Affordability or density? pick one?

we often talk about affordability and density as a singular option but we have a proposed project on south lamar that appears to be choosing between the two. here is the update as was sent out by ZNA to inform neighbors about the history of the site, what was originally agreed upon, and what is now being proposed in place of that agreement. what are your thoughts about this new proposal versus the original or how the new proposal could be altered to achieve both affordability and density? what made the previous proposal economically feasible but now not? what is an appropriate amount of affordable housing when being granted an upzoning?

here is an article about the project: Follow-up zoning case promises more housing for South Lamar - Austin MonitorAustin Monitor

" The old Goodwill site, at 2800 S. Lamar, and two fourplex sites behind it on Skyway Circle were rezoned in 2013 for a VMU project with 110 deeply affordable apartments above a remodeled Goodwill store. The neighbors and ZNA were included in the zoning discussions with Foundation Communities, and we strongly supported the project.

Now, ten years later, a new landowner wants to build double the amount of commercial space on the property, with no housing of any kind. City staff seem to think it’s a great idea to replace the potential for 110 affordable apartments with the potential for 120,000 square feet of commercial space (convenience storage, offices, warehousing, commercial parking–anything but housing). The worst part is this quote from the staff report, describing the rezoning as “an opportunity for the ten MF-3 zoned parcels on Skyway Circle (all being utilized as fourplexes) to be considered for rezoning.”

So far, the investors own only five of the ten MF3 parcels. Under the current zoning, each parcel could be remodeled for six housing units. If the parcels are rezoned as proposed, Austin will lose the potential for 30 middle-income apartments or condos. If City staff get their way and all ten parcels are gobbled up, Austin will lose the potential for 60 middle-income apartments or condos–but it might gain some really big expensive buildings with parking garages.

For those of you who are less than 65, that approach to city planning is what was once known as “urban renewal,” a euphemism for slum clearance. A favored group of investors wants to buy up a block of properties at a bargain price, and the City’s planning department is eager to help the investors pressure the small owners to get out of the way of the redevelopment bulldozer. They all chant “Affordable housing, housing crisis” in unison, but when the dust clears, all that’s left is an empty office building.

This is happening all over Austin, and all over the country. Please tell the Mayor and City Council to stop the destruction of existing housing by voting against items 36 and 37. Register to speak here (remote or in person) by Wednesday 10/4 at noon."

I know everything zoning related is complicated as hell, so I will be brief and provide some definitions.

VMU = vertical mixed use. The mixed use element means that it will have housing, not just retail.

The fun thing about VMU on South Lamar, is that it allows something called “affordability unlocked” which enables what is called VMU-2 which allows for even more housing when affordable units are included.

In addition to the VMU element, you will see the term “MF-6” in the applications on the city action, will put link below. MF-6 is the highest density residential zoning there is.

So, the short of it is that we are replacing 8 existing homes and an abandoned goodwill with probably 100s of units built with extremely high levels of cost efficiency on one of Austin’s most frequent bus routes into downtown.

You can read the “staff recommendations” for items 36 and 37 in the city agenda.

Now, the process part that isn’t obvious. Zoning is completely independent from getting a permit for specific construction. Nobody, not even the builder, knows exactly what will be built there yet. Why? Because that has to go through a big approval process and will necessarily involve a lot of negotiation.

The only thing we can assume right now is that given that they asked for VMU and MF-6 on South Lamar which is a transit corridor with a high frequency bus line that allows for affordability unlocked, that they will likely create a VMU-2 compliant site plan. That is a lot of jargon to say there will be a lot of housing units with some percentage of them being “affordable” using some mechanism like subsidies or a land trust and the rest being market rate, but whose existence helps lower the massive supply shortages impacting the housing market in 78704.

Right… this is more FUD from ZNA. A change from MF-3 to MF-6 will result in more housing. And, according to the article, they’re also committing to 10% of that to be affordable housing as well as offering to re-home the current MF-3 tenants. ZNA’s use of terms like “warehouses”, “parking garages”, “big expensive buildings” - this is just a preview of how they plan to protest this thing with absolutely no evidence to back up those terms. And those homes on Skyview Circle are in horrible shape - broken out windows, graffiti, etc… Rebuilding them into real MF-6 housing would be a win for the area.

