Zilker Zoning: Lot Restrictions

Another thing to consider is the vibe/feel of an area as a result of density decisions. Some crazy sh@! happens in West campus. Not saying it would be the exact same as WC, but definitely would have an effect. This should be considered rather than seen as an unintended consequence. Does the hood want this?
I have long been a proponent of a simple door to door survey. On topics of density and ACL. It would be interesting to see it broken down by area in the neighborhood. Why can’t we get this sort of thing funded?

I personally like ACL, but would like to use it to our advantage more. I am all about micro units in appropriate spots. Maybe not having them right next to each other, like SF-3 lots. They have to be 300ft apart.

Vibe/Feel/character are great discussions to have, but they have absolutely nothing to do with code. You can’t enforce “family friendly”, “cool”, “feeling safe”, or “weird” and this being a discussion about code, we should probably focus on enforceable language.

To be clear though, what are we talking about here? Sf-3 lots in established central Austin neighborhoods, or west campus? Those are not the same places and do not have the same zoning. A lack of clarity in that discussion just confuses people, and we definitely would not want that. We should really pick one and focus on it instead of switching back and forth. Regarding your “crazy shit” comment, how much of the “crazy shit” that happens on west campus is related to the median age, socioeconomic privelege, and the rate of joblessness in the area and how much of it is related to density? Given that this thread is “Zilker Zoning” maybe we don’t bring up west campus anymore here as it is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

Also, what exactly is a “micro unit,” can you put specifics to that? Would new code changes allow for them on existing SF-3 lots? If so, would the market want them? As I understand the term, they kind of already exist as ADUs but somehow micro-unit sounds like a different thing than a “400 sq ft cabana in the backyard”. Clarity in language would be great here.

You speak of density, can you put a number on it (people per acre) and compare it to existing density? Can you provide examples of the impact of density on the vibe so we can have an educated discussion about the right amount of density and then maybe work backwards to how to best achieve it. The proposed rules put a number of 3 housing units per 2500 sq ft max; but how would that actually translate to actual people? Current demographics say there are approx 2.5 people per home, so this would be 7.5 people per lot. Is that too many? How many lots do you actually think would be sub dividable practically speaking? How many people would even want to subdivide. Just all of these questions would really need answers before we can even put a number on it, so maybe we should talk about that.

I just feel like if we are going to go door to door to talk to people about this, maybe we should be armed with some basic definitions and real information. Otherwise we are just throwing out big words to sound smart while telling a narrative to suit our goals, something I personally frown on.

I mean, if someone came to my door and said “How do you feel about a bunch of micro-units on your street causing a massive increase in density and totally killing the vibe” that sure sounds upsetting, but what have you actually said? If on the other hand someone said “How would you feel about 50 percent of new home builds in your neighborhood being 2 to 3 1500 sq foot homes instead of one giant mcMansion, and some corner lots being able to have 3 or 4” well, that sounds quite lovely, to me anyways.

Yes, some crazy stuff happens in West Campus. It happened in West Campus when I was in college (albeit not at UT), and it’s been happening in West Campus since well before I was born. College kids like to party. Partying is unrelated to zoning, at least in this context.

Even if focusing solely on whether Zilker had anything close to West Campus-level density, this will always be a false-equivalency argument: West Campus is over 90% UT undergrads, and Zilker’s a combo with lots of seniors who’ve been here for decades, Gen X- or Elder Millennial-aged semi-newcomers who bought a house sometime in this century, and the extremely affluent buyers of all of Zilker’s myriad McMansions (most of whom I assume are techies, and from all over the place).

I’m sure some college kids live in the big apartment complexes on S. Lamar, but they don’t live in Zilker – assuming they’re not still living at home with their parents or something – because the only college-age people who can afford it nowadays are trust-fund kids and ones who landed a crypto payday before the market crashed. (That said, now that a federal judge has overturned Austin’s ban on the infamous Type 2 STRs, you should fully expect some of these huge Zilker manses to be converted into Airbnbs, especially the ones that have either sat on the market forever or were purchased by buyers at the market’s peak who are now in need of capital. Different topic though, one I’ll broach once the city issues its first new Type 2 permits in 7-8 years.)

Like Isaac, I’m curious to hear your definition of micro units, though I’d note that there’s a market-rate building containing microlofts under construction on East 6th, about 1.5 miles from downtown. It’s a six-story building on what qualifies as a “micro” lot (under 5000 sq ft), and as I understand it the lofts are under 500 sq ft in size, though I don’t know the total unit count. Interestingly, they’re apparently being sold as condos, though I have no idea how they’ll fare in the current market, now that mortgage rates have exceeded 7%.

