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Dawson Neighborhood

Editorial

DawsonAustin on Nextdoor Seized by Neighborhood Ass’n

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In January 2014, folks in Dawson Neighborhood of Austin, TX launched a new forum on Nextdoor.com as an alternative to the vindictively censored, and all-but-dead Yahoo Group run by the original Neighborhood Association. We also launched this neighborhood website and registered with the City as a NA. We were a runaway success, and in just 18 months we had more active members than the old forum ever had in it’s 17 years of existence. The Nextdoor Corporation knew we were a refugee group and promised to protect us, in writing. Then suddenly, they booted our Leads (admins) off, and handed the community directly over to the old NA!

Imagine having your Facebook Group seized and handed to a rival. All of your writings, photos, friends, likes, and follows detached from you and credited to that other. And your rival picking up your conversations where you left off, but engaged in their own agenda now.

Nextdoor used the pretense that I had mishandled my moderation duties. The person in charge of censorship on the old Yahoo forum had joined Nextdoor and was making it his mission to hassle and test me at every opportunity. He was helping to create a hostile atmosphere. He was also breaking Nextdoor’s conduct guidelines. I cautioned him, in private, that folks were complaining about his conduct. He inquired directly to Nextdoor. They exchanged emails, conducted several phone calls, and then Nextdoor handed sole management of our forum TO HIM.

They literally took the community from the folks most invested in seeing it thrive, and handed it to the character most interested in seeing it fail!

Would Facebook reward a well-documented troll by handing him control of a rival’s account when he complains about being politely cautioned? That’s messed up!

Once in control, the NA deleted our “impudent” discussions, and had people who they simply do not like banned under various pretenses. Free speech has ceased now, since our neighbors fear retaliation for speaking out. Except for the un-neighborly A-list clique who moved in from the old forum. Our dawsonaustin.nextdoor.com forum is all-but-dead now.

This seems to be Nextoor’s emerging policy nationwide. Many neighborhoods with hostile NA and HOAs started their own alt-communities on Nextdoor, and now report the the same thing happened to them once they had gained momentum! Nextdoor staff, including individuals in management we’ve had direct contact with, appear to have some shocking boundary issues. They adopt grudges, take sides, and none of the rules or evidence matter to them in passing judgement.

One of their favorite games revolves around the “always assume your neighbor’s best intentions” guideline. In the forums, people make critical assumptions all the time. If Nextdoor likes you, then they forgive you on the grounds that you’re just acting out of sincere concern with the knowledge that you have. They’ll defend you against other neighbors, who are considered guilty of assuming you had poor intentions. If Nextdoor does NOT like you, then they just accuse YOU of having the poor intentions. They’ll maintain that position to absurd levels. Folks have described this as being like arguing with teenagers. If you’re a Lead who they don’t like, then you dare not ask them for help even with a serious troublemaker. They’ll scold YOU then, for failing to be a good moderator and embracing that troll’s “best intentions”.

Another issue is that Nextdoor absolutely despises anything resembling campaigning or social justice outreach. They’ll try to shoehorn anything they can into this category so they can suppress your posts on these grounds. It doesn’t matter if your neighborhood wants to have these conversations, which are obviously quite appropriate there. Post a link to a petition? You could get banned. Defend a rape victim? You could get banned. Speak out about your local crime problem? You could get banned, you trouble-making negative person, you! And the scolding language they’ll email to you will carry the uncontested assumption that you should have known better than to do these *terrible* things!

Nextdoor has a separate, private forum just for the Leads. In June 2014, I contributed to a discussion there about Nextdoor’s privacy and security theatre. Without warning, they suspended my account. For good measure, they suspended all of the other Leads for our community. Hours later, their National Director of Neighborhoods Gordon Strause, shot me a chillingly cheerful email saying I would be permanently banned unless I could demonstrate how to install a fake account on Nextdoor.

