News8Austin Habibi’s Story Has Inaccuracies

Latest condo development taking over South Lamar daycareNews8Austin isn’t doing much for journalism with this story on Habibi’s Hutch, the latest daycare near downtown to fall prey to redevelopment.

First, Habibi’s didn’t start out at that location as the article states. They used to be on West Sixth between West Lynn and Campbell. I can’t recall when the move took place, but I think it was 2002. They’re also responsible for this gem at the end of the article:

“It’s really sad that they might have to move. There’s a huge lack of daycare and the idea of bringing more development in and not having daycare resources doesn’t really make a lot of since,” he said.

Yep, doesn’t make a lot of "since" to me either.

News8Austin fails to point out what Austinist alluded to in their story on the demise of Habibi’s. This is the second quality daycare within a reasonable driving distance from downtown to fall prey to development. Escuelita Del Alma at Congress and 2nd is still evaluating its options as its been displaced by a proposed Marriott. There’s a good chance that they’ll have to move at least as far from downtown as Habibi’s did in their last move.

I’ve had kids at Escuelita and seriously considered sending one of them to Habibi’s when it was still on West Sixth. Both daycares are affordable and give high quality care to their kids. They also attract a similar type of family.
Daycares have specific site requirements that are difficult to fill. I’m sure I’ll attract the pro-development crowd with this post, but I’m wondering how we’re going to attract families downtown if there’s no daycare? As far as I can tell, it’s only going to be populated with people without kids, cashing in on the real estate bubble in other states.

I noticed M1EK commenting on the Austinist post and mentioning that there were "plenty of daycares IN Central Austin. Many of them thought ahead and actually OWN their land and their building.".

Really? Can you give us a list?

It is unfortunate that neither Habibi’s, nor Escuelita could purchase the locations they were using, but I think that’s going to be a stretch for a daycare. They can’t be affordable and manage to make enough to buy real estate, especially not in this market. I’d be curious how the others were able to do so.

12 Comments so far

  1. AC (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

    What city intervention would you recommend if the property owner simply decides not to renew the lease? Do you believe the city should force the owner to renew the lease? How? The point is that a city cannot control a property’s use by approving or denying an up-zoning decision. It will take a much more complicated system of regulations to do that.

    Anyway, if you want to turn daycares into Austin’s version of untouchables, tell owners that they won’t be able to get rid of daycares once they lease to them.

    Finally, if you want to spread blame around, spread it around fairly. The developer offered Habibi’s Hutch the use of a house on the Del Curto side of the property, but the neighborhood vetoed that proposal due to traffic. Give the neighborhood its due.

  2. Tim (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

    Um… I think the problem is that parents aren’t willing to pay for quality day care in the downtown area. That’s not the cities problem. If you’re willing to pay twice the cost of a house North of 183 or South of 71 to live in Central Austin, perhaps you should be willing to pay up to twice the cost for day care. Unfortunately, we live in a cheap, car dependent culture, and so central Austinites will just drive their kids further out to daycare.
    This is the Wal*Mart problem all over again.

  3. ttrentham (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

    AustinContrarian indeed.

    I’m not advocating that the city force owners to renew the lease for a daycare or any other business. I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was.

    I’m simply saying that it’s going to be hard to advocate downtown living if there’s no where to send your kids without getting into the car and driving out of downtown to take them to daycare. I don’t know the answer. I’d be interested to see how other cities handle it. Nonprofits?

    I’m curious about your last paragraph. So, the neighborhood vetoed the move because of traffic from daycare parents on Del Curto (which, I might add, appears to be full of plenty of underdeveloped, soon to be developed land)?

  4. AC (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    There is a house sitting vacant on the Del Curto side of the project right now. One of the sticking points between the developer and the city is what to do with this house. The Parks Department doesn’t want the responsibility of maintaining it. The developer’s current proposal is to leave the house vacant most of the time, but let people basically rent the house from the Parks Department for special events. (This was all stuff said at last week’s planning commission hearing.)

    Ironic, isn’t it? There’s no place for Habibi’s to go, and yet here’s a house available 200 yards away, apparently dirt cheap. According to the developer, the neighborhood opposes locating Habibi’s in this vacant building — too much traffic. (This was confirmed by an SLNA officer at the hearing, by the way.)

    As for my first point, I know you weren’t suggesting that the city force every owner to renew a daycare tenant’s lease. But opposing a re-zoning for the sake of a daycare amounts to the same thing.

  5. ttrentham (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

    Ok, Tim, let’s go down that road.

    I know what Escuelita and Habibi’s cost now. We’ll say $650/month as a rough figure. I consider them to both be quality daycare. So you think it should be $1300/month? That’s $15,600/year. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find daycares that cost that much, even in more populous cities. I looked around for averages and mostly saw numbers lower than that. What if you have more than one kid? Who can afford that?

    If you’re ok with those numbers, then you’ve just priced most families out of the city center and isn’t the point that everyone’s advocating through the redevelopment to get more people to move into the the city center and not out past 183 or 71?

