Save historic home at 1101 Garner

Save our hood, hearing tomorrow. We need to stop the developers from destroying beautiful old homes, let’s go to City Hall on 9/6/23 at 6 PM. If you are not interested in saving this home, that’s OK. This post is for those interested in writing in, attending the hearing or giving me ideas on what to say tomorrow!

There are many ways to participate in the public hearing next week. Attending in person Arrive the City Hall prior to 6pm and sign-in to speak under the agenda item you wish to speak on in the binder set out in the lobby of Council Chambers. Once we get to that item on the agenda, you will be called on to address the Commission and will have 3 minutes to voice your comments.

Phone-In Participation If you are unable to attend the meeting in person, but wish to voice your comments to the Commission on the record, you can attend the meeting remotely by calling in. To do this, you will need to register to speak by Tuesday, September 5th before noon by emailing me with your name, phone number, email address, and whether you are in support or in opposition of the proposed project.

Submit written comments You can email me your written comments and they will be uploaded to the HLC website as public record this Friday ahead of next weeks meeting for the public and Commission to review.

HI Laura

Im not for it either way but just want to learn more. Why is this house special? I am genuinely curious.

Thanks for sharing.

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

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Can you share the vintage of your home?

It’s the home directly across from me, I don’t have a lot of information, but here is the listing:

The house is directly across from me. It’s a Tudor-style 1939 home with big trees and a large yard.
I bought in this area in 1997 because I liked the old homes, big trees, and the funky feel of the hood. They have torn down the house behind me, caddy corner to me, there is a demo permit next to me and now across from me. When a developer buys a house, they bulldoze the home, take out the trees, and build a McMansion that looks like an office building. I am trying to save what’s left if it’s in good condition. The house behind me and caddy corner, I can understand, but I think we should try to save the 1939-1940 rock homes. The reason people want to live here is because of the uniqueness, but the first thing they want to do is change it. I hope you can understand that.

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Yeah okay. A kid I coached in baseball (johnny) lived there- I know it. He must have just moved out this summer.

I guess my question is why is it historically significant? Its obviously cool looking from outside but other than a 1930’s aesthetic- is there anything else note worthy?

Again, just curious as I like to know what is happening in the hood.

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

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Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

A very similar home looking 1939 home at 908 Josephine has the same demolition notice. I believe it will also be discussed at the same meeting.

Really, you may want to check, are you interested in trying to save? The meeting has been postponed to Oct 4th which gives us time to research, are you interested Maureen?

FROM HPD: The next scheduled HLC meeting is Wednesday, October 4, 2023 at 6pm at City Hall. All of the research we have is in the staff report on the HLC website. For individual research, you can reach out to the Austin History Center and they will be able to assist you.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s any chance the HLC will vote to “save” this house – in part because architectural preservation assumes a given building has had minimal, if any, alterations since first constructed, and this one has a large (and definitely not Tudor-style) rear addition that largely ruins its facade from any angle aside from the exact front of the house. I know he passed away last year, but the HLC’s former head, Steve Sadowsky, was generally open to responding to landmark-related questions from locals – I had a few for him over the years – and hopefully his successor acts in a similar fashion.

It’s also Texas: like it or not, property owner rights are exceptionally pro-owner, and what you’re effectively suggesting is telling this property’s owner that they can’t use the property as they see fit. (To be clear, this isn’t my personal opinion; rather, it’s based on my knowledge of how Texas property law functions. If anything, I’m surprised the state lege hasn’t objected more strongly to “uniquely Austin” laws like the McMansion ordinance.)

Moreover, this house could have been saved if Austin NIMBYs weren’t so utterly obsessed with preventing infill development of essentially any kind. The 5,700 sq ft minimum lot size in place for most of the past decade has been both ridiculous as well as ruinous in terms of supercharging both the bulldozing of hundreds of older homes, along with the development of a seemingly endless number of infill McMansions throughout South Austin (but obviously in Zilker, Barton Hills & Bouldin in particular).

The arguable “correct” course of action for this house would’ve been subdividing it into four parcels & building new homes on three of them, leaving the original house intact. Sadly, this remains quite literally illegal in Austin, thanks in no small part to the ZNA’s efforts, absent an extended-length variance request. (Except, of course, the ZNA automatically opposes almost literally any requested variance, so good luck with that one.)

Finally, the parcel’s fate has likely been sealed by a fact about it shown in the Compass listing: it’s nearly 1/3rd of an acre, or more than double the size of the average Zilker lot. Our city’s truly desperate need for housing – even relatively high-priced Zilker-area homes – takes precedence over preserving a house not in its original architectural style, and not particularly unique even if it was in its original form. (This type of Tudor isn’t that common in South Austin, but my own brother lived in a largely identical house to this one in Pemberton, and Brykerwoods still has scores of them as well.) We’ve already had a number of unusually large lots converted into townhouse-style developments with between 6 & 16 homes, depending on the lot. That, I’m afraid, is this lot’s highest and best use, and IIRC a 0.30 acre lot can fit a dozen separate townhomes, each large enough for a family and at least comparatively “affordable” relative to detached single-family anything in '04.