 

I refused. Seriously, I’m not on Nextdoor’s staff! We debated this for a couple of days, with Gordon continuing to treat me as a fly caught in his web. He finally re-enabled my account only because he learned that I was in the middle of organizing a neighborhood picnic, and people were starting to miss me. However, he disabled our management tools, so that we were Leads in appearance only. He also forbade me to make decisions or appoint additional leads without his approval.

Nextdoor is NOT your home for an online community!

Please do not use Nextdoor.com. WE CANNOT RECOMMEND IT. Nextdoor is a nightmare! Democracy and free speech are completely absent from their DNA. Your community is not free to be itself and develop naturally. They feel that you and your discourse belong to them. They will micro-manage you and choose who your representatives are. They are a data harvesting company, and their customers are the local Police and Federal government. YOU ARE THE PRODUCT.

If you’ve joined Nextdoor, visit it one last time to cancel your account. Important: thoroughly delete or alter information you have put in your public profile. It will remain on public display even after you quit! Click this link to do that, if you’re logged in there right now. Read this help page for complete details. But, as the help page says, this only “deactivates” your account. If you want to be permanently deleted, you’ll need to contact them directly (presumably before deactivating). Note that we have seen profiles still remain visible and names remain listed in the directory if nextdoor staff have “ghosted” or suspended or deleted you. People can still private message you, but you won’t get the messages. Staff will refuse your request to remove your personal information! In either case, all of your posts will remain, unless a moderator deletes them.

In the aftermath of this, my account remains disabled. Gordon will not reinstate me, and he’s arranged to have all emails I send to Nextdoor rerouted to him no matter who they’re addressed to. This guy has over 100k neighborhoods to worry about, and yet he’s made ME one of his personal pet projects! Neighbors who are still members send forum posts on to us, though they risk being banned for doing so. All Nextdoor posts & email contain web tracking code, so they know who reads what, when, and from where. They can easly track who has forwarded which posts, and to whom. They are keen to do this, because it is against the rules, and thus gives them an opportunity to punish you.

 

The other folks who had been Leads have been punished too, along with several neighbors who defended me when my Lead role was taken away by Gordon. Their accounts are set to a read-only mode. They can only read “general” posts, they cannot create posts, events, or write comments. They cannot “Thank” “Flag” or “Welcome” (though they still get emails from Nextdoor urging them to participate, and also nagging them to enter postcard invitation addresses). They cannot view the directory of members, and civic & safety alerts from the City of Austin and APD are blocked. It’s like being a ghost.

 

Their neighbor-to-neighbor private messages do not get delivered.  Other members don’t realize we’ve been banned because our messages AND public profiles are still there on the website! Posts made by members before they were restricted or banned are still active and ongoing, but we are helpless to participate. We can’t remove our public profiles. Nextdoor’s policy is to reject requests from banned and unsubscribed ex-members.

UPDATE: If you see your neighborhood listed below, click the name and you should see a local discussion about this message. Nextdoor is trying to shut these down, citing standing rules against criticizing them on their own forums. Don’t let Nextdoor intimidate you. Free speech is our right! Armadillo Park,Buckingham Estates, Carrel-Hillside-Oaks, Cherry Village, East Congress,Garrison Park, Salem Meadow, Southbridge Villas, Southern Oaks,Southwood, Stinson Oaks, Sweetbriar, WestTowne Court, West Congress


Click here for an older, more detailed editorial which includes the major emails that went back and forth.


Nextdoor is NOT listed by the Better Business Bureau, and they are being sued by the team who originally founded Nextdoor, owned the internet domain and wrote the software it runs on. The investment group they partnered with suddenly pulled out, stole their idea, and launched Nextdoor.com with a management team of their choosing.