According to Whellan, the developer is committed to providing a tenant relocation package for the eight units that will be demolished in order to build the new buildings. They are also promising a “right to return” for eligible tenants. The developers are working with an arm of Habitat for Humanity called HomeBase. Whellan said his clients “have committed to providing 10 percent of the total number of units at 60 percent of the median family income.”

no doubt, the existing buildings are serving little to no purpose currently. i assume the current owners have not rented out some of those units for quite some time so some of that is by choice/design.

my question was not to compare what is currently there with what is being upzoned/proposed but rather to compare what was previously proposed with what is now being proposed in terms of the total number of affordable units. what i hear often is that more housing = more affordability but we have seen where that is not always the case. there are plenty of housing units built that are definitely not affordable. the message from zna was comparing the previously promised 100 affordable units to now offering 10% affordable units out of… how many total units? 1,000 units? the net gain of verifiably affordable units appears to be lower than initially proposed.

so the question is… what is the priority? 100 verifiably affordable units or just as many units as possible with some portion being set aside as affordable and then hope the additional “non-affordable” units push down prices across the entire area? for the record, i’m not arguing for or against, just trying to get a feel for what the goal is.

To be clear, who exactly promised 100 affordable units? When did they offer that? What did they even mean by affordable? Given the rates of inflation, particularly in labor and materials costs, is whatever was offered even the beginnings of financially viable anymore?

Much more importantly though, per the message, the lot changed hands. Per TCAD, previous owner was Goodwill and it sold in 2021. Whatever a previous owner said or intended does not bind the new owner. Quite likely, Goodwill, a non-profit that actively invests in resources for people in need, sold that lot for millions more than they would have just a few years prior and as a non-profit were able to use all of that extra money to help those in need in the way they saw best.

It be nice if the new owner was a charity that spent many millions on a lot just to build housing at a loss, that isn’t what happened. Is it reasonable to expect the buyer of every lot that was ever owned by a non-profit to somehow be expected to live up to the values and and ideals of the previous owner?

I get how the story was put together, but as often occurs, reality is complicated and it’s very easy to tell compelling stories when you cherry pick the details.

Specially designated housing units for people in need aside, we need more housing. All types of housing. Especially close into the center of the city. Any new housing reduces supply pressures increasing the costs of housing. Given the location of that lot, the housing probably won’t be affordable in the eyes of a property owner in their 60s that hasn’t paid rent in 40 years, but it will likely be appropriate for a person who lives in reality and needs a place to live. The existence of this will reduce demand for some of the older apartment complexes in the area and mike it harder for those to raise their rents. In fact, rent in Austin is down 6.4% in the last year, incidentally the same period of time that has seen the most new housing units built in a single year in Austin’s history.

One last thing, not every apartment unit allows a person to walk out and be guaranteed a bus every 15 minutes. This one does. Doesn’t the ability to live there without a car figure into the total affordability of a unit?

Hey G-money

We sat in on a few different chats with Mayor-wannabes and CC m=wannabes - including CC member Alter.

The trigger point is developers have money on the line and now its at least a basis of 4.5% - but probably more so there is absolutely no incentive to provide low income housing. What we asked to those running was to consider a way for those that are including low income housing (developers actually WANT to do this) is a way for them to expedite site plan and also not have to get back in the line when one inspector comes and finds something new that another inspector did not find (and it may not even be what he is there to inspect!)… they have to go back in to the rear of the line and make sure it all lines up again and nothing new has happened where they would ultimately have to start that process over again… assuming the developers are ready to respond ASAP to the recommendations.

It ends up creating 2 year site plans that should probably take 6 months max. That extra 18 months is enough to make developers abandon the idea and go with what they know and also maximize profit bc the clock has been ticking.

It really comes down to inefficiencies at the city level and trying to find a way to incentivize developers… as of now they do not offer anything of significance. This is according to most builders/developers and from what we heard from the candidates looking to make it different.

After site plan- as you know- you have to start the building process and with a lack of labor resources at the city… this also takes a ridiculous amount of time. For a while there even residential was taking 18 months to build due to “supply chain” but that has returned … yet residential builders are still seeing houses take 18 months to fully complete. Seems like a long time for a 2500 foot building.

The city MUST make it easier, quicker for folks sitting on money or we need to shift away from worshipping money (not gonna happen).

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

Not a true statement, but it depends. For certain kinds of lots, (high density residential or mixed use on transit corridors and PUDs being the ones that come to mind) the city allows additional allowable height in exchange for affordable units (VMU2) or other deviations from standard building rules for affordability and community benefit (PUD). This is the foundation of VMU2 that I mentioned previously. With VMU2, normal max height allowed is 60 ft. If you commit to affordable units, max height goes to 90 ft and that is no small incentive.

