Thought y’all might find this interesting, if not terribly surprising (at least for some). I’d be curious to hear if anyone here, including Jeff Jack, thinks it’s a good thing that 59% of SF-home teardowns are simply replaced with inevitably much-larger SF homes, and 93% (!!) are replaced with either SF homes or duplexes / “condos.”
Gonna play devils advocate here.
Ill begin with a bigger home means that more people will live there probably, more than likely families. People are people, density is density…
Larger homes mean those people are paying higher taxes which increases city revenue which theoretically (and take this with a grain of salt) is supposed to improve city services for all. One might argue that revenue could be higher with higher density units, but my point is that revenue is in fact increased.
A small very expensive SF home is likely to be a rental for people who see it as a temporary home. Same goes with the people who live in a small apartment comples or fourplex. A large single family would attract individuals that want to put roots down there, the type of people who would actively invest their time, energy, and abilities into improving their neighborhoods in a way that if a renter did it, you would question their motives.
I wonder then, aside from reaching some egalitarian ideal where neighborhoods aren’t segregated by ability to afford, which would potentially help us get to a car-less future, are there any other clear benefits of higher density apartments over larger single family homes? You ask if “anyone” (in bold for emphasis)thinks this is a good thing as though this is an obvious travesty that no normal human being could understand, but I just fail to see the issue with a lovely affluent neighborhood full of rich people in big houses aside from some variant judging rich people for being rich and only wanting to be around other rich people.
I think that’s a faulty assumption. A large majority of homes with three or more bedrooms are purchased by families. Older 3BRs (pre-1960) without add-ons are rarely larger than 1500 sq ft, at least in Austin. It’s also unusual in this day and age for a family to have more than three kids at most, and one or two are most common. (Okay, excepting Mormons, but Austin has a tiny LDS community.) Point being: you’re about as likely to see a family of three or four living in a 1500 sq ft house as a 3000 sq ft one – and this is particularly true in areas like Zilker where home prices are quite high.
People are people, density is density…
And that’s a point I have to dispute in full. Simply using the example of all the duplexes (and two-unit “condos”) that have sprouted up throughout Zilker (and most other parts of South Austin) over the past decade: nearly all of them have 3BR units on each side, meaning it’s more likely than not that each houses a family. So: that’s six people living where three would’ve otherwise lived.
Assuming the limitations on multifamily dwellings are eliminated via CodeNEXT, we’ll likely start to see many more three- and fourplex developments. Again, the majority of these are 3BRs, though admittedly the number of 2BRs starts to creep up once you hit fourplex level. At that point you’re looking at potentially 8-10 people living there (assuming a large-ish lot). As an aside, why am I picturing Jeff Jack getting the vapors right about now…
Larger homes mean those people are paying higher taxes which increases city revenue which theoretically (and take this with a grain of salt) is supposed to improve city services for all.
This would only be true if there was an effectively bottomless supply of families willing and able to pay close to $1 million (or more) for a house. Even in Austin, with its comparatively well-paying tech sector jobs, this too is a fallacious assumption. I’ll again use the example of all the new-build duplexes that have sprouted up as a case in point: the reason those are getting built instead of SF homes is because builders know they’re both more likely to sell, period, and more likely to sell quickly.
This also assumes property taxes are the lone (or predominant) source of city revenue. While yes, the property taxes on a duplex vs. SF home would be roughly the same, household spending as a whole would almost certainly be higher among two families vs. one. You’d need double the cars, double the clothes, double the furnishings, etc., all of which generates 8.25% in sales taxes (if purchased locally, at least).
A small very expensive SF home is likely to be a rental for people who see it as a temporary home. Same goes with the people who live in a small apartment comples or fourplex.
True, though I’d say this applies to small homes in general.
A large single family would attract individuals that want to put roots down there, the type of people who would actively invest their time, energy, and abilities into improving their neighborhoods in a way that if a renter did it, you would question their motives.
