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