It's Almost Here! Día de los Muertos Event NEXT Thursday, Nov. 2nd
You are invited to join us in a much needed gathering for friendship and remembrance. We'll come together in a beautiful historic residence in the Zilker Neighborhood to create a communal altar (ofrenda), indulge in delicious food from the local favorite Curra's Grill, enjoy handcrafted drinks, and be serenaded by the talented Travis High School mariachi players and the captivating Trio Los Vigilantes. We encourage you to bring a printed photo or a small offering of food or drink to add to our ofrenda in honor of a loved one. Together, we'll celebrate our ancestors and learn more about SOS's dedication to preserving our waters and community. Here are the event details: Date: Thursday, November 2, 2023 Time: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM Location: I.V. Davis Homestead 1610 Virginia Ave, Austin, TX 78704 Grab your tickets AT THIS LINK by making a donation of $50 per person and checking the box for the Día de los Muertos event. Please list attendees in the field provided. Feel free to spread the word with anyone you think would enjoy it as well!
Oppose Fast Track Attack on Single Family Zoning In Austin
Did you receive a purple postcard from the City of Austin last week? It is official public notice about proposed zoning changes that would allow the construction of three or more housing units on almost every single family lot in Austin. The purple card means your property would be affected, whether you like it not. Since most single-family homes in Austin are of modest size, built on relatively small lots, replacing them with 3 or more units per lot translates directly into a lot more impervious cover --pavement and rooftops — and thus more destruction of our urban tree canopy, more localized flooding, more urban creek erosion, increased urban heat island effects, and more water pollution. It also means more scraping of perfectly good homes, many with character and some with historic value, and thus tremendous waste of building materials. Those are the main environmental problems with this proposal. There are plenty of other social, equity, planning, and financial problems as well – not the least of which is that it won’t produce the “affordable” housing that its City Council sponsors claim. What it will do, if adopted, is drive up taxes on current homeowners, forcing more to sell, accelerating displacement among middle-class homeowners across our city (but especially in lower income neighborhoods). Another big problem is the Council majority’s rush to cram this wholesale, citywide elimination of single-family zoning through to final approval by December 7th, starting with a joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting at City Hall this Thursday, October 26th, at 2:00 p.m. What you can do now: (1) Read up on this proposal and check the map of the property affected at the Community Not Commodity website. (2) If you own your home and received one of the purple notice cards from the City, file an official protest of these proposed zoning changes at the same CNC website by hitting the “File Your Protest” button and completing the form. This official protest, together with protests from your neighbors, means that the City cannot change your zoning without a supermajority vote. Don’t be confused by misinformation: this electronic protest is valid and you are free to withdraw your protest later if you change your mind and support the final terms of the proposed changes. (3) You may also sign up to speak in-person or call-in at this Thursday’s 2:00 p.m. Council/Planning Commission public hearing starting today, Monday (today), at 10: 00 a.m. thru Wednesday at noon. Please know that these changes are not driven by demands from individual homeowners. And they are actively opposed by most if not all Austin environmental organizations as well as the Austin Neighborhoods Council. In short, the proposals constitute developer deregulation, strongly supported by the Austin Real Estate Council and out-of-town institutional investors who are buying up single family homes in Austin wholesale for purely investment, short-term rental, and upzoning purposes. We will provide further information on these changes over the coming weeks. Stay tuned! UPDATE: The online speaker registration is open for the Thursday, October 26th, 2 pm Joint Planning Commission/ City Council Public Hearing. Make sure you sign up sooner than later as online speaker registration closes Wednesday 25th (TODAY) at 12 pm. There is also in-person speaker registration at a City Hall Atrium kiosk: opens Wed, Oct 25th, 12pm; closes Thursday, Oct 26th, 45 min before public hearing starts (1:15pm; recommend no later than 1pm). We need to mobilize in order to ensure a strong presence this Thursday at City Hall. Please share this information far and wide!
