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DANA Position Letters – Imagine Austin Plan and Music and Solicitation

2014 12 10 DANA Letter Imagine Austin Plan

2014 12 10 DANA Letter - Music Solicitation

DANA Board Nomination and Committee Interest Form

downtown

The DANA Board of Directors will be transitioning this coming January, at which time there is the potential to add additional Board Members to the existing Board.

If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved in what’s going on in downtown Austin, becoming a member of the DANA Board is a great way have a real impact on the future of downtown.

Feel free to speak with any DANA Board Member about your interest, or contact info@downtownaustin.org.

Download the form here: 2015 DANA Interest Form for Prospective Members.


In order to be considered for a 2015 position, completed Applications are DUE by 5pm on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

Downtown Austin Stories – Vera Stanek

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If you’ve come to our Urban Core Happy Hours, you’ve no doubt seen Spring resident and DANA member Vera Stanek, with a sunny smile that lights up a room with a disposition to match – she’s a neighbor that’s great to know!

But, even though you may have chatted over a glass of wine with Vera, you may not know her truly interesting story.  We asked Vera to tell us about her past so that we could share her amazing life!

Read a teaser about Vera’s inspiring journey below:

When I came to the U.S. in January 1999, I was surprised with the attitude of people in Texas toward me. Everyone immediately wanted to know where I was from, why I came to the U.S., and what was my life story.

I started to make friends, which improved my ability to communicate in English.

I came to Texas with only a basic knowledge of the English language, but I wanted very much to talk and share stories, meet people, cook for them and have a good time. So it did not take long before I came up with the idea of writing a book.

I started writing about the sequence of events that have shaped me for 60 years of my life.

Having been born in the former Czechoslovakia shortly before WW II gave me the opportunity to describe the terror of the war I experienced as a child. From living in fear of the Nazis to a bomb that did not explode and let us live, to the first feeling of freedom after the Russian Army swept the Germans away.

But the freedom lasted only for three years.

Communists took over the government in a coup and a different kind of terror followed. This time it was people of the same nation who decided others’ fate.

There were only two choices: accepting the new system regardless of political and moral beliefs, or rebelling against it. My father chose the latter, and so we suffered. He moved from one job to another, which always seemed worse than the previous one. I had problems being accepted to the high school and later university of my choice. At the end, I found one university that was willing to take me as a student, because the subject was not very popular in those times and not too many young people were interested in it. I became electrical engineer.

After I met my husband Frank, our unhappiness with living “behind the iron curtain” eventually led to a desperate decision. We decided to escape, along with our four-year-old daughter Eva.

We planned a trip to West Germany with the intention of not coming back. With a valid permission to travel abroad, we made it as far as the border, but were stopped, interrogated, and sent back. Why?

My own sister signed a written statement to the Secret Police about our plans; she was the only person we had confided in.

Shortly thereafter, we were sentenced and received probations. Our passports were confiscated with a warning that we would never be allowed to travel to any West European country together.

Life went on, but we did not forget our dreams.

It took us another 16 years until we were able to escape in 1983, this time to Switzerland. We went to visit our daughter, who had become a young woman and married a Swiss man. Even though we were not supposed to travel abroad as a family, we were able to obtain all the necessary papers for both of us and our son David.

After the border gate between Czechoslovakia and Germany opened, and we finally crossed into Germany, we stopped in a small forest near the road – and cried and hugged each other.

We had made it!

We had $50 in our pockets, a 20-year-old car, and two suitcases with summer clothing. We started working our way up in Swiss factories until we were able to stand on our own feet.

Life got better. The only disadvantage about living in Switzerland was the attitude of Swiss people toward foreigners. In the 14 years we lived there, we were never able to make any local friends.

Then we received an opportunity of a lifetime to go live and work to Beijing, to China. We spent one unforgettable year experiencing a completely different, exotic culture.

With the assignment in China completed, we applied for the green card to come to U.S. Our daughter had in the meantime become an American citizen and was able to sponsor us.

Why the U.S.? During our first visit to the U.S. we visited Disney World in Florida. Standing in line for one of the attractions, we observed all the people around us: there were two girls with fine blonde hair, maybe of Swedish origin and next to them a Mexican family with several children. Behind them was an African-American man with a young girl perched on his shoulders and a large Asian family. All these people were American.

It was the first time we understood what the U.S. means. We wanted to belong somewhere where people would accept us regardless of our origin.

While waiting for the green card, we had to stay outside the U.S. We spent this time traveling, first in Asia – Australia, Bali, Thailand and Singapore – and then Europe. It took 270 days, but then our green card was finally ready.

On January 10, 1999, we landed in Houston as American residents. We moved to Lago Vista which is the end of my book, titled Life for DreamsThe book is available at Amazon.

But that’s not how my story ends. In 2003, we became American citizens. The following year my husband Frank was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I took care of him as he forgot the world around him, the people he loved, and even his own name until he passed away in 2010.

That’s when I sold our house in Lago Vista and moved to  Spring condo.

Your neighbors have stories to share, and being a part of DANA is a great opportunity to meet interesting people like Vera.  We hope to see YOU at the next Urban Core Happy Hour / Annual Meeting in January (details announced soon – keep checking back !

*Are you a downtown resident with an interesting or inspiring life story?  Send it to us at info AT downtownaustin DOT org and we might just include it in our blog!

