To all our Highland residents,
Thank you so much for your emails last week. Council did not discuss the St Johns property last Wednesday as we were told, but will discuss it in today’s work session. Charlotte Garza was able to meet with several Council Members on Friday. Many were receptive to our proposed funding needs. However, we were told yesterday that the budget amendment being brought forward by Kathie Tovo’s office today is for $22,000 dollars. This amount is far below what is needed for master planning and to make necessary site changes to begin park development when Highland’s Park Committee is able to raise necessary funds. We are very grateful to Council Member Kathie Tovo and her office for their work and her advocacy for our park over the last year, but this is not enough.
First thing this morning we need emails addressing all of the City Council Members, letting them know $22K is far below what our neighborhood needs.
It appears Council Member Tovo’s position is that a master planning process is unnecessary for this site. However, the PARD recommendation accepted by the Parks Board and City Council dictates that several decisions regarding the site need to be determined in the master planning process, and if you participated in the contentious stakeholder meetings, you understand why PARD felt it was necessary that a professional firm oversee the planning process. We have secured a commitment from a local landscape architect firm to create the master plan for a reduced fee so that more of our limited funds can go to improving our park. We have brought down our ask to $77,525, which includes master planning, initial site preparation, annual maintenance, and some short term solutions that will allow us to introduce park amenities on site when grants are available. Out of the 3M+ budget surplus, Highland is asking for $77,525, not to build us a park, just to get us to the stage when we can raise the funds to do that ourselves. With the development occurring in Highland, the City must stand by its land use policies and provide funding for the necessary infrastructure in a dense park deficient, under-served, mass transit neighborhood.
Below is a template for you are welcome to use when reaching out to City Council. Please send your emails first thing this morning, and send the template and link on to any friends and family you think would take 2 minutes to copy and paste this email.
This is our last chance to secure adequate funding for a park at 401 W. St. Johns. This budget amendment will be introduced tomorrow and voted on next week. Whatever we get here is all we will get in 2015, so we need your emails.
Highland Neighborhood Park Committee
Dear Council Member,
We greatly appreciate your consideration of funding for a park at 401 W. St Johns. We understand that an amendment is being brought forward tomorrow for $22,000 to fund a park for the under-served residents of Highland, zip code 78752, and District 4. We appreciate the introduction of this amendment, but the funding is too low to allow youth sports to play and a park to be built.
We are urging you to allocate $77,525 instead. This is the amount necessary for master planning, fencing needs, initial site preparation, and annual maintenance. $77,525 is the lowest amount we can ask that allows the Highland neighborhood to roll up our sleeves and begin our own fundraising, grant-writing and tree-planting campaign to create a park while ensuring youth sports continues to have the necessary space and resources.
We have already secured a commitment to a reduced fee from a local firm for master planning. You as a Council voted unanimously on June 26th to approve Resolution 20140626-071, which mandated $122,525 be considered for this budget cycle, and many of you said that you would vote to allocate the park the $287,525 we were asking for last week. Through further hard work and belt tightening, we have found some short term solutions that would allow introduction of amenities on site for $77,525 rather than the $287,000 asked for last week, and still less than the $122,525 from CM Riley’s resolution. When else during this budget session have you encountered a neighborhood whose volunteer work has brought down the funding requested to BELOW that which was introduced in a Council resolution?
Highland neighborhood, which includes the Crestview and Highland TODs, Highland ACC, Airport Blvd Redevelopment, and now a new proposed Urban Rail and Park and Rides, has waited too long for a park to serve our 4500 residents. Tracts of homes in our neighborhood were constructed beginning in the late 1940’s, taxes have been paid into the city for decades and yet we have not received 1 penny of parkland money in all the years of our neighborhood’s existence. Our zip code, 78752, does not have one single park amenity available during school hours. Our District, 4, has the greatest density of any district, the largest number of children age 0-9 and the least number of park acres. 30% of District 4’s residents fall below the poverty line, many live in multifamily buildings, and their quality of life would be enhanced enormously by increased access to public green space that is designed to best-serve the community.
The Austin residents of Highland, 78752, and all of District 4 have been park deficient and under-served for too long to wait until the 2018 bond, or later, to begin planning and building this park. We have secured a sizable donation for a master planning process that, according to PARD planners, is essential to provide optimal design in an built out area of Austin so severely lacking in park amenities. We ask you to stand by the land use policies laid out in Imagine Austin and please support funding $77,525 for a park at 401 W St Johns.