Gwen and I tried out Ruta Maya in its new digs last night, bizarrely located between a strip joint and a country radio station. Nice place though — it’s sort of a hodgepodge of two walls from an old industrial building that have been sandblasted to within an inch of their life, and bridged by the kind of insta-building architecture that usually house welding shops and the like. But it actually feels quite comfortable inside, though a little empty.
In less happy news, Flightpath has a problem.
I’ve been a regular at Flightpath for…a long time. Let’s say eight years for the sake of argument, but it might be nine or ten. It occupies part of what was once an auto-repair shop, When it first opened, it occupied a small chunk, with a large area in back left unfinished. Over the years, the previous owner, Terry, finished out the remaining space in a couple of phases, until Flightpath came to occupy its entire “slice” of the building.
Here’s the problem: The City of Austin mandates that all businesses have a certain number of parking spaces proportional to their square footage (the ratio depends on business type). When Flightpath opened, it was fine. But at some point, its square footage exceeded its available parking. This didn’t become a problem until someone who lives near Flightpath began bugging the city about Flightpath’s lack of parking. Flightpath is a popular place, especially at night, and evidently people were parking in front of this guy’s house. He didn’t like that, discovered that Flightpath was out of compliance with this regulation, and went on a crusade.
The current owners of Flightpath tried to make some creative accommodations for the city’s requirements, but evidently the squeaky wheel kept on squeaking. Last Thursday, an inspector said they had to wall off their back room by Monday. And so they did.
There is so much wrong with this picture that I don’t know where to begin.
- I have always objected to the parking/floor space ratio requirements. It flies in the face of the city’s nominal policy of–and my preference for–urban densification. For a place like a coffee shop, it creates an added burden in terms of rent. For a neighborhood joint like Flightpath, it is also unfair in the sense that it gets more bike and foot traffic than other locations might. Mine was one of five bikes on the rack today.
- I have never understood the objection to street parking. It’s a city. Of course people park on the street. It’s not illegal. If you don’t like it, move to the country. Or at least shut up and let us city dwellers live in a real city.
- Although Flightpath now has about half of its floor space closed off, it is still paying rent on all of it. I don’t know how long it can manage.
- Flightpath has become a very popular neighborhood hangout, but its ability to do business–and the ability of many neighborhood residents to continue enjoying it–is being threatened essentially by one crank. Flightpath is also noteworthy for being one of the first places in town to install free wireless Internet access.
Flightpath is going to be seeking a waiver on the parking requirement, and at some point, this post is going to be reworded and sent as a letter to the City Council.