A Letter to Developers: Consider the Community Repercussions
Dear developers [names removed],
I reside on Carolyn Avenue. My husband and I walk the corridor between Woodrow and Harris on a regular basis to take my daughter to the Lee Elementary playground in the evenings and weekends. In another year, she will be attending Lee Elementary and we will be walking there on a daily basis just like many of my immediate neighbors do with their children.
I learned recently of your intent to build six three-bedroom, two-bath units on the former Child Craft Day Care site at 718, 720 and 722 Harris Avenue. This is a huge concern for both me and my family as well as for our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods alike due to the type of residents such structures attract. As you know, we are a neighborhood of families and professionals. Even the single-family rental properties in our neighborhood house primarily families and professionals with the majority of the undergraduate students in the community residing in apartment buildings on the peripheral streets and intersections.
As such, the property you intend to build on is not only directly in front of an exemplary elementary school in AISD, it is also situated among many family homes, many of which have young children like my own and my neighbors. Yet, your intended proposal lends itself more to attracting undergraduate college students which is detrimental to both the quality and safety of our community.
A large number of undergraduate college students (potentially 18) so close together and in the middle of families and in front of a school pose huge problems to the community in terms of parking, traffic, noise, civil disturbances, and garbage disposal. The traffic on Harris Avenue is already very high during certain times of the day with parking and visibility already a problem. Adding the proposed number of structures with a potential of 18 student residents would cause many families (like my own) in both our neighborhood and in surrounding neighborhoods who walk and bike our kids to school to be further in harm’s way. Not to mention, the difficulty in parking and drop-off for those parents who must drive their young children to school (most of whom rely on curbside parking for escorting their young children into school).
Beyond the traffic and safety issues are other key concerns that I know all too well from personal experience. A little over six years ago, my husband and I owned a home a half a mile north of here. Our home was near the end of a dead end street with two duplexes to the right and no homes in close proximity across from us. We had lived in our home, with no incidents from our neighbors, for more than five years. In fact, because we enjoyed the quality of life that our neighborhood had provided. Because we were in the Lee Elementary school zone, we remodeled our home and decided that it was a good time to begin our own family. Our plans were disrupted overnight, and it took us another three years of living in a nightmare before we finally took a financial loss to sell our house and start over again. The problem was not from having one or even four college students next door. It was because overnight, we had 16 college students next door.
A developer like yourselves bought the two duplexes and then resold it based on the cash flow that it generated per student to an out-of-state investor, who of course had no interest in our community, while the developers stayed on as property managers. Because we were at the end of a dead-end street, we were the students’ only “adult” neighbors. That many students in close quarters creates not only a herd mentality, but also a strong feeling of entitlement at an age when many are tasting their first bit of freedom away from home. As such, for three years, we dealt with harassment, name calling and cursing (simply because we asked them to quiet down), vandalism (their retaliation for us calling the cops on them), and being woken up at all hours throughout the week. Additionally, we had to deal with garbage that was always strewn all over the street and parking problems that made it difficult for us to get in and out of our own driveway. With such stress imposed on our lives, it is no wonder that we were unable to conceive until we finally moved.
Let me take a moment to recount one of the many horrific nights we faced with this many college students. It was around 12:30 or 1:00am; my husband went outside to ask the neighbors, who were having a party, to quiet it down. Because it usually takes the police anywhere between two to three hours to show up once you call, we came to realize that this was our first step in hope of getting any sleep at night. Not even a minute later, I hear from inside the house a loud shout, “F-U-C-K you, N-I-G-G-A-R.” I rushed out of the house, with the help of crutches due to a broken ankle. While still in my own yard, a drunken college student yelled at me and said, “Get in your own house, B-I-T-C-H. This is UT and we have a right to do what we want.” One can only imagine how much like a hostage one feels in this environment. Now, imagine if we had already had children and they too were kept awake night after night and also witness to such vulgar behavior.
Delayed family planning, financial loss from having to sell our home and the emotional turmoil and stress the students caused during those three years is something that we cannot recoup. However, we will not passively watch it happen again to us or anyone else in our community.
Lastly, the city does encourage density in the urban core and relies on strong property value for its revenue stream. Unfortunately, student housing in family neighborhoods do neither, but rather the opposite. Instead of increasing density, they simply transfer a finite population (UT only accepts a finite number of students) from areas better suited for student housing within the city into community neighborhoods. Because of the aforementioned problems caused by living in close proximity to a large grouping of students, the targeted population needed to create true density (families and professionals) is therefore discouraged from investing in the community. And while the cash flow from the students may encourage high property value in the short term, it leads to reduced property value in the long term. The result is neither beneficial for community or the city at large.
So I ask that you give great consideration to the needs and want of our community in the development of your property. I hope that you consider both the human aspect as well as greater good.
Angela Pack Zia