Car lanes will have to go

Light rail in Budapest. 

Speaking to members of the Real Estate Council of Austin recently, Mayor Steve Adler said that it was time for Austin to get serious about transit, including by investing in a high-capacity mass transit system, whether it is light rail or bus rapid transit (BRT). My Monitor colleague Jo Clifton reports:

Either way, he said, the system must have dedicated lanes that do not take space away from existing traffic lanes.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s possible. I mean, it’s technically possible. You could build a subway or elevated transit lines. But nobody is seriously discussing either of those options. What we’re seriously discussing is building high-capacity transit to run alongside cars on our largest existing corridors: Guada/Lamar/SoCo.

I sympathize with the mayor’s political predicament. He doesn’t want to scare people by talking about taking away space from cars. He doesn’t want to give the road warriors something to mobilize behind a year before Cap Metro even proposes its transit solution.

But I don’t think it’s practical to try to avoid the tough questions right now. That will only make it harder to deliver the bad news to the public when, surprise surprise, Cap Metro says that drivers will have to give up some space as part of Project Connect. The opposition will claim that the mayor pulled a bait-and-switch.

Adler’s entire mantra since the election been that now is the time to go bold in addressing Austin’s big issues. So let’s be bold! In 2018 people under 35 accounted for the largest voting bloc in Travis County and in 2020 they will make up an even larger share. They understand the value of dismantling some car privileges in order to build a better-functioning, more equitable and greener transportation system. Let’s speak frankly about the sacrifices necessary. The get-off-my-lawn crowd will never be ready. But I think most people are.

Bringing about meaningful mobility change will not just be about getting a bond passed. It requires a sustained effort to get the community to think differently about transportation. In doing so, transit advocates and transit-friendly politicians could learn a thing or two from conservatives. Just as conservatives have spent the last half-century undermining faith in public services and decrying government dependence, it’s up to a new generation of leaders to challenge our faith in the automobile and make us reconsider our dependence on cars.

UPDATE: I asked folks on Twitter what they thought of the mayor’s promise. Note the responses at the bottom from mayoral aide John-Michael Cortez, formerly of Cap Metro.

The coming battle over parking

On Friday the transportation department finally released the final version of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which is supposed to guide city transportation planning for the next 20 years. The plan has all kinds of cool maps about where we should invest in new pedestrian infrastructure, bike infrastructure and transit. One of its overarching goals is to reduce the drive-alone commute share from 74% to 50% by 2039.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 1.08.47 PM.png

Reducing car use, however, requires a reallocation of two key resources: money and space. Currently, we dedicate an obscene amount of both to cars. Not only by building car-oriented roads but in mandating that private property owners dedicate significant space and money to parking.

Generally, the rule in Austin is that each residential unit must have two off-street parking spaces. There are some exceptions, notably downtown, where there are no parking minimums. Minimum parking requirements are bad for three reasons:

  1. They drive up the cost of development (it’s a major expense that is passed on to property owners and tenants)
  2. They take up space that could be used for better things (housing, sidewalks) and also prevent the type of residential/commercial density that facilitates transit
  3. They subsidize vehicle ownership, thereby entrenching cars as the dominant form of transportation

So parking minimums are an environmental and economic disaster. Getting rid of them should be a no-brainer for a “progressive” City Council. The challenge is that Austinites have become so accustomed to “free” parking and many of them are scared shitless of the following:

  1. Having to spend time looking for parking and/or having to learn how to parallel park
  2. Having more cars parked on their street

I empathize with these concerns. It is indeed easier when you’re driving to have a giant parking lot at every business you visit. However, these inconveniences are simply not greater than the problems resulting from the status quo. We need to pull the band-aid off.

That seems to be what the ASMP suggests doing in its demand management chapter:

Parking requirements should focus on maximums instead of minimums, and parking spaces should be offered to buyers and renters separately from rent or housing purchase, a practice known as “unbundling.”

This was what I dealt with when I lived in Madison, Wis. Few apartments offered “free” off-street parking. You had to pay substantially more for that. I often found myself parking four blocks away.

But that’s inhumane! You’re going to force all of us who have to drive to pay for parking!? No. Parking on the street is free.

