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Rendon House deemed worthy of preservation due to exceptional merit of its prior owner

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Edward Rendon Sr.’s contributions to the East Austin community have never been in question. However, whether or not his house is eligible to be zoned historic to commemorate his efforts has become a subject of debate.

Rendon was an activist who fought for the East Austin Latino community, and among other things, helped clean up Festival Beach and reduce the noise pollution that was rampant from the drag boat races of the 70s. In 2007, the park at Festival Beach was renamed Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach in his honor.

His home was a center of activity where many important meetings took place and activism flourished. But Rendon, who was a stonemason, altered the facade of the home 48 years ago, which according to the rules associated with historic designation puts it two years outside the timeline for historic consideration.

Despite that, Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky pointed out at the Oct. 28 meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission, “Our criteria for designation allow for the designation of houses that have not achieved their significance over 50 years ago if there is a showing of significant association since that time.” Rendon’s activism, he said, fits into that category.

Commissioners Witt Featherston, Alex Papavasiliou and Kevin Koch expressed hesitancy at recommending the designation of the building as historic, but joined their peers in a unanimous vote to send the case the Planning Commission with their recommendation.

“I think it warrants the discussion above and beyond this commission,” said Papavasiliou.

“I also have conflicted feelings, but I don’t feel this is where the property’s story stops,” Featherston agreed.

The case, which is owner-opposed, drew dozens of community members to the commission meeting to say their piece and offer their support for one side or another.

Rose Rubio, one of Rendon’s daughters, is the primary owner of the property (80 percent) and is opposed to the historic designation. “I think his legacy is not in the home, it’s in the community,” she told the commission.

Rubio already has the property under contract with a buyer who has filed a demolition permit with the city.

Her lawyer sent a letter to the commission detailing how exceptionally recommending this case does not follow the code procedure for historic designation. If the property is designated historic, “My client will have no choice but to file a lawsuit based on inverse condemnation and the full amount of her damages from the city.”

The dispute over whether or not to support historic zoning has divided the family. Bertha Delgado, Rendon’s granddaughter and the president of East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association, told the commission, “This is more than a house to us … this is about making history in 2019 as we’re facing (the) Land Development Code.”

Commissioner Ben Heimsath reminded the parties that the commission could not take arguments from a family feud into consideration. “I am very sorry that there is contention within the family … that has nothing to do with our purview here,” he said.

Disregarding the family members’ pointed comments about untruths and exaggerated stories, when the commissioners weighed the community, historic and architectural significance of the home, they concluded it was worth preserving. Chair Emily Reed was absent.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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