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Profits vs. Community Values

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 2, 2013

Dear Editor,
    The so-called “Taco” Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed for 211 S. Lamar, where the Taco Cabana is located, has generated much heated discussion about affordable housing in the city.
    Affordable housing is a high priority for our community and all seven city council members have expressed a strong commitment to it. At his last inaugural speech, Mayor Leffingwell said “working to keep Austin affordable has to be a top priority at city hall.” It is time for the council to stand behind these words!
    A PUD zoning gives developers extra height, density, and a larger building footprint in return for superior amenities to the community, such as significantly more affordable housing than would be required under the current zoning for the site.
    The developer is requesting PUD zoning for the site to bypass the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance and build a 96-foot building just yards away from Lady Bird Lake. The developer is offering less affordable housing for a 96-foot building under PUD zoning than a 60-foot building that could be built under existing mixed-use zoning and that conforms to the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance. How can this be considered superior? It’s clearly not. What is clear is that this out-of-town developer is using the PUD zoning to short-change affordable housing and pocket the profit.
    Is the economic gain for this California-based developer more important than our community need for affordable housing? Certainly not! If affordable housing is truly a priority for this Council, it should deny this PUD application and tell the developer to build under the current mixed-use zoning that will provide more affordable housing and will be a truly superior project that is consistent with Austin’s community values.
David King
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