Editor’s Note: The Battalion recently offered all the candidates running for public office in the cities of Bryan and College Station as well as Brazos County the opportunity to submit guest opinion pieces. We will be publishing the articles of those who accepted that offer daily between Oct. 26 and Election Day.
Brian Alg, Class of 2007, is an economic consultant and candidate for Place 5 on the City Council of College Station in the 2020 general election on Nov. 3.
My name is Brian Alg, and I am running for College Station City Council, Place 5.
I know that current events understandably focus most of us on national politics. But for the students that live, work and go to school in College Station, there has likely never been a more significant local election. It is significant because of the issues at stake, such as the Restricted Occupancy Overlay. It is significant because there has never been a clearer pro/anti-student breakdown in candidates.
An organization called the College Station Association of Neighborhoods (CSAN) has captured the current College Station city council. CSAN’s primary issue is what they refer to as “neighborhood integrity.” That is a euphemism for “keep students and development out of neighborhoods near campus.” CSAN and proto-CSAN political actors’ preferred method of segregation is through a mishmash of zoning (see CSAN discussions of proposed changes to the comprehensive plan). In the last 15 years they have sought restrictions on rental agreements. In November 2007, Dr. Crompton (who is back on the council) proposed a no-more-than-2 ordinance. The students pushed back so hard they tabled the proposal.
CSAN and their predecessors have proven to be an effective political force that can consistently mobilize thousands to their cause. They have prevented development and land-use changes near Texas A&M (particularly on the south and east sides of campus). They may be effective in driving away student residency from the neighborhoods near campus.
This voting block is potent in low turnout votes, such as runoffs or other elections on nonstandard voting days.
I support property owners who come to agreements and establish HOAs to collectively enforce voluntary restrictions. CSAN however wants to use the city government to establish and enforce restrictions and force unwilling parties to play by their rules. They focus their efforts on the areas near campus, where students and economic activity that complements the university belongs.
It hurts property owners in these neighborhoods who don’t want to go along.
It hurts students and others who want accessible and affordable housing near campus.
It hurts people who would be opening businesses in what is a suitable place for dense economic activity.
It hurts people that want to live in affordable, family-friendly neighborhoods further out from the campus.
It hurts the city’s budget when they force us to spend more dealing with traffic and road maintenance from people having to commute farther than necessary.
College Station has a very easy-to-solve urban planning “problem.” Texas A&M is the destination of tens of thousands of students and thousands more who work there every day. In the case of some students, they are making more than one trip a day to campus.
Why in the world would we not allow developers to build suitable housing next to the school? Even more preposterously, why would we disallow students from living near campus?
The city should allow the housing market to sort itself out. The city should let students going to campus (often several times a day) live in dense housing next to campus. So many things would be improved.
- Traffic congestion and road maintenance
- Housing affordability for students
- Housing affordability in family-friendly neighborhoods (further from campus, obviously)
If the city council would get out of the way and let the market work outcomes would be substantially better. The university-compatible uses would tend to move toward campus. We would likely see denser housing that is attractive to students and professionals. Amenities that serve students’ needs would be nearby. It would also attract businesses staffed with people who want to be near those amenities or even staffed with those students. The mix would be more sensible, dense, dynamic and fun.
To be sure, if residents reelect the incumbents that are pushing for even more extreme measures to block sensible land use around campus, this is only the beginning. In the past, College Station city councils have always worried about the possibility of students becoming informed and powerful in city elections. When the restrictions similar to the ones currently being considered caught students’ eye, they quickly dropped them. The incumbents are now brazenly floating extreme anti-student proposals. If we still reelect them, it will let them know that there is probably nothing that the city government can’t do to students.
This election is crucial to the future well-being of students like you. It is also important to most non-student residents. We do not want the housing market, economy and traffic patterns screwed up by pushing students and university compatible business further away from campus.
I am Brian Alg, and I would appreciate your vote on Nov. 3. I would also appreciate the continued involvement of the Texas A&M student body in local politics. We can’t afford to have a city government that drives you away. You are too important.