Heritage NA shares position on CodeNEXT’s second draft

The following document was reviewed & supported unanimously at the Heritage General Meeting held Monday, October 9, 2017.

Heritage Exemplifies the Vision of Imagine Austin

The Heritage Neighborhood, located in central Austin and bordered by 29th Street, 38th Street, Guadalupe Street, and North Lamar Boulevard is a diverse, walkable, urban neighborhood.

Heritage includes and is within walking distance of a variety of local businesses including restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and medical offices. The interior of the neighborhood is comprised of a fabric of homes mostly built by the mid 1930s, some from the 1800s.  Many of these homes have been carefully maintained over the decades and/or recently renovated with additions, new foundations, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, energy efficient windows and other upgrades.

The existing housing stock in Heritage includes many so-called “missing middle” residences, including duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units, row houses, small apartment buildings, and condominiums that together make up about 70% of the residential units in the neighborhood.

Overall, renters occupy 85% of the residential units in Heritage.

Imagine Austin and the Neighborhood Plan.

CodeNEXT Draft 2 fails to follow the existing Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, which calls for retaining single-family uses and intensifying pedestrian-friendly development along the corridors. The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan specifies that changes to neighborhood plans will require input from stakeholders and follow the plan amendments process.

Given the extent of the changes in the second CodeNEXT draft, the lack of a red-lined document, and the incompatibility of much of the proposed zoning with the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, six weeks is an insufficient period for a complete evaluation.

The Heritage Neighborhood Association requests that the Draft 2 public input period be extended to allow CodeNEXT to be reconciled with the existing Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan.

Zoning Recommendations to Reconcile CodeNEXT with the Neighborhood Plan

 

  • Floor Area Ratios: FAR limits are essential to preventing the extensive demolition of residences in Heritage. The FAR limits added to Draft 2 of CodeNEXT are an improvement from Draft 1 and should be retained.
  • Occupancy Limits: Clarified occupancy limits of four unrelated adults in a single family dwelling, and an additional two unrelated adults in an Accessory Dwelling Unit, should be retained.
  • Residential Zoning: We believe that increasing the number of residential units allowed on current SF-3 properties from 2 to 3 (R3C allows Duplex and ADU) and decreasing the minimum lot size will encourage redevelopment and the removal of residents. This is exacerbated by the allowed increase to 0.57 FAR for Duplexes on large lots, currently prohibited in the SF-3 zone by LDC Subchapter F. We object to this change without stakeholder consideration and input as part of a Neighborhood Plan amendment process. Residential zoned parcels in Heritage and similar neighborhoods currently zoned SF-3, should be zoned R2C.
  • Infrastructure Capacity:  We are concerned that Heritage and many other areas of the city have insufficient infrastructural capacity (water, wastewater, gas, storm water drainage, and roads and gas) )for the proposed density increases. Zoning changes should not occur without an evaluation of these resources.
  • Site Development Standards: The Heritage Neighborhood objects to the elimination of Subchapter E standards to create pedestrian-friendly environments in CodeNEXT. We recommend that the current Subchapter E sidewalk requirements be maintained and be spelled out.
  • 34th and 29th Streets: Heritage Neighborhood includes both Main Street and Mixed Use (MU1A, MU1B, MU1C, and MU1D) zones on 34th Street.  As the front setbacks of these two types of zones are radically different, we recommend that all Main Street zones be changed to Mixed Use zones on 34th Street, which is more appropriate to the interior of the neighborhood. Similarly on 29th Street, between Salado and Rio Grande, the zone should be Mixed Use zoning instead of Main Street .
  • Min. Lot Sizes in Residential Zones: Footnote 1 should be revised to reference a concrete date that precedes code adoption. The current language “at the time of adoption of this Land Development Code” provides a loophole that could be exploited to modify parcels during the code adoption process.