Here is what the plan proposes specifically:

Zoning codes should be modified to: reduce parking requirements; promote shared and off-site parking among neighboring properties; utilize unbundling of parking in conjunction with site-specific TDM plans; and to support walkable, mixed-use developments to lessen the need for parking. Unbundling of parking, for example, would help manage demand on the transportation network by only providing parking for those who use it and decrease project costs for the creation of affordable housing. Affordable housing, creative and music venues, and small, local businesses in neighborhoods especially would benefit from reductions in parking requirements.

Council has already unanimously approved exempting low-income housing developments from minimum parking requirements. But will it insist that these reactionary mandates should continue to be imposed on small businesses and housing that serves Austin’s increasingly battered middle class?

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, you should subscribe to the APN newsletter, which delivers DAILY insider analysis of local politics & policy that you won’t find on this blog or elsewhere in Austin media. 

The coming fight over East Riverside

The other day at Council something curious happened. Greg Casar was the only CM to vote against a rezoning to increase density.

Now, it was only the “first reading” of the case (you need three), so it’s very plausible that he’ll end up voting for it and there might be others who end up voting against it. But still, it’s unusual to see Casar be the one voicing concerns about upzonings and not hear a peep from the usual density skeptics (Tovo, Pool, Alter).

The project in question is a proposed redevelopment on Town Lake Circle & Elmont Drive, just north of E. Riverside.

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 2.59.42 PM.png

The proposed project is 7.6 acres and will include roughly 1,000 new apartment units, retail and open space. It is seeking a density bonus that will require a certain amount of open space and some affordable units. While some density bonuses require a certain % of affordable units, the East Riverside bonus provides the developer four square feet of additional market-rate space for every square foot of affordable space they build.

From a transportation and urban planning perspective, this is exactly the kind of place where we want a ton of new density. Not only is E. Riverside a major transportation corridor, but it’s being targeted for ambitious renovations through the 2016 transportation bond. City transportation staff hopes to make it an example of multi-modal mobility, with shared use paths, protected bike lanes, wide sidewalks, transit priority signals etc.

The problem is, there are 300 existing apartment units on the property now. The Mesh apartments aren’t exactly low-income housing, but they’re not obscenely expensive luxury units either. Right now it looks like they have 1-bedroom apartments available between $1,100- 1,700. Two-bedroom units run between $1,455-1,920.

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 11.34.49 AM.png
The Mesh Apartments

For a bit of context, $1,100/month comes out to $13,200 a year in rent. According to traditional housing standards, which state that housing costs should not be greater than 30% of one’s income, that unit would be affordable to a person or persons with an income around $45k a year. A single person with that income would be at around 75% of the area median income, while a two-person household with that income would be at around 65% of the AMI.

Meanwhile, a $1,455 rent for two bedrooms = $17,460/yr. You’d need an income of at least $58k for that to be affordable. Two parents and a kid at that income would be at 75% of the AMI, while two parents with two kids would be closer to 65% AMI.

I suspect that I’m likely underestimating the income necessary to afford these units, since I’m not taking into account utilities. It’s likely that you’d need to be at 80% MFI to comfortably afford the cheapest Mesh units. The more expensive units ($1,700/1BR or $1,900/2BR) are likely affordable to those at 100% AMI.

Anyway, the point is that these units are probably affordable to people who are making more than those who typically qualify for income-restricted rental housing (50-60% AMI). But they are nevertheless below or at the area median and face affordability challenges.

But wait, let’s not forget that undoubtedly some of the tenants aren’t making enough money to comfortably afford the rents. About 37% of Austinites are housing-burdened, which means they’re paying more than 30% of their income for housing.

And then, the bedroom count isn’t a reliable way to predict family size. A single mom may live in a one-bedroom apartment with three kids. An affluent professional might live alone in a two-bedroom apartment.

So the question is, how will the 1,000 new units that are coming compare to the ones they’re replacing? Obviously, the bulk of them will be significantly more expensive. However, because of the density bonus, a certain percentage of them will likely be cheaper than anything that’s currently on the ground –– affordable to those with incomes at 60% AMI.

So are we winning or losing in terms of affordability? On this specific property, I suppose it depends how many income-restricted units we get.

