Ah, car meets and car clubs. We love ‘em! The procession of car and car lovers alike warms me even more than the incessant Texas heat, but apparently not everyone is a fan of East Austin’s long-running car meets, according to a report from Texas Monthly.
The report details that car enthusiasts have been gathering at Cesar Chavez Park, known to locals as “Chicano Park,” since the early ’90s. The car lovers drive out in lowriders, slabs and, of course, pickups. The elaborate machines roll through in droves and the drivers bring their families and barbecue grills. Come for the cars; stay for the carne asada.
But lately, the drivers have found themselves at odds with new residents of East Austin as this section of the city’s development takes off. A new apartment building, called The Weaver, overlooks the park where the gatherings happen, and its residents are not happy. These new residents “have decided it’s time for the weekly event to come to an unceremonious end,” as Texas Monthly puts it.
They cite noise complaints and traffic congestion. They even claim that drugs are being sold at the meets, according to Texas Monthly. These residents have had enough and they’re starting to call on the Austin Police to break up the gatherings.
I figure it goes something like this: Excuse me, officer, I’d like to report some cars. They’re driving! And they’re parking! And they’re full of people who flood the park and have fun!
OK, I’m having a laugh but in case it’s unclear I think the new residents are making unfair demands, and even if their entitlement is funny, gentrification is no joke. If urban sprawl wants to come for The Cars, I’m not having it.
The fake phone call above isn’t even that far off the mark. Texas Monthly cited one encounter between a resident of The Weaver and Austin PD:
Indeed, at a recent gathering, a non-Hispanic white tenant had flagged two police vehicles and pleaded with officers to disband the celebration, calling it “scary.” The officers eventually drove off without taking any action. Even though the event sometimes violates noise and traffic ordinances, it doesn’t pose major threats to anyone in The Weaver, nor does it break other city rules.
That particular resident was also cited in the Texas Monthly claiming that the gatherings would make it impossible for first-responders to reach her in case of an emergency:
[the] non-Hispanic white woman with short blond hair who appeared to be in her fifties, claimed that smoke from the tires was killing nearby trees and that traffic from the gathering would make it impossible for an ambulance to reach her in the event of a medical emergency (though two other roads to the apartment building remain accessible at all times).
So, not only are the new residents mostly wrong about what is or isn’t permissible according to the city itself, they’re also flat out wrong about its layout. Though, of course, they would be!
Some of The Weaver residents are what you call Winter Texans, folks who fly South for the winter to enjoy the Texas heat. Other residents there are new Texans altogether who must have never run across the phrase “Keep Austin Weird.” These folks have only recently staked their claim in the Lone Star State, so why are they barging into East Austin demanding it conform to them?
And the company that owns the apartment building isn’t even Texas-based, according to the report:
A frustrated woman from Chicago who said she winters in Austin and would not be renewing her lease wondered aloud about the financial toll the gathering would exact upon The Weaver, which is owned by Greystar Real Estate Partners, an international developer based in Charleston, S.C.
The irony of all this is in Texas Monthly noting that The Weaver’s website claims that residents of the spiffy new apartments will be a part of a “community that is rich in history and tradition.”
This much is true, and I’m sure that these new residents would be welcome by that community with open arms. All they need is to get their own slab and join the Chicano Park line-up.