Is Austin losing its soul?

The city has been really working my nerves lately. Yes, the Cathedral of Junk got a stay of execution, but why attack the 20+ year old Austin institution? And why bust the renegade bridge parties? Didn’t the city get the memo: The crime rate is rising in Austin. Shouldn’t they focus their attention on that? Oh yeah, and what’s this about the city not wanting to hear any more input from the public on the Nueces Bike Way?

One person complained about the Cathedral of Junk. One person complaining almost had Shady Grove’s Thursday night concert series shut down. So maybe one person (me) complaining can slap some sense into some folks before more of the city we love vanishes.

Our bud Joah over at Sneak Attack recently interviewed former Austin Mayor Will Wynn. The former mayor is scared of future threats to our city:

“Live music is our franchise and we have to protect it. [In Chicago] you can go to a Cubs game twice a year for $250 bucks for a family of four, but you can go to a show every month for that here,” Will pointed out. “I’m always excited about Austin’s live music scene – because we have more venues today than we did in 2000 even though people tend to focus on the ones we lost, but I’m always fearful of the threats.”

And what might those threats be? Joah expands:

If this city becomes less fun to live in – like what has happened to Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cincinnati over the years – people won’t care to spend money to look good or listen to new music because they’ll be too busy stressing about how boring their lives are. Once that happens, no number of tech jobs or UT degrees being handed out will keep people here…especially when real estate prices are climbing.

And what about the city sponsoring big corporate shit:

It’s about continuing to earn the city’s designation as “the Live Music Capitol of the World” in an organic way instead of supporting a dozen mega venues with corporate sponsors like L.A. so that we can continue offering loads of weekday fun to both residents and tourists so that retail businesses, bars and restaurants continue to benefit and Austin continues to provide decent day jobs and tolerance (financially and socially) to the people willing to toil away as musicians (and other artists) in the name of creativity.

But Joah warns that high prices in rent without quality transportation options can DESTROY a city’s creative scene:

People who want to make music (or anything creative) for a living are being forced to live further and further away from downtown, which greatly impacts their ability to synergize with other musicians and share creative capital. It may be too late to change the trend of the real estate market, but over the next decade – as population in Austin grows and traffic worsens – we’ll need a team effort to support a major push for public transportation and not this latent poo-poo platter being served up to us by Capitol Metro. If the musicians and artists (and eventually the most-avid fans) can’t afford to live near downtown, we should at least make it affordable for everyone to get there. The threat is that we finish this decade as America’s best city and start a new one as one of its worst with half a million more people in the city and half as many musicians (8,000) as we have today.

[FIND the FULL article at Diatribes by Joah]

I experienced everything Joah mentions above while living in San Francisco. When my brother and I moved out to SF, I thought SF would be crazy creative with music and dancing. Instead, I got a rat race in which artists and musicians couldn’t live. In fact, most of the musicians and DJs that I knew from SF no longer lived OR PLAYED in the city.

San Francisco had gotten so completely unaffordable that artists had to move out or work ALL the time to be able to live in the city. And because the art scene has vanished, there isn’t any fun to be had. So why work all the time if you have nothing to show for your efforts? At least in NYC there is still a little bit of magic.

So I moved back to Austin. Here people can be artistic and still afford to live.

Ok people, this is what we need to remember about Austin:

It’s affordable.
We love having a good time, whether in a park or enjoying music–or both at ACL.
We celebrate (not just ‘allow’) diversity and uniqueness in our population.
We keep things local and support Austin companies and businesses.
Austin is a magical place

But that could change. We HAVE to tell the city what WE want.

My vision of Austin:

Great rendering of Zilker Park Residencies with future skyline!

  • Smart and equal access for all forms of transportation: Autos, bicycles, peds and public transit.
  • Affordable rent/property prices in central locations.
  • Thriving and vibrant creative community, and a city that celebrates all arts: music, visual, film and fashion.
  • Access to locally-sourced veggies, fruits and meats–and maybe an organic food processing plant nearby?
  • Investment in locally-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Parks and public spaces shared by all members of the community.

What you can do:

  • TONIGHT at City Hall from 6-8P: Give YOUR input on how you envision Austin. Don’t let the noise-ordinance-callers and anti-Cathedral of Junk rich white people call the shots. [Facebook Event]
  • Also, the city is writing the language for Comprehensive Plan. They’ve got a multiple-choice survey asking your future vision of Austin. It takes about 3 minutes. You can do it here:

What’s you vision of Austin?