 

Incompatible Uses & Recommended Changes

 

  • Drive Through Uses: Some Main Street and Mixed Use zones proposed for Heritage allow (without a conditional use permit) drive-through restaurants. In order to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, drive-through uses were prohibited in our 2004 Neighborhood Plan except where “grandfathered”. As recently as January 2017, the HNA successfully opposed the construction of a new drive-through. The Heritage Neighborhood continues to oppose any new drive-through uses in the neighborhood and recommends that these uses be prohibited in all MS and MU zones.
  • Telecommunications uses are according to 23-4D-2030, permitted without use permits in all residential zones (except LA), but restricted by 23-4E-6370 in “Residential House Scale Zones.” The Heritage Neighborhood recommends that telecommunications uses be Not Allowed in Residential House Scale Zones and that those uses require a conditional use permit in mixed-use, multi-family residential, and main street zones.
  • Poorly Defined Uses: CodeNEXT allows for uses within Heritage Neighborhood that are either not defined, or defined too broadly.  All of the following uses, which are permitted without use permit, should be clearly defined:

 

      • Accessory Uses (category is far too broad)
      • Food Sales (unclear what is meant by “on and off site”)
      • Retail in residential zones (clarify and limit)
      • Medical Services (should limit sizes and prohibit surgery centers)
      • Outdoor Formal and Outdoor Informal (not defined in the code)

Address the Unintended Consequences of Increased Density

 

  • Parking: The Heritage Neighborhood currently suffers from over-parking on many residential streets making it difficult and dangerous for emergency responders, school buses, utility trucks, cars and pedestrians to navigate. We recommend that reductions in required parking should be moderated and sensitive to development pressures as follows:

 

      1. On-site Duplex parking should be reduced to 1.5 spaces per unit, not 1 (which is a 50% reduction) for a total of 3 spaces per Duplex.
      2. Elimination of required parking for Accessory Dwelling Units should be allowed only as a preservation bonus (see below).

 

  • Affordability Housing Bonus Program: CodeNEXT includes an Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP).  While we support the desire to provide affordable housing in Austin, we object to the bonus applying in R4 zones. As a result of the “spot-zoning” of multi-family parcels in Heritage, the bonus allows a floor to area ratio (FAR) of 0.8 despite being adjacent to R3C zones with FAR that is half as large. This can result in incompatible buildings in the house scale zones. In addition, we object to the Additional Affordable Housing Incentives in Section 23-3E-5010 that allow for reduced parking requirements and impervious cover up to 65% in R3C zones. The Housing Bonus Program affordable housing would be better placed utilized on the activity corridors. The Heritage Neighborhood recommends that the AHBP should apply in the MS2B zones on Guadalupe, Lamar and 38th Street.
  • Preservation: Preservation incentives added to Draft 2, such as restricting heights of ADUs for new developments, are a positive step and one tool to avoid extensive demolitions in Heritage. We recommend that these incentives be expanded and strengthened as follows:

 

    1. Require (1) parking space for new ADUs unless existing home is preserved.
    2. Relax development limits more than 80’ from the front property line only if existing home is preserved.
    3. Provide clear requirements for the preservation bonus including the minimum age of the existing house, how much must be preserved, and for how long.

Additional Special Consideration in Heritage

 

  • The Old Firehouse at 3002 Guadalupe has historic zoning and is owned by the City of Austin. We recommend that the property be zoned P-H so that the property can be used as a community center in the future.

 

Despite the limited time frame which made a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed code impossible, we hope trust that staff will find these recommendations useful and consider our request to extend the timeline for further study.

Sincerely,
Gretchen Flatau                                                                                  Date:October 9, 2017

President, Heritage Neighborhood Association

 

Heritage CodeNEXT Draft 2 Statement

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National Night Out Fun!

Heritage neighbors sampled Steel City Popsicles at the National Night Out event.

National Night Out provided lots of opportunities to visit with our neighbors, including Pioneer Bank.