Important Upcoming Events
Thursday, November 2nd, 5-9 PM Día de los Muertos Fundraiser (see message above)
Sunday, November 5th - WIDER WON'T WORK - The Rally Opposing the I-35 Expansion
Sunday, November 12th, Hays County Growth Talk (more info below)
Friday, December 8th, SOS Holiday Party at The American Legion- Charles Johnson House
Hays County could have 1 million residents by 2060, according to the Texas State Demographer’s office. Can the county handle that many people? Local environmental organizations will examine this question at the Hays County Growth Talk, a free event for the public on November 12 at Vista Brewing in Driftwood. You’ll be able to enjoy Vista’s food and beverages while listening to our expert panel discuss the growth issues facing Hays. Will the county have enough water supplies for everyone? How many new roads will be built? How much green space will be destroyed? What can county officials do to make sure that Hays grows in a smart and sustainable way?
Save Barton Creek Association is co-sponsoring the Hays County Growth Talk with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, San Marcos River Foundation, The Watershed Association, Save Our Springs Alliance, and Clean Water Action. Our panel will include:
• Jenna Walker — Director of Watershed Services, Meadows Center for Water & the Environment, Texas State University • Doug Wierman — Meadows Center Fellow; Hydrogeologist; President, Blue Creek Consulting • Scott Way — Chair, Hays County Parks & Open Space Advisory Commission (POSAC) • Jay Blazek Crossley — Executive Director, Farm&City; Founder, Texas Streets Coalition We'll also have time for an audience Q&A, and we'll suggest action steps that you can take to let your elected officials know how you feel. There's no question that Hays County will grow more. The real question is whether it will grow in a good way.
Early voting starts TODAY, Monday, October 23rd, and SOS urges you to vote "for" statewide Proposition 14, providing $1 billion of one-time funding for parks all across Texas, and "for" Travis County Proposition B providing $274 million for parks and conservation easements across the county. Texas and Travis County are woefully short of protected parks and open space; these items will help address these critical shortfalls.
I-35 Expansion Will Displace Hundreds of Property Owners, Worsen Air Quality, and Hurt East Austin Community
Thursday, October 19th the Austin City Council will be voting on a resolution proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis that would request the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to delay the expansion of I-35 through Central Austin. The proposed project would double the number of lanes through Central Austin, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and significantly worsening air quality in a region nearing non-attainment for federal air quality standards.
In addition to environmental concerns, including the leveling of parkland along Lady Bird Lake, the highway expansion would also displace dozens of businesses, including Escuelita del Alma, one of the few remaining child care facilities offering Spanish-immersion and serving Central Austin residents. To sign up to speak on the proposed City Council resolution to demand TxDOT stop the I-35 expansion (Item 45), sign up to speak here.
Please also save the date, Nov. 5th at 11 AM, for an upcoming rally at Sanchez Elementary School where we will demand our local leaders take action against the I-35 expansion. Details on the rally soon.
Sunday, November 5th - WIDER WON'T WORK - The Rally Opposing the I-35 Expansion
Pay: $17/hr starting (with prompt performance-based increases) Job Type: Part-time Shift and Schedule: 8-10 hr/week Weekends (Saturday and Sunday) Year round; In-Person Locations: Barton Springs Pool entrances, Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail (various locations) Contact: Lindsey@SOSAlliance.org
Want to protect Zilker Park, Barton Springs and the Austin environment? Want to feel enlivened at the end of the work day, work within a community of supportive co-workers and make a difference in your community? If the answer is yes, you should join Save Our Springs Alliance in our quest to protect the land, water, and wildlife of our Central Texas home. Position Summary SOS Alliance is seeking experienced, outgoing, competent, organized and motivated applicants for fall/winter 2023 (with potential to work year-round) as a tabling outreach team member. This position offers an incredible opportunity for Austinites to make a direct positive impact in their own backyard. Responsibilities
Collaborate with other team members and tabling coordinator as a representative for Save Our Springs Alliance for weekend tabling outreach efforts.
Productively and positively engage passersby and interested members of the public in dialogue around current and immediate issues affecting Austin’s nature and culture.
Provide information about SOS Alliance and local environmental issues to the public and educate fellow Austinites about ways to support SOS Alliance..
