Public Notice: Ora Houston's Nightmare
Acrimony over acronyms: ADUs, STRs, PUDs, & more
By Nick Barbaro, Fri., July 31, 2015
As City Council emerges from estivation this week (they're already awake and sniffing around City Hall), everyone's attention is on the upcoming budget deliberations. But as is so often the case, a lot of the most consequential action – where the bulldozer meets the road, as it were – will come in a series of contentious decisions regarding land use code that will head to Council starting over the next few weeks. And unfortunately for Council Member Ora Houston's valiant campaign against acronyms, several of the big issues they'll face are among the most abbreviated topics in city government. (More confusing still, ADUs and STRs have a lot of overlapping issues and advocates, but they really are different, I promise.) A primer:
• Planned Unit Developments: The city's Density Bonus Program for PUDs was a controversial issue for the previous City Council – specifically relating to the requirement for on-site affordable housing units, and the potential for developers to pay a fee in lieu of this requirement. Neighborhood Housing and Community Development staff have drafted proposed code amendments, and while those are slightly delayed in their journey to the Planning Commission, NHCD will hold a collaborative work session on the matter this Thursday, July 30, at 11:30am at 1000 East 11th – a chance for stakeholders to collaborate with city staff to develop a framework for how the fee-in-lieu request process could work. See the draft staff-recommended amendments, at www.austintexas.gov/department/housing.
• Short Term Rentals: Staff recommendations for some more stringent regulations come back to full Council on Aug. 13. These are expected to be largely informed by results of the enforcement task force that's been monitoring "problem" STRs through the month of July. But expect that discussion to broaden when Council starts discussing actual changes they want to make in the code at the Aug. 20 meeting, because there's a lot of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
• Additional Dwelling Units: The Planning Commission has recommended a number of code changes to facilitate construction of more ADUs, or "granny flats," though some would like to see even more, including ditching all parking requirements in all parts of the city. The Council's Planning and Neighborhoods Committee will review the PC recommendations in August and September, before passing the issue up to full Council.
And if that's not enough, someone's eventually going to want to talk about city staff's response to the Zucker report and the reorganization of the former Planning and Development Review Department (PDRD), and then there's the CodeNEXT rewrite of the city's land development code (LDC), which is where the really heavy lifting starts. OMG.
A harbinger: Expect fireworks at the first regular City Council meeting in a long time, Thursday, Aug. 6, at two public hearings regarding controversial Eastside land use proposals – both appealing the Planning Commission's denial of a conditional use permit – one for a hotel at 1207 E. Cesar Chavez, and the other to grant Springdale Farms the additional use of "Outdoor Entertainment" to their existing urban farm use.
Lalo Alcaraz, award-winning visual and media artist, is currently working on Bordertown, an upcoming animated series on Fox, executive produced by Seth MacFarlane. This Friday, July 31, he'll conduct a free teen workshop at 3pm, and screen the first episode of Bordertown for the general public at 7pm. It's all free of charge at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.
"I'm here to feed my face and spread the love!" Say that to any of some 30 food trucks around town this Friday, July 31, and they'll donate 10% of sales to Keep Austin Fed, a local nonprofit that repurposes food that normally would have been thrown away, and distributes it through a system of volunteers to local food banks, shelters, and churches. There's a closing party at Midway Food Park, 1905 Capitol of Texas Hwy. S. from 6-10pm. Info at www.fedtruckfriday.com.
Destination: ACC is a one-day open house for students to sign up for fall classes at Austin Community College. It's 9am-4pm on Saturday, Aug. 1, at three campuses: ACC Highland, Cypress Creek, and Riverside. Bring photo ID and proof of residency, and academic records. Fall classes start Aug. 24. Register online, call 512/223-7701, or see www.austincc.edu/destination.
Meanwhile, ACC's Music Business, Performance, and Technology Department hosts an open house for new and prospective students that same day, 10am-2pm at Northridge Campus, Bldg. 4000, 11928 Stonehollow. Tour music facilities, including MIDI and live sound and recording classrooms, and learn about MBPT programs in audio engineering, recording studio management, live sound reinforcement, concert promotion, talent management, entertainment law, publishing, and more.
Thorne Dreyer's 70th Birthday Bash and Rag Blog Benefit is this Sunday, Aug. 2, 5-8pm at Baba Yega Cafe, 2607 Grant St. in the Montrose in Houston. Free buffet, live music, and donations benefit New Journalism Project, the nonprofit that publishes the Rag Blog and sponsors Rag Radio. Or donate at www.theragblog.com.
Congrats to the Austin Energy journeyman team of Matthew Alves, Travis Garner, and Benjamin Ray, who won first place for best overall scores at the 19th Annual Texas Lineman's Rodeo in Seguin last week. The team compiled the fastest times and perfect scores for skills in five events judged against 38 teams from across Texas. They also won first place in the Municipal Division, and also in the downed primary competition, which required repairing a downed power line.
The Homestretch, a documentary about three homeless teens fighting to stay in school and build a future, screens at 7pm Thursday, Aug. 6, at Terrazas Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez, as part of the Controversy and Conversation series, presented in part by UT's Humanities Institute program, Difficult Dialogues.
Friday, Aug. 7 is the nomination deadline for Preservation Austin's 55th Annual Preservation Merit Awards, honoring "visionary approaches to preserving our city's unique architectural, cultural, and environmental heritage." Projects must be located in the city of Austin and completed since Jan. 1, 2013. www.preservationaustin.org.
A State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Wimberley relocates this week for homeowners, renters, and business owners who sustained damage from the storms and flooding in May and June. It's now at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12. 9am-6pm Mon.-Fri; 9am-2pm Saturday. Aug. 27 is the deadline to apply for individual assistance. See more info at www.fema.gov/disaster/4223.
The Waller Creek Conservancy hosts a series of informational meetings around the city to show off the exciting transformation coming to Waller Creek! City and conservancy staff and consultants will provide a project overview, answer questions and take feedback about the Waller Creek project. Wednesday, Aug. 5, 6-8pm at The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.; Thursday, Aug. 6, 6-8pm at Ann Richards School, 2206 Prather Ln.; Wednesday, Aug. 19, 8-9:30am at Waller Ballroom, 700 E. Sixth; Wednesday, Aug. 19, 6-8pm at ACC Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Rd. Learn more about the new Waller Creek at www.wallercreek.org.
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