PUDs have a similar program, but it’s more negotiated lot by lot and has no hard rules.

Finally, of not here, a group of concerned homeowners led by CNC (Community not Commodity) are actively suing the city to get rid of this incentive because they feel like they were not adequately notified of this change. Apparently, they prefer to protect their own community of rich landowners as opposed to allowing for the existence of commodity housing for the masses. (That last part is personal opinion, in case it wasn’t obvious)

As for all your other notes about how screwed up the process is here, no arguments from me. Lucky for all of us, the supergeniuses at McKinssey are on it, for the bargain price of 2.5 Million dollars.

great points. i appreciate the info and i can certainly understand the frustration of prolonged development timelines and associated costs.

if there is an existing program and they are making use of it and not asking for variances then there isn’t much to talk about.

my only issue with PUDs is the failure of the city to stick to the 10 acre minimum lot size and to actually require superior public benefits.

the number of projects on south lamar coupled with the lamar reconstruction project is going to be insane… for years. y’all better charge your electric bikes.


I went fully electric bike 2 years ago and honestly have no regrets. We are a one car family. It’s slightly inconvenient at times, but then I just take an uber if needed (airport, mid-day appointment, etc…). I’m fortunate to get to work from home, which means the neighborhood. I realize not everyone has that luxury, but it’s a really nice change overall. Join me!

Just going to nitpick at this.


A PUD district must include at least 10 acres of land, unless the property is characterized by special circumstances, including unique topographic constraints.

“Special circumstances” is vague and I understand how annoying that is, but the code is written such that PUDs are perfectly legal and acceptable for sub 10 acre lots.

Also from the same link

a PUD must be superior to the development that would occur under conventional zoning and subdivision regulations.

The key to that statement is “conventional zoning and subdivision regulations”. This is a very very very low bar. Our conventional zoning sucks major donkey ass (a technical term) in areas that aren’t Downtown. Once again, I understand how unsatisfying that is, but the fix is actually to improve conventional zoning. The rest of this “Superior” math though really comes down to the unique variances being asked for and what a proportional ask from the city would be.

To give 3 real world examples.

  1. Statesman PUD basically got to throw zoning out the window in exchange for doing something truly interesting and special on the lot. Regardless of your personal judgement of what they gave, their gives add up to big dollars and guarantees of public access to a lot of their private property (which they have no legal obligation to provide). Regardless of a public sense of entitlement to this private property, it is in fact a superior high value give. Maybe more could have been extracted, but they definitely gave something of value.

  2. Brodie oaks PUD got height and variances on SOS in exchange for the creation of a hell of a lot of parkland in a lot that is pretty ideal for it in a way that is unique to that lot. SO big ask, big give.

  3. Bike PUD asked for compatibility to be waived because of a triggering property that was a few feet too close and to be allowed to build a few feet closer to the road to protect the green areas behind it. To say that in English, they asked to be able to build what they should have been able to build anyways, but couldn’t because of a technical issue caused by a property across the street and some unique topographical issues. If that property lot line had been 15 feet further away, no pud would have been required. Their give was effectively giving what VMU2 would have required had they just qualified in the first place had this compatibility issue not necessitated the PUD. Small ask (get us around a technical issue) small give (and we will provide affordable housing as VMU2 requires). In this specific case, the city just benefits from the right kind of property being there instead of a weird out of place property due to a technicality.

The point in all of this is that for any given PUD, it’s worth looking at the application and asking 3 questions

  1. What would they be able to build without a PUD
  2. What are they asking to do that the PUD uniquely enabled
  3. What are they giving back in exchange. This third one needs to be honest taking into full account all property rights a private property owner has to do whatever they want on their lot within what code allows.

With these 3 answers, you can decide on a PUD by PUD basis whether the give was actually adequately “superior”. Now, reading the PUD application until the words actually make sense is not always the easiest task. And it leads to a situation where people can cherrypick sentences to tell the story that suits their narrative. If you want to really pick one of these apart, Im happy to dig up the paperwork and go through it in detail.

For better or worse, I am of the mindset that competent well meaning people work at the city trying to do their best within the constraints of time, the law, and what is politically realistic. In Austin, there is a group of people who work hard to keep what is politically realistic in a very narrow range of possibility.