Heritage Neighborhood Association and Pioneer Bank’s National Night Out event on Oct. 3 had a great turnout with a steady flow of folks, including Mayor Pro Tem/District 9 Councilwoman Kathie Tovo.

A number of people met for the first time, stayed and and chatted. The whole event would have been even better yet if the weather had cooperated, but having a covered place to meet along with Steel City Popsicles, candy and games for children sweetened the evening.

The patio was really comfortable and it was really great to see new folks out. Many thanks to Pioneer, Dana Anthony, Chris Beer, Betsy Greenberg and Wade Odell.

—Gretchen Flatau, Heritage NA President

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Heritage to vote on CodeNEXT position to share with city officials and general public

 Join your neighbors for a short membership meeting addressing how the latest version of CodeNEXT affects our neighborhood. Below is a draft neighborhood statement that reflects a careful, thorough review of the CodeNEXT draft released last month. The statement will be considered for approval at the meeting:

Heritage Neighborhood Association

 7 -8 pm, Monday, October 9

Pioneer Bank Community Room, 623 N. 38th Street

If approved, the statement will be shared with City Council, commissioners, other neighborhoods, staff and the general public. 

 

Draft Statement:

CodeNEXT Draft 2 and the Heritage Neighborhood

Heritage Exemplifies the Vision of Imagine Austin

The Heritage Neighborhood, located in central Austin and bordered by 29th Street, 38th Street, Guadalupe Street, and North Lamar Boulevard is a diverse, walkable, urban neighborhood.

Heritage includes and is within walking distance to a variety of local businesses including restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and medical offices. The interior of the neighborhood is comprised of a fabric of homes mostly built by the mid 1930s, some from the 1800s.  Many of these homes have been carefully maintained over the decades and/or recently renovated with additions, new foundations, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, energy efficient windows and other upgrades.

The existing housing stock in Heritage includes many so-called “missing middle” residences, including duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units, row houses, small apartment buildings, and condominiums that together make up about 70% of the residential units in the neighborhood. Overall, renters occupy 85% of the residential units in Heritage.

Imagine Austin and the Neighborhood Plan.

CodeNEXT Draft 2 fails to follow the existing Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, which calls for retaining single-family uses and intensifying pedestrian-friendly development along the corridors. The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan specifies that changes to neighborhood plans will require input from stakeholders and follow the plan amendments process.

Given the extent of the changes in the second CodeNEXT draft, the lack of a red-lined document, and the incompatibility of much of the proposed zoning with the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, six weeks is an insufficient period for a complete evaluation.

The Heritage Neighborhood Association requests that the Draft 2 public input period be extended to allow CodeNEXT to be reconciled with the existing Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan.

Zoning Recommendations to Reconcile CodeNEXT with the Neighborhood Plan.

 

  • Floor Area Ratios: FAR limits are essential to preventing the extensive demolition of residences in Heritage. The FAR limits added to Draft 2 of CodeNEXT are an improvement from Draft 1 and should be retained.
  • Occupancy Limits: Clarified occupancy limits of four unrelated adults in a single family dwelling, and an additional two unrelated adults in an Accessory Dwelling Unit, should be retained.
  • Residential Zoning: We believe that increasing the number of residential units allowed on current SF-3 properties from 2 to 3 (R3C allows Duplex and ADU) and decreasing the minimum lot size will encourage redevelopment and the removal of residents. This is exacerbated by the allowed increase to 0.57 FAR for Duplexes on large lots, currently prohibited in the SF-3 zone by LDC Subchapter F. We object to this change without stakeholder consideration and input as part of a Neighborhood Plan amendment process. Residential zoned parcels in Heritage and similar neighborhoods currently zoned SF-3, should be zoned R2C.
  • Infrastructure Capacity:  We are concerned that Heritage and many other areas of the city have insufficient infrastructural capacity (water, wastewater, and gas) for the proposed density increases. Zoning changes should not occur without an evaluation of these resources.
  • Site Development Standards: The Heritage Neighborhood objects to the elimination of Subchapter E standards to create pedestrian-friendly environments in CodeNEXT. We recommend that the current Subchapter E sidewalk requirements be maintained and be spelled out.
  • 34th Street: Heritage Neighborhood includes both Main Street and Mixed Use (MU1A, MU1B, MU1C, and MU1D) zones on 34th Street.  As the front setbacks of these two types of zones are radically different, we recommend that all Main Street zones be changed to Mixed Use zones on 34th Street, which is more appropriate to the interior of the neighborhood.
  • Min. Lot Sizes in Residential Zones: Footnote 1 should be revised to reference a concrete date that precedes code adoption. The current language “at the time of adoption of this Land Development Code” provides a loophole that could be exploited to modify parcels during the code adoption process.

