Daily Newsletters

  • A million different ways to block housing
    Preservationists on Council propose amendments that will reducing new housing.
  • Another crack at the code
    Pro-reform Council members push for more housing in the new code over the resistance of city staff.
  • When’s the body cam policy coming?
    Activists say that at the very least they would like the city to have a written policy that makes immediate release the assumption, rather than the exception. If it turns into a legal battle over state law, so be it. 
  • What happened to Austin’s missing middle housing?
    Here's a look at how the current code has been so effective at limiting the cheapest form of housing available.
  • Council looks at Draft 2 of LDC
    Here are a number of ways that city staff has watered down the land development code rewrite.
  • The politics of transition
    Staff did a good job of mapping transition areas in the first draft. In the second draft, they bowed to political pressure from both Central/West Austin anti-growthers and anti-gentrification voices on the East and reduced overall housing capacity. The impulse to block or slow redevelopment is somewhat intuitive. In a city with rapidly rising housing costs, blocking new development, which is always more expensive than the old stuff, seems to make sense. The problem is that when land values are as high as they are in Austin, single-family homes are always unaffordable.  
  • City takes a step back from land use reform
    City staff is bowing to pressure and reducing housing opportunities in the new code.
  • 16 affordable housing projects vie for tax credits
    The Trump tax cuts have been very harmful to the Low Income Tax Credit program. Investors are paying less for the credits due to their reduced incentive to lower their tax liability.
  • It’s not just the zoning
    Zoning entitlements don't mean jack if they're accompanied by other development regulations that make it harder to build.
  • The missing middle is truly missing
    Yesterday at the Council Housing Committee city staff reported that they had looked at building permits over the past 10 years and found that less than 2% of all units in that time had come in 3-10 unit developments. 
  • Condos planned for Graffiti Park
    What a missed opportunity. I would love to see 100 units on that site that would provide walkable access to Lamar. Why are we mandating that whatever gets built here list for over $1M? 
  • Here come Street Impact Fees
    I hope that whatever the transportation department comes up with (whenever we're able to see it), that it finds a way to recognize/reward development that is likely to generate fewer car trips based on proximity to amenities/employers & transit access.
  • Council decriminalizes pot
    Although this resolution was theoretically prompted by the legal limbo created by hemp legalization, it's also obvious that the lead supporters believe decriminalization, if not legalization, is simply the right thing to do.  
  • Scooters in creeks
    The big question is how we're going to fund both the study and other scooter cleanup efforts. There's naturally an inclination among some on Council to shift as much of the cost as possible onto the scooter companies.
  • A city-run economic development corporation?
    Ideally, the EDC could partner with Cap Metro to acquire, develop and lease land along transit routes, with the goal of providing transit-supportive density (commercial & residential) as well as generating much-needed revenue for the city, which could be used to fund any city priority (social services, public safety etc). 
  • Should Austin consider free public transit (again)?
    The idea isn't new -- not even to Austin. Cap Metro briefly eliminated fares around 1990 and saw ridership skyrocket. But the idea was quickly abandoned. There are obvious pros. And some pretty big cons.
  • MLK Day thoughts
    It's great that we now have a national holiday dedicated to a champion of civil rights, human rights and peace, but it's also frustrating to see MLK's message sanitized, warped and coopted by political leaders who have dedicated their careers to working against everything MLK stood for.  Greg Abbott, for instance, took a short break from demonizing our community's most destitute to give a shout-out to King. Trump, who launched his political career by spreading a racist conspiracy theory about America's first black president, is also pretending to respect Dr. King. 
  • If you can’t legalize, decriminalize.
    Legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana is far superior to decriminalization. But the city doesn't currently have that option. It will be up to the state to do that, which I trust it will do in the not-so-distant future. 
  • Austin loses control of CAMPO…again
    CAMPO is a "metropolitan planning organization," an entity mandated by the federal government to plan and coordinate the dispersement of federal transportation funds in major metro areas. The organization is managed by a 21-member board that consists mostly of elected officials from various jurisdictions with the planning area.  The composition of the board greatly inflates the power of small, rural constituencies at the expense of Austin and Travis County. Caldwell County is less than 1/20 the size of the city of Austin but it has 1/4 as many representatives on the board. 
  • Here come the trains!
    It's now 99% certain: Project Connect will include two light rail routes. What only a few months ago appeared to be a pipe dream among transit activists now has the backing of Cap Metro and city leadership.  Indeed, what Cap Metro is envisioning is in many ways more ambitious than what activists have been pushing for.
  • Alison Alter brings in record fundraising haul
    Alison Alter raised $61.6k in the last two months of 2019, putting her in a very strong position as she approaches reelection in November. This is an unprecedented haul for a Council candidate a year before the election. Last year at this time Paige Ellis led the pack with a grand total of $4,000 raised. Kathie Tovo, an incumbent with a devoted base, had only raised $1,050. 
