City Council took up the long in the tooth Lincoln Katy Trail project at Wednesday’s evening meeting after failing City Plan Commission in November. In an attempt to sweeten the deal to an affordable housing-hungry city council, Lincoln raised their affordable component from five percent to 15 percent (from 15 to 45 units). And many council members, including Mayor Mike Rawlings took the bait.
Mayor Rawlings was so obviously hot to pass this project, he literally asked Oak Lawn District 14 Council Member Philip Kingston if he would support the deal if Lincoln purchased a home for a blind woman living in the complex referenced by Kingston. Others wanted to know what affordable percentage would cause Kingston to support the project.
“It’s math,” they said. Why yes, it is …
The council couldn’t (or wouldn’t) figure out that the existing complex contains 115 market-rate affordable housing units. Raising the affordable housing giveback to 15 percent still leaves the neighborhood with 70 fewer affordable units. They also ignore the positive self-esteem of being able to rent or purchase a market rate affordable home versus having to qualify through an invasive application process to prove you’re poor enough.
Also forgotten is that the rents currently generated by investor-owned condos in the complex are today less than the rents that Lincoln would charge for their new “affordable” units.
In the current configuration, the condos making up Turtle Creek Terrace are individually owned, with many rented by individual investors. Under Lincoln, the units would become owned by a single corporate owner (Lincoln).
To recap, so desperate for some affordable housing wins, the city is prioritizing:
- New affordable units over existing units.
- Fewer affordable units versus more than double the number of existing units
- Large corporate ownership over individual resident and investor-owned housing
That’s some great affordable housing work, don’t you think?
It’s funny, Mayor Rawlings said the deal would “set a new standard for affordable” with developers. Yet moments earlier another council member said upzoning cases weren’t precedent-setting. Which is it? Is it only precedent-setting when it looks good to say it, but not when it looks bad?
When support for the project failed, District 5 Council Member Rickey Callahan brought Lincoln representative Jeff Courtwright to ask him what he wanted to do next. OMG! Guess what? Courtwright answered that he’d like to return to City Plan Commission where he lost by two votes so he can try and sway those votes so that city council passage no longer required a three-fourths majority. Well, duh!
There were four votes taken. Oak Lawn District 14 Council Member Philip Kingston motioned to deny the project, which didn’t pass 6-9. Then, Mayor Rawlings motioned to approve the project which also didn’t pass (10-5). Then there was much kerfuffling before they took another vote to revote on Kingston’s original motion (which gives Lincoln the right to refile a case tomorrow). The vote to revote passed 14-1. The revote itself then passed 12-3.
During the proceedings, Kingston was in snarky form at one point answering fellow council member Lee Kleinman from District 11 with, “You’re a liar, dude.”
Kingston had one point that fell on his colleagues’ deaf ears. The Oak Lawn Committee is against the project, the neighborhood is overwhelmingly against it, and City Plan Commission is against it. Residents have spent untold hundreds of hours fighting this project. In ignoring this loud and varied opposition, city council is sending a message to residents that if they disagree with residents, they have the power to wait them out and wear them down until the opposition has been worn away to an acceptable level.
That’s the take-home message residents in other parts of the city should take to heart. Elected officials who disagree with the masses know that procedure enables them to wear down the opposition.
How’s that for a political bedtime story?
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.