Land Development Code
Update on Dec. 7th from City Council's First Reading and Vote
City Council voted on Dec. 7th during first reading of the proposed Land Development Code 7 to 4 to deny the amendment put forth by Council Member Tovo to limit the FAR (floor to area ratio (aka building height)) to 15:1 (which is the current FAR within the Rainey District).
The Council Members voting FOR the amendment were: Tovo, Kitchens, Pool and Alter. Much to the disappointment of the neighborhood, it was voted down.
We will continue to request that FAR be limited again during 2nd and 3rd readings and/or an amendment be put forward to use some of the development monies collected within the Rainey District for infrastructure and mobility.
MESSAGE FROM KATHIE TOVO
I hope this finds you well. I wanted to send you an update on the Land Development Code before the Thanksgiving holiday is in full swing. Please mark your calendars for some important dates:
December 7, 10 a.m.: Special Called Council Meeting on the Land Development Code – Public Hearing
December 9, 10 a.m.: Special Called Council Meeting on the Land Development Code – 1st Council Vote
Like most of you, I support diversifying our housing and creating affordable housing in all parts of the city. I also want to be sure that the Land Development Code achieves these goals while protecting the aspects of our city that make Austin a thriving and vibrant community.
I’m hearing some consistent messages from Austinites within and outside of District 9, and most who have weighed in via email or community meetings have expressed concerns about how some of the contemplated changes could impact their neighborhoods.
As you may be aware, the draft code and maps were released on October 4 in response to Council’s May 2019 policy direction. While I offered many amendments on the policy document, only a few were successful, and ultimately, I could not support the final policy direction.
A primary concern many of you have communicated relates to the depth, levels, and scale of the proposed residential up-zonings in the “transition areas.” These proposed re-zonings would allow for substantial increases in entitlements, higher impervious cover, reduced parking requirements, and either no or very limited affordable housing contributions. Throughout District 9, many parcels have been proposed for rezoning from Single Family 3 (allowing 2 units) to RM1 (allowing 6-10 units) or R4 (allowing 4-8 units). Developers could also combine up to two transition area lots.
Although the Council direction specified that transition areas should be mapped 2-5 lots from a corridor, many mapped transition areas throughout District 9 exceed this amount — some extending to 12, 14, even 16 lots from a corridor or transit priority network. Particular concerns have been raised about residential streets such as Duval Street and Enfield Road that lack the characteristics of our major corridors but are triggering extensive transition areas.
And it’s troubling that while parcels within proposed transition areas would receive substantial increases in entitlements, many of those entitlements do not require an affordable housing contribution.
Many of you have pointed out that redevelopment in areas with local area flooding could pose risks for those neighborhoods. I have encouraged staff to limit development in flood-prone areas and will continue to do so.
Another significant area of concern is the so-called “preservation incentive” which would allow an additional unit on any residential property: under the proposal, lots currently zoned as Single Family 3 or Single Family 2 could have a maximum of 3 units for minimally retaining an existing home, and the “transition areas” could also have an additional unit, bringing the totals to 11 and 9 for RM1 and R4, respectively.
Many of you have pointed out that the proposed preservation incentive is not sufficient. Staff have indicated that they are revising this incentive. I will continue to work toward a preservation incentive that requires preserving a significant portion of the principal structure; the intent of this provision should be to reduce demolitions in our neighborhoods and to preserve our existing housing stock, which will almost certainly be cheaper to rent or own than new construction.
More generally, I have heard from you that the wide-scale proposed “transition area” up-zonings in District 9 and some other areas don’t align with our Imagine Austin goals for future growth. Please know that I will continue to advocate for revisions to the draft map that redistribute increased density back toward Imagine Austin corridors and activity centers throughout the city.
At this stage, the Land Development Code appears to incentivize potentially widespread redevelopment of already-existing missing middle housing, and I believe it could pose a legitimate risk of displacing those who are renting market-affordable units in those neighborhoods.
Please know that I share your concerns and will continue to advocate for a more reasonable approach that recognizes solid planning principles, identifies appropriate places for increased residential density, and stays true to the goals of Imagine Austin.
Again, the City Council will hold a public hearing on Saturday, December 7, beginning at 10 a.m. and has scheduled its first vote at a Special Called meeting beginning at 10 a.m. on December 9. You can find out how to register for public comment here.
I encourage you, your friends, and your neighbors to be present and to participate in this important decision affecting our community.
I also encourage you to read the Council questions and staff responses posted here.
Many thanks for reaching out to my office and remaining engaged in this process.
Wishing you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving,
Council Member Kathie Tovo
With regard to the Rainey District the LDC Draft will allow UNLIMITED FAR (Floor to Area Ratio = height) in the area. Currently, the FAR limit in Rainey is 8:1. If, however, a developer wants to build up to 15:1 they can do so by paying Density Bonus monies. In the new Draft version, developers are allowed to build as high as they want.
Join us at Austin City Hall, sign up to speak, and tell the City Council to give everyday Austinites a greater voice in the rewrite of our Land Development Code. Parking will be limited. December 7 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Here are some resources for you:
Austin City and Land Development Code Link HERE
Email to Kathi Tovo Dist. 9 Rep HERE
Transition Zone Map HERE
Register for one-on-one time with City Staff HERE
Planning Commission website HERE.
CSection 211.006(d) of the Texas Local Government Code gives you the right to protest zoning changes affecting your property and properties located nearby. Community Not Commodity launched FileYourProtest.com to give Austin residents a fast, easy way to take advantage of that law and protest City Hall’s rezoning plan. Click HERE to file a protest.
On Oct. 26 Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for Austin's citizens to voice comments on the new code draft. Members of the commission will propose/debate amendments on Nov. 5-6 and the commission is scheduled to take an up or down vote on the code Nov. 12.
NOTE: We are verifying the dates listed above for accuracy