Planning Commission awkwardness

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Commissioner Karen McGraw

Last summer, the usual suspects (the people who always sue the city) got the state’s indicted attorney general to take action against the city Planning Commission. From last July:

This week offered the amusing spectacle of longtime local liberal activists praising Ken Paxton for joining them in their crusade against the city Planning Commission while he’s out on bail for securities fraud.

At the time, the attorney general accused eight members of the 13-member board of having ties to the real estate industry. The charter says only 1/3 of the membership are allowed to be industry insiders.

There were a few members who, at the very least, are not what most people would think of as real estate industry insider:

Greg Anderson, director of community relations for Habitat for Humanity.

Tom Nuckols, an attorney who oversees land use for the Travis County Attorney’s Office.

Patricia Seeger, a retired real estate agent.

Nuckols recently left, as did former Chair Steve Oliver, an architect. So that leaves six members who allegedly do not qualify as “laypersons.” To be in compliance with the charter, no more than four members can be real estate professionals.

I’m not entirely clear on what the status of that legal action is. I reached out to Bill Aleshire or Fred Lewis, the two attorneys who originally brought the suit, and they said they’re not clear either. My guess is that it’s not a top priority for the AG’s office, perhaps because RECA called up and said that this particular instance of Austin-bashing actually extremely counter-productive to the cause of private property and enterprise.

So…what’s Council going to do? Here are the commissioners targeted by the AG’s suit, the Council member who appointed them and their general ideology.

Greg Anderson (Flannigan, uber-urbanist)

James Schissler (Troxclair, pro-development)

Patricia Seeger (Alter, preservationist)

Karen McGraw (Tovo, ultra-conservative preservationist)

James Shieh (Adler, moderate)

Fayez Kazi (Garza, urbanist)

As you can see, those with real estate ties are hardly in one ideological camp. If the goal is to get the number down to four, the easiest path politically may be to a) get the AG to accept that Seeger is retired from real estate and is clearly not connected to the industry and b) for Paige Ellis, who has now replaced Troxclair on the dais, to appoint a replacement for Schissler. That would be the least awkward option –– new Council member, new commissioner. No hard feelings.

If two commissioners truly have to go and nobody volunteers to leave, things are going to be very awkward. Nobody wants to sacrifice their appointee –– even if they’re not particular attached to them –– while other Council members keep theirs. Flannigan isn’t going to sacrifice Anderson if Tovo gets to keep McGraw etc.

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What is historically significant?

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Former home of Philip Creer on Gaston Ave.

In today’s Monitor, I wrote about a historic zoning case that the Planning Commission heard last week. At issue is a house in Old West Austin that used to be owned by Philip Creer, erstwhile dean of the UT School of Architecture and the first chair of the city’s Historic Landmark Commission. So basically, somebody who may be well-known in the architectural community (and therefore among members of the Planning Commission & Historic Landmark Commission) but not particularly prominent among the general public.

The debate among commissioners was not whether Creer’s home was historically significant. Nobody challenged that. The only argument was over whether its historical association was so significant that the commission should overlook the changes that the owners made to the home in recent years.

James Shieh, the chair of the commission, was conflicted: “(A)t what point are we going to say that this is extraordinary and this isn’t?”

Yep, that’s an important question that I’ve rarely seen members of the land use commissions address in ways that any average citizen –– even one with an appreciation for history –– would recognize.

There are occasionally members of the public or commissioners who will say what everybody’s thinking. A home in Pemberton Heights that was approved for historic preservation in 2016 drew opposition from a neighboring Pemberton resident who ruthlessly mocked the property’s claim to historic significance. Staff had argued that it was significant because its former owner ran a lumber company for 32 years.

Hayman suggested that Warren, who ran the business from 1933 to 1965, was not a good businessman at all. The company’s major contributions to Austin building took place before he became president, she said, and it ceased to exist entirely after his retirement. A more impressive mogul would have left behind a greater legacy, she argued.

“I maintain that he drove that company into the ground,” Hayman said, provoking chuckles from some commissioners and city staffers.

Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky had a different interpretation of events, saying that Warren helped take the business “to a new level” when he became a partner at the firm in 1920.

In his comments last week, Shieh wondered aloud about what makes a person historically significant. His own home, he noted, was once inhabited by a doctor who did lots of good work in the community. But was it notable enough for his home to be protected against any future alterations long after he’s gone?

