Riverside rezoning decision approved by City of Austin despite backlash from community


Samantha Carrizal

The Quads apartment complexes, including Quads East and South, are home to many college students from St. Edward’s and UT.

It’s been nearly a month since the Austin City Council delayed voting to rezone the student apartments on Riverside and Pleasant Valley. Yet, on Oct. 17, legislatures came to a final decision: with a 6-3-1 vote, the rezoning will happen and construction is set to begin in 2023.

According to The Daily Texan, the apartments, which include Ballpark North, Town Lake, and Quad East, West and South, will be demolished and replaced with 4,700 family units, 600 hotel rooms and more than 4 million square feet of office and retail space. Developers say it could take up to 20 years before the project is finished. Their goal is to create a Domain-like scene in an urban neighborhood while also continuing to make housing affordable.

Despite the proposed solution, many residents, the majority of which are college students, are still protesting against the zoning changes. The University of Texas Student Government organized silent protests outside City Hall during the vote and even passed along a resolution requesting city council to reject reconstruction. Community organizations such as Defend Our Hoodz have also jumped in, attempting to save Riverside from gentrification. 

However, Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, whose district the changes will be happening in, said that gentrification within the area is basically inevitable and the city should simply “negotiate” on expansion and affordable units. 

For UT student Gabriela Hernandez, there is no simple way to negotiate. 

“There is no way this will benefit the majority of students that need lower-priced apartments, especially considering how convenient and efficient the shuttle system is,” Hernandez wrote via email. “We need affordable housing for people, especially students, that benefit from the accessible prices and make Austin the city it is today.” 

Hernandez also said that it can be “somewhat difficult” for students to find affordable housing that has accommodations to transportation. She wrote that “not everyone can afford the prices of West Campus apartments,” which UT’s Student Government also reported as a problem to the city council when casting their vote on the redevelopment. 

This also applies to many students at St. Edward’s. With high tuition and expensive housing, some are left to live off-campus, often choosing the Riverside apartments for reasons similar to those stated by Hernandez. 

Even so, City Council members are persistent and hopeful about the change. Students and families on the other hand see the rezoning as an impact that will do more harm than good.

“Projects like this only hurt students, and make attending UT so much more difficult for lower-income individuals,” wrote Hernandez. “This will only result in prices being driven up astronomically and students being forced out.”