If you were merely referring to ADUs, however, I’d point out an issue I discovered recently that I don’t recall broached here: despite ADUs seemingly being appropriate for any given Austin neighborhood that doesn’t have deed restrictions of some sort, they remained entirely banned in areas with NCCP overlays, including Hyde Park. While not quite as asinine as the city requirement that any house more than 30 years old undergo a “historic review” – never mind that it should be at least 60 years – it’s up there.

The microloft building has zero parking & zero setback from the street, which I’m sure horrifies Dave, but it can fit 20 or more residents in a space smaller than that used by any given single-family home in Austin. (There’s also ample free street parking a few blocks away.) While this particular project probably wouldn’t be a good fit for Zilker, I fail to see any rational objection to a building with microunits that has roughly the same form factor as any given new-build McMansion: what would’ve otherwise been a 4,000 sq ft multimillion-dollar home – likely for four people at most – could instead fit ten households. (Before Dave has a conniption fit, I’ll note that it’s increasingly common for folks of all ages to do without cars entirely and get around via scooters, and there are literal hundreds of them in East Austin at any given time.)


You’re not experienced enough with this stuff to have the voice you think you should.

First off, Zoning leads to the Vibe/Feel/Character of an area. Second, you should educate yourself with the differences in zoning. SF-3,5,6 etc. The city’s guide to zoning may help you although it doesn’t explain it all. Third, I specifically said West camp is not exactly the same. Reread and you can apologize later. The west campus suggestion it’s the closest we have to what is being suggested. Again, educate yourselves and go spend an evening or two to see how it functions density wise.

As far as Micro Units are concerned, Google it. There isn’t an exact definition, it can vary. BTW, ADU’s say it in the name. Accessory Dwelling Unit. As in it’s an Accessory to another unit and in Austin can be upto 1200 sqft. Hardly Micro.

I’m going to say it again, you really need to educate yourself. These aren’t “BIG Terms” or “Words”. They are pretty basic terms and nobody is suggesting conducting a survey using zoning terms trying to confuse or scare people. Basic questions could be asked. Do you like ACL in Zilker park? If so, what do you like or not like? Or maybe. What are your biggest complaints with the neighborhood? Maybe it’s traffic calming. Maybe it’s that the Bluebonnet Market isn’t big enough. Maybe it’s how the voices of the few are trying to speak for me and my neighbors and my neighborhood.

It’s about what neighbors want for the area they live in. It’s Kinda an American thing, or at least it used to be.

This isn’t about your personal agenda or vision. You must be worried it’s not going to go your way.

Im having a lot of fun reading all of this and remain confused but hey- im learning too.

Im going to re-direct and answer one of the questions

I have been going to ACL since… 2004? Yes, 2004 fall was my first one and I think 2005 (Dust bowl) was my most memorable

I have been to every one since and certainly getting older so I know I sound NIMBY, cranky, whatever descriptors

Dont care.

I still dont think Zilker should host ACL and a half million people.

That should move- when its that big of a festival (they have purposely grown it) then it should move out… sometimes a family gets big and it needs to move out of town a bit to handle the expansion.

ID LOVE TO SEE THIS INSTEAD! - a classic ACL with a smaller venue and one stage and one weekend… then in the background on the other weekends- they can host that bad boy out at COTA or some other venue where it does not matter if you destroy root zones, grass, shut down a park for 6 weeks, etc.

ACL is good- I love it. I just dont love how big it got and i think its obvious even if you listen to the artists that come and sweat here… they do it bc they get paid a lot to do it.

Lets keep it going but intuitively and in my gut I just feel that the event is too big for that sensitive space.

Sure- probably unpopular opinion on this list but its still an opinion. I want to keep ACL presence but it could certainly be done with more respect for past, present and future.

Im out-

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

Nobody is talking about SF-6 becuse most of Zilker is SF-3. West campus is not SF-Anything. Its MF, which means Multi-Family and CS which means Commercial. Looking at the GIS it is a bunch of different types with lot by lot variation but mostly MF-4 or higher. There is a tiny amount of SF at the periphery, but that’s hardly the bulk of west campus. You can see that if you never have. It’s not like being drunk on west campus, it turns out it’s actually a bunch of highly specific designations.

It simply is nothing like endlessly contiguously zoned SF-3 (not 6) regions that go for many many acres in zilker as you can see below.