  • 1/13/20: Raising Taxes for Transit
    A big bond might not be enough for high-capacity transit. There are other ways to get the money.
  • The growing cost of the Convention Center
    It's always hard to say how much a major construction project will cost, but it's already clear that the new Convention Center will cost considerably more than originally estimated.
  • Let’s talk about duplexes
    The great majority of residential lots in this city are zoned to allow duplexes. So why don't we see more of them? 
  • Code passes on first reading
    A rundown of the notable changes Council has proposed for the 2nd draft of the new code.
  • The code slog continues
    Ann Kitchen's brief affair with housing reform appears to be over for good; she is now voting reliably with the preservationist bloc.
  • So FAR, so good
    A direction to allow garages and attics to be partially exempted from FAR calculations was approved without a vote.
  • Old whites v. young whites
    The housing debate pits old vs young. But both sides are overwhelmingly white.
  • Council approves APD audit
    In bad news for the chief, Delia Garza said that after being a big supporter of his, she has been "very disappointed."
  • The equity overlay is not equitable
    I think this is a deeply misguided response to displacement concerns. The fewer units that are allowed, the bigger and more expensive they will be.
  • Tax chief debunks property tax myths
    The questions were predictable. Pro-reform CMs, including the mayor, sought to have Crigler emphasize, over and over again, that homeowners are not going to see their taxes skyrocket as a result of upzoning. Anti-reform CMs tried to get her to say the opposite. 
  • Brutal day for APD at Public Safety Commission
    It was only last year that an assistant EMS chief retired and cashed in a shitload of unused vacation days just as an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment kicked off. In this case, Justin Newsom was able to retire and cash out $137k in unused sick leave. 
  • APD in Council’s crosshairs
    Justin Newsom's resignation hardly put an end to the fallout over allegations that the former APD assistant chief had a long record of using vile, racist language to describe African Americans. It's very likely that others will be brought down in this scandal, including APD Chief Brian Manley.
  • Alter gets an opponent
    Pooja Sethi has announced her candidacy for the District 10 seat currently occupied by Alison Alter...Preservation Austin pushes back against upzoning in Central/West Austin
  • Elitist fear-mongering over code, Garza calls for Equity Overlay
    A mailer from Community Not Commodity provides a litany of classic NIMBY grievances: too many people, too many buildings, too little parking.
  • Defend Our Hoodz harasses Alter, Infill developers raise concerns about Adler/Alter proposal
    Sources say a group of developers met with the mayor Tuesday to voice serious concerns about his teaming up with Alter to pare back some of the reforms included in the new code.
  • Kitchen opens door for another round of “direction from Council” on LDC; Cap Metro ridership up
    There was a fun little convo about the morality of developers at one point during Monday's work session on the land development code. Alison Alter decried a code draft that she said "emphasizes developers" over residents. Allowing more units on properties wasn't necessarily a good thing, she suggested, if they're being built by developers.
  • School board OKs school closures, mayor teams up with Alter to dial down code reform
    I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million more times: preserving single-family zoning in areas that are gentrifying or likely to gentrify does not "protect" existing residents from displacement. The only way new housing in those areas will serve those of modest means is if we allow multifamily housing to be built. 
  • How will deed restrictions affect new code? City officials get involved in AISD closures.
    There are certainly some parallels between the fight over school consolidations and the land development code.
  • Council approves $ to buy hotel for homeless; Council increases UNO density
    This is also not the end of hotel-buying. The city will likely purchase two other hotels to convert to permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
  • New code goes to Council; APA warms to accountability
    There's no reason approving the new land development code should be such hard work. There are at least seven people on Council who generally agree with the draft crafted by staff, and the same seven are probably on board with most of the changes recommended by the Planning . Commission.
  • Garza won’t run for Council again; hotels for the homeless
    The Ben White shelter was never the experts' favored approach.
  • Austin Justice Coalition asks West Austin to “create space for housing equity”
    On the code, AJC provides a number of recommendations that result in a somewhat mixed bag ideologically. I view it as good politics but mediocre policy.
  • Complaint alleges former asst. police chief repeatedly used n-word
    Is it surprising that there would be a police officer who would use language like this? I'd say no. What surprises me is how a leader in the department would apparently feel comfortable freely using that language on the job. Especially a leader who, at least in public, seemed like an open-minded guy focused on compassionate, community policing. 
  • Homeless Strategy Officer Tells a Whopper
    Another day, another baseless claim about the homeless in Austin. This time, the source of the misinformation is not the governor but the city of Austin's recently-hired (and soon-to-be semi-departed?) homeless strategy officer, Lori Pampilo Harris...