Local organization Defend Our Hoodz protests rezoning in East Austin


Photo by Juan Diaz / Hilltop Views

Defend Our Hoodz is an organization that fights gentrification in East Austin.

A local organization protesting the gentrification of East Austin set their sights on Project Catalyst a development plan that would displace several East Riverside communities, including the Ballpark apartments where many students have found affordable housing. They plan to stop it at phase one: rezoning.

The gentrification of Austin has angered many Austinites over the years. A group of these outraged citizens started the organization Defend Our Hoodz in 2016 and have since boycotted many large corporations that have pushed out family owned and operated businesses. They have also protested against developers purchasing property in East Austin.

It is no surprise, then, that the current development plans that Nimes Capital, an investment firm, and JLL, an investment management company, have for the Ballpark Apartments would draw this organization’s attention.

The Ballpark Apartments currently consists of four affordable student residential communities, north, south, east and west campus, catering to college students from St. Edward’s University and other colleges in Austin such as University of Texas and Austin Community College.

According to an Austin Business Journal article, Project Catalyst would use the 79 acres of land that is currently occupied by the Ballpark Apartments for residential and commercial developments. These would include hotel rooms, office and retail space, medical/dental space and 6,060 multifamily units, that are predicted to cost more than the affordable housing currently being provided.

In order to pull this off, the developers have to rezone the area. The submission of their rezoning application escalated the tension between JLL and the apartment residents. It was then that It was then that Defend Our Hoodz got involved.

A Defend Our Hoodz organizer named Salvador said the organization wants to focus on the developer’s rezoning application that is currently being reviewed. “If people fight at the rezoning process, we won’t have to talk about where [the current residents] will go,” he said.

In order to do this, the organization needs to gain support, so they sent out a recruitment flyer to Ballpark Apartment residents.

This flyer set them apart from other grassroots organizations.

Written in a militant tone, their message does not follow the passive campaigning often done by other grassroots organizations. They referred to the “parasite” developers and other members of Project Catalyst as “enemies” that have “declared war” on them.

According to Salvador, their intention was to send a strong message.

“[The message was meant to] appeal to anyone who understands [Defend our Hoodz] is not interested in negotiating with people who want to exploit the working class,” said Salvador. “Tough words are nothing compared to what they are already using on us,” he said, referring to an incident in which the property manager, Logan Stansell, called Austin police on organizers who were going door to door to inform residents about Project Catalyst.

The organization is looking to extend their reach and inform the community. Despite the major impact this would have on college students, there has been little coverage of Project Catalyst and Defend Our Hoodz.

Salvador says they want to change that. “We are just community members; we don’t have a newspaper,” said Salvador. “Students need to stand-up and show solidarity. They don’t think students will mobilize or care and that’s an insult to students.”