Public Notice: Your City at Work
Planning, talking, digging, housing, walking
The highlight of today's City Council meeting (postponed from after midnight at the last council meeting) is sure to be the 6:30pm public hearing on the Austin Oaks PUD proposal – a massive project at the southwest corner of MoPac and Spicewood Springs Rd. Neighborhood objections, dating back at least a couple of years, are largely focused on protected tree removal, the height of the office towers, and the traffic those will generate. Interestingly, NW Austin Neighbors, the group that gathered a valid petition opposing the PUD proposal as it stands, recently sent a letter to Council asking that they insist on twice as much residential density (or even more), with corresponding reductions in office space. They said they "believe that if Austin Oaks is to receive more new entitlement, it should be earned with more residential housing. Right now only 250 residential units and 25 affordable units are proposed on over 800,000 square feet of office space, a 'glorified office park.'" They propose there should be at least twice that much, and possibly as many as 1,000 units,* if a proposed hotel component is transformed into apartments.
Of course, NWAN will still be tarred as anti-growth, as were the Grove at Shoal Creek neighbors who asked for more residential, and the Plaza Saltillo neighbors who asked for more residential, but perhaps this is one of those cases where cooler heads will prevail, common ground can be found, and a project will be built that's an asset to the neighborhood, and the city.
At the latest special-called joint meeting of the Zoning and Platting and Planning Commissions Tuesday night, Opticos Design consultants John Miki and Peter Park expressed their puzzlement about why the CodeNEXT draft code is perceived as being "two different codes" just because it's split into two sections that apply to different parts of town, and have different terminologies, different philosophies, and different standards. Commissioners then took turns expressing their own puzzlement at why the consultants were puzzled, and in the end, everyone went away still puzzled, but vowing to try and talk again very soon.
Meanwhile, CodeNEXT public outreach sessions continue the next three Saturdays:
March 25, noon-2pm, Austin High, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez;
April 1, noon-2pm, Westwood High, 12400 Mellow Meadow; April 8, 2-4pm, Anderson High, 8403 Mesa.
And, just announced, the first of five "topic talks" – this one on the code's impact on the environment – will be next Wednesday, March 29, 5-7pm at City Hall. See the draft code, leave comments, or sign up for notifications at www.austintexas.gov/codenext.
Late last year, in preparing for renovation of the historic Oakwood Chapel – built in 1914 in a racially segregated section of Oakwood Cemetery that has no formal platting and few remaining grave markers – archaeologists found bone fragments buried in the work area. Construction has been halted since then; on Saturday, Council Member Ora Houston's office and the PARD project team will share information about the findings and discuss possibilities for the burials and construction project. Sat., March 25, 10am-noon at Delores Duffy Rec. Center, 1182 N. Pleasant Valley. See more info at www.austintexas.gov/oakwoodchapel.
The city's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department has been working on a long-range Austin Strategic Housing Plan to address the critical shortage of affordable housing in town. They'll give a briefing on the latest draft at the City Council meeting today, Thu., March 23, followed by public hearings at Planning Commission on Tuesday, March 28, and back at Austin City Council on Thursday, April 6, before Council considers final adoption. Find details about the public hearings, and about the plan, at www.austintexas.gov/housingplan.
Walk and Bike Talks on the Austin Transportation Department's Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and Bicycle Master Plan continue:
Thu., March 23, 6-7:30pm, Windsor Park Library, 5833 Westminster
Sat., March 25, 10-11:30am, North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg
Sat., March 25, 12:30-2pm, Old Quarry Library, 7051 Village Center
Tue., March 28, 6-7:30pm. Yarborough Library, 2200 Hancock
Sat., April 1, 10:30am-noon, Carver Library, 1161 Angelina
Sat., April 1, 2-3:30pm, Ruiz Library, 1600 Grove
See ATD's interactive tool, the Vision Zero Input Map, that lets you comment about specific locations in the city, with a focus on pedestrian safety, at the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan page: www.austintexas.gov/pedsafetyplan.
* [Ed. note:] This story originally said that NW Austin Neighbors suggested as many as 1,500 residential units for the Austin Oaks site; that was my error in reading their letter. Their proposal was for either ~500 units, or 1,000 if the hotel were removed. My apologies for the error. – N.B.