Help maintain a safe and functional outdoor tabling environment
Assist with outreach on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) and at local events
Enjoy talking to people
Compassionate and considerate
Good communicator Position begins October 2023 For more information about the position, please contact Lindsey at Lindsey@@sosalliance.org
After being postponed, the proposed Natural Areas Land Management Plan for Austin Parks and Recreation Department is back on the on the City Council Meeting Agenda as Item 53 for tomorrow, Thursday September 21st. This plan claims to include climate vulnerability studies, but fails to address preservation for the key features of our local ecosystem - including cave restoration for water retention, protection for endangered species, and thoughtful wildfire prevention based on practices that actually reduce wildfire risk. We encourage you to read the SOS letter of recommendation to City Council and the Mayor to POSTPONE or VOTE NO against this erroneous plan. As stewards of the Edwards Aquifer and fierce protectors against climate crisis, we recommend that the city brings in experts on karst terrain and rewilding integrated into park and city planning which drives us towards the goals in Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan and the Austin Climate Equity Plan. Please take a few minutes to read over, rephrase, and submit your own short letter to City Council and the Mayor before Thursday, Sept. 21 at 11 AM.
Yesterday Austin's second most historic and iconic tree -- next to Treaty Oak- was designated for removal by Austin Park's Director Kimberly McNeeley. The historic Barton Springs Leaning Tree is set to be killed this Thursday!
Please read below and then email Mayor Watson, key councilmembers, and the Parks Board immediately and demand that no action be taken until after a public hearing at the next Parks Board meeting set for Monday, September 25th.
Cut and paste the email addresses below into your "to" box. Please tell council and the Parks Board there is no emergency to justify this rush to judgment. Tell them to reverse the decision to kill Flo until after a public hearing as promised at the last Parks Board meeting.
Sadly, Parks Department leadership has once again misled the community. This time the consequences could be immediate and irreversible without action by "we the people." Please help today and more this week if we do not hear back that this terrible decision has been reversed by Monday afternoon. Regardless, plan to attend the Monday, September 25th Parks Board meeting set for City Hall at 6:00 p.m.
Photographs from the 1920s show Flo as a significant tree shading Barton Springs pool. To our knowledge there is no record that Flo has hurt a single Barton Springs visitor over the last 120 years. Not one. Ever. Yet, somehow, there is now an emergency to remove this "dangerous" tree this week. It's simply not true; removing the tree without a public hearing would be irresponsible, and the late Friday announcement on the City's website that the tree "must be removed" violates Parks Director McNeeley's statement to the Parks Board that no decisions would be made before the public had an opportunity to provide informed public input to the department and the board.
There is no dispute that Flo' has multiple infirmities. The City and SOS now have at least five expert arborist reports confirming the tree has severe challenges. The City's expert reports were posted here late yesterday and the SOS commissioned report is linked below.
But Flo was in real bad shape all the way back to 1958 when the city placed a mass of concrete and rebar into her hollowed out core and installed the first support pole under the leaning tree. Sixty-five years later she lives on.
Then City experts then wanted to remove Flo in 2009 in a proposed massacre of 21 of the heritage pecan and other Barton Springs trees. This was part of the woefully misguided "Barton Springs Master Plan" that envisioned a "fresh canvas" for contracted landscape architects to paint a brand new, very expensive and heavily constructed "architectural masterpiece" around Barton Springs. It would have been great for private events! Sound familiar?
It was only public outrage in 2009 that saved 19 of the 21 condemned Barton Springs trees (and erased most of the proposed new construction.) For Flo, PARD expanded the 1950's support system with a metal support frame that now, 14 years later, cradles the still green and alive Leaning Tree. It's now, once again, time for some basic common sense. To the untrained but loving eyes of many Barton Springs regulars it appears that it is literally impossible for Flo to fall on top of anyone. Or to even fall at all. The tree rests on the ground, then a concrete retaining wall, and then the three-posted cradle that spans the underlying sidewalk. Flo could live and continue slowly dying in hospice care for years, maybe even decades, without posing any threat to anyone.
The City's arborist experts have somehow overlooked the obvious. This is not a tree standing up, it is a tree laying down and fully supported. Perhaps a structural engineer would advise some limited improvements to the cradle, but this would be something small, if needed at all, and be cheaper than killing and removing the tree. In other words, this is a question for engineers not arborists.
Austin Beautiful Trees arborist Scott George recommends in his reportprepared for SOS that a mechanical engineer or biophysicist be consulted to assess the tree and its support system. George recommends this action after first acknowledging -- unlike the other arborists consulted by the city -- that Flo's circumstances are so unique that they are outside his considerable expertise as an arborist.