 

Incompatible Uses & Recommended Changes.

 

  • Drive Through Uses: Some Main Street and Mixed Use zones proposed for Heritage allow (without a conditional use permit) drive-through restaurants. In order to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, drive-through uses were prohibited in our 2004 Neighborhood Plan except where “grandfathered”. As recently as January 2017, the HNA successfully opposed the construction of a new drive-through. The Heritage Neighborhood continues to oppose any new drive-through uses in the neighborhood and recommends that these uses be prohibited in MS and MU zones.
  • Telecommunications uses are according to 23-4D-2030, permitted without use permits in all residential zones (except LA), but restricted by 23-4E-6370 in “Residential House Scale Zones.” The Heritage Neighborhood recommends that telecommunications uses be Not Allowed in Residential House Scale Zones and that those uses require a conditional use permit in mixed-use, multi-unit-family residential, and main street zones.
  • Poorly Defined Uses: CodeNEXT allows for uses within Heritage Neighborhood that are either not defined, or defined too broadly.  
  • All of the following uses, which are permitted without use permit, should be clearly defined:

 

      • Accessory Uses (category is far too broad)
      • Food Sales (unclear what is meant by “on and off site”)
      • Retail in residential zones (clarify and limit)
      • Medical Services (should limit sizes and prohibit surgery centers)
      • Outdoor Formal and Outdoor Informal (not defined in the code)

Address the Unintended Consequences of Increased Density.

 

  • Parking: The Heritage Neighborhood currently suffers from over-parking on many residential streets making it difficult and dangerous for emergency responders, school buses, utility trucks, cars and pedestrians to navigate. We recommend that reductions in required parking should be moderated and sensitive to development pressures as follows:

 

      1. On-site Duplex parking should be reduced to 1.5 spaces per unit, not 1 (which is a 50% reduction) for a total of 3 spaces per Duplex.
      2. Elimination of required parking for Accessory Dwelling Units should be allowed only as a preservation bonus (see below).

 

  • Affordability Housing Bonus Program: CodeNEXT includes an Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP).  While we support the desire to provide affordable housing in Austin, we object to the bonus applying in R4 zones. As a result of the “spot-zoning” of multi-family parcels in Heritage, the bonus allows a floor to area ratio (FAR) of 0.8 despite being adjacent to R3C zones with FAR that is half as large. This can result in incompatible buildings in the house scale zones. In addition, we object to the Additional Affordable Housing Incentives in Section 23-3E-5010 that allow for reduced parking requirements and impervious cover up to 65% in R3C zones. The affordable housing would be better placed on the activity corridors. The Heritage Neighborhood recommends that the AHBP should apply in the MS2B zones on Guadalupe, Lamar and 38th Street.
  • Preservation: Preservation incentives added to Draft 2, such as restricting heights of ADUs for new developments, are a positive step and one tool to avoid extensive demolitions in Heritage. We recommend that these incentives be expanded and strengthened as follows:

 

    1. Require (1) parking space for new ADUs unless existing home is preserved.
    2. Relax development limits more than 80’ from the front property line if existing home is preserved.
    3. Provide clear requirements for the preservation bonus including the minimum age of the existing house, how much must be preserved, and for how long.