Speaking as a renter who is quite invested in my neighborhood’s well-being, I think this assertion is both offensive and false. It infers that homeowners are “better” than renters – which is bullshit – and it fails to take into account the fact that many people rent simply because purchasing a home would be cost-prohibitive, particularly now that 20% down payments are once again the norm. (I also won’t name names, but let’s just say I know of several very active ZNA folks who are long-term renters. I will, however, note that the head of IndyAustin – a group closely aligned with Community Not Commodity – not only isn’t a homeowner; she doesn’t even live in Austin! She apparently moved to Bastrop years ago.)
In any fact, it’s plain fact that over half of the Austin population consists of renters, and dismissing their interests on a basis that they might be more “transient” is a stereotype as well as a crock – not to mention the reality that there are also scores of homeowners who contribute nothing whatsoever to their neighborhoods or broader communities.)
I wonder then, aside from reaching some egalitarian ideal where neighborhoods aren’t segregated by ability to afford, which would potentially help us get to a car-less future, are there any other clear benefits of higher density apartments over larger single family homes?
I’m honestly kinda shocked by this question, since at least from my perspective the benefits are plentiful as well as obvious. Greater density tangibly reduces both suburban sprawl and traffic, and goes a very long way towards making better public transit considerably more feasible. Reduced sprawl, in turn, reduces all the environmental damage inherent in paving over hundreds of thousands of acres of what was formerly pastures and prairies, including runoff of various toxins from both automobiles and asphalt into the ground. (This is particularly an issue on Austin’s southern periphery, given that it sits right on top of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone – and note that the aquifer is presently the lone municipal water source for the city of San Antonio.)
It also makes neighborhood retail more viable: a likely reason so many of the restaurants and shops along corridors like S. Lamar have failed is because they simply lack the amount of foot traffic necessary for them to be viable. In turn, this significantly reduces the need to drive everywhere just to take care of daily errands. My view here admittedly stems from having lived in Manhattan and having literally just about everything I need in my day-to-day life – grocery stores, drugstores, dry cleaners, gyms, movie theaters, literal hundreds of restaurants, general goods stores like Target, coffeehouses, etc. – within a ten-minute walk of my front door.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the point!
Density will not affect affordability; density will not stop sprawl. Density will only make the neighborhood less nice. If you disagree, please indicate one (1) booming city that has had the slightest affect upon affordability or sprawl through density. All we’ll get is uglier sprawl: more concrete, less green, less quality of life for the crowds. I know of no European nor high-density city in the US that is “affordable” unless it’s in decline (read: Detroit). So, if you want slums, THEN you get affordable housing. Let’s think about what neighborhood we want. Did we all come to Zilker so we could live in New York City or San Francisco-style streets?
Also, why does EVeryone have to be in the middle of Austin? Great other towns spawn from over-priced big cities on both coasts. For example, Oakland is seeing revitalization of art, neighborhoods simply because SF and Berkeley are too expensive. It’s okay for people to go to other towns and help them too, right?
Some renters care, some homeowners don’t. All owners have a vested financial interest in their property values. All renters can just leave as soon as their lease ends if they decide they don’t like the neighborhood. My point is that owners have more “meat in the game” and that modifies behavior (on average, there are obviously exceptions). Also, I specifically mentioned people who looked at it for the long haul, not to be confused with flippers and people looking for a home for the next 4 or 5 yrs till they move into their forever home. The term “established” is often used to describe a neighborhood with a lot of oldtimers, and people who move there hoping to become oldtimers, and typically (but not always) these are not renters.
If it shocks you that there are people who care about things that are not building an egalitarian car-less society, you probably need to get out more.
Many people care more about trees than creating more living space or even keeping open spaces safe for people. (Green Peace)
Many people care more about their cars than they do about other people, or even getting anywhere in their car.
Many people care a lot about who their children interact with at school and choose schools, public and private, in order to curate their childhood socialization.
Also, you will hear people tell you about the plentiful and obvious benefits of trees, cars, and creating the best possible environment for their kids and how they optimize their lives for those goals at nearly any cost.
I don’t bring up those examples in judgment, there are just all sorts of people out there will all sorts of values, concerns, and care about.
