Controversial developer funds affordable housing campaign

I’ve detailed how Keep Austin Affordable, the group campaigning for the affordable housing bond, has raised a ton of money from real estate interests, along with some totz rando businesses with no discernible link to the issue. At first I thought that Centaurus Investments, which contributed $15,000 to the campaign, fell into the latter category.

But based on a couple sources and some internet sleuthing, I’ve also come to realize that Centaurus is in fact Presidium, the Dallas-based developer that is seeking to build a 97-acre mixed-use development around E. Riverside and S. Pleasant Valley. The proposed “New Domain” is particularly controversial because it will come at the expense of the existing Ballpark Apartments, which provide relatively low market-rate rents.

In addition to sincere concerns expressed by current Ballpark residents, the cause has been championed by Defend Our Hoodz, a small group of self-proclaimed enemies of the ruling class, whose anonymous leadership/membership appears to heavily overlap with the Red Guards of Austin, a local Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective. (It’s hard to know whether they can say that with a straight face because their faces are always covered up.) Defend Our Hoodz has disrupted a number of meetings about the development. They’ve even convinced normal, real people who don’t cover their faces with bandannas to participate in some of their actions, including a recent disruption of a Planning Commission meeting.

Last but not least, Presidium is a defendant in a wrongful death suit that I’ve written about a few times for the Chronicle. The plaintiff is Lourdes Kaman, the widow of Amir Bahman Kaman, who was crushed by a 20-ton concrete slab on a work site near E. Riverside last year. The entities most likely to be directly at fault are the general contractor hired by Presidium and two sub-contractors, one of which had a lengthy record of OSHA violations that aligned with the issues that led to the accident that killed Kaman. But the plaintiff is targeting Presidium for relying on contractors with shoddy records.

It looks like Presidium might be trying to buy some goodwill on City Council ahead of what is likely to be a contentious development battle that might make even some development-friendly Council members queasy.

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