City code lays out a number of requirements for buildings to be designated as landmarks. First, they have to be at least 50 years old. Second, if they’re not already recognized as landmarks by four national and state authorities, they must satisfy two of the following criteria:

Architecture. The property embodies the distinguishing characteristics of a recognized architectural style, type, or method of construction; exemplifies technological innovation in design or construction; displays high artistic value in representing ethnic or folk art, architecture, or construction; represents a rare example of an architectural style in the city; serves as an outstanding example of the work of an architect, builder, or artisan who significantly contributed to the development of the city, state, or nation; possesses cultural, historical, or architectural value as a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian or vernacular structure; or represents an architectural curiosity or one-of-a-kind building.

Historical Associations. The property has long-standing significant associations with persons, groups, institutions, businesses, or events of historic importance which contributed significantly to the history of the city, state, or nation; or represents a significant portrayal of the cultural practices or the way of life of a definable group of people in a historic time.

Archeology. The property has, or is expected to yield, significant data concerning the human history or prehistory of the region;

Community Value. The property has a unique location, physical characteristic, or significant feature that contributes to the character, image, or cultural identity of the city, a neighborhood, or a particular group.

Landscape Feature. The property is a significant natural or designed landscape or landscape feature with artistic, aesthetic, cultural, or historical value to the city.

As you can see, all of these categories are subjective to a certain extent. I’d argue that the architectural significance is less subjective since there are a number of very clear standards about whether a building should be considered an example of this or that style. But “community value” and “historical association” will invariably be defined very differently depending on who is in charge of the city’s Historic Preservation Office.

I’ll definitely have to write more on this issue in the future. There are other aspects of the historic preservation debate that are equally challenging, notably the fact that many of those benefiting from historic preservation tax abatements are already stupendously rich.

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Where does the next homeless shelter go?

One of the most encouraging trends in the last few years has been City Council’s aggressive posture on addressing homelessness.

Regardless of the merits of Mayor Steve Adler’s proposed plan to expand the Convention Center, the one part of it that is unequivocally beneficial is the special assessment that downtown hotels have agreed to pay into a dedicated fund for homelessness services. And that will be on top of the respectable increase in funding that Council has approved over the past two years for a variety of services, including the Homelessness Outreach Street Team, a new rapid re-housing initiative targeting homeless youth and additional staff to help connect homeless people to services.

However, the problem is obviously much greater than the current solutions. That’s obvious taking a stroll down 7th Street, past the Austin Resource Center for Homelessness (ARCH), the overcrowded facility where people can receive temporary shelter (230 spots for single men) and referrals to services.

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The Google Maps shot in front of the ARCH, May 2018.

While the overall strategy for getting people off the streets depends a lot on getting them into permanent housing, emergency shelters are nonetheless an important part of addressing what is a grave community health crisis.

On Thursday City Council will vote on a resolution asking city staff to identify potential properties to build a new emergency shelter to provide “immediate shelter and support services for those experiencing homelessness with the intent of providing a pathway to permanent housing.” It’s not very specific about where the new facility should be. But it does specify where it should not be: 

The structure will be placed or located on property owned by the City or property owned by an entity partnering with the City, but not directly adjacent to existing residential neighborhoods. An exception to this restriction would be allowed if the adjacent neighborhood approved of the use.

A few questions:

What is a “residential neighborhood”? Is it any neighborhood that has residents, like downtown? Is it any neighborhood that does not include any commercial property? Any neighborhood that is comprised of single-family homes?

What qualifies as “adjacent” to a residential neighborhood? What percentage of properties on, say, South Lamar Blvd. could be described as “adjacent” to a residential neighborhood?

Finally, how do we determine whether the “adjacent neighborhood” approves of the shelter? I’d assume that is the inaccurate but widely-used shorthand for neighborhood association, specifically an older neighborhood association that is part of the Austin Neighborhoods Council.

I wasn’t able to get in touch with Ann Kitchen, the resolution’s chief sponsor, on Monday. Nor was I able to reach Ann Howard, the executive director of Austin ECHO, one of the big homelessness advocacy groups.