Finally, and this is in response to your post as a whole. You keep bringing up lots of statistics and bits of trivia, but at the end of the day, it’s all theoretical. Nobody buys in Zilker for lack of options, they all clearly have money and/or credit to buy in any number of places. They buy here because it is representative of what they want their neighborhood to be, in its current form. They put upwards of 750k to move into the place they want not because of what it could be but because of what it is; which is a medium to low-density posh-ish neighborhood with good schools, lots of trees, interesting characters, and no sidewalks. If/when someone shows up and threatens to build apartments which will invariably bring change, they say “Hey, I paid 750k for this neighborhood, don’t go changing it on me!”.
Finally, for real this time, I’m all for more density and agree with you more than you realize, at least in theory. In a less theoretical way, I also am keenly aware of my surroundings and the people in them and the reality that surrounds me. I also acknowledge that I chose Zilker for how it feels and that higher density will alter the feel hugely.
Unlike SFO, NYC focussed on increasing density and increasing supply.
You hit on a few good points. Density alone will not solve the problem. AURA is supporting a $300M affordable housing bond: http://www.aura-atx.org/yesterday_s_advocacy_for_a_strong_affordable_housing_bond
The Imagine Austin plan considers multiple “city centers” throughout the region with a density step down into traditional single family neighborhood. These “step downs” occur along the corridors. The idea behind Code Next is to implement this already adopted plan - not to rehash the plan. But yes, downtown is the most dense of these centers with a gradual step down meaning the surrounding neighborhoods need to be drastically up zoned in order to fulfill the Imagine Austin plan which the City Council is bound by mandate to follow.
I’m not convinced that’s indicative of the efficacy of density as a solution to affordability (or sprawl). As the article points out, there is a national cooling trend in rents, regardless of the city (we are at a 9+ year boom cycle after all), NYC is still the 2d least affordable city (ie., still not remotely “affordable”), and the biggest differences they’re seeing in rent decreases are in the luxury market. In sum, NYC as the paradigm of density, is one of the least affordable places to live on the planet. I believe if we follow that model, we’ll end up in the same place. Ugly, unaffordable sprawl.
One thing that I have noticed in the CodeNEXT debate (and maybe politics in general) is a race to the extremes. There are dozens of gradients of density. It is not either 100% large lot single family or NYC, there is many levels in between. All cities are constantly evolving and I believe its appropriate for central Austin neighborhoods to allow the accommodation of small scale infill housing types. Much of what we already have (ADU’s and duplexes) and maybe some others that we should have more of in some places: tri and 4 plex, town homes, small multifamily, etc. Or even just making it easier to build ADU’s and duplexes is a good start that codeNEXT accomplishes.
Much of the smaller multifamily we have throughout central Austin, much in Hyde Park and some even in Zilker was built in the 80’s boom. Much of that remained the only affordable places to live through the 90’s and
even today that stock is the only market affordable housing but unfortunately that scale of development is no longer allowed in our neighborhoods and is not being added to. Once again its possible to move up one or two scales to ensure you are keeping pace with demand rather than using scare tactic rhetoric.
I agree about the race to extremes in rhetoric, and gradients of change. But, I don’t think it’s an extreme suggestion to look at highly dense cities for indications of success in affordability and sprawl BEFORE we pour concrete. Also, I think reasonable to note what appears to be a direct relationship between density and cost of living, especially in the popular cities. Once we pour the concrete there’s no going back. Also, was affordability an issue in the 90’s? And, whatever was available in Hyde Park was much less affordable than anything East of 35, South of 290,… by double or more. No question the development office needs to be made easier to navigate for ADUs, etc.
The reason to increase density has nothing to do with affordability. I don’t think anyone has suggested that increasing density inherently has an effect on affordability so why do you want to associate these two things? Maybe because you just want to argue against density so htrow affordability against the wall and see if it sticks? It doesn’t.
Nobody has suggested that density will stop sprawl so again, you are creating your own arguments to argue against density. However, the smae number of people will choose to move to this area whether or not Austin decides to stop inhibiting density thru stupid zoning regs and bureauctic red tape. Ergo, increasing density in the inner city on growth corridors wioll in fact reduce sprawl. This is a worthy goal in and of itself. The massive benefits are environmental as well as social.