The other big elephant in the room, notice how affordability of normal homes never gets discussed. Affordable homes that arent high density apartment CAN exist. There is a group of people in this city working very very hard to make sure they don’t; but that’s a different post.

1 Like

My current emoji is … “cringe face”

Even stronger points that the city has got to get it together to truly have a campaign to support affordable housing options and “recruit” developers to do so

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

we amped up our bikes during covid lockdown and it made a huge difference when hauling two kids beyond the neighborhood but… we still have three vehicles.

what “special circumstances” do you think the taco cabana pud qualified for? i feel the pud designation is highly abused and that “special circumstances” is code for developer profit.

i agree that the bar should be raised so that we can avoid special circumstances and superior benefits that clearly aren’t that. many of the things these developers tout as being concessions on their part are already required or are a violation of other ordinances like the waterfront overlay.

  • statesman pud: i was the neighborhood contact person for the SRCC for three years of meetings concerning the SCWP and that included stakeholders from all the major tracts. professionals from all sorts of disciplines were brought in to build a framework to make that area “superior” in design while still providing the exact level of profitability that could have been achieved under existing code. fast forward a few years and again we have richard suttle representing the statesman with a pity party of excuses about why they can’t make enough money doing it how they agreed it could be done. the waterfront overlay already required a certain amount of setback from the lake to create parkland and water quality controls and all of that was taken into account when the plan was created. the statesman pud is a load of dishonest crap that provides less parkland than what is required and labels some of their detention ponds as “parkland”. it’s a sad end to years of effort by lots of people and the changes only benefit the developer that is already a giant billionaire. the city shouldn’t have to cough up a single penny to subsidize anything they do there if they diverge from the plan or fail to offer superior benefits than what they were already allowed.

  • brodie oaks: in general i agree with your assessment but they also are relying on a grandfathered and unrelated site plan to get around having to comply with SOS ordinance standards. so while they are technically improving the parcel from what it currently is, they are not complying with what austin voters agreed they should. another concern is with the cave systems under that tract, namely airmans cave, and what will happen when they begin to hammer away above it.

  • trek bike: i haven’t spent much time on this one. my only comment would be that we either agree that “a technical issue” is really just the rules being enforced or not. it is not 10 acres and should not really qualify as a pud so that’s another “technical issue” and then we can all debate whether or not what they are building is superior to what is technically allowed or not. maybe they should be providing something superior to VMU2 since they already don’t “technically” qualify for it or the pud?

i attached the site plan for the goodwill site. i’m not sure where in the application or site plan you would determine how many units are being labeled affordable but it seems worth verifying they are actually providing those 43 affordable units.
20230721_2700 South Lamar_Arch Plans_Site Plan.pdf (5.2 MB)

It’s not about what I think, Im just relaying what the application said. I don’t judge it, just relay it.
The staff notes are here

Quote from page 4

As discussed in the Basis for Land Use Recommendation, staff thinks the site, at less than 1
acre, is characterized by special circumstances given it is surrounded by public rights-ofway, City-owned property, and existing development, including historically-zoned property.
Whether the City Council concurs that a site less than 10 acres is appropriate for PUD
designation is at their discretion.

So the special cirmustance is that it is literally adjascent to South Lamar, a major transit corridor, and is within a few hundred feet of a pedestrian bridge into downtown. Seems pretty special to me. I mean, that is not a true statement of many properties is it?

The site was height limited, the city believed it should be allowed more height. Whether you are excited about it or not, I hope you could envision how a retional human being might have reach this conclusion and how a tall building at this location might be superior in the eyes of people who believe that density belongs close to transit corridors and central business districts.

Regarding statesman PUD, the area that all the neighborhoods seem to believe are a public part are private property. The billionare owners have property rights on their private property. Pubic access to private property cannot be forced on the owners. Love it, hate, thats the legal reality we live in.

Regarding the bike shop, similar rationale as taco pud. Location location location. Its a special special location. Limiting it to 40 ft because of a house on top of a cliff across the street did not seem rational to many. As much as people talk about the rules, it seems convenient that rules of private property ownership feel wrong for the statesman property but appropriate to apply here.

Ultimately, the city has decided to put density in 78704 along all the corridors. They will use every legal tool available to achieve it. Arguing over the details is pointless really. The voters have confirmed this is what they want in their latest elections. ANC aligned neighborhood associations are losing members faster than they can replace them. There is nothing fundamentally inappopriate about the choice. Man made rules limited this due to an arbitrary bunch of choices in the last 40 years. At this point, new choices are being made to have new abitrary man made rules. The ONLY way to really change this trajectory is to get a majority of voters to agree that the desires of millionaire homeowners to retain their neighborhood character is of higher importance than the creation and existence of new housing units in highly desirable areas. Politics is the negotiation of power, and the people in Austin now have more power than the millionaire homeowners. Until that changes, fighting this is fighting gravity.