However, this development affects more than just this property. Adding a bunch of housing here –– no matter at what price point –– helps to ease the overall housing market. By putting as many people as possible near downtown, close to transit, the city is helping to prevent further sprawl. The more we sprawl, the more the poor and working class are relegated to the car-dependent outskirts, driving up the money and time they spend commuting to work. That’s without even talking about that whole environment thing.

Finally, if the city doesn’t take the density & income-restricted units now, the property will still eventually be redeveloped. If this developer can’t get the requested upzoning, it or another developer will inevitably tear down the existing apartments and replace them with luxury units. It doesn’t need a zoning change to do that.

Of course, this project is nothing compared to Project Catalyst, the 97-acre mixed-use development proposed just to the east, around E. Riverside & Pleasant Valley. That project, led by developer Presidium, is framed as a “new Domain,” and envisions 4,700 apartment units, 600 hotel rooms, 4 million square feet of office space and 435,000 square feet of retail/restaurants.

Like the Town Lake project, Project Catalyst will also come at the expense of some older apartment buildings: the Ballpark Apartments, which caters largely to students. Catalyst has become the cause celebre of Defend Our Hoodz, a small group of radicals who harass and vandalize the people and buildings they blame for gentrification on the east side. Two DOH activists were recently arrested for an alleged assault that took place during one of their protests.

So far, I haven’t seen any Council members address the DOH antics. However, they may be forced to do so when they take up the project. It will be interesting to see how the east side progressives, all of whom tend to be pro-density but are sensitive to concerns about displacement, respond not just to the buffoons in DOH, but more mainstream concerns about gentrification.

To urbanists, Catalyst offers an incredible opportunity to put more housing in the urban core and facilitate transit and walkability along a major corridor. My sense is that Pio Renteria, the CM for the area, is inclined to support it, as long as there is some affordable housing. But what about Casar? We’ll see…

UPDATE: Renteria and Casar provided a couple responses via Twitter:

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, you should subscribe to APN newsletter, which delivers DAILY insider analysis of local politics & policy that you won’t find on this blog or elsewhere in Austin media. There’s now a two-week free trial available! 

Mansions make great apartments

Today City Council postponed a rezoning for a giant house in Judges Hill. The property is currently zoned single-family, but the neighborhood association has agreed to allow it to be rezoned to office use so that it can become the new headquarters of the Austin Bar Association.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 4.32.32 PM.png

That makes sense. What better place for a lawyers group than Judges Hill? Plus, a lot of the old houses around there have been converted to offices for lawyers, accountants, nonprofits and the like.

However, JHNA wanted to make sure that, if the bar association ever decides to leave, the future owner of the property will be strictly limited in what it can do with the land. It got the bar association to agree to a private restrictive covenant that only allows the following uses: Professional Office, Administrative Office, Single-Family Residential.

Basically, it can be used as an office or as a home  for a fabulously wealthy family. It cannot be used to provide several homes to several middle-income households. Former mansions, by the way, can make great multi-family residences. This is where my wife and I lived in Madison, Wis., for three years between age 23-26. I think it had 6-8 units.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 4.27.33 PM.png

Private restrictive covenants are a contract between the property owner and the neighborhood association. The city cannot override it with zoning changes but nor will the city enforce it. If the property owner violates the contract, it’s up to the neighbors to go to court. In a neighborhood like Judges Hill, the neighbors have the knowledge, time and means to do that.

While the restrictive covenant is the worst part of this deal, what is almost as bad is the conditional overlay that city staff has recommended, at the behest of the neighbors. A conditional overlay is in fact a part of city zoning that the city will enforce. This is what the proposed CO excludes from the property:

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 4.20.36 PM.png

Why can’t this be the site of a daycare? Or an art gallery? And I’m really starting to wonder where future residential treatment centers are going to go, since every neighborhood association seems to believe that their neighborhood is not an appropriate location.

I sent an email to the JHNA asking for comment but I haven’t heard back.


Austin’s changing economic landscape

I just scored a couple of interesting maps from City Demographer Ryan Robinson. This first one shows the median family income by census tract in 2011:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 4.38.52 PM.png

And here’s what things looked like as of 2017:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 4.36.54 PM.png

It’s important to note that this map displays family income. It does not include single adults or multiple unrelated adults who live together.