Define “nice”. Your nice may be my abhorent. I’ve lived in a row house. It was okay. It’s the neighbors themselves that make the difference. To me, it’s not nice if the neighbor runs a loud wed blower for hours on end when he could just use a broom and save some time tiddying up the lawn. And why do you need a lawn anyway? You waste water keeping it, among other bad things. I want them to put up 40-story towers all the way down Lamar. You want a lawn - Go to the park.
I’m curious what people want to see instead of density? Aren’t cities supposed to be dense? What cities would you look to and say “now, that’s a city I wish Austin would grow into” (we will always grow after all, we always have). Propose an idea.
It is clear to me that Austin is in the middle of a transition, and it will not end until the stock of older homes that are not worthy of preservation are gone, with new homes built in their place. The ones worthy(cost effective/historically or architecturally significant) of remodel will primarily be saved, but most others will go. The city of Austin does not make it cheap/easy to just remodel/addition a 1000 sqft 70 year old home. Source? Me…I’ve tried…it’s cost prohibitive in most cases.
As these older stock homes serve out the last few decades of their lives, what should we build to replace them? I have my opinion, but I think that what you see built now is, in the end, what we will have more of. It won’t matter if they change the far to 30 from 40, new homes will be built and they will be afforded by only a few. That will just result in less families moving into city neighborhoods, families need bedrooms after all. But plenty of dinks will scoop up the smaller, still very expensive homes. Its location, location, location…we live in a very expensive location. When I was in my 20’s, I could not afford a $100k home in Zilker, that price was outrageous to me. So I bought a $75k home off of Cameron. Affordability is relative of course. If it was truly un-affordable, the new homes would all be vacant.
You can’t stop change, its futile.
Doing nothing, and talking in circles about undefinable subjects like “character”, does not lead us into the future. I propose we think back to cities we have lived in/visited/researched and propose those cities as examples of where Austin should go. Talking about where we used to be has gotten us nowhere, but it sure is fun. God I miss Liberty Lunch!
The rationale behind CodeNext, as suggested by council and other pushing it, was to address affordability and sprawl. And, what do you mean “reduce?” How much? If you’re simply momentarily moving the goal posts, does it matter? And, the open space for lawns nourishes the trees. Go to the park for those too?
The rationale behind CodeNext is to implement the Imagine Austin plan. http://www.austintexas.gov/department/imagine-austin
Why can’t you have density and trees? Many VERY dense cities have huge “urban forests”
If you want a yard, great. But not everyone else wants one. Myself included.
Interesting, thanks for sharing. Hard to tell what’s surrounding the trees… what feeds the roots? Do they have critical root zones as Austin?
I actually don’t like grass: seems like a waste of water. I ripped most of mine out and planted xeriscaping… it was dying off anyway.
Riiiight. Which = Affordability and no sprawl if you read between the glowing non-speak.
It’s looking like CodeNEXT may be CodeDEAD. I don’t know what it says in there. The Council is comprised of a bunch of politicians who, as far as I can tell, don’t know or care about anything much except running for office. Hell, they spent over 8 million of our tax dollars to hire consultants just because they don’t know diddly.
Jack: "How much? If you’re simply momentarily moving the goal posts, does it matter?"
Yes, it does. The goal posts are constantly moving. Did you move to Zilker to live in suburbia? Zilker was suburbia when it was initially built out. In the 1940s, there were open fields and few roads here. Look at it now. I see 60 story towers from my balconey. Nobody in these parts had to do anything for the goal posts to move. The people moving to Kyle are altering it from farmland to suburbia.
If we had more people living on the Lamar corridor, maybe the increased tax base would help the city to put in sidewalks around here. That’s so basic in an urban environment, it’s unbelievable that this city govt hasn’t used its vast resources to address the need that has gone on way too long. It’s indicative of how poorly run our city govt really is. The whole “in lieu of” routine is an excellent example. It’s idiotic.