The arborists do agree that the one large limb that extends beyond the metal support frame out over the pool should be supported with a cable system and that it could be trimmed to reduce load and exposure to wind. This part is standard tree care and PARD has already installed a temporary rope system that prevents this large limb from falling into the pool.
As Flo leans today she is lush and green with a few small brown spots typical to all mature pecans, especially this summer. No one knows how much longer she will live. Some pecan trees live for 200 to 300 years. There is certainly no emergency, no threat to the public, and no reason to not do what was promised: refrain from making any decisions until after a public hearing. Please send your email today to these addressees and urge your friends and family to do the same. If you don't already have plans, go jump in Barton Springs and see our beloved Leaning Tree for yourself. Without your help and some common sense at city hall, it may be your last chance.
Water Watch: Today, August 15th, Austin moves to Stage II Drought restrictions amid scorching temps and a glimmer of rain in the forecasts late next week. Be sure to read up on the recent water restrictions for the Austin area HERE. Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is still at Stage IV with low spring flows nearing 12 cfs this week. Mayor Watson addresses the water shortage in his weekly newsletter, encouraging Austinites to be especially “mindful” of our water use in the coming weeks. A New and Better Direction for Zilker Park: Last night Austin's Animal Advisory Commission passed this resolution on a 10 "yes" to 1 abstention vote (with a few minor amendments that are not yet available. The resolution recommends to the Austin City Council a more natural Zilker Park, one without parking garages and other major construction projects, and one that supports the health and wellbeing of people and wildlife, especially the endangered Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders. The video of the meeting is not yet available; we will let you know when it is. This action by the AAC stands with the community that opposed the Zilker Park plan and we thank the commissioners for pointing the way ahead. Watershed Wins: Late last week, Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool, District 7, announced that she would withdraw her resolution that would have led to the removal of environmental review and consideration of utility extensions within the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. This harmful resolution would have given the green light for sprawl development in areas of the Edwards Aquifer with less public scrutiny and few regulations. Thank you for writing in to encourage the City Council to scrap the resolution. We look forward to continuing to monitor and work with the City’s Watershed Protection Department in protecting these areas from overdevelopment and expanding environmental review and protections to areas that need more attention, such as creeks in East Austin. This Weekend: A community celebration for our local water will take place this Sunday, August 20th at Casa de Luz from 6-9 pm and our Executive Director Bill Bunch will be speaking alongside a program of live music, art, and activations. RSVP at the Mind’s Eye website to attend this event. We’re relieved to have the Zilker Vision Plan on hold for now, and please stay tuned for ways to stay involved in our ongoing fight to protect the Edwards Aquifer watershed and its precious ecology. Onward, Save Our Springs Alliance
It’s uncommon for us to send out back to back emails, but the recent message from Mayor Watson that the Vision Plan is “shelved” indefinitely deserves a collective celebration. Yesterday, August 7th, Councilmembers Ryan Alter, Paige Ellis, and Zo Qadri came out from the shadows and conceded with a Joint Statement that they would no longer support the Vision Plan due to “irreconcilable differences”. Shortly after, Mayor Watson followed suit with a nod to collaborating in the future to “meet our objectives to preserve and nurture the ecological sanctity of this place while assuring equitable access to all Austinites.” This is an unexpectedly quick win, and one that would have never happened without all of your passionate emails, strategic meetings, heartfelt conversations, and unfaltering grit. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! for your time and energy which is what drove home how the “Zero Vision” Plan failed to protect or provide access to the park, and instead would have privatized and monetized the heart and soul of Austin. Many of you are asking, what’s next? Did we defeat the big, bad Live-Nation-funded-atrocity? First, we rest and thank Mayor Watson and our Council Members who stood up against this plan. Then, we continue to tell the story of what really happened by sharing Uncensored Zilker, Inc. and advocating for protection, restoration and rewilding of Zilker, all of our parks, and the entire city, as called for by the Austin Climate Equity Plan. Now, for other news - - As our current furnace forecasts confirm, the biggest ongoing threat to our waterways and the Edwards Aquifer is climate heating and resulting drought. The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is now at Stage III and approaching Stage IV Drought and the Springs flow which averages 53 cubic feet per second is now at 16 cubic feet per second, which is dangerously low. Please do your part and follow the city’s current guidelines for limiting water usage as much as possible. We need your help to keep Barton Springs clean and flowing.
