Struggles & Victories
Poder has worked on hundreds of campaigns, legislation, zoning cases, community projects etc over the last 30 years. We have highlighted some of our major struggles & victories below. To learn more about PODER's work visit the Austin History Center Archive.
For more than 35 years, East Austin residents had lived next to several bulk fuel storage tank facilities (“Tank Farm”) that devastated the land and our community. The tank farm was located in a predominately Latino and African American neighborhood. Millions of gallons of petroleum products were stored at the Tank Farm. The Tank Farm was a 52 acre site with above ground fuel storage tanks owned by six major oil companies: Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Star Enterprises (Texaco), CITGO and Coastal States. In 1992, PODER discovered that the companies had violated air emissions and had contaminated the groundwater. There were numerous health problems in the community. PODER and EAST sponsored a “Toxic Tour” of the area on February 10, 1992. Elected officials from the city, county and state level, as well as neighborhood association representatives and school leaders participated. As a result of the support of several elected officials, community involvement, and continued queries by PODER and EAST, soil and groundwater contamination at the site were brought to light. In 1993, through PODER’s community organizing, the Tank Farm relocated out of the community and the companies agreed to remediation. Later the properties were rezoned to less intense use and now the neighborhood is in the process of creating a redevelopment plan for the area.
The Pure Castings industrial metal foundry is located at 2110 E. 4th Street. It is located across from Zavala Elementary School and in a residential area. Pure Castings uses numerous toxic metals. PODER has been working with City Council members, health officials and other regulatory agencies to protect the health of the children and the community. PODER is demanding relocation of the facility and after remediation the construction of needed affordable housing. In 1998, PODER was successful in relocating Pure Castings.
Holly Power Plan
The Holly Power Plant had noise levels that exceed the Housing, Urban, and Development (HUD) federal standards for residential areas, and elevated EMF (electro magnetic fields). The Holly Power Plant was the largest stationary source of nitrogen oxide which contributes to ozone. Several fires at the site raised additional public health and safety concerns. PODER’s Young Scholars for Justice have conducted a community health surveys and participated in a press conferences to voice community concerns. Ongoing community pressure led the City Council to close the Holly Power Plant on September 30, 2007.
BROWNING FERRIS INDUSTRIES (BFI)
BFI, a multinational waste management company, was contracted by the City of Austin to collect recyclables such as plastics, glass, cans and newspapers of over 350,000 households. The site became a '“mini” landfill causing an infestation of rats, alarming residents’ public health concerns. The neighborhoods called for a relocation plan and in 1996 the City bought the property, relocated BFI and rezoned it to neighborhood office.
GOVALLE/JOHNSTON TERRACE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN
This community plan was approved by City Council in March 2003, making history by re-zoning over 600 properties from industrial to less intense uses and more compatible with residential areas. Included in this rezoning were properties that were zoned industrial but the actual use was residential. While numerous properties have been re-zoned, many facilities which store hazardous chemicals are still located next to schools and in residential areas. PODER will continue to organize for relocation.
Young Scholars for Justice
PODER’s YSJ successfully changed procedures and policies within the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Centers-Gender equity issues that increased the number of programs for young girls by identifying lack of female directors and addressing economic hardship for swimming class fees and also successfully organized several youth forums addressing juvenile justice and police brutality issues within the school system.
Our LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE
On March 18th, 2020, Judge Jan Soifer, 345th District Court, ruled in favor of Austin residents in suit against the City of Austin & the Austin City Council!
The Court finds: 1. Defendants (City of Austin & Austin City Council) violated Sections 211.006 & 211.007 of the Texas Local Government Code in their attempt to adopt a comprehensive revised Land Development Code by (a) failing to provide statutorily-required notice of the Planning Commission’s public hearing to Plaintiffs (residents filing suit) as to the changes in zoning of Plaintiffs’ property & nearby property in the City of Austin & (b) failing to recognize Plaintiffs’ protest rights.
2. Defendants’ actions described above constitute ultra vires acts that contravene state law, entitling Plaintiffs to relief against Defendants.
In simple words, residents have the right to protest zoning changes, even if the City says its a comprehensive plan!