Now, to get to meat of it, and this is math. What is being proposed is 3 units per lot with minimum lot size of 2500 square feet with max height of 35 ft. . This is optimistically 10 lots per acre (since you need roads) with 3 units per lot max, so 30 units per acre. Every lot would still have setbacks.

MF-4 the most restrictive designation on west campus has a maximum height of 60 ft and a maximum of 54 units per acre and no limits on units per structure or units per lot.

It’s just not even in the ballpark.

Finally, as for what directions this goes, I remember our last election. All the candidates that ran on density won, including in D5 and D9 which is what ZIlker is in. These proposals to initiate code changes passed 9-2. I’m pretty sure we all know where this is going.

I personally like ACL. I like the vibe. I like the energy in the air. I go most years. Sometimes I sit outside and just enjoy the sounds. But, I also respect people who have other opinions. So you do you… I will say something in jest to your comments. In classic ACL style if they move the “big fest” to COTA the smaller more intimate Zilker portion will be the VIP festival only available to the highest price ticket holders and serving exclusively French wines and Pinthouse beers :wink:

In a more serious response, I do think moving ACL festival would be the start of the end for the festival. With all of these festivals there is something that makes it unique. And with ACL it’s this - which you don’t get at COTA.

Yeah its cool. Love it too.

I like a lot of things. Something these things can have unattended consequences so I tend to be a conservationist by nature- i feel its my duty.

Its definitely not my duty but something doesnt feel right when I see the impact of ACL post fest running through the park.

It doesnt have to be cota and it doesnt have to be VIP. I guess if its money we worship- then yea- that could be the case but those are not rules…they are just envogue things to say but yeah- i guess on one hand you are right- the festival folks want to maximize returns bc that is successful. To them.

There are other spots that can host a large festival- or we can keep it at the park.
Does it really need to be that big? I dont know the answer.

Im going to try to restate what I was vibing- i like ACL ALOT! Ive been to almost 20 in a row and I have posters from all of them- it just does not feel right when Zilker exists as a place of tranquility, an escape from urban life, a removal and recharge from our concrete walking, traffic stand stillin, neck-craned phonin…it just seems like too small of a space to host a 1000 elephants at once.

It makes us beholden to the festival racketeer vs just living a life.

There were years when skate boarding was lost and the leaders of the sport asked the olympics to move xgames and make skate boarding a legit sport…they said no…10 years passed and the olympics became well… not watched and boring- and the tables flipped and they begged Tony Hawk to get the boarding community involved- who needs who in this situation?

Probably a terrible analogy- and admittedly- I just heard the business pitch behind this story and I do think there are similarities.

By this point- i hope we can all agree we need more parkland. We need more development in east austin around longhorn dam, the east side parks, etc. - better get that going befor the I35 corridor expansion further splits the city in two.

The Springs remains the best asset in town- we should party, have fun and revel but with an interest in allowing the nature behind the allure of Austin to rest and recover.

Best advice I ever got is to stop and consider this- sometimes there is nothing to do, nothing to fix and nothing to change.

Thank you all for reading/listening/deleting! Lol

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan

Hah you remember when X games was held in Zilker park?

Not just more park land but more public spaces - plazas, squares, etc.

I do agree - for the record - bigger is not always better. I also don’t run festivals for a living. I guess the idea of having two weekends with the same acts is meant to simulate a larger festival with two “smaller” weekends.


You’re still not getting it.

Go back and look at the historical zoning of West campus. You will see a lot of SF-2 and SF-3 zoning.

Believe it or not, there were actually families that lived in West Campus. The Zoning has changed. Zoning types have to do with setbacks, density, height restrictions and surrounding zoning and use. As Austin grows and affordability suffers and of course there needs to be updates to zoning. It needs to be done appropriately and I am not saying it is currently being done appropriately. Read that part twice before you start taking sides and get hot and bothered.

When somebody tries to change zoning there is input from the neighbors. If you owned a typical property in Zilker would you want a six story property next to you?

What you aren’t getting is that once upon a time, in 2004 to be specific, west campus was rezoned to allow these things. It involved fundamental changes in zoning and use. That is, to put it succinctly, not what is being proposed for interior Zilker lots in any way shape or form.

Not all increases in density are the same. Specific language dictates what will be allowed.