Is Austin losing its soul?

What would you like to see changed?

Or should we pave the whole thing?


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About Chris Apollo Lynn

78704er, cyclist, part-time DJ, new media mad scientist, urban farmer, not a robot, ready for End of Days.

17 thoughts on “Is Austin losing its soul?

  1. Andrew

    Austin will always be a great place to live and work. After living here for 30+ years I’ve seen each generation do this whole “sky is falling” thing when talking about the way Austin “used to be.” Here we go again…

    • Chris Apollo Lynn

      We young folks have the energy and the idealistic view to try to push change. Old folks can either be curmudgeons or support stuff.

      Someone’s gotta protect something 😉 And for the record, some of us have also been living here almost that long 😉

      Do you also call the police when the sound gets too loud? :p

  2. Chris Apollo Lynn

    Based on some comments on our Facebook page, I want to clarify:

    I don’t want it to seem like I think we should keep austin in the past. The question is really can we maintain the same spirit and cultural identity as a city amid all the growth. And THAT’s what we need to ensure. That doesn’t mean STOPPING growth or change–it means learning how to do it to preserve our values. And I think that’s what the city wants to hear when seeking input for the Comprehensive Plan.

  3. Anne Marie Beard

    Of your points I think the only thing we’re really lacking is the transportation issue – which is always going to be a nightmare in Central Texas – people love their cars and hate buses. What irks me most about the loss of “soul” is all the new comers who think they know what we’re all about – and bring the aggressive driving, rude manners, shi-shi attitude and uber mod/heartless design aesthetic to town. I can speak on that – the Domain is about the worst thing to ever happen to Austin!

    • Chris Apollo Lynn

      I agree. One of the reasons why we run this site is so that newcomers can understand what Austin is about!

      I only bicycle–and have for 10 years now. But I still admit that people DO love their cars, which is why we need to have smart planning. The city thinks that taking away parking will make people chose alternate forms of transportation BUT THEN doesn’t provide any alternatives. Yes, people can bike, but the roads aren’t safe enough for everyone. But that’s a totally diff conversation!

  4. Tim

    The Domain is not the worst thing that happened to Austin. Not even close. Crazy youngsters. I’ll take the domain any day over having to find a store in the hell-hole strip-mall mess that is Anderson and Burnet. Don’t you find it a bit odd that the picture you posted of how awesome Austin could look, resembles the Domain quite a bit? Sure the Domains high end, but I dream that my HEB some day anchs a series of walkable stores with apartments over them.

    The cathedral of junk had 20 years to get right with the city. Sometimes you have to be an adult and get things squared away. You can’t just hope and wish that things will work out. You need to get in there and file the forms. If this pisses you off then get in there and advocate that city council pass a law that lets them exempt Austin landmarks of cultural significance from code restrictions. That’s the tool the city council needed and why they had to go after the cathedral of junk. It wasn’t some hatred of cool Austin. Governments have to follow the rules. Even when it’s uncool.

    I love this city. But change is not inherently bad. There’s a lot of horrible, ugly, racist, nastiness hanging around. So let’s destroy that and make it better. Let’s advocate for density and light rail and walkable commercial in neighborhoods. Let’s fight to ensure that things we love that are currently not legally protected, are in the future. Let’s fight to make IH-35 the center of Austin. Not the Eastern boundary. There’s a lot of work to do.

    At some point you have to grow up and say, “I’m not going to leave Austin for the new shiny, I’m going to stay here and fight to make it work.” That’s hard. But it has to be done.

    • Chris Apollo Lynn

      Hi Tim:

      Thanks for stopping by! You’re right: Growth is inevitable. We need to find ways to handle the growth while still preserving the culture. I also agree with your ideas–hopefully that came through in the post!


  5. JP

    @Anne. “…bring the aggressive driving, rude manners, shi-shi attitude and uber mod/heartless design aesthetic to town” I have to say I couldn’t agree more with your statement. It seems the influx of people over the past 10 years has brought some of the more rude and obnoxious from both coasts. One of my favorite things about Austin has always been it’s people, but that has drastically changed and very much hurt my view of this place. If I wanted to be around people like that I would move to NY or SF.


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