Meanwhile they sell out our green spaces to corporate interests so they can waste more money on stupid stuff like changing street names for no good reason. That parking lot for C3 is a taking, just like Mopac was a taking. Folks should value the park for what it is and not permit it to turn into a corporate run venue. After towers replace those 5-story apartment buildings on Lamar, it could be time to build up in the hood like West Campus. Makes sense to me anyway. I’d be okay with it right now. I don’t have a lawn and I like it that way. The people are gonna come, no matter what.
“Reduce” is not a difficult concept. Every person who moves into a high rise reduces the sprawl. Gimme a break.
Jack & Isaac: Rob made an excellent point in that the CodeNEXT has turned into a “war of extremes” – either single-family suburban-style houses or Calcutta – when in reality there’s a huge gradation of various types of density. Yes, you’re both correct that there are unfortunately very few successful examples in the U.S. of density being achieved in a fashion that either avoids creating a “concrete jungle” or has a tangible effect on affordability. My response to this would be that few American cities have even tried such an endeavor in the first place, mainly because they haven’t needed to: a large majority of American cities have either minimal or stagnant levels of growth, or they’re in significant periods of decline and losing a large percentage of their populations (Detroit is the obvious example here, but it also applies to most Rust Belt cities generally).
Of the cities that are growing at a rapid clip, they’ve been prevented from adding density for the same reasons as Austin. Even Seattle – which is exponentially more progressive than Austin in terms of public transit, having just approved a $53 billion bond in 2016 to massively expand its transit network over a 25-year period – has made little tangible progress in terms of adding density, thanks to the efforts of “preservationists” not unlike our own. It’s the same story in California, except there the housing crisis has gotten dire enough that the state legislature has had to step in and effectively nullify density-prevention tools put into place by various municipalities.
To respond to your comments about people not moving to Zilker just to see it turn into another NYC or SF: absolutely no one is arguing in favor of any such thing, contrary to ZNA/CNC propaganda to the contrary. It should be stating the obvious that we’re not just gonna bulldoze huge chunks of central neighborhoods to construct high-rise (or even mid-rise) apartment towers or something.
What urbanists want to be able to build are projects akin to the one outlined in a NYT article about Berkeley’s housing crisis a few months ago. Here’s an interesting info graph showing what a builder wants to construct on a single lot. How, exactly, is it “ugly” or “offensive”?
Also, why does EVeryone have to be in the middle of Austin? Great other towns spawn from over-priced big cities on both coasts. For example, Oakland is seeing revitalization of art, neighborhoods simply because SF and Berkeley are too expensive.
True, but Oakland’s also an anomaly: few cities, including Austin, have 100-year-old neighborhoods ripe for redevelopment Oakland has that in spades. We have no other alternative comprable
Density will only make the neighborhood less nice.
Rob has already answered this one in part, but to reiterate: why do you automatically assume density = ugly? Do you think Hyde Park is ugly? It’s the densest part of Central Austin, thanks to all its small apartment complexes occupied mostly by UT grad students. Or how about Mueller? It’s at least 4x denser than any part of South Austin, and yet it consistently ranks among the highest quality-of-life (versus other Austin neighborhoods) as judged by its residents.
All we’ll get is uglier sprawl: more concrete, less green, less quality of life for the crowds.
See Mueller example above. A full 20% of its land is dedicated park space, and well tended at that. Its main “walk” is seeded with different wildflowers that bloom during different parts of the year. Its lake area is a favorite spot for kids to feed the many swans that congregate there. Anyway, my main point is your mistake assumption that density somehow automatically means turning a city into a concrete jungle on par with Manhattan.
I know of no European nor high-density city in the US that is “affordable” unless it’s in decline (read: Detroit).
Jack, I’m sorry, but this statement is simply ignorant. While I’ve admittedly spent more time in Europe than most, it’s not exactly a secret that it has numerous cities that are both dense as well as affordable – most of all in Eastern Europe, where they’re still making up for lost time after being behind the Iron Curtain for 40 years. (And while yes, Eastern European cities have some unfortunate Soviet-era architecture, nearly all of them have vastly more historic architecture, in some cases dating back nearly 1,000 years.)
