neighbor and neighborhood management

[here's a post I meant to post a long time ago that got lost in the swing of things...]

I work a lot with stakeholders and stakeholder processes in my day job. One thing I've learned is that fear of the unknown is a large fear, and that fear can drive unwanted (and unwarranted) attention and actions. If the 'hood doesn't know anything about your project, it will likely assume the worst (after all, the worst has happened before...). Therefore, it's generally a good idea to reach out to the neighbors, especially the immediate neighbors, about your project. Having a house built next to you is a noisy and perhaps disturbing proposition. And after your house is done, those same folks are going to be your neighbors, so you want to start off (and stay) on the right foot.

We're in a good position because we are building a house we plan to move into. Developers will tend to have a harder time, especially if you (the developer) are touching a touchy topic. One of the big issues in our neighborhood is duplexes. The large lots in the neighborhood beg for duplexes, whether for rental or for selling individual units (kind of like a condo association with two owners [don't laugh: these are common in Austin, particularly for modern]). However, many parts of the 'hood have deeds that disallow duplexes. That has not stopped some developers from building them. The 'hood has wanted the city to enforce these deed restrictions (an unreasonable request, imho...), and the city has refused. Trying to rectify a situation where someone has ignored a deed restriction requires a lawsuit (unless you control the water and power or have the ability to levy a fee and lien).

Other issues that pop up from time to time in our neighborhood are building more than one story and putting the garage in the back, something that we (ahem) have done. Some parts of the neighborhood have deeds that restrict the number of stories and the location of the garage; however, our deed includes no such restrictions. Yet another issue is trees. Some folks don't want you cutting anything down (STEP! AWAY! FROM! THE! MOWER! MISTER!!!), so they will call 911 (no joke) as soon as they hear a chainsaw.

We reached out to the neighborhood on several fronts. First, we hooked into the neighborhood watch group (and the associated supper club) for our part of the neighborhood. Second, we got in direct contact with the immediate neighbors. Third, we developed a special blog for the neighbors (we don't advertise this present one [austin cubed] because, well, it's a little much...). And fourth, we sent a note to the entire neighborhood listserv (about 2,000 subscribers!) about the project and the special blog. Doing that last bit gave us pause. Just like any listserv, there's (how shall we put it...) a variety of personalities out there including certain types that love to share their refined (and unrefined...) opinions on everything, including design. I know it may come as a shock (egads!!!), but not everyone appreciates modern or, for that matter, change. So we braced for the worst, and were greeted with... nothing but sunshine and rainbows!

Well, that's not exactly true. The builder got out a wee bit ahead of us (our fault...) which resulted in a neighbor calling 311 because of tree removal. The builder also got swamped with a number of neighbors stopping by asking what was going on. But with the site up a day or so and 800 clicks in three days, our neighbors now have a sense of what's going on.


  1. Expecting the city to enforce a deed restriction is not only unreasonable, it's downright absurd. Like expecting the city to throw someone in jail for wearing a red shirt: there's simply no law to support it.

    Are you sure you want to advertise your address here (via your neighborhood blog site)? If it were me, I'd unlink the link.