Rainey Street first appeared on the Austin map in 1900, and only expanded to the river. Because there had been no “official” segregation by city planning, more of the citizenry was evenly dispersed. For many years, there was very little disruption to the homes on Rainey.
The first request to introduce local retail to Rainey Street was denied in 1965 because of a belief that the area lacked sufficient access for commercial traffic.
The first zoning change that introduced local retail to Rainey occurred in 1970, when the Planning Commission observed that the highway made it possible for free flowing traffic. The area still remained largely residential with small businesses that served the neighbors until 1974, when the Planning Commission considered expanding the Central Business District.
With that mindset, the Planning Commission began to grant several zoning changes for Rainey Street until 1980, when the constituents fought for and received a moratorium on the development in their area. However, because of the urban renewal mindset, an emergency was declared that amended the moratorium in less than sixty days. The Planning Commission later conceded that they had been dismissive of residents’ concerns, and extended the moratorium, but only for two weeks. City councilmembers denied that there were any racial overtones to development decisions, despite the systematic destruction of much of the Chicano community. By the time the moratorium was over, communication was tense.
Even though grants were issued to help preserve housing, developers still designed projects that would remove the existing housing. The citizens were so concerned about the encroaching development that they created the Rainey Street Barrio Plan, which was not even maintained in city records.
Another moratorium was obtained in 1985, but once the city began considering the construction of a convention center, the economic lures were too strong. Finally, the rezoning and development took off full speed, and Rainey Street began its transformation with the adoption of the Town Lake Comprehensive Plan. After the passage of the “New Vision for East Austin,” the law was changed to permit whatever development was desired.