A short list of dense and inexpensive with stunning architecture would include Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Brno, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, and even the older parts of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Outside of Eastern Europe and Russia, Istanbul is flat-out stunning – as are Ankara and Antalya, though most Americans are unfamiliar with them – and even Sydney and Melbourne have numerous stunning areas (albeit a bit pricier than others I’ve mentioned).
Finally, how do you like King’s Landing? (assuming you watch “Game of Thrones”) It’s filmed largely on location in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which a decade ago was arguably the best bargain in Europe but today is more on par with Berlin in terms of prices.
If it shocks you that there are people who care about things that are not building an egalitarian car-less society, you probably need to get out more.
Isaac: I think you’re clearly misinterpreted a lot of what I’ve stated. For starters, I’d like to clear up what exactly I’m talking about in terms of “density.” It is absolutely not more apartments, nor is it even rental housing. Large apartment complexes belong along major corridors like S. Lamar, not inside core neighborhoods. PERIOD.
I apologize for using Mueller yet again as a case in point, but a great example of the good types of density I’m talking about can be found there. One of its housing types consists of fourplex condos, each around 1500 sq ft and certainly more than adequate for a family with one or two kids. (Indeed, nearly 95% of their residents are exactly that; they differ only in their mix of single- and dual-parent households.) These units don’t come on the market very often — which should tell you a lot about how popular they are! — but when they do they’re typically priced around $350K. No, that’s not “inexpensive,” but I think it’s stating the obvious that it would be all but impossible to purchase anything equivalent anywhere in, or even near, Central or “Old” South Austin.
As for what I meant by the “obvious” benefits of density: they have nothing to do with people “believing in building an egalitarian car-less society,” but rather the myriad problems — on just about every level —with the scenario of what happens if we (both in Austin and as a society) do not add density to our urban cores. If the status quo continues, we will continue to see more and more expansion of the suburbs. Austin’s also likely to develop exurbs, in fact (bedroom communities located 50 miles or more from a major city’s downtown); Dallas and Houston already have them (e.g. The Woodlands and McKinney).
The Austin area is still on track to add a million more residents - literally - by 2030, and to state the obvious, they have to live somewhere. As such, we have a fairly clear choice ahead: we can either embrace moderate increases in density in Austin’s urban core — though no, that certainly isn’t a cure-all in and of itself; it would be more of a mitigation measure than anything else — or we can follow a path that WILL result in Austin becoming the next Dallas. What I assumed was obvious was that aiming to be the next Dallas is a scenario no sensible person would embrace, and I hope I’m not mistaken there.
Many people care more about trees than creating more living space or even keeping open spaces safe for people … Also, you will hear people tell you about the plentiful and obvious benefits of trees, cars, and creating the best possible environment for their kids and how they optimize their lives for those goals at nearly any cost.
I find all this proselytizing about the environment interesting, to say the least, given that one of my primary objections to the aforementioned suburban sprawl is rooted in my strong interest in environmental causes. In fact, they’re the entire reason I went to law school! (Not to go too far OT, but my primary impetus in returning to school at a relatively advanced age came as a result of the crippling drought that hit the vast majority of Texas for the first half of the decade.)
Suburban America is essentially an environmental disaster, in myriad ways: the exhaust fumes from all the cars on the road commuting for upwards of 90 minutes a day, nearly all of which contain only a single occupant. The ludicrous amounts of water required to keep suburban lawns a pristine green, not to mention all the various intra-community areas. (I agree with Jack on that one: ideally we should all have xeriscaped lawns, or at least those of us who live in the arid parts of the country.) There’s also the massive amounts of impervious cover required for both homes and streets, all of which leads to literal tons of toxins draining into the earth after each rainfall.
In any event, you appear to be falsely assuming that I’m somehow advocating damaging or destroying urban-neighborhood environments to “make room” for housing. Nothing could be further from the truth! I ardently support every major environmental code Austin has in place, and I don’t support any variety of density that would prove deleterious to it. You’re also inaccurately assuming I’m somehow more concerned about density than having livable neighborhoods, good schools, and an overall quality environment (in a broader context) for kids (and their families). Not only is this false; I believe we’re in complete agreement on the subject.