There’s basically only one way to save this & other older Austin houses, but I’m assuming it’s a 1,000% nonstarter for the entire city’s NIMBY coalition: eliminate most, if not all, of Austin’s single-family zoning, much like Oregon & Minneapolis have done, along with FAR requirements for multifamily projects. But hey, if Dave Piper wants the ZNA to embrace that stance, he’d have my full support!

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There is more than one way.

The people who really love these houses could just buy them and not destroy them. Seems like the most Patriotic Freedom loving capitalistic American thing ever. Something to take pride in really.

Way better than imposing draconian limitations on other people’s property at the other person’s expense in spite of their desires with a mediocre tax break as a token of societies appreciation.

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That was also going to be my suggestion. If you love it- buy it- preserve it!

Interest rates are looking good compared to 1984

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

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If you are not interested in saving this home, that’s OK. This post is for those interested in writing in, attending the hearing or giving me ideas on what to say tomorrow!

My last house was a 1920 Craftsman in Bouldin, just FYI, and I bought it explicitly because I loved its older-but-updated vibe, plus the seller had just gut-renovated the original house and added an all-new rear wing. The people who bought it from me went even further, adding a second rear wing (namely a garage, owner’s suite, and roof deck facing the alley). I fully support such endeavors!

On the flip side, however, the problem with updating older houses – in particular most homes built after WWII – is that nearly all of them, both in Austin and throughout the country, were built in fast-and-easy fashion, ones still broadly similar to how modern subdivision houses are constructed. I know “neighborhood character” is at this point practically a NIMBY cliche, but I’ve always found it interesting that the “character” being defended is oftentimes a tract house built in under a week. (There is, after all, a reason why so many of the '50s & '60s era homes around here look similar.) Literally almost none of the wiring, plumbing, insulation and everything else in an unrenovated house would even pass a code inspection today.

Also, apologies if I’m stating the obvious, but the “average” American home in 1950 had two bedrooms, one bathroom and a single garage, and its average square footage was around 1,100 sq ft. That was considered “family-sized” at the time, but nowadays it’s no longer common for kids to share bedrooms (or for adults & kids to all use a single bathroom), and most people who can afford more space nearly always do exactly that: buy spacious homes.

So: yes, obviously anyone can renovate / expand an existing home, but you’ll have to replace, well, pretty much everything. My Bouldin house looks the same from the outside as it did nearly 20 years ago, but almost literally nothing from inside the house could be salvaged – not even the original wood floors – except for the clawfoot tub in the original bathroom. A former 1,000 sq ft cottage has now been expanded three separate times to create a 3,000 sq ft house – yet another one built out, McMansion-style, to the absolute maximum 0.4 FAR allowance – that basically is a McMansion, even if its still has its original front facade (but literally nothing else).

Unfortunately the reality of the matter – and it’s not one I’m happy about – is that Zilker buyers clearly prefer new-build McMansions to original homes, even ones that have already been renovated to a fair degree. Even in instances where existing homes are bought by individuals, not developers, the percentage who do basically the same thing – bulldozing the original structure & building a custom home – is clearly quite high. (I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to count the number of South Austin homes sold in the past 3-4 years that were largely original and kept that way by their purchasers, but a given drive around the area suggests that few have opted to do so.)

And – again – the time to consider preservation instead of mass-scale teardowns & McMansions was at least a decade ago, if not 15 years, back when middle-class families could actually afford Central & South Austin homes. Local growth opponents prevented that, and we’re all now paying the price in some way.

Respectfully, my point was that there is truly no likelihood of saving these houses. I suggested calling or emailing someone at the HLC so they could explain that the Garner house in particular simply doesn’t meet their own preservation standards, hopefully to avoid making you spend a huge amount of time attending meetings & filing petitions.

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JP, I see the 3 dots on the replies, I want to delete the original post

I live in a 1939 bungalow, and my aim is to salvage the tongue and grove flooring from another home before demolition. My home doesn’t have tongue and grove in the kitchen nor in the laundry room (laundry room was an addition from the mid 2000s ). I’ve located a local craftsperson who can assist me with attempting to remove the floors and installing in my home.

I’m also very keen on restoring and using in my home the old, arched windows from 908 Josephine. I have a similar arch theme in my home but the arched windows seem to have been replaced at some point.

I’ve contacted the new owners and they said they will let me know.