The intersection at Bettie Naylor and Colorado Streets is now a sea of colorful stripes where Austin City Council and Austin LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory cut the ceremonial ribbon on newly-minted rainbow crosswalks in honor of National Coming Out Day.
City officials, LGBTQ advocates and Mayor Steve Adler met at the intersection on Monday morning to announce the crosswalks, painted with a brand new Progressive Pride flag. The intersection will be closed until completion—approximately 5 p.m. The City also released the 2021 LGBTQ+ Quality of Life study today.
Adler said the gesture was long-overdue, announcing Austin had become the third most populous per capita city for the LGBTQ community in the country, and a symbol of belonging for everyone in Austin.
The mayor and city officials cut a rainbow ceremonial ribbon to unveil the new crosswalks. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
"For many here in our community, seeing this physical representation of a stated city value is long overdue but a really welcome sight," Adler said. "These crosswalks are an indication of Austin's spirit of inclusion, unity and acceptance. These vibrant colors painted on our streets will stand as a beacon and a symbol of diversity to everyone."
The location was intentional, according to the city. The crosswalks sit along Bettie Naylor, a portion of W. 4th Street named after the LGBTQ visibility activist, and in the heart of Austin's gay nightlife scene.
In addition to the four crosswalks, three nearby utility boxes will also be decorated as part of Austin Transportation's Art Boxes program—the box in the same intersection will have a Progressive Pride flag and a purple circle in a yellow triangle for intersex individuals.
The intersection of Bettie Naylor and Colorado streets is now painted in the LBGTQ community's symbolic colors. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
Ryn Gonzales, operations & program director for OutYouth and chair of the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission, said they were excited to see a step in the right direction and they look forward to advancing Austin together.
"This is a great symbolic first step for our community—our kids are going to feel a little bit more seen than they did yesterday and all the days before," Gonzales said. "We cannot do this alone, we have to do it together. The thing that I've always loved about our community: we've always done it together. Maybe not always perfect but together, and always in the spirit of making sure that no one is left behind, no one is forgotten."
The design is a mixture of the six colors of the rainbow for Pride, black and brown to represent the community of color; baby blue, white and pink for the Transgender community. According to the City, the colors were requested by the community.
"Everyone in Austin, no matter what street corridor or crosswalk that they're on, gets to feel like this is home for them," Gonzales said.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.