By Dylan Dissenso
At the upcoming planning commission hearing on Tuesday, newly-elected commission chair Fayez Kazi and his colleagues will likely decide whether or not to recommend the “Domain on Riverside” application, a proposal to remake the Ballpark, Town Lake, and Quad apartment complexes on East Riverside into a yuppie wonderland of luxury condos and high-end retail.
While the hearing is public, the dealings behind the case have been private. Kazi and his work associate and fellow commissioner Jim Schissler are part of engineering firm Civilitude, LLC that has collaborated with Presidium Group, the main developers behind the “Domain on Riverside,” as recently as this past April on the Edison Apartments project, also on East Riverside.
Co-CEO of Presidium, Cross Moceri, stated in Civilitude’s testimonials on their website that “Civilitude was a huge benefit to our project” and “I’m indebted to them and want to use them on everything going forward.”
Whether or not Kazi and Schissler recuse themselves from the hearing, these conflicts of interest are a regular occurrence, because the City of Austin and developers share the same material interest: the unimpeded growth of the local housing market. Under capitalism, this growth necessarily results in the concentration of the bourgeoisie in the urban core and the gentrification of working-class neighborhoods.
Planning commissions in cities across the US are nothing more than theater to give an illusion of democracy to capitalist real estate development. In Austin, where the Riverside community has opposed gentrification more forcefully, the planning commission and city staff have resorted to state violence, in an attempt to intimidate the masses.
On March 27, the city held a community meeting at the Carver Library and Museum, where city staff called police in response to Riverside community members, led by revolutionary organization Defend Our Hoodz (DOH), confronting Presidium Group. Seven people were arrested, showing that when their legitimacy is questioned, the city immediately turns to state violence to protect their status.
DOH has called for a protest of this Tuesday’s planning commission meeting at City Hall, 6 PM, to continue the fight against the Domain on Riverside and resist the greedy ambitions of the city and its developer allies.