That said, a problem about which you may be unaware is the fact that Austin’s density — or, rather, its lack thereof — is tangibly hurting its schools, not helping them. Despite the fact that the Austin area population is growing by leaps and bounds, Austin ISD loses more and more students each year. Why? One of the primary reasons is that we simply don’t have the allowable types of density — like the Mueller fourplex example I cited — that would give many (if not most) middle-class families the ability to purchase homes both within the city limits and in neighborhoods with good public schools (like Zilker). If they can’t afford to live in a part of Austin ISD with good schools, they usually end up in Georgetown or Leander or Kyle or Buda.
Nobody buys in Zilker for lack of options, they all clearly have money and/or credit to buy in any number of places. They buy here because it is representative of what they want their neighborhood to be, in its current form. They put upwards of 750k to move into the place they want not because of what it could be but because of what it is; which is a medium to low-density posh-ish neighborhood with good schools, lots of trees, interesting characters, and no sidewalks.
I agree that people buy in Zilker for all of these reasons. The problem with what you describe is that it’s slowly but surely turning Zilker, as well as other central neighborhoods, into de facto variations of Westlake, with schools where only kids with rich parents can attend. As someone concerned (and rightly so) with childhood socialization — as am I — do you really think it’s best for kids to grow up in what amounts to a homogenized environment surrounded exclusively with affluent (or at least upper-middle-class), mostly white peers?
To be blunt, I don’t, and to get somewhat personal: a key problem I have with my own upbringing is the fact that I grew up in Lakeway starting in eighth grade. Lake Travis ISD was quite a bit smaller back then, but to give you an idea of its homogeneity at the time: there were literally zero black students in my entire high school (throughout my entire four years there), and only three or four kids of Asian descent. Religion-wise, we had zero Muslim students and four Jewish kids. Nearly all the students there were Republican, too, or at least that’s how they identified (probably because their parents were); given that my mom is (and has always been) a far-lefty feminist, and I shared (and still share) many of her political philosophies … well, let’s just say that was problematic. On whole, high school totally sucked for me, as it did for the small numbers of Asian and Jewish students, all of whom were mercilessly teased and even beaten up on occasion.
To be clear, I’m well-aware of the fact that Zilker remains pretty staunchly liberal, and although it has a small black population (as does most of Austin, for that matter), it’s certainly far more diverse than Lakeway. My point is that I strongly believe this diversity should continue — and arguably the biggest threat to it is its changing socioeconomic makeup. While obviously I believe in quality schools, I also believe in inclusive schools, and the best means of enhancing diversity (IMO) is ensuring that kids from a broad variety of socioeconomic (as well as racial, ethnic and religious) backgrounds have the opportunity to attend schools like Zilker Elementary. As things stand today, that possibility grows less and less attainable by the year.
Again, there’s no either/or choice here, despite the ZNA and CNC attempting to propagate it as such. It’s not “single-family homes or five-story, 400-unit apartment complexes.” Rather, it’s fairly simply about having at least the option of building homes other than SF houses or duplexes/“condos”. CodeNEXT may be changing the city’s code, but it certainly isn’t eliminating any of the myriad obstacles already in place to keep undesirable development in check. We’ll still have the Zoning & Platting Commission; the Planning Commission; and multiple avenues towards historic preservation.
Finally – and this may be my single biggest beef with the CNC/IndyAustin crew – absolutely none of this will somehow be set in stone for all eternity! If CodeNEXT doesn’t work, we can simply change it! (though hopefully next time without spending $20 gazillion in “consultant fees”)
I agree 1000%.
Meanwhile they sell out our green spaces to corporate interests so they can waste more money on stupid stuff like changing street names for no good reason. That parking lot for C3 is a taking, just like Mopac was a taking.
Sigh. Rod, you were doing so well for a few paragraphs there…
P.S. Unless you have a law degree you haven’t mentioned, I’d suggest not trying to argue about takings with actual experts on the subject.