Schlotzsky's PUD

There has been some recent neighborhood discussion on the proposed Schlotzsky’s PUD. I reached out to the development applicant to get the source information on the proposal (posted below). Based on the information provided it seems like just the type of development our neighborhood should support to encourage more employment along a key transit corridor and close to downtown. So I would like to propose a vote of support for the PUD rezoning as proposed.

"The 218 S. Lamar PUD will have several superiority items including the items highlighted below:

  1. The PUD will create a public plaza that will connect the ground floor uses of the PUD to the existing Zach Scott plaza area;
  2. All parking for the PUD will be below grade. The parking provided will be available for use by Scott and the public outside of business hours on a paid basis;
  3. The parking facility will also provide a minimum of two electric vehicle charging stations;
  4. Bicycle parking will be provided at 120% of code requirements;
  5. In addition to the $255,000.00 that will be contributed to transportation improvements as identified in the Traffic Impact Analysis, the PUD will provide funding for the following transportation improvements:
  6. $27,800.00 for a new bus stop to be coordinated between the Austin Transportation Department and Capital Metro;
  7. $25,000.00 to the South Lamar Corridor project for cycle tract improvements along South Lamar; and
  8. Coordination of additional sidewalk improvements along Toomey Road;
  9. The project will provide rainwater harvesting of all rooftops and vertical structures, and also parking surfaces to the extent feasible. The rainwater cisterns will be designed not only for water quality treatment, but also will be oversized for stormwater detention, unless another method is approved by Watershed Protection;
  10. The project will provide a fee-in-lieu of affordable housing to the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department as this is a non-residential project for all bonus square footage;
  11. The PUD will participate onsite in the Art in Public Places program;
  12. All landscaping on site will be irrigated by either stormwater runoff conveyed to rain gardens, collection of air conditioner condensate, or through the use of rainwater harvesting (or a combination). However, the owner has the right to supplement irrigation , if necessary;
  13. The PUD is exceeding the landscaping and open space requirements of Code, including planting larger trees and utilization of native species;
  14. The project will comply with the City of Austin Green Building Program at a 3-Star level, at a minimum;
  15. An Integrated Pest Management program will be implemented;
  16. Finally, the project will comply with the Dark Sky initiative."

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Yes. I think we should put this to a member vote. We’ve had 5d for public input. If you want to propose some ballot language, please go ahead. The voting system limits the number of characters in the question, but we can say something like:

For all the reasons outlined in the proposed position on the forum, Friends of Zilker supports the PUD proposed at the Schlotzky’s location on South Lamar.

  • I agree Friends of Zilker should support
  • I disagree Friends of Zilker sould not support

Hello FOZ Members,

I would like to share some additional insight on the Schlotzsky’s PUD in advance of a vote.

· The opposition to the PUD is based on the office towers height, not development on the site.

· The PUD asks for “96 feet + 20%” which is 115.2 feet. The Butler Shores neighborhood, which includes the Schlotzsky’s site is zoned at 60 feet per the Waterfront overlay ordinance so the PUD is asking for almost 2x the current height or for comparison 2x the height of Bridges on the Park.

· If approved, this will be the 2nd building of this height approved in the area and will likely cause a domino effect in the Butler Shores neighborhood thus further accelerating displacement of businesses on South Lamar & Barton Springs, replacing them with 100+ foot high buildings.

· Regarding superiority items, is this all a builder has to do to circumvent the rules? Is a “public plaza” in the back of the building adjacent to the Zach theater rehearsal building really a “public plaza”? Also, if the traffic study done by the developer recommends transportation improvements due to their development, shouldn’t they have to pay for those improvements anyway?

Lastly, I’d suggest that what’s really needed is a comprehensive strategy for the Butler Shores area, not one-off PUD approvals with no broader area plan.

Thanks for the consideration,


Kristin - respectfully, this sounds more like the type of response one would see on the ZNA listserv, not this one. While I certainly wouldn’t presume to speak for everyone here, I know a significant number of people – myself included – believe the current 60-foot height limit along South Lamar and other VMU corridors is far too low, and that it would greatly behoove the goals of substantially added density and much-improved public transit (along with much-reduced use of single-occupant vehicles and more accessibility via bike, scooter and other forms of micromobility) if 100-foot buildings (or taller!) were the norm along all of Austin’s main arterial roads. (Hopefully this change will be incorporated into the city’s upcoming revision of its land-development code.)

This absolutely includes the Schlotzsky’s site, as well as the “Taco PUD” next door to Bridges on the Park (where a Taco Cabana restaurant sat for decades) on which the city already approved a far-taller structure for it six years ago. While that project fell through, I understand another developer has begun proceedings for re-initiating its development. As for a “master plan” for the Butler Shores area: AFAIK no additional development is planned for the area – or arguably even possible in the first place. Unlike, say, the former Statesman site and surrounding area to the east – all of which is in the early stages of a broad-scale redevelopment – the entire waterfront area near Butler Shores consists of city parkland, and these projects are two of the only remaining ones realistically viable anywhere near the area for the foreseeable future. (That said, I’m assuming the Pecan Grove RV Park on BSR will be redeveloped at some point, but a) it’s not part of the Butler Shores area per se and b) it sits between two already developed projects, Barton Place and the Carpenter Hotel.)