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Austin’s new wave of bike lanes

Austin Transportation Department has a new interactive map of ongoing transportation projects. The thing that excites me most about what I see is the increase in bike infrastructure underway. The blue lines on the map represent any bike projects that are in any phase of development in 2019. ATD spokesperson Emily Tuttle explained in an email:

Project development timeline for Bikeways projects vary. Most projects take between six months to two years from start to end, including feasibility analysis, design, public process and implementation. Depending on complexity and coordination dependencies, this process can sometimes take up to several years or happen as quickly as just a few months. Some project may not move forward depending on the results of public processes.

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Let’s take a look at what’s happening in my neighborhood: South Central Austin. It looks like ATD is considering some really significant improvements. I’d like to examine other neighborhoods in the future, so please send me any thoughts you have about bike infrastructure in your part of town.

Back to my neighborhood…The good news is that ATD is seeking to bolster what are already two bike-friendly roads in the area: South 5th St. and Bouldin Ave. These are two relatively calm, scenic streets that provide a much more pleasant experience than South 1st or S. Lamar for bike travel to/from downtown, even though they lack bike lanes.

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South 5th.

Both South 5th and Bouldin are targeted for some bike infrastructure, but it’s not clear what. Tuttle says South 5th is a “key bike route” and that before deciding what infrastructure to pursue, the city will “bring a public process forward to best understand how to improve this route for everyone.” The same is true for Bouldin, she says.

ATD is considering enhancements for Bluebonnet Ln., which already has a two-way protected bike lane. Says Tuttle: “Yes, we are looking at upgrading the existing physical protection as well as evaluating other possible improvements, such as crossings.”

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Bluebonnet Ln, near Zilker Elementary.

This is all great. I think it would make a lot of sense to put a protected bike lane on South 5th. We really should have protected lanes on South 1st and S. Lamar, but I can understand why that presents a logistical nightmare due to the large number of super-active commercial driveways. But if those two corridors are irreparably car-oriented, then it makes sense to choose a couple key bike-corridors.

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A protected lane on South 5th would provide a continuous high-quality bike path between downtown and Ben White. In fact, ATD envisions the route not only going the entire length of South 5th, which dead-ends at Cardinal Ln, but also shooting off onto Cumberland Rd, Raywood Dr and Garden Villa Ln to go past Ben White, after which it zig-zags on a few streets for a couple miles. The street grid starts to get very challenging at that point.

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The problem is that the further south you go, the worse the street grid becomes. There are dead-ends galore, making it very hard to get places without going on one of the main corridors: Lamar, Oltorf, South 1st or Ben White. Of those four, only Lamar has bike lanes. I endure 0.4 miles of Oltorf to get over to South 5th and it sucks. I am willing to take up a lane and force cars to pass me on the left, but many other bikers won’t.

Adding bike lanes to any of these roads, however, would have to come at the expense of a cherished car lane. That’s going to be tough.

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W. Oltorf, near S. 5th.

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Help Austin’s federal workers this weekend

The good news is that the master of the deal finally caved, although we may only be three weeks away from another tantrum that shuts down the government. The bad news is that there are federal workers in Austin who have gone weeks without pay. Many of these workers don’t make much money to begin with.

Although they will most likely receive backpay, many of them will have suffered via late fees for missed rent payments, car payments, credit card bills etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if many resorted to high-interest payday loans to get by.

In an email to supporters, State Rep. Sheryl Cole says she is joining fellow elected officials to collect food for government workers. Here’s the info:

“Please drop canned goods and other non-perishable items at Texas AFL-CIO headquarters, 1106 Lavaca St., in downtown Austin. We will accept groceries 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, Thursday, Jan. 24 and Friday, Jan. 25; noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26; and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27.

“The food collected will go to the Central Texas Food Bank on Monday, Jan. 27. Because we are doing this for the Food Bank, we ask that donors follow the agency’s standards for what may be donated.

I actually received this email from Genevieve Van Cleve, a local Dem operative who for days had been trying to figure out ways to help furloughed workers and was discovering that it was not easy to do because of rules restricting gifts to federal employees.

Remember Laura Pressley?

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Council Member Greg Casar just sent out an email announcing that his ongoing legal battle with Laura Pressley, the conspiracy theorist who he beat in 2014, is finally over.