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SRCC Opposes St. Ed’s Operations Building

Letter to St. Ed’s University by David Swann of Travis Heights:

Dear Mr. Burnotes: (pdf)

I received a mailed copy of your August 9 letter yesterday. The message is disturbing, and I wish to respond. In general, I believe the administration has lost its focus as an educational institution.  …

Editoral by Tina Buck, SRCC Communications:

We are asking for St. Edward’s to consider the long term effects on the tax supported infrastructure they depend on in our neighborhood. We oppose commercializing Sherwood Oaks by building a shipping and receiving dock fronting our street. This might be good for St. Edward’s business but it is not good for our neighborhood or our city.

In Austin (zip 78704), the median household income is $50,248. In Sherwood Oaks, the average property tax bill is $9000. Average rent in South Congress/Sherwood Oaks is $2000 a month. This is because property tax has shot up tremendously and that is passed on to renter. Sherwood Oaks neighbors pay a large part of their income in taxes in support of streets, water and drainage infrastructure that are being “repurposed” to support the profits of St. Edward’s, tax exempt business.St. Edward’s made a 26,000,000 profit last year but is tax exempt.

You can find pictures and links to news reports about the St. Ed’s construction project and our protest at this public facebook page: NO 2 St. Ed’s

Below is a summary of our interaction with St. Ed’s up until our meeting August 5th, at which time they merely reiterated their claim that this building will not create undue stress and traffic in the neighborhood. This is by Gretchen Otto, SRCC president: (more…)

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South Congress Hotel Waivers Trump Some Neighbors’ Worries

We’re reproducing the whole article here for our neighbors who may not be able to read the whole article online (pay site). See our earlier articles with document links and video from the Planning Commission Meeting, and the neighborhood’s Plan Team vote in favor of waivers.

Austin Monitor – Monday, July 11, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

After a successful night at the Planning Commission, a new South Congress hotel will have both a pool and a driveway — despite concerns about their placement from neighbors and the church next door.

While the zoning at 2510 South Congress Ave. does allow for a hotel, Krug Development was seeking compatibility waivers from the city that will allow for a driveway and swimming pool to be placed closer to residential property than allowed under code. The driveway will be 5 feet from the neighboring property, instead of the required 15, and the pool will be 28 feet away, not the required 50.

(more…)

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Editorial: 2510 S. Congress Variance Waivers

Image: Street Rendering

Greetings to the Dawson Neighborhood:

It has been a pleasure to meet and get to know the wonderful residents of the Dawson Neighborhood. We couldn’t be happier to call the Dawson Neighborhood home for The Guesthouse Hotel.

The Guesthouse Hotel’s mission is to provide a unique, individual, home-like experience for our Guests. We have designed a hotel that provides spacious, private accommodations with multiple bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms. We recognize that most lodging experiences have remained unchanged in the past half century. The average size hotel room in 1950 was 325 square feet and remains the same today. In contrast, the average size home has increased 144% from 983 square feet in 1950 to over 2400 square feet today. Americans live much differently today than they did 50 years ago and they shouldn’t have to turn back the clock 50 years while on vacation.

Who We Are

(more…)

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Spring Rebound for The Great Outdoors Garden Store

“City Forcing Great Outdoors Nursery to Close” has been moved here.

Woes began when Great Oudoors applied for a permit to improve their signature waterfall!

It was such an initial downer to learn that the City of Austin is threatening The Great Outdoors over a “missing” permit from 1994.

Jo Clifton of The Austin Monitor penned a detailed background of the saga.

But there is great news coming from our favorite garden store today! Owner Tom Tinguely reached out to let us know that they remain open for business as usual, are fully-loaded for the springtime boom, and resolution with the City is in sight!

Dear Neighbors,

 

Great Outdoors Owner Tom Tinguely

Things are moving forward and I feel very confident that this whole issue with the City will be resolved in the next few months. We are tentatively scheduled to appear before the Board of Adjustments for their June meeting and after talking with Mayor Adler and District 3 Councilman Sabino Renteria, I feel that I have their support in finding a solution.

