The city Zoning & Platting Commission, largely sidelined in recent discussions about the Land Development Code Revision, jumped back into the fray this week with a half-hour presentation at Tuesday's meeting by Commissioner Jim Duncan (formerly Austin's Land Development Services director and national president of the American Planning Association).
He began by pointing out that Austin makes up a much larger share of its metro area than most other comparable cities, typically ringed with large suburbs. "In Austin, the suburbs are neighborhoods; in Minneapolis, the suburbs are other cities." Thus, said Duncan, Austin's code would logically need to accommodate a wider range of land uses than those cities, yet its zoning classes are instead defined in a very narrow range in several respects. He cited lot sizes, for example: While every other city he looked at had a range of minimum lot sizes in its various residential zones, Austin's draft code has a 5,000-square-foot minimum in all categories except Rural and Lake Austin, which jump to an acre (43,560 square feet) minimum.
While most of the rhetorical heat thus far has been over the treatment of transition areas along transit corridors, Duncan primarily highlighted the impact on those suburban neighborhoods that had seemed largely untouched by the draft code. He noted that R2A, which is what most of these neighborhoods are zoned as, is being described as allowing two units per lot – a main structure and an ADU – but also allows lots to be subdivided to allow four or even eight units on the typical lot in most areas of town. There was a lot more, including issues of structure and terminology; see the presentation here.
Now that city officials are admitting that the LDC Revision does not, will not, cannot, and was never intended or expected to create any significant amount of affordable housing, Council members are bending over backward to change the subject, even as their media lackeys struggle to catch up. "City may see more affordable housing" was the Austin American-Statesman's front-page headline last Wednesday, in their report on a work session where staff told Council the LDC rewrite can at best only achieve about 14% of the city's affordable housing goal, with a reminder that "there's no way that an optional incentive program will ever be able to produce a sufficient number of income-restricted units. ... It requires other tools. ... There might be minor tweaks in the code that could be made, but following Council direction, this is really the greatest number of affordable units that it can provide."
This is basically the week for public process in the LDC rewrite timeline, with all four citywide public meetings taking place over nine days – starting this Friday, Oct. 18, with a daylong Public Testing event, 1-8pm on the third floor of Austin City Hall. Then come two "Open House & Office Hours" events, followed by the one (and thus far only) public hearing at the Planning Commission.
• Sat., Oct. 19, OH/OH #1, 10am-2pm, Conley-Guerrero Senior Ctr., 808 Nile
• Wed., Oct. 23, OH/OH #2, 6-9pm, Central Library, 710 W. Cesar Chavez
• Sat., Oct. 26, Planning Commission Public Hearing, 9am, City Hall
Meanwhile, Council district meetings continue, with Council members moderating:
D10 (CM Alter) Mon., Oct. 21, 7-9pm, Highland Park Baptist Church, 5206 Balcones Dr.
D7 (CM Pool) Thu., Oct. 24, 6-8pm, Lamar Middle School, 6201 Wynona.
D8 (CM Ellis - office hours only) Mon., Oct. 28, 4-8pm, Hampton Oak Hill Library, 5125 Convict Hill Rd.
D6 (CM Anger Management) Mon., Oct. 28, 6:30-8:30pm, Spicewood Springs Library, 8637 Spicewood Springs.
D1 (CM Harper-Madison) Wed., Nov. 6, 6:30-8:30pm, Turner Roberts Rec Center, 7201 Colony Loop.
Go to www.austintexas.gov/ldc-participate to register to speak one-on-one with planning staff during any of these Office Hours or District meetings.
And a reminder: The LDC Timeline still has the code and map going to City Council in about four weeks, with a possible vote a couple of weeks after that.
The 2019 AIA Austin Homes Tour will be held this Sat.-Sun., Oct. 19-20, rain or shine! Buy tickets ($40) at www.aiaaustinhomestour.com.
Looking ahead, tickets are now on sale for:
• The Power of Stories: this year's theme for Lilith Fund's annual Reproductive Justice Awards, taking place Friday, Oct. 25, 6:30-8:30pm at the Motion Media Arts Center, and honoring Sheryl Cole, the Afiya Center, and keynote speaker Renee Bracey Sherman. See www.lilithfund.org/events for info and tickets ($25 & up).
• The 2019 Austin Green Awards will be held Oct. 30 "to highlight a next generation of sustainably inspired best practices." For more info, go to www.atxgreenawards.org.
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