Public Notice: Damn the Analysis – Full Speed Ahead
City report censored to protect "false narrative" on LDC?
By Nick Barbaro, Fri., Feb. 28, 2020
This Monday, Feb. 24, City Demographer Ryan Robinson posted his quarterly Austin MultiFamily Report for Q4 2019 onto the city website, including his customary "Narrative of overall market trends and observations from the City Demographer," which read:
"Austin's multifamily market just keeps building momentum as yet another extremely large raft of incoming product was submitted for site plan review with the City of Austin during the fourth quarter of 2019, roughly 5,700 new units proposed within 28 different projects.
"But the true pig in the python this quarter is the number of units to initiate construction, 14 individual developments containing over 3,800 new units – with another 3,400 units clearing the site plan hurdle and now eligible to begin construction. The amount of multifamily housing under construction right now within the City of Austin is simply phenomenal – a phenomenon running orthogonal to the false narrative that housing production within the City is somehow severely constrained by the City's land development code.
"And even if the code were to be dramatically opened up with vast increases in entitlements, I'm just not sure we would see levels of production much above what we're currently seeing – the pipeline of production must be nearing a maximum threshold of sorts."
The report also details the number of multifamily units being built, showing well over 20,000 units submitted for site plan approval in 2019, on top of 17,000 the year before – well above the 13,500 units a year that housing advocates say we need and that the new code is supposed to facilitate.
Predictably, this analysis was immediately noted by opponents of the current draft of the Land Development Code rewrite, who've been saying much the same themselves: There's scads of housing being built, so blanket upzonings would be unproductive, or counterproductive if not tied to incentives for affordable housing, which is what isn't getting built.
By Wednesday, the last two sentences – the part highlighted above – had been removed from the city website. Robinson – who's been in his position for 30 years, but has been oddly sidelined during much of the current process – referred all questions to Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Dept., who said he had ordered the text removed: "The purpose of the report is to talk about trends in MF permit numbers. I felt like those two sentences were not germane to the purposes of the report."
"A New Future for I-35" As I wrote last week, a planning team from the Urban Land Institute has been in town all week working with the Downtown Austin Alliance, to do a study of potential alternatives for I-35, "including removing the upper decks and lowering the highway between Airport Boulevard and Cesar Chavez." They'll present their preliminary recommendations this Friday, Feb. 28, at 8am at Huston-Tillotson University's King Seabrook Chapel. (The final report will be completed in late 2020.) To register, visit i35.eventbrite.com, and see more on the ULI study at www.downtownaustin.com/i35.
Transforming Hancock Golf Course will be the topic of conversation Saturday, Feb. 29, 1-3pm at Hancock Rec Center, 811 E. 41st. A consultant report has recommended that the city Parks and Recreation Department transform the historic course into "a new golf learning center / academy concept," and PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley and Golf Division Manager Kevin Gomillion will present the idea, and discuss other options, in a public meeting with the Hancock NA Parks Committee and others.
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