Additional Special Consideration in Heritage.

 

  • The Old Firehouse at 3002 Guadalupe has historic zoning and is owned by the City of Austin. We recommend that the property be zoned P-H so that the property can be used as a community center in the future.

 

Despite the limited time frame which made a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed code impossible, we hope that staff will find these recommendations useful and consider our request to extend the timeline for further study.

 

Sincerely,

 

Gretchen Flatau                                                                                  Date:

President, Heritage Neighborhood Association

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Free trees!

treefolks email 2

Dear Neighbor:

It’s tree planting season!
TreeFolks, a local non-profit organization, is offering free trees to our community through its NeighborWoods programPlanting trees decreases energy bills, provides cooling shade during our hot summers, and makes our neighborhood more beautiful. Participation in the program is completely free. The only ‘catch’ is that you have to plant and care for the trees.

To get a free tree for your house, come to one of TreeFolks’ upcoming free tree giveaway events.  Trees are available at the events on a first come, first served basis, one per person.  If you can’t make it to one of the events, you can join the waiting list to request to have trees delivered right to your door (also free).  All Austin Energy customers are eligible and residents within Austin Full Purpose Jurisdiction (click “I want to… find my jurisdiction”).

WHO:  TreeFolks, Austin Energy Customers, & Austin Residents
WHAT:  Free Tree Giveaway of 1,000 Fruit, Shade and Ornamental Trees
WHEN:  Saturday, October 28th, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:  SFC’s Sunset Valley Farmers Market
SHARE: Visit our Facebook Page

To learn more about TreeFolks and the NeighborWoods program, please visit www.treefolks.org/nw  For further questions, contact shade@treefolks.org or call 512-443-5323.

About TreeFolks
TreeFolks empowers central Texans to build stronger communities through planting and caring for trees. Since 1989, TreeFolks has planted over 2 million trees in central Texas.  The NeighborWoods program is a partnership betwen TreeFolks and the City of Austin and Circuit of the Americas.

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Join the party for National Night Out!

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Join Heritage meetings: 9/21 and/or 9/25

The Heritage Neighborhood Association Steering Committee will meet at 6pm on Thursday, Sept. 21st at Salvation Pizza. The Steering Committee will be preparing for a Heritage Community Meeting on Monday, Sept. 25th at 7pm at Pioneer Bank Community Room (mark your calendars!). Discussion at both meetings will center around CodeNEXT 2.0.

Also note that Tuesday, October 3rd is a chance to join your Heritage neighbors for National Night Out. All Heritage residents (kids too!) are invited to the plaza at Pioneer Bank from 7-9pm.

Gretchen Flatau

President

Heritage Neighborhood Association

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Heritage in Community Impact article on Neighborhood Plans and CodeNEXT

Find a hard copy of Community Impact Newspaper’s Aug. 29 –
Sept. 27, 2017 edition for additional graphics and quotes from Heritage residents.

https://communityimpact.com/austin/city-county/2017/08/29/double-vision-austin-struggles-square-codenext-older-neighborhood-plans/

By Christopher Neely| Posted Aug. 29, 2017 at 7:40 am
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Sean Kelly sits outside Elizabeth Street Café in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, not far away from the single-family home he purchased for $150,000 in 1997.

He, like many of his neighbors, said he is concerned that the zoning maps proposed by CodeNEXT—the rewrite of the city’s land development code—ignore the vision of Bouldin Creek the city adopted into policy in 2002 after the residents of the community just south of Lady Bird Lake spent many volunteer hours crafting their neighborhood plan.

Kelly, a member of the neighborhood’s contact team—the group in each neighborhood’s unique planning process that acts as a middleman between the city’s planning and zoning staff and neighborhood residents—said CodeNEXT’s disregard of the neighborhood plan will cause sweeping changes to Bouldin Creek.

“[CodeNEXT] arbitrarily and capriciously changes what was previously in statute without any real voting input by the neighborhoods it would affect,” Kelly said. “It changes significantly the land use that pre-existed and what everyone understood was what we were doing in the neighborhoods.”