Further, I think it’s safe to say that many folks in FOZ believe eliminating single-story buildings on South Lamar and Barton Springs is a good thing, and not “displacement” in any real sense. Btw I say that as a resident of Lamar Union, which replaced the 60-year-old Lamar Plaza strip mall where 80% of its land consisted of nothing more than surface parking, and was if anything horrifically underutilized. Its only two highly trafficked businesses, the Alamo Drafthouse and Highball, weren’t displaced, but rather incorporated into the new development, and at least one of its older businesses – the Lamar Plaza Drug Store – simply moved two blocks south, to the small strip mall across the street from the Saxon Pub. I also say that as a South Austin resident for most of the past 20+ years whose original house sold last year for over 600% what I paid for it in 1997.

While I realize the days of recent college grads making relatively average salaries being able to purchase single-family homes in the '04 ZIP code – which I did, along with several other friends at the time – are likely gone for good, the “preservationist” strategy of “if they won’t build it, they won’t come” is quite clearly not working, and we need to acknowledge and plan for the reality that the Austin area remains on track to add another million residents by 2030. These folks can live in one of two places: we can further extend Austin’s already terrible suburban sprawl to Dallas- or Houston-style levels – in the process worsening the area’s already disastrous traffic problems – or we can allow for significantly greater density in our urban core, including the construction of buildings much taller than the ones existing at present. We could even eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as Minneapolis and the entire state of Oregon have done over the course of the past year.

I do, however, agree that one-off PUDs are an undesirable means of dealing with development either in this area or anywhere else in Austin. Rather, we need citywide zoning for buildings of the Schlotzsky PUD’s scale, without the rigamarole of seeking either zoning variances or PUD rezonings at all.

Mr. @jeffkirk - please keep in mind the Friends of Zilker is a democratic open neighborhood association. This is the primary distinguishing point between FoZ and ZNA. We encourage active participation through a modern open source discussion board (the one you’re on). We have online voting so every member can vote on the positions FoZ takes and we publish those votes for public viewing. Membership is free so anyone residing, owning property, operating a business in the neighborhood can join. While it may be the reality that more urbanist centric people belong to FoZ while more preservationist centric people belong to ZNA, there is nothing specific in our mission statement toward those views. So while I agree with your points here @kristinmccollam views are more than welcome in this discussion. Thank you both for your participation.

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I think you bring up a very valid point that one-off approvals for buildings doing something totally different from the status quo is a recipe for a new status quo, and that if tall buildings are to happen, there needs to be a plan for the area as a whole, not a bunch of independent exceptions.

What I disagree with is that:

  • 100 ft buildings are necessarily wrong, bad or out of place there. Maybe there is more to them than I am thinking of, but it just seems like par for the course for the area there. They dont loom over houses, just other businesses and large apartment complexes.
  • That there is anything wrong the Businesses on S Lamar changing. Today, I don’t think about the shops/businesses there and think to myself “Man it would be such a pity to lose these gems” . The wine bar over there is cute, and the bike shop is convenient, and the gas station, while scary and overpriced, is well placed, but these just arent exactly worth fighting for in my mind. A few l large buildings would bring more residents, which would bring more and different businesses, which might actually still include a cute wine bar, a bike shop, and a gas station. As a person who lives right on South Lamar, I love being able to walk to all the places I can; many of which did not exist 5 years ago. Im ready for more.
  • On traffic. I think that is actually what bugs me the most. That area is already badly planned and overcrowded. I don’t think the problem is unsolvable, but to solve it requires a bigger strategy. It would probably require a strategy for Lamar that goes all the way from Oltorf to 15th that allows for traffic and pedestrians to keep moving. It may involve some overhead crosswalks by the water and some dedicated lanes that don’t have to stop, or something bigger than what the city currently seems willing to do. I am all for growth and development and I think many are, and I think that it is an excellent “carrot” to get the city and some private developers to “cooperate” in order to meet the public good be it by providing needed right-of way for a fix, money, or permits to fix the mess that is that intersection. I would also welcome that over 20 “public plazas” any day cause lets be honest if you are are there and want to hang out outside, there is a lovely park a few 1000 feet away.

All valid points, Isaac, plus one of the few South Lamar businesses that it would be a legitimate tragedy to lose is the Broken Spoke, and the developers of the adjacent land ended up preserving it in all its tacky-roadhouse glory.