The ruling itself is predictable. Pressley had no case and the lower courts had dismissed her claims as baseless and frivolous. On its face, it just seems like the typical lost cause launched by a delusional, fringe activist. Pressley, if you’ll recall:

Believes that 9/11 was the result of a controlled demolition

Claimed that smart meters make her leg shake

Is a vehement opponent of fluoride in water

Accused her opponent of being an atheist and claimed that made him ineligible to hold public office

Basically, the kind of the stuff you’d expect from a viable Republican presidential candidate, but not a serious candidate for Austin City Council.

And yet, Pressley actually enjoyed support from establishment players.

In what no doubt was an extraordinary embarrassment to the Austin American-Statesman’s City Hall reporters, the Statesman’s editorial board endorsed Pressley over Casar, citing concerns about Casar’s affinity for density. To the Statesman’s credit, the ed board later revised its opinion after learning of Pressley’s views on 9/11.

The Austin Neighborhoods Council, for which Pressley served as a top officer, stuck by their candidate. In fact, this is how David King, who later went on to serve as ANC president, responded in an email to his ANC colleagues in response to concerns raised about Pressley’s views:

This topic reminds me of the “gutter” tactics used by Rush Limbaugh to discredit candidates for political offices.
Laura Pressley‘s views on 9-11 and fluoride are not extraordinary and are shared by many other reasonable people.
This last minute attempt to impugn her character will not succeed, but will show the true character of the forces that oppose her neighborhood-friendly policies.
Thank you,
David King
Zilker Neighborhood Resident

In the same email thread, another ANC leader, Brad Parsons chimed in:

Here is the original science journal article all the brouhaha is about.   http://benthamopen.com/tocpj/articles/V002/7TOCPJ.pdf The article was submitted by members of the Physics Dept. at Brigham Young Univ. and the Chemistry Dept. at Univ. of Copenhagen, among others.  2,300 professional architects and engineers agree with them.  The Bush Administration never fully explained the events of 9/11. 

Brad Parsons,

NW Austin

And then there was ANC’s East sector representative, Daniel Llanes:

Elections, rhetoric, and even Laura Pressley aside,  when I saw, live on TV, the twin towers go down, my first reaction, without anything besides just watching on the spot, was “this is a demolition!?!”  That and the notion that these guys got though all U.S. defenses just doesn’t ring true.  Inside job dude

Government lies, we were lied to about Viet Nam, the Kennedy, King & even John Lennon, and let’s not forget Nixon & Watergate.  Don’t get me started.  Government lies, power corrupts and we cannot allow absolute power to be concentrated in the few.
The at large system it self was a lie, a fake system to keep certain populations from sharing power.
Once again, you favor a candidate, put forth their merits.  If you have to tear someone else down, you got nothing.
Daniel
River Bluff Neighborhood
These were not rank-and-file neighborhood activists. All three have served on ANC’s executive committee and one as president.
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How the blue wave reshaped city politics

Political consultant (and APN subscriber!) Mark Littlefield was kind enough to share some interesting data on the March primary vote over the last three election cycles. The data demonstrates how dramatically Democratic turnout increased between the 2014 and 2018 midterms.

2014, you’ll recall, was a great year for Republicans, largely due to historically low turnout (lowest midterm participation since 1942).

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Y axis = Council Districts, X axis=primary vote total

You’ll see that in two Council districts (6 & 8), there were more votes in the GOP primary than the Democratic primary. In District 10, the wealthy Central/West Austin district, GOP voters made up a respectable 44% of the electorate.

Now look at how the blue/Beto wave changed things in 2018.

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The GOP achieved its highest share of the electorate in District 6 (39%). In District 8, its share dropped from 51% to 31%. And this, of course, is only from the primary, which offered a modest preview of the bonkers turnout for the general election in November.

This was not because fewer people were voting Republican. The total number of Republican votes actually increased. What changed was the Democratic turnout, which nearly tripled. To put it another way, Republicans gained 6,000 votes, while Democrats gained 60,000.

The only Council district where a Republican theoretically has a chance next year is in District 6, where Jimmy Flannigan will be up for reelection. But it’s doubtful they’ll have a chance, considering the voting trends.

The GOP’s fortunes may eventually reverse in Austin. Perhaps after demographic trends banish the party of Trump/Abbott/Patrick to the political wilderness, the GOP will eventually reemerge with a message that can compete in cosmopolitan or diverse areas. But I wouldn’t bet on the GOP winning any races in Travis County in the near future, although now that I think about it the Gerald Daugherty race in 2020 will be interesting.