What in the Hays is Happening? New subdivisions, new highways, new competition for water supplies — there's a lot being planned for Northeast Hays County. For our constituents in Hays County and patrons of the now dry Jacob’s Well, we know that Aqua Texas is responsible for overuse by upwards of 84 million gallons, along with several other wasteful water companies. They are currently facing steep penalties and an urgent call to act on a drought management plan, or else they will lose their permits altogether. Want to know more? Our friends at Save Barton Creek Association are hosting a happy hour talk on Wednesday, August 16th, from 6:30-8:30pm at Texas Keeper Cider in Manchaca. SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch will be on hand to speak to the impacts of potential developments planned for one of the last large undeveloped areas in NE Hays county. Located between Buda and Austin and bordered by Bear and Onion Creeks, this sensitive karst terrain is dotted with caves and springs, is full of botanical diversity, and is right over the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Mike Clifford from the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Darlene Starr of United Plant Savers will also share their knowledge and insights. Texas Keeper is opening their doors to us exclusively for this event, so bring a friend and come on out to this scenic old homestead at 6:30 to grab a drink, listen to the speakers at 7:00, and join us for questions and conversation after. More details at SBCA's website As always, thank you for your loyal support,
Watch Documentary Here This past Friday, August 4, 2023, Design Workshop – the City of Austin’s contractor that wrote the proposed Zilker Park Vision Plan -- pressured YouTube to remove the 16-minute documentary “Zilker, Inc.: The Plan to Monetize a Natural Treasure” by award winning local film maker Steve Mims. Released last Wednesday, August 2nd , the film had already received almost 5000 views in just 48 hours and received praise from viewers who called it “beautiful” and “powerful.”
Design Workshop has created an intensely unpopular plan that 80% of Austin opposes –- no wonder they want to pull down this film.
A new version called: “Uncensored: Zilker, Inc.; The Plan to Monetize a Natural Treasure” is now live on YouTube and tells the story that Design Workshop is trying to hide with its unfounded “copyright infringement” claim. The “Uncensored” film removes a few seconds of the original that showed Design Workshop’s logo and project images obtained from the Design Workshop website. “While such use falls within the “fair use” doctrine for copyrighted materials, we chose to remove them rather than have Design Workshop censor the film with its unfounded claims,” said Reid Nelson, Mr. Mims’ attorney.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to hear public testimony and decide the fate of the draft Zilker Park Vision Plan at its Thursday, August 31st meeting at City Hall. Read more about the film below, but here are three simple things you can do to help save Zilker Park:
1. Watch and share the link to the Uncensored: Zilker, Inc. film with all your friends and followers.
2. Tell them you will be at City Hall on August 31st to speak to the City Council on the future of Zilker Park and Barton Springs and urge them to be there with you.
3. GO HERE and send one simple message to Mayor Watson and the Austin City Council asking them to tell Design Workshop to disclose all public information about the plan and stop censoring its critics. We have suggested some language but feel free to erase it and write your own message. A personal message is the best message!
The film, funded by local investors and Save our Springs Alliance, documents overwhelming local opposition to Design Workshop’s proposed “concrete vision” to build three large parking garages, six bridges, a 5000-seat amphitheater, and other structures in Zilker Park.
The film also documents Design Workshop’s closed-door coordination with ACL/ Live Nation representatives. Design Workshop project lead Claire Hempel had denied ACL/ Live Nation’s involvement in the plan but walked it back when caught on video posted to the City’s website. Live Nation/Ticketmaster now owns controlling interest in the ACL Music Festival by way of a side deal with its pet non-profit Austin Parks Foundation. “Is this the real reason Design Workshop wants to censor this film?” is a question many who have seen the film were asking this weekend.”
The RewildZilker.org coalition of environmental and neighborhood groups did not sponsor the film but has proposed a more popular alternative vision for a natural, recreational Zilker park that would provide more water protection/ climate mitigation/ shade and save taxpayers over $150 million in construction and operation costs. See the Rewilding plan here The only way we are going to save Zilker Park from being converted into a money-making machine for Live Nation and its allied park concessioners is with your help and the help of everyone you know who loves Zilker Park as a public park and not as an outdoor entertainment district. Spread the word, write and call council, and be there at City Hall on August 31st .