Agreed, though a big part of the problem is an unsolvable geographic one: Austin only has three arterial roads between Mopac and I-35 south of the lake. Personally, I think we should institute the same type of congestion pricing seen in places such as London and Singapore, but considering it took even NYC 15 years to get such a proposal passed, I don’t know if it’s realistic for Austin’s immediate future. We also have a number of problem areas that will require Herculean efforts to rectify, e.g. the heavy freight line that still passes through Bouldin, Seaholm and just south of West Fifth. Worst of all, of course, is “the screech” that comes when it hits a sharp 90-degree curve in the Seaholm vicinity - something that is literally unfixable short of rewriting the laws of physics or rerouting it around the city entirely. Considering the track is primarily under federal control (and still actively used by Union Pacific for shipping heavy freight), I doubt there’s any fix for it coming in the foreseeable future - much as I’d love for it to be repurposed as urban rail transit.

All that said, overhead anything is broadly opposed by policymakers across the board, and for a variety of valid reasons, starting with visual and noise pollution. (This is why NYC dismantled its elevated rail systems in Manhattan nearly 70 years ago now, and why Chicago is one of the few remaining major cities that still has an above-ground one in its downtown area.)

For clarity, the only overhead thing I was suggesting is pedestrian crosswalks across Lamar on both sides of the river. The amount of time where light is green and cars don’t go because cars are waiting on people to cross before they can turn right or left off of Lamar is ridiculous. I am no traffic expert but I have a feeling that change alone would allow twice as many more cars through per light.

The next bottle neck is left turns onto 6th heading north and the light at Barton Springs road (left turns left of an issue here, but tons of pedestrians). Those two would require some amount of creativity to solve, but if those lights could be removed altogether I think you could fix a lot of issues. I also have a feeling it would just push the problem further down (or up) the road which is why a real solution needs to account for Lamar at the river and everything North and South for a fair amount of distance.

An overpass for cars I don’t think can or will ever happen (I would see higher chances for tunnels, and even that seems unrealistic). A way to have cars flow across the river without having to 4 lights in less than a mile and not being able to go when the light is green, I think that is doable.

I saw the Schlotzkys PUD case was finally going before the planning commission so I submitted the comment form with the results of the vote we held on this last year. If anyone is interested the planning commission meeting is Tuesday 5/12 and they are taking public comments by phone.

Thanks for following up on that @rob - looks good!

Since I just moved back to Austin, I’m still getting up to speed on all the things. In general though, it makes sense to me that a major transit corridor like Lamar will have bigger and taller building complexes. Esp given that that specific location is so close to downtown.

To me, the tradeoff of having so much open space so close to the downtown of a 1mill+ city, is that the remaining buildings have to be denser/higher. Lots of nice parks and open space, plus requiring only low-rise / low density buildings, is a recipe for rapid gentrification. Our neighborhood has already gotten way more expensive, and it would be much worse if there hadn’t already been a fair amount of densification (multi-family, infill housing, etc).

I don’t have an clear opinion on what size is too high. My understanding is that 4 stories and under is considered low rise. 5-9 stories is mid rise, which seems sensible given the location.

It’d be great to have a master plan for the Butler Shores area. Makes more sense to have a plan approved up front, and developers can plan within those rules. But part of the problem right now seems to be that we’re still operating under older code guidelines from when the city was much smaller. Without a code update, a lot of development that makes sense under the current local conditions, ends up needing variances.

Traffic is always a challenge but traffic doesn’t get improved by refusing to build denser urban cores. Denser cores are what reduce the need for everyone to drive everywhere for everything.

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What you’re describing is “the missing middle” - in the way that Austin goes straight from sky rises to single family homes. Neighborhood ( NIMBY ) associations have traditionally fought anything of the sort tooth and nail. It’s discouraging on a number of levels because it is much needed housing adding much needed density which would allow for more/ better public transit, reduced commutes, etc. Also, from an environmental perspective I’d much rather someone build a 5 story structure with a smaller foot print on the lot keeping green grass and soil to soak up water than building to the edges of the lot and creating a ton of impervious cover. Like most things, though, people who say they are strong on the environment will still fight this type of development. Baffles the mind. The main excuse I’ve heard is people don’t like other people being able to look down into their yard.

Yup, I’m a big fan of the “missing middle” housing (duplex, triplex, quads etc) & especially as owner units that people can afford to buy. I want a range of owners in the neighborhood.

We own a single-family-home a couple blocks from South Lamar, right down down the street from Lamar Union. I’d love to have more missing-middle housing in our little neighborhood, and yes, right next door to us is fine (people have asked me that thinking I’ll demur, but no, I’m fine with missing-middle next door).

I can understand having concerns about plonking a 4+ story building in an all-single-family-home residential neighborhood. But a 2-story duplex or 2-6 townhouse infill cluster, isn’t necessarily more intrusive or more impervious cover than a big McMansion (which becomes the only type of development that prices out, when things gentrify but people oppose any and all density).

It’s different if it’s a designated historical zone with strict rules (I’ve owned in one of those areas, in San Antonio). But 90%+ of most city neighborhoods aren’t like that, and shouldn’t be.

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