Contradictions Between Neighborhood and Urban Planning

RECEIVED Wed., April 13, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I am involved in a neighborhood planning effort and find that existing residentially zoned property owners are seeking to change zoning status to mixed use under the well-intentioned notion of promoting a more dense and integrated urban core. The problem is that there is no zoning rule in place that assures that residential properties changed to mixed use do not become solely commercial. This means that if you change residential property to mixed-use zoning it can have the unintended result of a strip shopping center in place of existing urban housing. I don't believe this reflects the hopes of our city's leaders, and many of its residents, but it is a loophole that can allow inappropriate cannibalization of inner city residential property. Can we not have zoning that affords residential property to allow mixed use and still assure that it has a reasonable residential component? I believe the only way to do this now is to negotiate a private covenant that forces private parties to police developments and hire their own lawyers to uphold the stated Austin City Council vision of more residential density mixed with retail and commercial in the city core. Private property owners, even if they agree with the intended results, should not be required to fight and uphold city planning goals with their own time and money; appropriate zoning rules should guarantee it.
Chris Cavello
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