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Historic zoning denied for former residence of women’s health advocate

Tuesday, October 6, 2020 by Jasmine Lopez

A West Campus duplex that was once home to a notable women’s health advocate will soon be demolished after the Historic Landmark Commission met last Monday evening and voted against historic designation and in favor of demolition for the home.

Due to the condition of the duplex at 2609 San Pedro St., construction contractor Carter Joseph had requested a demolition permit from the city, though city preservation staff were recommending historic zoning.

“I’ve been a construction contractor for 15 years,” Joseph said. “I’ve worked on numerous landmark properties and I can say with certainty that if we move forward with trying to work with this house, there would be nearly no (historic) fabric left.”

Kalan Contreras, a senior planner with the Historic Preservation Office, presented staff recommendations for historic designation due to its architecture and strong association with Josephine Draper Daniel, who made it her permanent residence in 1944. Daniel, who was a journalist and editor of the Texas Medical Journal, is recognized for her work in women’s health advocacy.

Making the case for preservation, Contreras referenced Daniel’s accomplishments of serving on the state board of Planned Parenthood in its early days, and the board of the League of Women Voters. She was also a founding member of the Austin Altrusa club, a service organization for professional women.

“As editor she subtly introduced the journal’s audience, which were predominantly male physicians, to early tenets of feminism and health care, which was pretty much unheard of at the time,” Contreras said.

The building is a hipped-roof duplex with horizontal wood siding, six-by-six windows, composition shingles, and a second-floor balcony.

Joseph presented a residential inspector’s report and an engineer’s report to demonstrate the poor state of the property. He also told the commission that the windows, doors, sidings, foundation, roof, gutters, and electrical and plumbing systems would need to be replaced in order for the building to be structurally sound.

“The current improvements are in exceptionally poor condition,” Joseph said. “(The rotting) is so bad that recently we had to do an emergency repair to rebuild the balcony. If I had hung something from (the balcony) it would have fallen off.”

Commissioner Terri Myers initially moved to recommend historic zoning “for the sake of discussion.” Commissioner Kevin Koch opposed the motion due to the structure’s condition as stated in the reports.

In his demolition request, Joseph described the building as “beyond salvageable” according to the engineer’s report prepared for Joseph by FORT Structures.

“I’m a little bothered by the emergency repair on the balcony and the front door, both of which are pretty big players as far as key character defining features,” Koch said. “It does add to the concern about the quality of this application because of the loss of those features.”

Despite Myers’ motion for historical zoning, she shared Koch’s architectural concerns.

“I want to encourage applications for landmarks associated with women who have made contributions to Austin’s history,” Myers said. “But I think there may be better examples that have more architectural integrity.”

The commission, including Myers, who proposed the motion, voted unanimously to oppose recommending historic designation for the property. Commissioners Alex Papavasiliou and Beth Valenzuela were absent from the meeting.

Koch proposed a substitute motion to release the demolition permit upon completion of the city documentation package, consisting of photographs, dimensions and sketch plans, and a narrative history for archiving at the Austin History Center. The motion, seconded by commissioner Witt Featherston, passed unanimously.

Joseph said the demolition permits would make way for a project on the site that would opt into the university housing overlay, which requires affordable housing.

“Considering Austin’s housing crisis, the proposed project for the site would have four affordable housing studio units on it that are desperately needed for the immediate area,” Joseph said.

This story was written by a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. The Austin Monitor is working in partnership with the UT School of Journalism to teach and publish stories produced by students in the City and County Government Reporting course.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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