As Michael King notes in his "Point Austin" column, this is a busy week for the Austin City Council. But as they try to power through the annual budget, and forge a consensus for a massive $720 million mobility bond, they're also close to decision time on two contentious land-use cases that are buried in the 30-item zoning agenda.
First up is the Lenox Oaks proposal to amend the Montopolis Neighborhood Plan and the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan to rezone several parcels of land, in order to tear down 50 deeply affordable rental units in the Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park and build 356 mostly market-rate units in their place. Here's a telling excerpt from the backup materials on the proposal, from a list of residents' questions to the developer's agent, and his responses:
"Q. Why are you building on this property? Why not build further down on highway?
A. We [are] building on this property because this is the property location proposed to be purchased." (Emphasis added.)
In other words, this is land that could be bought cheap, because it's got a lot of poor people living on it, and because the master plan designates it for just that sort of low-density, low-income use, because it's not on a mobility corridor or activity center. But, if that plan can be disregarded, and those people removed, then I can make a large profit, realized mostly through the trouble and bother of separating this potentially valuable land from the unprofitable poor people and their trailers.
If City Council wonders why it is mired in endless debates over zoning changes, and why the price of every square inch of dirt in the city keeps going up, this is why: Because when a developer doesn't want to abide by the law, more often than not, you will just change the law for them, rather than telling them to "build further down the highway" where there's plenty of undeveloped properties, with the zoning they want, on the mobility corridor where it ought to be built dense. "This is the property location proposed to be purchased" is not a reason for anything.
Which brings us to the Grove at Shoal Creek, where the developers and the Astroturf Friends of the Grove have tried to tar the groups opposed to the current plan with the NIMBY label, when in fact, they're happily acquiescing to all the residential density the developers want and more, but balking at the traffic plans for all the additional desired office and retail space, given the substandard street access and poor transit connectivity, and at the drainage and green-space concessions that led both the Parks Board and the Environmental Commission to deem the project "not superior" and thus not worthy of the extra entitlements it seeks. Clearly this is not (yet) the superior project it could be, if Council were to do their duty and demand it. But then, that's generally not the Austin City Council way, so, we'll see.
Even as the city is still mired in talks about funding a new Austin/Travis County Sobriety Center (see "Homestead Exemption Puts Sobriety Center at Risk," July 22), the Travis County Commissioners Court has already put out a call for qualified applicants to sit on its board of directors, which will organize, plan, hire the executive director, and supervise the sobriety center – designed to offer support services instead of jail for some offenders, and reduce costs associated with jail bookings, EMS runs, and emergency room visits. To apply, visit www.traviscountytx.gov; the deadline is Thursday, Aug. 18.
Fed Truck Friday is a citywide fundraiser for Keep Austin Fed, a local nonprofit that repurposes food that normally would be thrown away at commercial kitchens and grocers and distributes it to local charities. Over 60 food trucks and trailers have agreed to participate this Friday, Aug. 12: say "I'm here to feed my face and spread the love!" and they'll donate 10% of your tab. See the full list at www.fedtruckfriday.com.
The Austin Green Awards, sponsored by the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, are designed to highlight outstanding accomplishments in the broad arena of sustainable design and innovation. In this kickoff year, the call for nominations will focus on buildings and sites, including landscapes and green infrastructure. Subsequent years will include other sectors such as technology, transportation, industrial design, business, and manufacturing. They're taking nominations through Sept. 23 at www.austingreenawards.org. A judges' panel of green-design leaders will select the winners, who will be recognized at the inaugural Austin Green Awards celebration on Nov. 9.
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department presents Planet Cinema, curated by Chale Nafus (formerly of the Austin Film Society), celebrating animation from around the world, featuring themes with a spiritual, cultural, or global focus. All screenings are free and start at 7pm (Except on Aug. 20, 8pm).
• Thu., Aug. 11, Mexican American Cultural Center: Extraordinary Tales (USA, 2015) Edgar Allan Poe anthology with a multinational cast.
• Fri., Aug. 12, Asian American Resource Center: Sita Sings the Blues (France, 2008) Based on the classic Indian myth "The Ramayana," preceded by an Indian dance workshop.
• Sat., Aug. 13, Dougherty Arts Center: Boy and the World (Brazil, 2015) The complexity of globalization, seen through the adventures of one young boy.
• Thu., Aug. 18, G.W. Carver Museum: Chico & Rita (Spain/UK, 2010) A look at the Afro-Cuban musicians who helped birth New York City's 1940s jazz scene.
• Sat., Aug. 20, Elisabet Ney Museum (outdoors): The Secret of Kells (2009, France) A youth in a remote medieval village finds adventure when a celebrated and mysterious master illuminator arrives.
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