Hate Austin rent prices? Online list says Leander is cheaper


We all know it’s expensive to live in Austin. One recent study suggested that it takes a yearly salary of at least $52,578 to afford a home here, something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to afford if you’re a single man or woman.

A house on Garden Street is for sale on Thursday November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But take heart, those of you who rent homes or apartments in Austin: At least you weren’t paying the area’s highest rent prices this past month. That honor goes to Leander, our neighbor to the northwest. That’s right, it was cheaper to rent a domicile in Austin than it was in Leander, at least, according to rental site Zumper.

Zumper released a report this week detailing the drop in rent prices throughout the Austin area, a swath of land that includes all the way from Georgetown to San Marcos. The report found that for the month of March, Austin had a median one-bedroom rent of $1,080 a month, while renting the same domain in Leander would set you back $1,110. Both are still much higher than the $887 state median, however.

The cheapest rent in the Austin area for March belonged to San Marcos, at $860 a month for a one-bedroom.

Read the full report here.




Here are some of the Texas vanity plates rejected in 2017 so far

Vanity license plates are fun. But, if the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has anything to say about it (and it does), not too fun. According to Houston’s ABC13, around 300 license plates have been rejected in the first two months of 2017.

Traffic on West Cesar Chavez Street in this view looking west from North Lamar Boulevard on Wednesday February 8, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here’s a list of proposed plates you won’t be seeing on a car anytime soon:

  • SLAY-N
  • WTF*87
  • SLO AF
  • D3Z NUT5

Instead of trying to creatively work the phrase “deez nuts” onto your license plate, you could consider putting your money toward a plate sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the proceeds from which go to support the state’s environmental efforts.

Or you could reapply next year.

Women dress as ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ characters to protest anti-abortion legislation at Texas Capitol

Women dressed in long, red robes and white bonnets protested anti-abortion legislation at the Texas Capitol on Monday.

The women were dressed like character’s from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a world where women have been stripped of their rights. In the book, some of the women, called “handmaids,” are forced to bear children against their will. This includes the book’s protagonist, Offred. According to NPR, sales of the book, first published in 1985, have soared since President Donald Trump took office.

Pictures of the protesters were posted on Twitter along with the hashtag #FightBackTX.

READ: 2 abortion bills advance in Senate

The women were present when the Texas Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that would “ban a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure,” known as dilation and evacuation, according to the Associated Press. State troopers and Senate officials reportedly pulled down signs the women were holding and escorted them out.


Women in similar garb were spotted roaming the streets of downtown Austin during last week’s SXSW conference as promotion for Hulu’s new show based on the novel.

READ: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is making SXSW 100 percent more unsettling

Austin to get first ping pong bar

Goodbye fighting for the one ping pong table at a bar.

via SPiN

At Susan Sarandon’s new Austin bar SPiN, you’d be hard pressed to find a table you can’t play ping pong on. According to CultureMap Austin, the 5th Street spot formerly home to Antone’s will open this fall as the seventh location of ping pong bar chain SPiN.

SPiN will have 14 table available for play and a virtual reality program where patrons can play competitors from different cities. The location will reportedly be large enough for 500 guests. It will also have a menu featuring sliders, milkshakes and flatbread pizza, and cocktails and beer.

“We chose Austin because it was important to expand to a city that had a rich music, art, and culinary scene along with an entrepreneurial and tech community that would embrace the SPiN experience,” SPiN CEO Pieter Vanermen said in a press release.

Get your partners and your paddles ready, Austin …

Where to drink and what to drink there in Austin

New ABC News documentary chronicles an Austin Skee-Baller’s path to glory

It was a sports heartbreaker for the ages. After only five years playing the sport, Austin’s Roy “Brewbacca” Hinojosa had made it to four Skee-Ball tournaments through his Austin Brewskee-Ball League.

The 33-year-old library administrator first started paying the game with his wife in 2009 as a way to meet people in Austin. His nickname comes from his penchant for pounding brewskis while rolling Skees.

