el Pa­tio’s dirt lot sparks a dust-up with neigh­bors

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - JoHn KelSo

One thing that’s changed about Austin over the years? Used to be, when some rinky-dink in­frac­tion was go­ing on, peo­ple were more likely to blow it off and not make a big stink.

No longer. The City of Austin is go­ing af­ter El Pa­tio, an an­cient Mex­i­can food joint at 2938 Guadalupe St., for us­ing a va­cant dirt lot for over­flow park­ing be­cause the lot is zoned res­i­den­tial. There is cur­rently noth­ing on this lot. Nada. Land with noth­ing on it in Austin should prob­a­bly be zoned his­toric.

David Joseph, who owns both El Pa­tio and the dirt lot be­hind his res­tau­rant, is chapped be­cause he says the neigh­bors turned him in. He says the trou­ble started af­ter a neigh­bor or neigh­bors called the po­lice about tran­sients hang­ing out in an al­ley

Con­tin­ued from B1 that’s also be­hind his res­tau­rant. And it’s not even his al­ley. It’s city prop­erty, he says.

“I’d like to take some of these neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tions over to Afghanistan and see if they can pull that crap over there,” Joseph said. “‘Sure, we can re­zone it, af­ter we cut your head off.’”

Joseph says El Pa­tio has been us­ing the con­tested patch of gravel for em­ployee and cus­tomer park­ing for at least 35 years, and no­body said boo. Un­til now.

El Pa­tio opened in 1954. The place is fa­mous be­cause it used to serve Saltines in place of tor­tilla chips. (More about that in a later blog item on states­man.com.) El Pa­tio is a fa­vorite of Kinky Fried­man. Wal­ter Cronkite ate there, too.

The city says that if Joseph wants to let folks park there, he has to get it re­zoned. He doesn’t want to. He went to Mu­nic­i­pal Court on Thurs­day and got an ex­ten­sion on the case un­til Aug. 11.

“The city is ei­ther try­ing to get us to re­zone it or shut it down,” he said. “But we can’t re­zone be­cause you’re look­ing at $80,000 in up­grades and ar­chi­tec­tural stuff.”

“This case has come in sev­eral times,” said Melissa Martinez, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the city’s code com­pli­ance peo­ple. “The prop­erty owner will chain (the lot) off, then he’ll open it back up. Usu­ally our in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­spond to com­plaints. That’s how it gets trig­gered.”

Joseph says one day the po­lice showed up in the res­tau­rant be­cause they’d got­ten a com­plaint about the street peo­ple. He went next door to talk to a neigh­bor lady he thought made the call. “I told her, ‘Look, it’s not my job to pa­trol the al­ley­way. It’s not El Pa­tio owner David Joseph says peo­ple have been park­ing in a dirt lot be­hind his res­tau­rant on Guadalupe Street for at least 35 years. my prop­erty.” Later he started get­ting form letters from the city, say­ing he could be fined $2,000 a day if he con­tin­ues to use the lot for park­ing.

“Why can’t things be nice and easy like they used to be?” Joseph said. “I guess I’m old-fash­ioned be­cause I’ve been here so long.”

No word on where Cronkite parked, by the way. But he’s lucky he didn’t get a ticket.

John Kelso

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