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Parks Department looking to evict youth hostel from parkland

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by Michael Kanin

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is again attempting to evict the operators of the city’s only youth hostel, Hostelling International Austin. PARD owns the property on which the hostel sits. Though the parties are working on a lease extension that would last until December 1, 2013, the department aims to reclaim it after that point.


According to a memo written to Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the rest of the City Council PARD director Sara Hensley does not see the use of park land for a hostel as ideal. “While we recognize that the hostel might prefer to remain at the current site, their primary function is a hotel/boarding facility and this does not meet the intended use for public parkland,” wrote Hensley.


The hostel has been at its location on South Lakeshore Boulevard since 1989. PARD tried to evict the facility in 2000, when it hoped to take over the facility for office space. Then-Council Member Jackie Goodman fought the plan and the hostel and PARD eventually agreed on a five-year extension of that lease. The current situation arose after a second five-year extension expired in 2010.


According to a letter from Hensley to hostel director Kassi Darakhshan, PARD has since determined that the year extension would have to go before Council for a Chapter 26 hearing. Chapter 26 hearings are mandated by Texas law for non-parks projects that involve existing parkland.


In the letter to Council, Hensley suggests that, with the expected completion of the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk in 2013, the department could “transition this site to other operations that meet a variety of community needs as well as the co-location of a park ranger/park police office.”


Hensley echoed those thoughts in her letter to Darakhshan. “I want to reiterate that occupancy of the hostel at its current location after December 1, 2013 would not be acceptable to the operational needs of (PARD) for the use of the building,” Hensley said.


According to sources familiar with the situation, PARD offered the hostel a list of alternate sites to which it could move but hostel operators thought none of them were appropriate.


Darakhshan told In Fact Daily that the hostel would like to remain where it is. She said that the hostel paid roughly $25,000 in hotel taxes last year.


According to documents provided to In Fact Daily by PARD, the hostel pays a base monthly rent of $1,625 to the city. That figure was set to escalate incrementally in the 2001 deal after the hostel has 9,000 overnight stays. The amount of the increase was $1.50 per stay over that figure.


The hostel’s rent may also increase if it is allowed to stay in the same location after 2013.

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