City Council To Consider Amendment on Off-Peak Concrete Pouring Thursday 11/20

11/21/2014: Last night, City Council approved a temporary ordinance that will limit overnight concrete pouring in CBD and P zones (DMU is not affected) parts of the neighborhood from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. and which will create a 60-day stakeholder process for a permanent solution.

11/7/2014: Yesterday, City Council postponed this item to 11/20/2014 with direction for it to be heard at the Downtown Commission meeting on 11/19/2014.

DANA has taken a formal position on this item:

WHEREAS, the current City of Austin (“COA”) Code section 9-2-21 provides for the “…delivery, finish, place or pour [of] concrete during the non-peak period of 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM at property located within the CBD …”; and

WHEREAS, no other major city in Texas routinely permits construction activities after 8:00 PM; and

WHEREAS, the CBD now has over 12,000 residents with hundreds of additional units under construction; and

WHEREAS, such permits have been routinely issued by Staff without notice to or an opportunity for comment from affected residents; and

WHEREAS, neither the existing nor the currently proposed version of 9-2-21 contain any objective, measurable standards for lighting or noise impacts upon adjacent residential units; and

WHEREAS, the existing COA Code section 25-3-86 does contain such standards.  Specifically that lighting must be directed onto the subject property and/or shielded with no more than 0.4 fc and no sound greater than 70 dba at the property line; and

WHEREAS, the current amendment to 9-2-21, as proposed by Council member Morrison, would limit construction activities to 2:00 AM, “except in extraordinary circumstances of limited duration”, but fails to provide any guidance as to what would constitute such circumstances and the proposed amendment sets no objective, measurable standards for light and noise intrusion into adjacent residential properties; and

WHEREAS, the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (“DANA”) believes it is in the best interests of the City and its residents to amend 9-2-21 to provide for reasonable, objective and measurable standards for construction activities during non-peak hours; and

WHEREAS, further delay or postponement is simply a continuation of the present, unsatisfactory regulatory regime;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that DANA urges the Mayor and Council to  adopt and require the City Staff to expeditiously implement a reasonable ordinance for the regulation of construction activities during non-peak hours.  Specifically, an ordinance that will:

1. Limit construction activities to the hours of 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM;

2.  Allow concrete pouring activities to be permitted outside of the stipulated hours only for extraordinary circumstances such as the pouring of a “mat slab”.

3.  Incorporate into the revised, amended 9-2-21 the lighting (0.4 fc at the property line) and sound (70 dba at the property line) levels of COA Code section 25-3-86.

4.  Provide for an application for construction activities during non-peak hours that includes notice provisions similar to the application for an amplified sound permit under COA Code section 9-2-12.

10/30/2014: There’s a substitute proposed amendmenton the draft City Council agenda (currently item #34, as of this update) for 11/6/2014.  This proposed amendment unanimously passed first reading.  It still proposes an expansion of the area where overnight concrete pours would be allowed, and is also proposing, among other things, to have any and all off-peak concrete pouring in the CBD and expanded areas to end at 2am, in most situations.

UPDATE: 10/21: This amendment was not passed, reportedly to do stakeholder feedback like DANA’s. Laura Morrison has offered a substitute amendment, which will be considered on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014.

DANA Members / Readers, Screenshot 2014-10-16 15.17.49Here’s a chance to be influential on an issue that DIRECTLY affects you. City Council will be considering an Amendment to the COA Code (Sec. 9-2) relating to permitting requirements regarding off-peak concrete pouring. The item is currently #18 on the agenda, which can be found HERE. When you click on the item, the supporting documents appear on the right-hand column of the screen. In July, DANA submitted a letter to the City regarding the code and the proposed amendment to the code. DANA has also formally submitted the following concerns regarding the code / proposed amendment:

  1. 1. Notices are not required, but are at the option of the Director.
  2. 2. The proposed amendment substantially expands the area in which such permits are allowed, currently only “CBD”, to include “DMU” and “P” zoning.
  3. 3. The proposed revision does not require notice to property owners within 600 feet of the site, as is the case with the COA Amplified Sound Permit.  Nor to adjacent HOA’s.
  4. 4. The proposed amendment fails to specify any sound limits as is the case with the amplified sound ordinance (85 dba at the property line for outdoor events).
  5. 5. The proposed amendment fails to stipulate any time requirements for the application so as to allow for timely notice and response by owners who may be effected.
  6. 6. Based on the Staff’s survey of other major cities including Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth and San Antonio no other major city in Texas permits construction after 8 PM.

Many residents / members have expressed that they would like to see overnight pours prohibited altogether.  However, others state that restricting the concrete pours provide a possible disincentive for future dense development, may lengthen the overall period of construction, and would provide traffic issues for daytime commuters. Now is the time to let your thoughts on this issue be heard.  If you are passionate about this issue, we URGE you to attend the October 23rd Council Meeting. You are also encouraged to reach out to City Council as an individual resident.

Notice: FOUR MUSKET and CANON SALUTE happening on Sunday, November 2, 2014

FYI:

We just received a heads up that the Susanna B. Dickinson / O’Henry Museum / Brush Square located at 409 E. 5th Street will be conducting a  “FOUR MUSKET and CANON SALUTE” in commemoration of the Susanna B. Dickinson Bicentennial Birthday Celebration on Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, at 1:00 pm.

Nearby residents, if you hear loud noises at this time, there’s likely no need for alarm – they are likely just the planned gunshots (blanks) for the salute.

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