Public Notice: Motherless Austin

Building a better city, but at what cost?

Public Notice: Motherless Austin

I can't recommend Motherless Brooklyn highly enough – largely for Edward Norton's remarkable direction and his performance as a film noir hero driven by his undiagnosed Tour­et­te's syndrome – but even more for Alec Baldwin's sharp yet nuanced portrayal of the lightly fictionalized Robert Moses, the "master builder" of 20th-century New York who tore down slums and evicted poor (mostly minority) people from entire neighborhoods to build a better city for future New Yorkers: a city with more modern amenities and newer, finer places to live and work. He's the villain of the piece, of course, but in Baldwin's best scenes, he's a relatable one – and to anyone who's been following the Land Development Code discussion for the last decade, the issues and sentiments seem awfully familiar.

If Frederic Olmsted hadn't evicted a bunch of tenant farmers from their homes in midtown Manhattan back in the mid-19th century, Moses declaims, we wouldn't have Central Park six generations later. Surely the temporary pain for a few was worth it for the immense and permanent value it brings to the many ... right? Like I said, Moses is very much the bad guy here, but you can also very much see his point.

Anyway, speaking of the LDC rewrite:

The city's second Supplemental Staff Report was released overnight Monday, Nov. 25. As expected, there's nothing really new that jumps out; it's mostly corrections and clarifications in response to issues raised by the public and various city officials. (One of those is "to clarify the minimum and maximum number of units allowed per lot in each Residential House-Scale zone," presumably fixing Zoning and Platting Commissioner Jim Duncan's note that up to eight units could be built on a typical single-family lot; see "LDC Revision: Notes & Notices," Oct. 18.)

Likewise, the Planning Commission's recommendations are now posted on the LDC revision website, along with staff's notes and general response (agree, disagree, partially agree, etc.). For anyone who followed the PC hearings a couple of weeks ago, it's all in there: some 117 recommendations that PC debated and voted a thumbs-up for. For those who didn't – again, no real surprises. Amid the mostly technical fixes and adjustments, approved almost unanimously, are several substantive policy proposals (further reducing parking requirements, graduating building entitlements based on how many units are proposed) that seem plausible but again have not yet been modeled, and a number of others ("Increase protections for naturally occurring affordable housing in all parts of the city") that seem awfully vague and aspirational for this presumably very late stage of the process. Be that as it may ...

The LDC Revision Meeting Schedule

It's all up to the City Council at this point: They'll hold four (likely lengthy) meetings in seven days, culminating in a first-­reading vote on Dec. 9 – with the understanding that a lot of parts are still placeholders and are going to be very much in play before a second reading some time in the new year.

• Tue., Dec. 3, 1pm, City Council Work Session

• Wed., Dec. 4, noon, City Council Work Session

• Sat., Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day), 10am, City Council Public Hearing

• Mon., Dec. 9, 10am, City Council Special Called Meeting

For property owners who think they're being rezoned and don't like the idea: Legal debate continues over an individual's right to protest the rezoning of their property or a neighboring property. To be precise, it's not clear that such a right exists – city legal says it does not pertain to a revision of the entire LDC – but others disagree, and will help you file such a protest with a very simple online form, at to, well, file your protest. [NB: This item originally stated that there is a Dec. 5 deadline for filing such a protest. But although the FileYourProtest site states that "In order for your rezoning protest to take effect, you must file it before the Austin City Council votes on its rezoning map," that's not correct. The protest right – if it exists – would last at least until Council's final vote, if not until the ordinance's effective date.]

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department is hosting two meetings for developers and citizens to discuss expansion of city programs and policies to support and incentivize affordable housing construction in Austin: Tue., Dec. 3, 10:30am-noon & 6-7:30pm at the NHCD offices in the Street-Jones Building, 1000 E. 11th #200.

All the Days of Our Week ...

Small Business Saturday comes right after Black Friday, and is a much more worthy shopping day. You've heard the stats – money spent at locally owned stores circulates seven times through the local economy, etc. – so whether it's Friday, Saturday, or whatever day, remember that during the shopping season ...

... and the giving season, which starts with Giving Tues­day, Dec. 3, when a lot of worthy nonprofits are kicking off donation campaigns. One that stands out is Anthropos Arts' annual Giving Bluesday party (6-9pm at Antone's, 305 E. Fifth): food, drinks, and music by Willy McGee, all benefiting Anthropos Arts' mission to "connect low-income youth with professional musicians, cultivating confidence, integrity, and life skills through musical instruction and mentorship." See more and get $20 tickets (a bargain) at (And look for the Chronicle's annual nonprofit wish lists starting in next week's issue.)

And omigod, here's a new one: Small Brewery Sunday, Dec. 1, is the brainchild of the Brewers Association for small and indie craft breweries, because "every dollar a beer lover spends at a craft brewery fuels a small business that supports the economic health of its local community." Okay, I'll drink to that.

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land development code, LDC revision, Robert Moses, Land Development Code revision, Planning Commission, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, affordable housing, Austin City Council, Motherless Brooklyn, Jim Duncan

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