Public Notice: The End of Single-Family?

Possibly. And look who’s leading the charge.

Public Notice: The End of Single-Family?

There was a possible game-changer at Mon­day's joint work session of the Zoning & Platting and Planning commissions on CodeNEXT, but it seemed to come almost as an afterthought.

After the Environmental Commission submitted its recommendations, and commissioners heard staff presentations from the Watershed Protection Department on green infrastructure, open space, and flooding prevention, the PC's Residential Work­group reported, through Commissioner Trinity White, a number of suggestions, the most notable of which would eliminate all the auxiliary categories of single-unit dwellings – cottage, duplex, attached, detached, accessory dwelling units, etc. – and just refer to the number of units allowed.

So, instead of allowing a house and an ADU, for instance, code would simply allow two units, which could be in any configuration the property owner desired, and could fit on the lot under other applicable regulations. This seems eminently logical, especially as city staff and consultants have struggled mightily to describe and distinguish those definitions, with little success. If a house and an ADU are allowed anywhere in the current SF-3 (essentially everywhere in the urban core), what about a small house and a large ADU? Well then, what about two houses? And isn't that essentially a duplex? So, why not two townhomes? Eventually, the workgroup decided, it's clearer, easier, and more realistic to just allow two units, and stop trying to define all the possible permutations those could come in. This seemed to strike city staff and planners like a thunderbolt; consultant John Miki said he was "blown away by this presentation ... I think we need to meet with this working group; staff and I need to meet with them," and promised to take it back to the drawing table, where it could largely redefine all of the residential sections in the next draft of the new code.

"This is actually a really powerful conversation that you all started, and I think it's something that we need to get involved with staff," said Miki, and indeed, those meetings are already underway as I write this on Wednesday.

Then came what was, for me, the most trenchant comment of the evening, from Ora Houston's appointee Betsy Greenberg, who has led this charge most consistently: "My understanding is that both commissions have made recommendations to have ADUs allowed everywhere. And so I wonder – this is a question for the working group – do we need single-family, or are we always allowing at least two families?" The question sort of hung there, and the discussion moved on, but it's not going away: With near unanimity on the land use commissions, pushed largely by the "neighborhood" faction, is this the point at which Council will act – as they expressly voted not to in 2014 – to allow ADUs in all residential zoning categories? If so, we only need take Greenberg's small logical leap to say that single-family zoning would no longer exist in the city of Austin.


The city's Planning and Zoning Department has released the draft North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Plan, and is holding an open house for the public to review and comment on the plan, which covers the one-square-mile area between Burnet Rd. and MoPac, from Ander­son Lane to US 183. That's Saturday, Dec. 9, 10am-noon at Pillow Elementary School, 3025 Cross­creek. Or review and comment online at www.austintexas.gov/department/north-shoal-creek. If adopted by City Council, this would become the 54th neighborhood planning area to have completed the planning process and have an adopted neighborhood plan.


The city released the preliminary engineering report for the Guada­lupe Corridor Improvement Program on Tuesday, the last of the seven initial corridor plans included in the 2016 Mobility Bond. Most notably, the plan would eliminate parallel parking along Guadalupe, create fully separated bike lanes in both directions, plus transit-only lanes both ways, from MLK to 29th Street, and one car lane in each direction. Under the preferred "Modified – Scenario 1," bike routes would bypass the dodgy section north of 27th Street (around Dirty's and Torchy's Tacos), going down Nueces to 25th, and up Hemphill to 29th. See more details and images with this column online, and see the whole plan at www.austintexas.gov/guadalupe.


"Stuff the Bus" is the annual drive by the Central Texas Food Bank to collect meals for folks in need during the holidays. Fri.-Sun., Dec. 8-10, two Capital Metro buses will be parked at Whole Foods' Downtown and Domain locations, 10am-6pm all weekend, and at other Whole Foods stores on select days. Bring food to the buses, or donate in the stores anytime through Dec. 14, or online at www.capmetro.org/stuffthebus.


Wander is a new public artwork offering "an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience throughout downtown Austin" – a mobile web app (www.wanderatx.com) sends you on digital journeys created by local writers and artists, starting from a sculpture titled Beacon, outside the Second Street entrance to the new Central Library. The work debuts Sat., Dec. 9, with a 3-5pm celebration right there at the beacon, with a demonstration, and awards for those who make it through the most chapters of a story.


The city's Planning and Zoning Department has released the draft North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Plan, and is holding an open house for the public to review and comment on the draft plan, which covers the approximately one-square-mile area between Burnet Road and MoPac, and Anderson Lane to U.S. 183. That's Saturday, Dec. 9, 10am to noon in the Pillow Elementary School cafeteria, 3025 Crosscreek. Or review and comment online at www.austintexas.gov/department/north-shoal-creek. If adopted by City Council, this would become the 54th neighborhood planning area to have completed the planning process and have an adopted neighborhood plan.


The city released the preliminary engineering report for the Guadalupe Corridor Improvement Program on Tuesday, the last of the seven initial corridor plans included in the 2016 Mobility Bond. Most notably, the plan would eliminate parallel parking along Guadalupe, create fully separated bike lanes in both directions, plus transit-only lanes both ways, from MLK to 29th Street, and one car lane in each direction. Under the preferred "Modified Scenario 1," bike routes would bypass the dodgy section north of 27th Street (around Dirty's and Torchy's Tacos), going down Nueces to 25th, and up Hemphill to 29th. In addition, the plan calls for: a two-way protected bicycle path on 24th Street from Guadalupe to Lamar; Nueces Street to be converted from one-way to two-way; wider sidewalks and other improvements on intersections, traffic signals, street crossings, and other pedestrian-focused projects.

As far as overall strategy, the report's executive summary expressed the key determination: "the only opportunity to significantly increase any mobility capacity to accommodate future growth along the corridor is to increase capacity for pedestrians, bikes and transit, while attempting to manage car traffic at current levels. In fact, even scenarios that favor automobile traffic along Guadalupe (by moving transit and bikes off the corridor) do not show any improvement in automobile level of service given the City's overall network capacity limitations. Conversely, the benefits of investing in bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements along Guadalupe can be significant. These modes can accommodate three times as many people moving through the corridor compared to cars alone."

See the whole plan at www.austintexas.gov/guadalupe.


"Stuff the Bus" is the annual drive by the Central Texas Food Bank to collect meals for folks in need during the holidays. Fri.-Sun., Dec. 8-10, two Capital Metro buses will be parked at Whole Foods' Downtown and Domain locations, 10am-6pm all weekend, and at other Whole Foods stores on select days. Bring food to the buses, or donate in the stores anytime through Dec. 14, or online at www.capmetro.org/stuffthebus.

Arbor Trails (4301 W. William Cannon)

Bee Cave (12601 Hill Country Blvd.)

Domain (11920 Domain Dr.)

Downtown Austin (525 N. Lamar)

Gateway (9607 Research)


The city Bond Election Advisory Task Force holds its last open house this Thursday, Dec. 7, at Hampton Library in Oak Hill, 5125 Convict Hill Rd. Weigh in on the pending $640 million bond package you may be voting on next November. Or see www.austintexas.gov/content/bond-election-advisory-task-force.


Reminder: ACA health insurance enrollment is underway only until Dec. 15; Foundation Communities offers free assistance at their Community Financial Centers, 5900 Airport and 2600 W. Stassney; see www.foundcom.org for hours.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro@austinchronicle.com.

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