The historic preservation process in Austin has long been plagued by (fair) accusations that it favors wealthy property owners in the more traditionally prosperous (west) parts of town. Doing so means that the city is preserving only parts of its history and leaving many stories untold.

To address that situation, the city Planning Department drafted an Equity-Based Preservation Plan "built on an inclusive, equity-focused, and community-oriented framework," reads a city press release. "The draft plan recommends policies, programs, and tools that meet historic preservation goals aimed at making Austin a better city for residents and visitors alike."

Now, the city is asking for community’s feedback on the newly released draft.

The draft plan includes more than 100 recommendations to support 14 goals, "ranging from recognizing cultural heritage to stabilizing communities to supporting stewardship of community assets," according to the release. It recommends more community engagement and up-front information-gathering than is currently the norm and proposes a incentives and tools to preservation benefits are spread more equitably benefits around the city. 

When adopted, the preservation plan will replace one that has been in place since 1981. “This new and improved Equity-Based Preservation Plan will carry us into the future by providing us fresh tools to take a more comprehensive approach to honoring and acknowledging Austin’s rich and complicated past,” said the Planning Department's Lauren Middleton-Pratt. “The draft is built on the vital input of a diverse group of Austinites, and our ongoing community engagement is aimed to ensure the final product will reflect the values, history, and heritage of our entire city.”

To develop the draft plan, the Historic Landmark Commission created preservation Plan Working Group of preservation professionals, stakeholders from allied fields, and community representatives in a process that Huston-Tillotson University's Linda Y. Jackson called "thorough and intentional."

More than 300 people contributed to the draft. The working group looked at best practices from across the nation and received feedback from three community focus groups, consulted with City staff from 12 departments, and conducted a community heritage survey in fall 2021. The Urban Land Institute provided recommendations on affordability and displacement prevention through the lens of older housing. 

Community review of the draft will be open through May 31. Austinites can now look at the plan online or se a printed version at any branch of the Austin Public Library or the Planning Department office at 1000 East 11th Street. According to the city,

Outreach around the draft plan will include City-hosted events, pop-up outreach at community events, and presentations at organizational meetings. Ten community ambassadors and five community organizations are being funded to help engage historically marginalized communities around the draft plan via small-group conversations and targeted events. The community organizations are Anderson Community Development Corporation, Creative Action, East Austin Conservancy, the Austin chapter of Taiwanese American Professionals, and Tomorrow’s Promise Foundation. 

In addition, according to the announcement, a community kickoff event will be held February 13 at Huston-Tillotson University’s King-Seabrook Chapel, where community leaders will hold forth on Austin’s "rich history, cultural heritage, displacement prevention, sustainability, and why historic preservation matters today."