There are two obvious trends I notice on both ends of the income spectrum.

High-income: Much more purple ($150k +) has migrated east of MoPac, covering many central neighborhoods. Perhaps the most dramatic change has come in the Mueller/Cherrywood areas, where the median income jumped all the way from green ($60-75k) or turquoise ($75-100k) to dark purple.

Low-income: There is only one red tract (less than $20k), compared to several in 2011. There is also only one dark orange ($20-30k) tract left.

A loss of families: Check out the growth of those light purple tracts listed as “no households.” Robinson tells me that some of those tracts may not have enough households because they are taken up by the airport (southeast) or the Austin State School (just west of MoPac). However, some of those central tracts simply don’t have that many families –– at least as a percentage of the population –– because of the tremendous growth in student housing.

Obviously, part of the increase in median income across the city was driven by inflation as well as the economic growth that occurred during this timeframe. However, the jump in median incomes, particularly in some areas of the city, are much larger than you would expect just from inflation and an improved economy. This map undoubtedly reflects population shifts that have occurred, notably the departure of lower-income people and the arrival of wealthier people.

A map of Austin crashes

The transportation department has put together a bunch of maps as part of Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, including the map of missing sidewalks that I wrote about last week.

This maps focuses on crashes. Each of the red dots indicates a crash that led to a serious injury or fatality between 2013-17.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 12.37.50 PM.png

The blue lines are roads refer to the “high-injury network.” Those road segments account for 57% of all of the serious injuries and fatalities.

Below, this map displays the “vehicle high-injury network,” where the most crashes that killed or seriously injured motorists have occurred.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 12.58.12 PM.png

You’ll notice that none of the major highways are highlighted. That’s not because there aren’t a ton of crashes on them. Among other reasons, transportation staff tells me highway crashes were excluded from the map to provide “a better picture of the highest crash local streets for all modes—streets that the city has the most control over in making design decisions.”

As you can see, motorist fatalities/injuries are concentrated on major arterials. Conspicuously unblemished is the downtown area.

When it comes to pedestrian injuries, however, there’s a lot of action downtown.

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 7.47.41 AM.png

Similarly, downtown is where many bike injuries occur:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 10.00.19 AM.png

Note: The bike and pedestrian injury networks take into account moderate injuries, while the vehicle injury network only includes “serious injuries and fatalities.”

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, you should subscribe to APN newsletter, which delivers DAILY insider analysis of local politics & policy that you won’t find on this blog or elsewhere in Austin media. 

Ready for another fight with Ken Paxton?

Ken Paxton & his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton.

The city of Austin just may have to end up fighting Ken Paxton in court over the Planning Commission.

Natasha Harper-Madison said today that she plans to appoint Patrick Howard, executive director of Travis County Housing Authority, to the commission.

Somebody who works professionally in housing policy is exactly the kind of person we want on the Planning Commission. But our city charter says that two-thirds of the Planning Commission members must be “lay members who are not connected with real estate and land development.” And our indicted attorney general, who is currently suing the city over the Planning Commission membership, is of the opinion that the following do not qualify as lay members: a retired real estate agent, a guy who works for Habitat for Humanity, or a land use attorney for Travis County.

So my guess is that Paxton will not be any more generous in his interpretation of Howard’s work.

Harper-Madison’s pick makes it much harder for Council to get down below the 1/3 limit and avoid a legal battle with Paxton. I previously suggested that they could below the limit if they got the AG (or a court) to agree that Patricia Seeger, the retired realtor, does not count as an industry insider and if Paige Ellis replaces Jim Schissler (who was appointed by her predecessor, Ellen Troxclair) with somebody with no real estate links.

However, an aide to Ellis tells me that Ellis has not decided yet whether she will stick with Schissler, who supported Ellis’ campaign.

Harper-Madison was pretty adamant about nominating Howard, who she noted would be the only black member of the commission.

There are probably other members of Council who would be happy to fight Paxton in court on the matter. It’s an opportunity not just to stick it to Paxton, but to Fred Lewis & Bill Aleshire, the anti-development gadflies who took the case to Paxton. After the whupping that those two and the rest of the neighborhood establishment took in the November election (Prop J, Prop K, Laura Morrison, Susana Almanza), there are likely a few Council members who are not interested in negotiating with them.