 

So The Great Outdoors will get through this and we plan to be around for the long haul. We will continue to be your local source for everything for your garden, including organically grown, non-GMO herbs and veggies, native and drought tolerant plants, clumping Bamboo, cactus and succulents, a greenhouse full of tropical houseplants, a huge selection of pottery in every style and color imaginable and so much more. Our knowledgeable staff can help you with all your questions, we are here to help you to be successful in your gardening adventures!

 

So please stop by and let us show you what’s new this week at The Great Outdoors!

 

We appreciate your support and patronage so much!

 

Warm regards,
Tom Tinguely
The Great Outdoors

 

P.S. We will be making hand-made corsages for Mother’s Day, so stop by and we will give Mom a fresh corsage to celebrate the day!

(more…)

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City Forcing Great Outdoors Nursery to Close

Dawson Neighborhood Poised to Lose Another Beloved Business!

City of Austin demands demolition of Sage Cafe, it’s deck, a greenhouse, the loading dock and reach full compliance with 2016 Regulations – because a contractor forgot to get a permit in 1994! Our neighborhood is still stinging from the loss of Amy’s Ice Creams closing over a 100% rent hike. Why are businesses on South Congress under pressure lately? Some of our neighbors ask “hmmm… I wonder who wants that property?”.

…And over a week after this news broke, there is still not a peep from any representative of Dawson’s taciturn Neighborhood Association! Their officers and board members work closely with Planning & Zoning. In the same building, if not the same floor. Could this attack on Great Outdoors have been orchestrated by Dawson Neighborhood Association?

Update – March 24th Sign the list to show your support and email Austin City Council
Update – March 25th Article in Austin Monitor by Jo Clifton

Update – April 6th on Great Outdoors Website.

Update – May 1st Great Outdoors isn’t closing and is on the rebound!

(more…)

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Editorial: Opposed to Variances of Guesthouse Hotel on South Congress

The church in Austin was invited by the Dawson Neighborhood Plan Contact Team to the neighborhood meeting on Monday, February 8 to present our views about the variances requested for the proposed Guesthouse Hotel on the property bordering us on the north at 2510 S. Congress Ave. What follows is a summary of our presentation.

The church in Austin is a Christian church established in Austin in 1973. The church has been at its current three-acre location at 2530 S. Congress Ave. for 40 years, the front half of which is zoned CS (commercial) and the back half of which is zoned SF-3 (single-family). The front half has 11 buildings, and the back half has six buildings and a backyard. (more…)

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Editorial: Sally Hernandez For Sheriff

Jovita Pardo, Campaign Mgr

Hi Neighbors!

My name is Jovita, and I live on Coleman St. in Dawson Neighborhood. I hope you will join me in voting for Sally Hernandez for Sheriff this primary season. Early voting is already underway in your area!

Sally has over 34 years experience in law enforcement. She began her career as a night dispatcher because she had a special-needs child she cared for during the day. Later, she worked her way up to the position of Chief of Investigations in the Travis County District Attorney’s office – and won an award as Outstanding Investigator in Texas. Sally got into law enforcement because of need, but grew to love her profession, and sought to improve it along the way. (more…)

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Amy’s Ice Creams Closes Over 100% Rent Hike

For over a decade, Amy’s Ice Creams has been a popular destination for St. Edward’s students, local parents and kids, and kids at heart, at 3100 South Congress in Dawson Neighborhood. It is now permanently closed after negotiations with the landlord failed following a proposal to double the rent. Amy’s would have then had to pay 1/3 of it’s revenue for rent, and owner Steve Simmons just couldn’t justify it. No Amy’s employees lost their jobs, as they were all transferred to other locations, but this represents a sore loss for our neighborhood.