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The beauty of walking

A while ago, I argued that the case for bike-friendly infrastructure has been too focused on the environmental and health benefits of biking. As a result, it’s been easy for bike opponents to dismiss bike lanes as a play space for yuppie hobbyists, rather than a practical piece of infrastructure that offers people a transportation option that is much cheaper than a car.

When it comes to walking, however, I think the best strategy may be to spark a cultural awakening around the psychological, physical and –– if you’re so inclined –– spiritual benefits of a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood.

Just think about how much time and money we spend at the gym, trying to mitigate the negative physical and psychological effects of our sedentary professional lives by lifting heavy objects, running for extended periods of time or contorting our bodies into weird shapes? Not too long ago, people would have regarded this behavior as a bizarre waste of time and human labor.

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That’s not to say that all of us are gym rats. Many of us don’t exercise at all. Hence the obesity epidemic.

Walking as a form of transportation is a great alternative to the gym, both for those who can’t bring themselves to go to the gym and those who are unhappily spending a lot of time there. And for those of us who truly enjoy going to the gym, walking is a great way to supplement your exercise regime! Alas, Americans walk less than anybody else in the industrialized world.

Just as important as the physical benefits, why don’t more of us view a 10, 20, 30 or 40-minute walk as an opportunity to enjoy time to ourselves, to clear our heads, or to interact with our community? Why don’t pastors encourage their parishioners to slow down and enjoy the wonders of the Lord’s creation on their way to church Sunday morning?

Yes, driving will usually get you there faster. But what are you losing by taking 20 minutes to walk to the restaurant and 20 minutes to walk back home? Time away from your TV? Your computer?

I reached out to Walk Austin and got a few thoughts from members of their board. Here’s Katie Deolloz:

Walking is the one form of movement/exercise with the lowest barrier to entry. A person at rest “exerts” one MET (metabolic equivalent). That number doubles simply by getting up and walking in her home/office. Choosing to move at a pace of three to four miles an hour can increase the energy expenditure up to for or five METs and is considered “moderate” intensity physical activity.
In addition to the physical benefits, there are proven social and emotional benefits that are derived when walking with others. Walking is nothing short of a joy…it is how we as humans are designed to move!

And here’s Heyden Black Walker:

I was lucky enough to travel to Paris over the New Year with my husband and college-age daughter. We walked an average of 8 miles / day just walking to the Metro, seeing sights, stopping for coffee or groceries, etc.  We were simply enjoying the city, with no intentional exercise plans.  IMO we should be building cities where people get the exercise they need simply by going about their daily lives.

Look, you don’t have to tell me that it’s not always possible to walk everywhere. I get it. Not everybody has free time, and that’s a shame. But many of us have lots and lots of free time, but we have simply chosen to spend as little of it outside as possible. And that’s a shame too.

Of course, for walking to truly be a joyful experience requires us to start building cities for people, not cars. We need to build sidewalks on every street, in every neighborhood. We need to mix commerce with housing, so that people have stuff they can walk to. And we need to get serious about public transit, the greatest ally of the pedestrian.

This article has been changed to correct the misspelling of Heyden Black Walker’s name. 

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UT unveils new scooter regs

Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 3.10.32 PM.pngIt’s safe to say the University of Texas is less impressed with electric scooters than the City of Austin.

This rule is effective immediately:

The university will begin impounding scooters improperly parked along Speedway and other campus malls, as well as those blocking sidewalks, impeding pedestrian accessibility, or strewn in courtyards, doorways and stairwells. The charge to companies is $150 per impound. As a result, scooter companies may pass these fees along to responsible riders. As a reminder, scooters should be parked at bike racks only.

These will come later in the semester:

Requiring that all scooters will be governed to operate at no more than 8 miles per hour on campus

Parking zones will be marked specifically for scooters in 10 areas across campus (as a pilot project; additional scooter parking zones may be determined at a later date)

Prohibiting faculty and staff from work-related use of commercial scooters

Designated parking zones on campus seems reasonable, as long as there are enough. The university should settle on a maximum distance from scooter parking. I would suggest a quarter-mile, with an emphasis on putting the parking spots even closer to the highest-trafficked spots on campus.

