoria. ”That’s fine with us.”


As it stands now, how much parking the restaurant needs is not something that can be determined internally. With the June deadline looming, Longoria has been meeting with city officials to try and figure out a solution.


Longoria has met with several Council Members.


“I’m an optimist. And not only am I an optimist, I have a hard time believing that a place that is so widely supported will be shut down,” said Longoria. “But we’re under a court order, and I’ve experienced the wrath of municipal court people, and they are by-the-book people.”

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