3100 South Congress LP is owned by David Kahn, an Austin investor who also owns the Scarbrough and Littlefield buildings downtown. At $43 per square foot, Kahn’s new rent was well above the $27 – $28 per square foot rent around South Congress, which is already more than the Citywide average of $19.29. If the hike was justified, we wonder what are the factors causing this? New development in the area has largely been in the form of multistory condominiums.

We’re looking forward to news of what business or development replaces Amy’s, which has always been the prominent anchor at the quirky little 50’s styled mall at 3100 South Congress. If rent hikes of this magnitude become common, it will obviously impact the type and quality of businesses along our neighborhood border.  See also Jan Buchholz’s article in Bizjournals.

April 12 Update: Austin.Eater.com announced that the building will reopen in May as Poke Poke, a walk-up Hawaiian cuisine counter launched in Venice Beach, CA.

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Contact Team Stakeholder Meeting 2015

The City of Austin is testing the waters to see if the structure and role of Plan Contact Teams need to be improved. To this end, they hosted two “Stakeholder Meetings” at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road. The first was on Oct 17, and I attended the second on Oct 26. With my sights set on a DNPCT Board Membership starting in December, it is important to educate myself so I can deliver the best service to my neighbors. Here is a summary of what happened at the meeting, and the impressions I came away with:

The meeting was pretty well co-ordinated, with around 30 guests and 5-6 City staff-members.. The first 12 pages of this PDF were presented as a handout. After an introduction to PCT concepts, groups of guests formed activity groups. Most of the guests were members of a PCT, and about 20% were citizens who felt that their PCT’s rules were unfairly keeping them from joining.

Personal Observations:

I suppose that a meeting with the public of this kind is to ensure that the public can agree that they were consulted. Following our handout (slide 10), we composed our feedback in these 4 major areas: qualifications for Membership, Meeting conduct, public Communication by PCT of their activities and decisions, and how to handle neighbor’s grievances and carry out Enforcement of the City’s standardized PCT policies. The staff who conducted the meeting did not prompt the guests in any meaningful way, but they seemed very familiar already with the concerns and solutions we came up with. The undercurrent is pretty clear; the City is keen to reform PCT and hold them to some minimum operating standards. This could include mandating a uniform by-laws for all PCT, or at least requiring certain language within them.

Click here to read the City’s post-meeting summary document.

Group Concensus:

At the end of the meeting, all of our group’s main points were summarized, and we went round the room to share them. Each group had independently come up with essentially the same points and solutions. Leaving the PCT’s to follow the honor system works in a few instances, but where it has broken down, it has broken down in a big way. Many PCT are completely dysfunctional, as measured by their lack of transparency and inclusiveness. A popular solution was for the City to host a PCT clearinghouse website featuring each organization and publishing it’s Officer’s contacts. Also, it’s bylaws, agendas and minutes MUST be published there within reasonable time frames, and that the City would host a neutral email “listserv” used for meeting and activity announcements. Sound familiar? Yes, these solutions are reminiscent of our Sunshine Proposals! This City website wouldn’t replace Nextdoor, Yahoo Groups, WordPress, Facebook etc., but would be a mandatory minimum to ensure that no stakeholders are shut out under any premise. Having NA/PCT Meeting notices featured in people’s utility bills was also proposed.

Grievances, Sanctions:

What didn’t seem too well fleshed-out yet, is what sort of grievance process neighbors would have when their PCT aren’t functioning fairly, and what sort of sanction the City would take on the errant PCT. When discussed, it seems that the City would prominently publish a contact to send complaints to, and if a PCT fails to make amends, the City Council might formally cease to recognize it. A lot of guests liked the idea of ordering a non-compliant PCT to “reboot” with new Board Members, but there really were no solutions to how the City Council could make them do that, and how to avoid further harm to a neighborhood in so doing.

Quarterly Training:

Coming up on November 18 is the City’s Quarterly Plan Contact Team Training from 7 – 8:30 at 505 Barton Springs Road. No reservations are required. I hope to see all of the freshman candidates for DNPCT Board there!

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