What is being proposed is a narrow change of LDC as it applies to SF-3 lots and literally nothing else. As such, any mentions of anything else is actually just extraneous. The specific changes are unit count per lot (was 2 but sometimes 3 in a specific configuration, now always 3 in any configuration), minimum lot size (was 5700, proposed 2500), setbacks (TBD), and mcmansion (namely changes in FAR and tent rules), and some placement requirements changing to allow placement flexibility to preserve trees and existing structures. The impact of the changes is is limited by the narrowness of the scope.

Things that are not changing are height, allowed uses, the existence of setbacks per lot, tree ordinance, the existence of space between structures (those derive from fire code actually). Rules for frontage and utilities being required for a lot (many deriving from state law) are not changing, and this will greatly limit subdivision in existing neighborhoods.

What is abundantly clear though is that you don’t understand that code is based on specificity in written language. If I am so wrong, and I don’t get it, please, enlighten me as to what I am missing with specificity about the proposed changes, as written, and the objective (not to be confused with subjective) impacts on what can actually be built.

People will have opinions, sure, and they will matter. Where you and I clash is that I don’t think opinions about things that are not being proposed should impact what is actually being proposed. In other words, how I feel about ice cream has nothing to do with the proposed Land Use Code changes. In this case, all your mentions of west campus, the crazy shit that happens there, 6 story buildings, and micro units are like talking about ice cream when this conversation is about SF-3 LDC changes. Maybe try to talk about what is really happening instead of handwaving and calling people dumb.

Nobody is calling you dumb. Just that you don’t understand completely because you lack the experience. Let me enlighten you. You are completely missing impervious coverage. You are trying to redefine SF-3. Maybe come up with a new name for your idea.

Have you ever built something? I would bet not. Impervious cover is THE single biggest determinant. Ask me how I know.

So with impervious cover restrictions could you put 16 units on that 7500 sqft lot ?

I understand the problem. Let me give you the bit of info you seem to have missed.

This isn’t my idea. It’s Leslie Poole’s idea.

She proposed it to council about a month ago, and it passed 9-2.

We aren’t discussing brain farts, we are discussing an actual council proposal that is actively working itself through the code ammendment process, hence my ability to speak in detail about a specific thing, that I did not create.

Here is the actual proposal as well. (final text that passed 9-2)

Sorry, this is the executed one, not the above

Also, in my experience, FAR combined with tent rules, and the ridiculous definition of FAR that includes parking with living space above it as living area ends up being the killer. Add to that parking requirements which scale up as you add more units. Poole’s proposal specifically addresses FAR and Tent and allows for new mechanisms to meet impervious requirements (probably retentiion ponds). Add to that the removal of parking requirements and all of a sudden impervious may not be the bottleneck. The explicitely coded 3 unit maximum is.

If it were 8 stories tall and no driveway. Of course it depends on the size of each unit.

I want to be clear, I am for density in central Austin.

Kinda a funny thing here is what Issac seems to be somewhat suggesting happened in the past. Before Austin was south of the river. Zilker wasn’t annexed by the COA until the late 60’s. There were lots that would have 4 small free standing cottages on them. They were 400-500 sqft. with a driveway down the middle and units at each corner. They were 30’s-40’s era. The lot they sat on was probably a 10-12k sqft lot and still had a bit of yard space for each unit. The last one I remember was around 311 Leland st. Not saying that is the address but very near there. A historical satellite view should show.

I love these ones, probably not as dense… but the closest I’ve seen in the neighborhood to the cottage concept. These are on Linscomb.

Anything using FAR is a joke. It is what gets weaponized. I have said this before but people who have not been there done that don’t get it. It’s the Impervious Cover that rules all. As long as the structure is within the tent, who cares about FAR. We don’t need sidewall articulation rules. If I want my house to be pink and look like the Borg ship that’s my right. Maybe that’s what appeals to me. The reason they care is because that is what gets manipulated. Architects become more needed because of complexity and more expensive. Do you think CPA’s really want the tax code to be simple? It also allows neighborhoods the ability to scream at the COA saying they screwed up further causing reviewers to reject plans just to say they checked. This log jams the system further screwing with the system.

I used to budget 5k for what I called “pissing in the wind money” expenses lost just to bureaucracy. The last one I did was 45K pissing in the wind. That was 6-7 years ago. I am sure it got much worse.

Here is the best solution I have come up with to drastically improve the system. Please take it to Poole or anyone else that will listen. Someone take it to Watson.

-Tent rule stays the same.
-Impervious coverage stays the same
-Two story structures have a 7ft set back 5ft for single story
-Any overhang over 2 ft counts towards impervious cover.

