City Council voted for an interim moratorium on big new house construction last night. The debate carried on past 11:00 p.m. Builders and neighborhoods were there in force. Allandale was represented by John Keohane. What follows is his summary of the proceedings:
Neighbors, There was testimony from all over the city on the problems with McMansions, and those of us supporting the interim regulations had great support from three sponsors on the council, but among those actually coming to city hall, we were outnumbered, by about 244 to 86. The pro-unfettered development got to go first, because so many of the before 6 pm signins were against any restrictions on how they have been doing business.
If we are going to protect, and upgrade our neighborhood, we may need for many in Allandale to go to city hall. I took the number 3 bus. That it came within a few blocks of both my house, and city hall, and I did not need to drive. Folks can also carpool. Please think about it. I can even post the #3 bus schedule(50 cents each way, free if you are at least 65).
I was the only one I recognized from Allandale. The council will take this up next Thursday. I took yesterday evening to be there to sign in and to testify. As we are all volunteers in this thing, how about some of you going next Thursday, when the public hearing is expected to continue?
Below are my basic remarks to the city Council. In the interest of brevity, I shortened my presentation slightly:
Mayor Wynn, city council members, city staff, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is John Keohane [CO hayne]. I live at 5702 Wynona Avenue in Austin. As I look around, my guess is that I am not among the youngest person in this room.
I tutor in math, and I sub, both in public and private schools. Wednesday afternoon I tutored an engineering major from UT. Today I was substituting at Austin High School, and last Monday I taught 2nd grade at St. Theresa’s Catholic School.
It’s a long time since I was a student in the 2nd grade. Harry Truman was our President.
Cynthia and I have been married for 32 years, and she and our house here in Austin have the same birthday. We learned that two years ago, when we closed on our home in Allandale. On that important day, in June, 1949, Truman was still President.
I ask you to think about history, and rise in support of the 60-90 day interim regulations. I think the quality of construction of so many homes here in Austin, and the quality of life, in so many neighborhoods, is part of what makes Austin, Austin.
That does not mean money can’t be invested. Before the Keohanes moved in, we hired an architect. I went to One Texas Center and pulled the permit. Then we hired a plumber and an electrician, someone to refinish the oak floors and someone to put a new floor in the kitchen, engaged a
carpenter who is really a cabinet maker, and won a half bath from the utility room, all the while keeping the same footprint for the house, not increasing impervious cover, and not adding a second story. The sunlight flows through the curtains of our new half bath as I shave.
It is fine for a man to shave, but less good for Austin, to shave, or bulldoze our heritage.
Finally, I will read from something even older than I am. It’s a quote on what zoning is, taken from the 1938 edition of the high school government text, Government in Action, published by Harcourt Brace and Company, and authored by Robert E. Keohane, Mary Pieters Keohane, and Joseph D. McGoldrick. I never met McGoldrick, but Robert E. and Mary P. were my parents. Here’s the quote:
“Modern city planning includes . . . limitations on the use of private property. A property-owner is not permitted to ruin a residential neighborhood by turning his dwelling into a factory or a garage. Such restrictions are called zoning. Zoning laws illustrate the need of surrendering freedom to do what one pleases with one’s own property in order that all may gain greater freedom or enjoyment.”
From the high school textbook, “Government in Action”, by Robert E. Keohane, Mary Pieters Keohane, and Joseph D. McGoldrick, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York-Chicago, 1938, page 398
Keohane 5702 Wynona Avenue Austin, TX 78756 (512) 371-3853