The Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) is Austin’s only comprehensive representative of the City’s neighborhood associations. More than 40 years old, ANC consists of over 80 member neighborhood associations representing hundreds of thousands individual residents all across Austin.
History of ANC
After winning a legal battle over the planned destruction of a park in her University Hills neighborhood, on April of 1973 Joan (pronounced Jo Anne) Bartz formed the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) with eleven neighborhood members,. The homeowners took the developer, who wanted to replace the park with townhomes and a parking lot, to the 53rd District Court and got a unanimous decision to force the developer to leave the park unharmed. To this day the land remains dedicated parkland.
In 1973, Joan Bartz said she created the ANC because “neighborhood groups are formed by homeowners who feel something is wrong but don’t know how to approach the problem. That’s why ANC was formed. It’s a matter of support. We do for neighborhoods what the Chamber of Commerce does for business.”
She formed the ANC just before the City Council election in order to give candidates an opportunity to speak to a large number of neighborhood groups at one time. She said “then city council candidates started calling us up and asking to speak in front of our group.” The first candidate forum was held at Highland Mall in 1974 and was one of the largest and most well attended.
In the 1970s a plan for the City of Austin to charter and fund neighborhood groups was opposed by the ANC and 19 neighborhood groups. Joan Bartz said “Our whole secret of success is our independence. We don’t owe anybody anything and that’s why we’re so stinking effective”. Existing neighborhood groups did not want monetary assistance as outlined in the proposal”. She said “I believe the more accurate intent behind this proposal is not to enhance and maintain community excellence through strong neighborhood or community organizations, but rather to originate, enhance and maintain political strength through controlled neighborhood organization, or as now named community planning groups.” Once again, the ANC prevailed and this proposal was defeated.
The neighborhood empowerment movement gathered strength into the 1970s. Neighborhood associations battled development pressure in their particular areas and ANC took on citywide issues such as trench-burner use, the protection of the Barton Creek watersheds, nuclear power, and the 1976 bond package. By 1979, the neighborhood groups knew how to be successful. More people were knowledgeable about the ways of the city bureaucracy, yet they recognized that the movement’s real strength was in its numbers.
In just a decade, it was acknowledged that neighborhood activists constituted a strong and powerful movement and made themselves at home influencing the world of City politics. In 1983, the ANC had 40 neighborhood groups as members and were a formidable force. At that time planning commission chairman Martinez said “the neighborhoods have gotten so sophisticated that many times they are better prepared than the developers.”
The ANC supported neighborhood planning, which is an opportunity for citizens to take a proactive role in the planning process and decide how their neighborhoods will move in the future. Neighborhood Planning formally started with the City in the late 1990s and the first Neighborhood Plan to be adopted in 1998.