An 8 mph limit is draconian, and I hope to God this doesn’t give the city any ideas. That speed is far slower than one would expect to go on a bike. While bike speed varies based on skill, conditions etc, research has suggested that 11-12 mph is what you’d expect from a typical city biker riding on a flat surface. And of course you go much, much faster when you’re going downhill. And of course, UT is also home to roads where cars travel at speeds much higher than 8 mph. (UT has authority over those roads … they are not the city’s right-of-way)

To be clear, UT is not simply telling people that they’re not allowed to go faster than 8 mph. They’re telling scooter companies to set 8 mph as the maximum speed. Currently, most of the companies set the max speed at 15 mph. The companies will likely have to set up geofences that disable speeds at higher than 8 mph once a scooter enters the campus zone.

One problem with reducing the speed: it makes scooter trips nearly twice as expensive, since it will take you nearly twice as long to get to your destination.

As for “prohibiting faculty and staff from work-related use” of scooters… I’m still not clear what that means. This is what UT spokeswoman Olga Finneran tells me:

The university has not yet drafted specific rules language around this, however, like any employer it has a number of policy requirements designed to ensure safe working conditions. On a campus of this size, it is not unusual for staff or faculty to travel to various campus locations for meetings, to deliver documents, clean facilities, teach classes. All of these activities could be considered work-related, as they would be subject to workers compensation claims if the employee was injured.

So does that mean a professor or teaching assistant can’t scooter across campus to a class? Finneran did not have an answer, and noted that the rules have not yet been drafted.

Again, is UT planning on barring employees from driving cars for “work-related use”?

I am far more sympathetic to strict regulations on UT campus than citywide. These types of regulations citywide would make scooters a much less attractive transportation option for people who aren’t living/working in areas that are as walkable as campus.

Campus is still a relatively limited space with a very large number of people walking on sidewalks at certain times. But these rules seem like an overreaction. It will be interesting to see how students react. Student government did take part in the recommendations that guided these new rules, but if I’m not convinced that student government reflects the opinion of the average student.

I asked the folks at the West Campus Neighborhood Association, a new group aimed at representing student residents of the area, what they thought:

The city transportation department declined to comment on the matter.

How Austin’s code favors expensive homes

I just saw some interesting commentary on Twitter about ways that the city code encourages developers to turn multi-family properties into expensive single-family homes. Meanwhile, putting multiple units on a single-family lot requires a herculean (and costly) effort, if it’s possible at all:

David Whitworth, an infill developer (and valued APN subscriber) tried to make a living by tearing down big homes and building multiple smaller homes in their place.

Whitworth was exploiting an interesting historical quirk: he realized that many houses in old Central Austin neighborhoods were actually built over multiple lots. Why? Because the original lots in Hyde Park and North Loop were actually much smaller than the 5,750 square foot minimum that neighborhood associations now zealously defend as necessary to preserve their neighborhood’s traditional character.

The homes Whitworth built definitely weren’t cheap, but they were much cheaper than the large-lot alternatives in the area. But then city staff decided that wasn’t cool:

Now, three years after Whitworth had his epiphany and built a total of eight homes using it, city staffers are asking the City Council on Thursday to prevent other such developments from happening. The proposed changes to city code would stop a developer from tearing down a house straddling multiple small lots, breaking up those lots and developing each one individually.

Upon staff’s recommendation, City Council essentially voted to outlaw the construction of expensive single-family homes in Central Austin. Only super-expensive single-family houses are allowed. Four CMs dissented: Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman.

There are still processes available to chop up lots and create smaller housing. But Whitworth explains why developers are discouraged from doing that:

Whitworth also provides some insight on why Austin established the current minimum lot size.

We went to 5,750 sf in 1946 shortly after racial covenants were banned. It was a cat and mouse game over the years and lot size stuck. I always compare it to the poll tax. It doesn’t explicitly ban black people from voting but it has that effect. The city attorney in charge when they went to 5,750 many years later was on defense attorney team for Texas fighting the ban on the poll tax.

A few years since Council took the decision to bar what Whitworth was doing, I think the political winds have shifted direction. The problem is, the folks who benefit directly from the homes Whitworth was building are generally upper middle class. Therefore, their quest for slightly cheaper homes will not elicit quite as much sympathy from Council as low-income or working-class residents who increasingly don’t have any affordable housing available in the city.

The long-term solution, of course, is to overhaul the land development code to allow multiple units on lots that are currently reserved for single-family homes, rather than to rely on historical quirks.