-No engineering from outside firms required. Architects by their licenses are very capable of calculating live loads, wind loads, spans and dead loads. Architects also carry E&O insurance. Engineering drastically increases time and costs and is a joke. When did anyone last hear of a home collapsing?

Impervious cover will be the limiting factor. I challenge anyone to show otherwise with a site plan.
No matter how hard I tried to limit Impervious cover (I love yard space) it always held things back.

BTW Isaac, It’s detention, not retention. Detension allows water to slowly dissipate, retention holds it like a pond. We don’t want mosquitos.

That’s one of my favorites. Everytime I go by, I admire it.

That should move- when its that big of a festival (they have purposely grown it) then it should move out… sometimes a family gets big and it needs to move out of town a bit to handle the expansion.

I’m guessing you’re missing the point that one of the main reasons ACL is in Zilker is because it’s within a 30-minute walk of tens of thousands of hotel rooms and Airbnbs. Moving it literally anywhere else eliminates that core aspect. (Also, why would there not be damage to the underlying soil wherever it’s held?)

As for a “VIP-only” “small tent experience” instead: that’s great if you’re a one-percenter who can afford $4,000 tickets – and if you think that seems high, I’d suggest pricing out some recent single artist shows, e.g. Taylor Swift or Beyoncé – but, by definition, would exclude nearly everybody except for Zilker’s not particularly wanted new multimillionaire class.

Finally, I’ve said it before, but one part that routinely gets lost in ZNA-like echo chambers is the fact that ACL is strongly supported by Austinites as a whole, and – more specifically – strongly supported at Zilker. The ZNA, BCNA & various NIMBY coalitions are effectively the only people who strongly oppose it, except for maybe the owners of COTA greedy for more income.

it just does not feel right when Zilker exists as a place of tranquility, an escape from urban life, a removal and recharge from our concrete walking, traffic stand stillin, neck-craned phonin…it just seems like too small of a space to host a 1000 elephants at once.

For six whole days a year? Seriously? (Yes, I know there’s prep time before & after, but it lacks the noise factor.)

sometimes there is nothing to do, nothing to fix and nothing to change.

True, but this also describes local NIMBY attempts to halt growth for 30+ years now. It is massively clear by now that this was a monumental mistake – and no, I don’t just mean the LDC. We should’ve had light rail 20 years ago. We should’ve overhauled our at-large Council decades earlier. We should’ve taken a far closer look at who is actually being displaced by development and growth – primarily families of color who ended up homeless after not being able to afford rent increases, not already affluent white people “forced” to sell Central Austin houses for millions – and taken steps to mitigate it. And we definitely should’ve devised some actual workable solutions for our tragically large unhoused population.

Believe it or not, there were actually families that lived in West Campus.

Brent & Isaac: I truly don’t get what y’all are arguing about, particularly since you’re both saying the same thing. Yes, families lived in West Campus, as Brent stated. Yes, the entirety of West Campus zoning was revamped to CBD levels in 2004, as Isaac stated. I’ll stay out of it after this post, but Brent, you’re definitely coming off as the condescending one here. That said…

Before Austin was south of the river. Zilker wasn’t annexed by the COA until the late 60’s. There were lots that would have 4 small free standing cottages on them. They were 400-500 sqft. with a driveway down the middle and units at each corner. They were 30’s-40’s era.

This is correct. Bouldin had them as well: my old block there (Johanna & W. 3rd) had, and still has, five small houses (all 2BR cottages under 600 sq ft) on either a double or triple lot. (Except now they’re selling for $700K & up.)

Edit: Okay, I actually didn’t know Zilker wasn’t annexed until the late '60s. That’s kinda weird, actually, considering the Lamar bridge over the lake’s been there for 90 years now.

Yeah i hear ya. My comment was more about my own conscious and preservation of nature and land preserves that are already lacking in Austin as a whole.

I understand the economics. Does not mean there cant be an all or nothing approach.

Tickets are $4000 bc of secondary markets- isnt that always the case when it comes to scarcity? God forbid you actually have to make a decision in life and buy something out of priority vs. feeling like you deserve to DO IT ALL during your 90+ years on earth.

I dont buy it. You make strong arguments and for the most part- they have some merit but im not sure all “Austinites”. (What qualifies for this btw?) agree that ACL is the greatest thing ever. There is so much music here day in and day out… I guess if you really love hot festivals, overpriced beer and standing room only stadium events- then sure… absolutely correct.

I know im not on an island on this one but certainly up against a “landmark” event- its too big in my opinion and as I stated earlier- its an opinion.

Dr. Nicholas Vaughan