Hi all - I received the following communication from Jason Lopez (scroll down below), who is with Anne Kitchen’s office. In addition to the note below, he asked us to come up with a list of questions that they could be prepared for ahead of the meeting. If you all want to submit them to this thread, I’ll group them all together and send them their way. They’ve asked that we get our questions in by the 20th. My apologies for the late notice. I missed the first email they sent our way.
The meeting is conveniently at Zilker Elementary, 6:30pm, October 26th. I hope to see as many neighbors as possible out there!
Good afternoon all –
I hope this message finds you well. Please find the attached message from CM Kitchen inviting residents of the Zilker, Barton Hills, and South Lamar neighborhoods to a meeting with Mayor Adler to discuss CodeNEXT and its implications for these specific areas.
We are asking that you push out this message to your respective neighborhood organizations’ list serves and/or membership distribution lists to encourage wide attendance from these regions.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.
Barton Hills Neighborhood Assn
Zilker Neighborhood Assn
Friends of Zilker Neighborhood Assn
South Lamar Neighborhood Assn
Jason Lopez | Policy Advisor | City of Austin
Office of Council Member Ann Kitchen, District 5
301 W 2nd St | Austin, TX 78701 | 512.978.2165
Given that our existing code has lead to many small single family homes being torn down and replaced with primarily larger single family homes- what are the strategies in the new code to encourage more housing in general, a range of housing types, and a range of housing prices?
Can you explain the reason for the reduction in parking requirements generally and explain how allocating more space for housing rather than vehicles can address affordability? Also will there be strategies to further reduce parking requirements when transit is improved or technology makes personal vehicles increasingly obsolete?
The reason why so many small single-family houses have been torn down and replaced with much larger SF homes is because there’s literally no other option at present. The vast majority of Austin’s core neighborhoods, including Zilker, are SF-3 zoned, meaning that only a SF house or duplex (which is classified as “single-family,” for reasons I’m unclear about) can be built on an average intra-neighborhood parcel. Given the extent to which land prices have skyrocketed in recent years, it’s effectively impossible to generate a profit on a new-build home unless it’s built out to luxury spec and priced accordingly, which in Zilker is almost exclusively in the seven-figure range.
The way CodeNEXT would address this issue is by eliminating the requirement that all such lots be SF-zoned, and thus open them up to a broader range of development options. For example, a parcel that would have otherwise had something like a $1.5 million McMansion built on it could instead have, say, a fourplex (family-sized ones, that is, with 3BRs) with each unit priced at $425K. While no, that’s not “affordable” in the most common context of the word, it’s certainly vastly more affordable than what’s available today at that price point (not much). In parts of Austin less pricey than Zilker, we could see the likes of $750,000 new-build houses replaced with fourplexes priced at $250K or so.
As for parking, the current problem is that it, too, reduces (or even eliminates) what can presently be built on a given parcel. If, for instance, the hypothetical fourplex I mentioned was built under current parking regs – which would require it to have at least one off-street parking spot per vehicle – that alone could kill such a project because a) it’s logistically difficult on average-size lots to position four parking spots in such a fashion that none of them block any of the others in, and b) depending on the material(s) used for driveways, it could increase the parcel’s impervious cover to too high a degree. (While yes, the hypothetical fourplex itself would likely have more impervious cover than a currently allowable McMansion, it could still be kept at well below 50% of the site’s total square footage.)
While I realize this isn’t the case for many parts of Zilker, most streets elsewhere in Central Austin have ample room for residents to park on the street – and also have roadways wide enough to allow for traffic flow even if cars are parked on both sides. For areas that do have bona fide parking problems, they could be resolved under CodeNEXT in a number of ways, starting with the already-available RPP program to restrict parking solely to residents. If it turns out after CodeNEXT is implemented – and assuming a given block has multiple fourplexes built on it – that there’s not enough available street parking for residents even with RPP in place, the city could in theory develop something along the lines of parking prioritization: they could limit the total number of available permits for a given block, and residents who’ve either lived there the longest or don’t reside in a fourplex are given “first dibs” on them.
Finally, I think it’s probably too soon to say what the city may need to do to adjust parking requirements once autonomous vehicles and the like become increasingly obsolete – and to my knowledge this scenario isn’t part of the CodeNEXT draft – but yes, I’d say it’s a safe bet Austin and every other city will end up making considerable changes to their citywide street grids once that day arrives.
How does CodeNEXT fix the “missing middle” problem?
Why is the city adverse to allowing more three and four story houses in the urban neighborhoods? It seems building up and not out with the same floor to area ratio is the right way to increase livable space without impacting green space, allow for increased density without impacting green space, and increase housing supply - again without impacting green space.
Why is the criteria for the board of adjustments hardship based? Shouldn’t it be betterment based? As in what is best for the neighborhood?
Why does CodeNEXT not allow commercial to come closer into the neighborhood? If you’re going to decrease parking the ancillary to that is to bring commercial closer in so people can more easily conduct themselves without a vehicle.