Even Adler, whose instinct is to compromise, may relish the opportunity to take on the two groups that have tried to screw him over: state Republicans & local neighborhood preservationists.

I’m not a legal expert, but my guess is that there are a range of ways to interpret the charter provision. Indeed, urbanists have eagerly pointed out that any homeowner is “connected with real estate and land development.” There may even be some judges who rule that the provision is too vague to enforce.

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, you should subscribe to APN newsletter, which delivers DAILY insider analysis of local politics & policy that you won’t find on this blog or elsewhere in Austin media. 

The end of the road warriors

Council members displaying their enthusiasm for various transportation metrics with a show of fingers (1 = bad, 5=good)

City Council met last Thursday at the new Central Library to talk about transportation. Specifically, they were providing final feedback to city staff on the “mobility” chapter of Strategic Direction 2023, a comprehensive vision document that is supposed to guide city policy for the next several years.

The actual conversation was not that enlightening. What I found noteworthy, however, was the absence of any anti-transit or anti-bike voices in the room. For the first time since the 10-1 Council was seated four years ago, there is not one member of Council who thinks that cars are the #1 priority or that bikes are for sissies.

It was only two years ago that District 6 was represented by Don Zimmerman, who ridiculed bike lanes in his campaign ad and once told me that we could get rid of the current bus system by simply providing people vouchers to use Uber. Zimmerman has since been replaced by Jimmy Flannigan, who is a a staunch supporter of bringing high-capacity transit to Austin and of crafting a transit-oriented land development code.

She was not nearly as extreme as Zimmerman, but Ellen Troxclair in District 8 was also a regular opponent of investing in alternatives to car-based transportation. Although she did urge Cap Metro to preserve bus routes in her district, Troxclair regularly framed city investment in bike/transit infrastructure as a slap in the face to the car-driving majority. Troxclair has now been replaced by Paige Ellis, who is an enthusiastic proponent of both the big picture on transit and plugged into the small, incremental steps that need to be taken to make the city more transit-oriented. At the Thursday meeting she talked about the importance of extending trail connections etc in Southwest Austin.

Ora Houston in District 1 was not anti-transit but was utterly disengaged from the issue and would likely have opposed any major transit investment that might raise property taxes. And she regularly dismissed bike infrastructure as a superfluous hipster amenity. In contrast, her replacement, Natasha Harper-Madison, is a huge fan of bikes and public transit.

I think if the current Council had been in office three years ago, we might have seen a very different transportation bond. You may recall that Greg Casar and Leslie Pool offered an alternative bond that was more multi-modal.

First, the Mayor’s plan. He wants $100 million put towards regional mobility projects – this includes work on suburban highways. But, Council Member Greg Casar wants no local bond money put towards these projects…

…Those local projects include initiatives like the city’s Sidewalk and Bicycle Master Plans (more on that here) and the city’s Vision Zero plan for traffic safety (more on that here.)

While Mayor Adler’s plan puts $120 million aside for projects like these, Casar wants more – he’s saying $220 million.

There are other numbers, of course, but an easy way to sum up the differences is this: Adler’s plan is more car-focused than Casar’s. The Mayor says his plan represents a consensus – serving both those wanting MoPac to be more efficient and those who want more bike lanes.

I guess I can’t be sure, but I think the mayor’s tune would be different today. Adler will still be inclined to be the moderate or compromiser in the room, and there will certainly be differences of opinion, but the terms of the compromise have changed because there are now three additional pro-multi modal votes on Council.

What remains to be seen is whether the pro-transit consensus on Council lines up with public opinion. There are obviously still plenty of transit-haters in Austin. If you read the Letters To The Editor of local publications you’d think Austin was made up of nothing but them. But alas, I believe the once-proud road warriors have begun to wane. Their forces are in decline, increasingly overwhelmed by millennials who are strangely unoffended by the absence of parking lots in front of every bar.

The youth participation next year should be absolutely off the charts with Trump on the ballot, so I think it would be the perfect year for Austin to go big on an ambitious transit bond and bike/pedestrian bond.

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, subscribe to the daily newsletter! It includes additional exclusive City Hall news and insider analysis. 