Skee-Ball champion Roy “Brewbacca” Hinojosa wearing his cream-colored jacket and kissing his trophy in Austin, Texas. (David Fazekas/ABC News)

At the first tournament he went to, in 2010, he didn’t get far.

In 2011, he lost in the first round.

In 2012, he made it to the Final Four, but didn’t go all the way.

In 2013, at the Brewskee-Ball National Championship (commonly referred to as the “BEEBs”) in Austin, it was down to him and a Skee-Ball roller from New York named Jon “Snakes on a Lane” Ciuffreda. Hinojosa needed about 400 more points to win the trophy and the league’s cream-colored sports jacket. He thought he had what it took. The scoreboard even read in his favor.

But a glitch in the Skee-Ball machine caused Hinojosa’s score to be tallied incorrectly.

“I hear that the lane malfunctioned and scored higher than I actually rolled,” Hinojosa told ABC News. “These machines are old. They’re not in the best condition. I hit it really hard. Sometimes when you do that, it double clutches and the score changes. Instead of registering as a 100, it registers at 150.”

After that 2013 tournament, Hinojosa worked on his Skee-Ball game. He went to the 2014 and 2015 BEEBs but didn’t make it to the finals.

His luck changed in 2016 in North Carolina, where he once again faced off against Jon “Snakes on a Lane” Ciuffreda for the championship. This time, Hinojosa won without question.

“The idea that you’re the best at something, no one can take that away from me.”

“Brewbacca and the Quest for the Cream-Colored Jacket,” a new mini-documentary from ABC News, chronicles Hinojosa’s rise to the top of America’s Skee-Ball scene.

“I tell people that I’m a national champion in Skee-Ball, and they’re like, ‘What..How?'” he jokes in the video.

For now, Hinojosa says he plans to defend his title in Austin’s Brewskee-Ball League. But he told ABC News he’s more thankful for the friends and relationships he’s made through the sport.

“I wouldn’t know what we would have done without Skee-Ball to be honest.”

Watch the full documentary below.

ABC Breaking News

Bill proposes crowdfunding to fix Texas’ rape kit backlog

A Democratic lawmaker from Dallas has proposed that Texas turn to crowdfunding to help address its backlog of untested rape kits.


State Representative Victoria Neave introduced a bill, which had its first public hearing Monday, that would give Texas citizens the option of donating $1 or more when they renew their driver licenses to go toward testing the rape kits. According to the New York Times, testing a rape kit can cost between $1,000 and $1,5000.

The paper reports that donations would generate approximately $1 million a year, based on a similar tactic previously used to collect money for veterans. Administrative deductions would leave about $800,000 to supplement the budget now in place for testing.

Although the New York Times reports that Texas is not alone in battling a rape kit backlog, the paper says crowdfunding as a state law is a new tactic.

A final vote on the bill will be made before the end of the legislative session in May.

At a local level, Austin has experienced its share of DNA testing woes, including a mismanaged lab, a growing backlog of untested kits and a broken freezer.

READ: 2,200 convicted persons to be notified of Austin DNA lab problems

Surprise! The El Arroyo sign’s got Ides of March jokes


It’s March 15, otherwise known as the Ides of March. That’s the day Roman emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his own senators and son-in-law Marcus Brutus in 44 B.C.

From Flickr user Hilverd Reker.

(It’s also the title of an excellent 2011 film about an idealistic presidential campaign staffer and the governor he works for starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney.)

The phrase was popularized in William Shakespeare’s titular play about Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.”

It was a day full of conspiracy, betrayal and knives (and indeed, bad stuff seems to continue to happen on March 15), but everyone’s favorite Austin taco restaurant sign has a lighter take on the day famous for conspiratorial bloodshed.

Et tu, El Arroyo?


Photos: Doc’s on South Congress, formerly a bar, is now a pile of rubble

Doc’s Motorworks on South Congress Avenue is dead. Long live Doc’s Motorworks on South Congress Avenue.

In December, the watering hole’s owner announced that the bar would shutter after 11 years of pints. If you haven’t taken a drive down SoCo in a little while, what you see where you used to chow down on tortilla-wrapped burgers might shock you.

A crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc's Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
A crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

American-Statesman photographer Tamir Kalifa checked out the former site of Doc’s on Tuesday and found an increasingly familiar sight in Austin: a work crew razing the building.

A crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc's Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
A crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Not exactly the kind of “on the rocks” you expect from your neighborhood bar, is it?

The South Congress location of Doc’s Motorworks opened in 2005. The bar’s other Austin-area locations, on West 38th Street and Medical Parkway and on Brodie Lane in Sunset Valley, are still open, as is a Houston location at Westheimer & Graustark.

What’s going with the prime real estate once occupied by the South Congress bar, as well as some of the surrounding property? According to the American-Statesman’s Shonda Novak, a mixed-use project that “would have 130,740 square feet of space with office, retail and restaurant uses, along with a parking garage,” according to documents filed with the city.

Miguel Luna and a crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc's Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Miguel Luna and a crew from Lindamood Demolition razes the building formerly occupied by Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress Ave. on Feb 28, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

How much money do you need to make to afford a home in the Austin area?

We’ve all heard before how expensive it is to buy a home in Austin. A new ranking reveals just how much buyers might need to make for a slice of Texas capital property.

A house on Garden Street is for sale on Thursday November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A house on Garden Street for sale on November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Business Insider recently ranked the Austin-Round Rock metro area at No. 22 on its list of most expensive housing markets in America. The list ranks the metro areas by the estimated salary needed to purchase a home. In Austin, that magic number is $52,578.

Here’s how the listmakers crunched the numbers, according to Business Insider:

Using NAR’s data on housing affordability, we gathered a list of the US metro areas where the minimum salary required to qualify for a mortgage, with 20% down, is the highest. NAR assumes a mortgage rate of 3.9% for all areas, with the monthly principle and interest payment limited to 25% of income.

According to the National Association of Realtors, in the final three months of 2016 the median home price in Austin sat at more than a quarter of a million dollars — $287,600.

Home prices are even hitting new peak levels in the majority of metro areas nationwide, according to the association.

The American-Statesman reported last month that experts expect 2017 to be a strong year for the Austin-area housing market. Steady job growth and continued demand for homes factor into the high home prices.

Also worth noting: The Austin-Round Rock area is the only metro from Texas on the list. The median home price in the three bigger Lone Star metros are lower than in Austin. In the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, the price sits at $206,300; the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area comes in at $224,500; and the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area goes for $230,600.

If you haven’t hit the $52,578 salary mark yet, there’s good news. In early February, we also reported that rental rates are stabilizing, providing some relief to apartment dwellers.

Texas Monthly editor: ‘Texans don’t care about politics’ quote taken out of context

Comments made by Texas Monthly’s new editor-in-chief Tim Taliaferro in a Columbia Journalism Review article published Monday have had social media in a tizzy.

Tim Taliaferro via handout

The Review reported that Texas Monthly is shifting its focus from “in-depth political coverage and longform journalism” to “lifestyle coverage, website enhancements, and a live-events business.” The article quoted Taliaferro as saying that “Texans don’t care about politics.”

Texas Twitter did not appreciate being spoken for, and many tweeted out their displeasure with both the comment and the magazine’s seemingly new direction.

Taliaferro fired out a few tweets of his own Monday. The former editor of the University of Texas alumni magazine, The Alcalde, wrote that the comment was taken out of context. Taliaferro further clarified his intention for the publication’s future in a note to readers published on Texas Monthly’s website Tuesday — not before poking a little fun at the situation first.

The Columbia Journalism Review also tweeted out more context for the quote, in which Taliaferro says that he personally is “less interested in politics”:

In his note, Taliaferro said he “unfortunately gave the CJR the wrong impression” and knows “Texans care about politics, and deeply, especially in these times.” The note says there is “no intention of softening the magazine’s attention on the people who affect the lives of Texans,” but they “also want to know about barbecue. And energy. And music. And football.”

You can read the Columbia Journalism Review’s story here and Taliaferro’s full note here.

Editor’s note: The author of this post previously worked under Tim Taliaferro when he was an editor at The Alcalde.