Commentary: CodeNEXT Puts the People's Plan into Action

Over the next 25 years, our region is expected to double in population. For those of us who have witnessed Austin’s growth over the previous two decades, that statistic gives us pause. It also raises a fundamental question at the heart of nearly every debate at City Hall: How do we balance the need to expand economic opportunity with our duty to preserve what is unique and wonderful about Austin?

NEXTCITY: Are entrepreneurs a better government investment than corporations?

NEXTCITY: Are entrepreneurs a better government investment than corporations?

According to a report by Michael Mazerov and Michael Leachman with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, cities should consider investing in local entrepreneurs rather than focus solely on tax breaks and subsidies for large out-of-state corporations. Rather, the report suggests that most jobs are created by in-state businesses, including startups and entrepreneurs. In the end, the authors recommend economic development policies that support these kinds of businesses.

Texas Observer : Some state legislators want to keep affordable housing out of their districts

Texas Observer : Some state legislators want to keep affordable housing out of their districts

Diverse options for affordable housing are a key tenet of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. As the Texas Observer points out, NIMBYism can show it's face in so many ways, going so far as the desire by some State Legislatures to keep affordable housing options out of the backyards of more affluent neighbors. We've been through this before, and it never was and is not any kind of pathway forward towards the Austin and the Texas we all want to live in.

Evolve Austin opposes proposed city staff changes to "small lot amnesty"

This Thursday, City Council will consider an amendment to City Code that would curtail the use of Small Lot Amnesty to provide more affordable housing options in the urban core where such options are badly needed.  

If we're going to realize on the Imagine Austin vision of a compact and connected city that is accessible and affordable to a broad range of people and income levels we'll need to get more housing on less land.  Small Lot Amnesty is an infill tool that can be opted into by neighborhood plans that permit homes to be built on lots smaller than the Austin minimum lot size, if they were originally legal platted lots.  For a full description, please see our article here.  

In January, we wrote to Council with the letter posted below explaining our reasons for opposing this change.  

Ultimately, we'll need to address lot size as part of CodeNEXT.  In the meantime, this change strikes us as moving in the wrong direction, away from our comprehensive plan.  We encourage Council to send a strong signal to staff that they do not support items that move us away from the goals of Imagine Austin and keep Small Lot Amnesty, as currently drafted, as an option for neighborhood plans.

Texas refuses to follow fair housing rules

Texas refuses to follow fair housing rules

The Supreme Court has recently affirmed that communities cannot relegate affordable housing into the poorest neighborhoods. Everyone should have access to housing in areas with good schools, transportation, and jobs. Even though the case that lead to the Supreme Court's decision originated in Texas, our State Legislators are able to veto affordable housing projects in their districts. Unfortunately this affected our community just last year with Rep. Tony Dale wielding his veto at the behest of a single Austin Council Member. If we're going to follow through on the Imagine Austin plan, our community can't be in the business of exclusion. 

CityLab: How music festivals shape cities

CityLab: How music festivals shape cities

Austin certainly has been shaped by its world famous music festivals - in both good and bad ways. From the public use of parks to the number of people visiting - then moving to Austin - music festivals like Austin City Limits and South by SouthWest are at the hear of change in Austin. CityLab interviews sociologist Jonathan R. Wynn about his new book, Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport to find out how festivals are shaping some of America's most dynamic cities including Austin.

Streetsblog USA: Houston Mayor for "Paradigm Shift" away from highway widening

Streetsblog USA:  Houston Mayor for "Paradigm Shift" away from highway widening

Are more lanes of traffic and wider freeways the answer to our mobility challenges?  A Texas Mayor answers "no" and it's not from where  you'd expect.  Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took that message to the Transportation Commission in Austin this week calling for a "paradigm shift" away from serving single occupied vehicles that make up 97% of all trips stating that  experience shows that "focusing on serving the 97% will exacerbate and prolong the congestion problems that urban areas experience."  We hope you will take a few minutes to read and share this remarkable speech from Houston's Mayor and consider whether we might learn something from the experience that they've had with freeway building.

Denver Post: Apartment vacancy rates in metro Denver surgery, rents pit a tiny bit

Denver Post:  Apartment vacancy rates in metro Denver surgery, rents pit a tiny bit

Whether hot markets like Austin effectively combat raising housing prices by adding supply is a contested question in many of the discussions around our land development code.  Denver, another market much like Austin in high demand, has seen rents level off and dip in recent months.  Analysis shows that added supply increased vacancy rates that lead to the dip in rents. With vacancy rates dropping even further there is possibly even more relief underway.   

Austin Monitor: Council moves to protect tenants from displacement

Austin Monitor: Council moves to protect tenants from displacement

Following the recent controversy surrounding a Riverside Drive apartment complex demolition permit that displaced around 100 low-income families, City Council has taken a step toward establishing new rules to assist tenants in similar situations in the future. Council approved a resolution Thursday directing city staff to draft an ordinance that would establish “tenant relocation assistance requirements” for developers that intend to demolish multifamily properties that would result in the displacement of current tenants.

Community Impact: Parkland dedication changes embraced but not finalized

Community Impact: Parkland dedication changes embraced but not finalized

fforts to require developers to contribute more toward new parkland passed only on first reading during an early-morning conversation among Austin City Council members. Both sides of the debate agreed to increased parkland dedication fees and increased fees in lieu, which go toward developing new park space. However, some City Council members expressed concerns about a new formula that nearly doubles the amount of required parkland developers must dedicate.

CodeNEXT Sound Check Q&A with Evolve

CodeNEXT Sound Check Q&A with Evolve

All roads to the Best Austin Imaginable go through CodeNEXT, the multi-year redraft of our land development code. This week’s CodeNEXT Sound Check gives us our first look at how the new code will shape the Austin of tomorrow. At the Sound Check the CodeNEXT team will collaborate and “check their work” against Imagine Austin and all of our feedback - your participation is critical.

Have questions about CodeNEXT and the Sound Check?  Come join Evolve Austin Partners this Wednesday 11/18 at 4pm as we host a Q&A with CodeNEXT team. This is a great opportunity to talk directly with city staff in an open Q&A.

After the Q&A stick around for the Eco Day Block Party 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. and Pin-up/Open Studio from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.  featuring entertainment from Kupira Marima and Food Trucks on hand from Urban Cowboys, Southern Fusion and Heros Gyros.

Members of the Evolve Austin Board will also be on hand during the during the Q&A and Block Party. Come by and say hi, we’d love to talk to you about what we’re doing and what else you can do to help.