The more complex something is, the easier it is to speak more loudly in simple terms and/or create a wall of noise to take it down. I appreciate your informed easily digestible input @isaac. As I’ve said, and you said a few times, agree with it or not let’s at least agree on what we’re agreeing to disagree on :stuck_out_tongue:.

There’s a real show going on at Loraine’s list (on the ZNA zoning committee) so I appreciate the chill discussion here.

Reading between the lines on all of this it seems the opposition centers around the office space and parking garages. I guess in line with the idea that more people equals bad – line of thinking. Maybe the type of housing has changed but seems substantially more (overall) than had been previously discussed. Regarding the affordable housing a plan in place today for affordable housing is being argued against using “potential” numbers in skyway circle if some mythical developer maximized its zoning potential. I think what is being missed is a developer is not going to come in and build affordable housing out of the goodness of their heart. Regardless of them being billionaires or what not there does have to be a profit incentive. The term perfection is the enemy of the good comes to mind.

All and all there are a lot of things being conflated to drum up - once again - public ire and pitch forks instead of an honest discussion. So thank you once again and @ggggarret, as well, as your info has been very useful. I would be more curious about what was originally agreed to on the Statesman site, specifically what has been pulled back on.

Regarding the Taco Cabana site the preservation of the “paggi house” restaurant site was certainly a consideration.

so essentially the “special circumstance” of the taco pud is that it is in central austin. everything being called special existed at that site prior to the owner asking to be treated different. the request to pud was purely to maximize profit, not do something “special” with this “special” piece of property. they provided nothing special in exchange for being treated special. what public benefit is there? a water fountain? a bike rack? it’s just a hotel so it doesn’t really even serve austin residents.

i’m not against density but the excuses being given by investors AFTER they buy property are laughable. in the end they almost all cry that if they aren’t treated special then it’s not worth it to them… despite having invested in the property before it had any of those designations. not everyone wants tall buildings lining the lakefront. there are plenty of options for height that don’t create a canyon effect for our central waterfront parks. - the original plan
Statesman PUD gets first Planning Commission hearing - Austin MonitorAustin Monitor - comparison of some elements
the parks board says “not superior” - Parks board raises concerns over Statesman PUD proposal, calling it 'not superior’ - Austin MonitorAustin Monitor
“The boardwalk’s impact on the shoreline remains the main point of contention – it will likely need a City Council variance to get around watershed protection rules.”
anywho… just another richard suttle “whine and dine” job.

  • i agree that the bike shop pud is on the exception spectrum but certainly any competent investor would have known that prior to buying the land with this project in mind. the statesman is the same deal. there are restrictions in place and they don’t want to adhere to them or comply/participate in the SCWP they worked on because they can pay richard suttle to ram variances through with more woe is me profits line rather than spend that money doing the right thing from the start. i just don’t have sympathy for these billionaire real estate developers when they literally make the same claim about every development.

these “arbitrary choices” are mostly plans and visions hashed out through years of public input and votes. what you are discounting are the voices of those before you, some of whom are still all around you. but lines like “the desires of millionaire homeowners to retain their neighborhood character is of higher importance than the creation and existence of new housing units in highly desirable areas” is just not true. neighborhoods and groups have worked for years on neighborhood plans to identify areas for various development which includes high density housing. often times those tracts are then turned into things like personal storage or offices despite input. that’s what happened to the neighborhood plan that took years to develop along south congress. just because someone doesn’t believe the city should give into every variance a developer desires doesn’t mean they are against density. there is a difference between making love and fisting… or so i’ve been told :smiley:

are we really to believe that austin would not have been profitable for developers over the last 20 years without all the variances, exceptions, and incentives they’ve demanded?

i also appreciate isaac’s input and he is clearly knowledgeable about the subject. i enjoy hearing what y’all have to say and believe there is a happy medium somewhere buried in the rubble.

To be clear it does include residences. Though they aren’t cheap - that’s for sure. Also I doubt it was part of the city agreement, but I’ve been to some free and nice events there for KUT’s ATX Explained podcast. Also, as I said previously they also preserved the Paggi House building. I kinda personally like the canyon effect ;). The views in the restaurant / bar are amazing.

