The Austin Chronicle

A Guide to Austin's Land Development Code Lingo

Know your zones

December 13, 2019, News

These are all the various zoning categories described in the Oct. 4 first draft of the proposed Land Development Code, with major amendments that have been proposed since – and passed by Council this week – shown in italics.

Residential House-Scale (R) Zones include single-family detached houses, duplexes, small multiplexes, cottages, townhouses, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The number in these zone names represents how many units per lot are allowed under base entitlements. Additional units can be achieved through a preservation incentive, or in R4, by participating in the affordable housing bonus program. Aside from Rural Residential and Lake Austin (carried over from current code),

• R1 allows single units on lots as small as 2,500 square feet.

• R2A, R2B, and R2C are the most common "single-family" zones, allowing at most a duplex or a house with an ADU, on a 5,000-square-foot lot. R2C allows small lots, down to 3,500 square feet. Council voted to reduce the impervious cover limit for all single-unit uses in R1-3 from 45% to 40%.

• R3 allows single-family, but also up to three units per lot in a cottage court or multifamily; it also allows townhouses on an 1,800-square-foot lot. Council asked for greater use of this zone, especially in transition zones in gentrifying areas.

• R4 is the less intense of the two missing-middle zones that are mapped in the transition areas, allowing up to four units (or eight with an affordable housing bonus) on a standard lot, or townhomes on narrow lots, but not single-family. However, existing single-family homes rezoned as R4 are grandfathered indefinitely, until such time as multifamily is built on the site. Staff proposed, and Council approved, a reduction of these transition areas along predominantly residential corridors and in gentrifying areas. Council also directed staff to change impervious cover limits and other rules, to encourage multi-unit construction in these areas.

Residential Multi-Unit (RM) Zones cover everything from multi-story residential buildings to manufactured homes. No retail, office, or restaurant/bar uses are allowed. One parking space per unit is required, with reductions for certain categories such as co-ops and senior housing, and a complete exemption for properties within a quarter-mile of corridors or centers.

• RM1 is the more intense missing-middle zone that's mapped in transition areas. It allows six units per lot, or up to 10 with affordable housing and preservation bonuses, 40' height, and 60% impervious cover.

• RM2 allows up to 24 units per acre, 40' height, and 60% impervious cover, or up to 60 units and 60' with affordability bonuses.

• RM3 allows up to 36 units per acre, 60' height, and 70% impervious cover, with affordability bonuses for up to 76 units.

• RM4 allows up to 48 units per acre, 60' height, and 80% impervious cover, with affordability bonuses for unlimited density and 90' in height.

• RM5 allows up to 54 units per acre, 90' height, and 80% impervious cover, with affordability bonuses for unlimited density and 120' in height.

MH is a new zone specifically for mobile home parks.

Mixed-Use (MU) Zones allow a mix of uses, including housing, office, and services. Properties that do not have a residential entitlement today can add dwelling units only by providing income-restricted housing units.

• MU1 is intended to allow residential and/or service uses within walking distance of low-intensity residential neighborhoods, or to maintain an area with an existing pattern of commercial uses in house-scale buildings. It allows up to 18 units per acre, 35' height, and 70% impervious cover, with a "house-scale aesthetic."

• MU2 is similar, but allows up to 24 units per acre, and 40' height.

• MU3 drops the "house-scale aesthetic," and allows up to 60' in height with an affordability bonus.

• MU4 is "intended to provide a mix of medium scale and intensity residential and commercial uses, including employment, shopping and daily services, and neighbor­hood amenities for nearby residents." It allows up to 36 residential units per acre, 60' in height, and 80% impervious cover.

MU5A and MU5B zones have the same site development standards – up to 48 units per acre, 60' height (or 90' with the affordability bonus), and 90% impervious cover – but allow different uses. MU5A prioritizes housing and uses that serve people along corridors.

Main Street (MS) Zones require a ground-floor pedestrian activity use with a mix of allowed uses above, creating a vertical mix of uses along corridors and activity hubs to increase walkability. Council directed staff to create a new MS1 zone, to provide for smaller, three-story commercial MS uses.

• MS2A and MS2B have the same site development standards – up to 24 units per acre in townhomes or live/work spaces, 45' height (or 65' with the affordability bonus), and 90% impervious cover – but allow different uses.

• MS3 allows townhomes and live/work, but also multifamily at up to 54 units per acre, and up to 65' height (or 90' with affordability), and 95% impervious cover.

Regional Center Zones are intended for areas identified in Imagine Austin as centers that include jobs and housing. These zones – Urban Center, Commercial Center, and Downtown Core – are primarily found Downtown and are the most intense mixed-use zones available.

Commercial and Industrial Zones include uses related to recreation, office, service, storage and warehousing of goods, manufacturing, research-related uses, and other similar uses.

Other Zones include the following uses: agriculture, airport-­related services, conservation lands, "former Title 25" (i.e., carried over from current code), publicly owned land, parks, specific regulating districts, and planned unit developments.

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