A few cool parks projects for Council

The city of Austin will become a slightly nicer place as a result of a few items on the Council agenda this week.

First, Council will approve an additional $2 million for the Alliance Children’s Garden, the long-awaited play area planned for Butler Park. That brings the total project cost to up to $6 million. City staff explains:

The Alliance Children’s Garden is comprised of four garden spaces, each with a unique focus on play that reflects Austin’s culture. The goal is to create an inclusive, multigenerational play venue that is comfortable, inviting, imaginative, engaging and visually striking.

…SpawGlass will begin construction on a limited scope of work in February 2019 including existing tree relocation, demolition and grading. The largest scope of the project construction will be expected to begin late spring 2019 and will include all retaining and feature walls, sidewalks, play surfacing, and play elements. The Liz Carpenter Fountain will be renovated by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.14.35 AM.png

Second, the city will buy a small lot in Northeast Austin (University Hills neighborhood) for $185,000 to provide connectivity between an existing neighborhood and a new subdivision and apartment complex that is getting built on some undeveloped land nearby. Furthermore:

The 2018 Little Walnut Creek Master Plan calls for a pedestrian bridge in this area to connect with the larger Little Walnut Creek Greenbelt. This lot will assure access to the larger greenbelt and eventually tie into the existing Waller Creek Greenbelt Trail providing a modest neighborhood amenity.

The Parks & Recreation Department will fund this proposed acquisition through parkland dedication funds and 2006 Bond Funds.

These are the kinds of easy, cheap decisions that can make an area much friendlier to bikes and pedestrians. Sadly, we lacked the foresight to make them in neighborhoods that were built 30-40 years ago.

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.11.13 AM.png

The final item that caught my attention is the acquisition of 7 acres of land for $100,000 (?!) in Southeast Austin.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offered the City of Austin an option to purchase 7.13 acres of land. The proposed 7.13-acre acquisition will provide public parkland in a park deficient area with a high population density. Its location will provide excellent public access to parkland. The Parks & Recreation Department would fund this proposed acquisition through parkland dedication funds.

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.10.32 AM.png

These are the little steps that the city has to constantly keep taking in order to make Austin more livable.

If you enjoy AustinPolitics.NET, subscribe to the daily newsletter! It includes additional exclusive City Hall news and insider analysis. 

Food trucks out, density in

On Bluebonnet Ln, just east of S. Lamar, is this really cool property that until recently had an abandoned house. The scenery looked almost tropical. Like a home built by a French colonist in Vietnam. I’ve never been to Vietnam and I don’t know anything about architecture, but that’s just what came to mind for me.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 11.22.32 AM.png

It’s right next to this giant parking lot on S. Lamar that until recently was the home of several food trucks.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 12.25.48 PM.png

Anyway, the house is no more. Somebody is fixing to turn it and the parking lot into a big mixed-use development. It looks like Kirk Rudy of Endeavor Partners is leading the development and Richard Suttle, one of City Hall’s top lobbyists, is shepherding the project through the zoning process.

In the short-term I’m definitely bummed about the loss of the food trucks and even a little bit sad to see the house go. But these lots are the low-hanging fruit in Austin’s pursuit of greater housing supply. It’s right next to two frequent bus lines: the 803 & 300. You can take either of those buses down to Central Market or Target at Westgate and you can take the 300 over to HEB on S. Congress & Oltorf.

And of course, hopefully the next development will include some retail that will help make the surrounding area even more walkable.

So far it doesn’t look like the South Lamar Neighborhood Association is throwing too big of a fuss. It requested a postponement at the last Planning Commission meeting to ask for assurances on the following:

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 12.51.14 PM.png

I don’t feel too strongly about any of these. I’m happy to see the 20% parking reduction. I only wish it were greater. There’s a private restrictive covenant on the property barring all kinds of uses that people usually don’t like: pawn shops, car repair, funeral homes … I don’t know why everybody is so opposed to funeral parlors. I, for one, want to be laid to rest in a walkable, transit-oriented neighborhood.

Although the restrictive covenant requires the property to abide by compatibility standards, I think the demolition of that house might have put the project in the clear on height. I don’t think there’s a single-family home within 500 feet that would limit its height. But we’ll see …