  6. M1EK (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

    Tim, there’s three or so I can think of within a walk of my house, which actually is in central Austin, unlike the ludicrous claim of same for Habibi’s, which is neither “near downtown” nor “central Austin”. 30th near Lamar. One or two in Hyde Park. Various church options abound in this area as well. UT lab. Etc.

  7. M1EK (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    By the way, I sympathize with the issue – one less daycare is obviously the wrong direction, no matter how many remain.

    But let’s get real here: any possible remedy you can come up with is far worse in the long-run because, as AC notes, it will make landowners reluctant to rent to future daycare operators. And if the neighborhood association really vetoed Habibi’s move, they’re even more loathsome than I previously thought – and that’s saying a lot.

    Long-term solution to this problem is to provide more places which zoning appropriate for daycares. And, of course, to realize that daycares with big open areas (low-density) might not be the best business model going forward in the center-city.

  8. M1EK (unregistered) on May 15th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    I misread your comment, Tim, it appears you’re looking for more “daycares which own their land” rather than “daycares which still exist in central Austin”. ChildCraft appears to rent, according to TravisCAD, but certainly all the church options suffice – I don’t know the names of all of the joints in the neighborhood to be able to check them out, though.

  9. Pat (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 11:28 am

    There are two Martin Houses (Moore-Weis) in Old West Austin, St Lukes on West Lynn, Good Sheppard on Exposition, Kids are First on West Enfield, Open Door on West 10th in Clarksvile, Ebenezer Church care on East 10th, El Buen Pastor at 12th and Willow, and Extend-a-care facilities at all the inner-city elementary schools. This dog just don’t hunt. Like Las Manitas, Habbibi’s is a Granola Mafia protectorate, and that’s why they’re attracting all the media attention.

  10. RS (unregistered) on May 18th, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

    Hmm, have you ever visited any of these to compare, had a child who you wanted in good hands, or done some searching to see who does a good job? If not, you might before assuming these are equivalent or available. For one thing, many of these places hire inexperienced teens to care for as many kids as the law allows; they have frequent turnover and other quality problems. And, nearly everyone on the list has a waiting list. Namecalling aside, all parents should care about who is caring for their kids.

  11. MM (unregistered) on May 27th, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    I find it interesting that the Hutch folks want to knock another group Ecco School out of the building they are presently using on Del Curto – Hmmm? Go figure on that one?

    I live 500′ away on Del Curto and can tell you that this is not a good location for a commercial business especially so close to “dead man’s curve” (Del Curto & Lightsey) on 300′ away.

    PARD wants the land really badly – said so a council hearing. The house (which is much newer that it looks – on a slab foundation) will be cleared to create more open space which the neighborhood (6000 folks) have none. We need a park much more than relocating a daycare.

    I bet there are many good locations right along Manchaca wher the Hutch could relocate. I think the developer will come up with something.

  12. pjeffe (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

    I think MM needs to re-examine the issue a little more carefully. From my understanding, the Unity Church that is renting to the Eco School has chosen to sell their property to the developer, which is resulting in the Eco School having to move. This will happen regardless of whether Habibi’s relocates there or not. If you want to blame someone then blame the church–as I understand some residents indeed do, while others cite the church’s inability to get approval for expanding their capacity–in any case, it was their decision to sell out that is prompting the school’s move, not any possible subsequent use of that property by Habibi’s or anyone else.

    I do agree with MM that the neighborhood needs a good park. And that is precisely what the developer and Habibi’s are proposing, as opposed to the current plan that will create a minimal greenspace open to the new development’s residents and retail patrons, but of little use to the existing community. The Habibi’s plan is to create a private dedicated park space for the neighborhood, alongside the public one that will be run by PARD and lack any real facilities. Habibi’s will maintain the property and its grounds and allow the neighborhood to use it when the school isn’t in session, which basically means weekends, nights, and school vacations. The building will be available for neighborhood meetings and there will be a playscape for neighborhood children to use, neither of which PARD has any intention of providing.

    In addition, given the developer’s interest in successfully relocating Habibi’s, there is a good chance that an improved roadway with sidewalks could be made part of the deal. As MM did correctly note, this is one of the main concerns of that section of Del Curto. This is something that the neighborhood will almost certainly be unable to make happen on their own, since they simply don’t have much economic leverage with the developer.

    As for traffic concerns, the current Habibi’s location has a tiny parking lot that fits maybe 10 cars, and it’s almost never full. The extra traffic on Del Curto would probably be less than the current school and church generate, and much more spread out over the course of the day (and of course none on weekends).

    So there are many good reasons why the relocation of Habibi’s Hutch to the Del Curto location would make sense for both the school and the community. In fact, in recent canvassing of hundreds of the local residents by Habibi’s parents we’ve found that well over 90% of the residents are in favor of the Habibi’s relocation. They are very positive about the prospects of having a truly useful park and a great preschool located in their community.

    Naturally there are some residents who oppose the move for various reasons, but I don’t believe that the reasons that MM states stand up to rational scrutiny. In fact I’m still waiting to hear some that do.

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