I dont disagree with anything you are saying, I just have a different framing of it that lines up with my values better.

I don’t think profit is necessarily evil. I don’t take issue with property owners maximizing profit. I don’t think everything always has to feel good or meet some utilitarian ideal, we are ultimately a capitalistic society that prides itself on individualism and freedom, and the combination will yield un-ideal outcomes for the sake of profit.

The negotiation between the needs/wants of all voters is ultimately the purpose of government and it’s many laws.

What you are calling a “fisting” many people who aren’t you call grossly inadequate. To take the emotion out of it though, let’s discuss the fisting. A private property owner is creating a for profit business, on land they own, with debt they are accountable for. The surrounding neighborhood will be victimized by this decision by being forced to see the business, interact with it and it’s visitors (i.e. traffic, noise, crowding). If there are other averse effects that are tangible I am happy to hear them. “What was there was real austin and the new thing is soulless” is a feeling, super hard to put a value on it. Your soul and joy is within you, if the Taco Cabana being gone is at the root of sadness and dispair for someone, I would argue that the person should be more accountable for their own feelings.

Now, I realize I am making light of something much bigger, cause it’s not the taco cabana or your feelings. It is the fundamental change and evolution of an entire neighborhood that you have known to be a certain way quite likely for decades and sense that the rug is being ripped out from under you. There are real and valid fears of being displaced from your home by forces beyond your control, and nothing about that feels good, and it is tangible (unlike the soulless argument) and as a voter and a human you are not only entitled to protect your interests but I would argue that if you don’t something may be wrong with you. Also, not knowing your age, I can empathize with a 60 year old who spent 30 years somewhere all of a sudden being displaced and forced to figure out their whole world from scratch in a new community. It’s not quite a refugee situation, but it has more in common with it than not, and I have now doubt it really really sucks.

And this get’s to the meat of it and the point I was trying to make. Austin is a city of approximately 1 million people. Some percentage won the birth/land lottery and got the opportunity to acquire land that is highly desirable, in a part of the city that is central, at a time when land cost to salary ratios were better for the consumer than today and when there was still ample nearby land to develop.

There is a legitimate, undeniable crisis with affordability in this city. At the root of much of it is a numerical shortage of housing. If somebody builds a house in dripping springs and works downtown, they contribute to traffic all the way from dripping springs to downtown. They also incur large fuel costs and require a car. They also miss out on the availability of everything that you love so much about where you live. From a municipal standpoint, sprawl involves building out roads, pipes, and electric poles to places where they did not previously exist. This is slow and expensive work. On the other hand, putting a tall building with a 10th of a mile from downtown is fast and cheap comparatively and only contributes to traffic for a much smaller piece of road, if at all. All I ask is that without having to like it, can you see the rationale for added density near the core?

So how do we solve this? My answer is by being honest. Calling anybody who makes a profit evil, adds nothing. Saying that the needs of some residents who have been around longer or acquired property earlier are of higher value than the needs of others adds nothing. Working out how to create new arbitrary man-made rules that allow people to age in place while solving our numerical shortage of homes in a way that is efficient and expeditious is the path. I honestly believe that is waht council is trying to do. If the neighborhoods approached them with cautious hope and an open mind as opposed to immediate suspicion followed by unfounded lies and accusations, we would likely be in a better place for it.

The raw truth is that developers who only truly care about profit just build what the land development code allows and don’t care. See ‘why are there so many public storage buildings on South Lamar’ or ‘why did we lose Artz rib house to an office building with lots of surface parking and retail.’ These things didn’t happen because the developers ‘came to the table’ - they happened because the developers just did what our girdlocked land development code allowed them to do, took their check, and moved on.

The fact is most developers hate dealing with Austin. The ones that actually come to the table, while motivated by money, probably want to build something unique or something for their portfolio. Or they care in some other way. Yes, they have to make it work, likely for themselves and investors, but they don’t want to do just what the LDC allows. By fighting every single thing instead of being reasonable players, the neighborhood, in my humble opinion, loses out in the long term. While there might be ‘wins’ and concessions that are touted, there are immeasurable losses that can never be known.

One slight correction. The reason Artz Rib House wasn’t replaced with a comparable restaurant was very specifically because those developers DID come to the table with the ZNA and they worked very hard to prevent a new restaurant/bar being built in its place. So much so that we ended up with a drab office building with a large parking lot.