Imagine Austin—the city’s 30-year comprehensive plan adopted in 2012—and CodeNEXT’s zoning proposals are too loyal to neighborhood plans, said Frank Harren, an urbanist and representative for the Tarrytown Neighborhood Association.

Citing an internal city audit released last year that asserted the plans were outdated and reference neither the city’s current nor former comprehensive master plans, Harren said there is an inherent conflict in respecting existing neighborhood plans in the CodeNEXT process.

“It’s more than complexity,” Harren said. “[Existing neighborhood plans and Imagine Austin] are in actual
contradiction.”

The outdated plans and their effort to lock in single-family zoning in the urban core where market pressure is most intense, Harren said, exacerbate Austin’s affordability crisis and are largely to blame for what he sees as the city’s inability to move forward.

Although Imagine Austin states that achieving its goals will “require a revision of the land development code,” any rewrite of the code must “recognize, respect and reflect” the vision of neighborhood plans.

However, city staff members have said that early mistakes, a lack of city resources and the city’s rapid growth have created deep-seated issues in the neighborhood planning process that city officials say are difficult, and too intensive, to immediately amend.

A balancing act
Jerry Rusthoven, the assistant director of planning and zoning who is among the city planners working to implement CodeNEXT, said these issues have not made the CodeNEXT process any easier.

“Some people feel I’m not following the neighborhood plans closely enough, and others think [the plans] should be tossed in the garbage and ignored,” Rusthoven said. “I have to live with both [kinds of] people and also follow the adopted policy of council.”

In the case of Bouldin Creek, the neighborhood plan’s future land-use map—which zones the neighborhood for future land use and is approved as guiding policy by City Council—planned the interior of the neighborhood with single-family unit lots, which means a maximum of two units per lot. CodeNEXT proposes T3 and T4 zones for the same area, which provide the opportunity to build three and four units per lot, respectively.

Kelly, who is retired and lives on a fixed income, said today the land underneath his home is worth $325,000, and his property taxes have quadrupled since his first bill as a homeowner.

“If [CodeNEXT’s proposed zoning] goes through, our land values are going to skyrocket, whether we have any interest in putting triplexes or quads on a standard lot or not,” Kelly said.

Andy Cantu, executive director of Evolve Austin, a group advocating for CodeNEXT to be more density-aggressive in its zoning, said the lack of “missing middle” housing—such as triplexes and quadriplexes—aggravates the city’s affordability crisis and homeowners’ struggle to pay increasing taxes.

Although single-family zoning may have worked in 2002, Cantu said Austin is now a different city, and the neighborhoods and their plans need to evolve with the city.

“[Neighborhood planning] is important and people who live in neighborhoods should have a say in the process, but the way Austin is managing that process is not ideal,” he said.

Lack of resources, early mistakes
Although plans require city staffers to review and update neighborhood plans every five years, Rusthoven said none of the 30 plans, which average more than 10 years in age, have been revisited for official updates. He also said the existing neighborhood plans do not really reference a greater comprehensive plan, even though Austin Tomorrow was the comprehensive plan before Imagine Austin.

David King is the vice chairman of the city’s Small Area Planning Joint Committee, which he said was formed to figure out why Austin was so “behind the curve” in neighborhood planning. King blamed a lack of resources at the planning and zoning department.

Part of the committee’s role is to research what other cities are doing in small-area planning. As an example of best practices, King points to Seattle, where the planning areas are divided by council district, within which are individual neighborhoods. Seattle also has a separate department of neighborhoods that works with the planning and zoning department and the neighborhoods to draft and update neighborhood plans.

King said the existing plans need to be reconciled with Imagine Austin, but those changes need to occur as part of an involved process with the neighborhoods—not through the sole discretion of CodeNEXT planners.

“The plans shouldn’t be locked in time, but the process of amending them needs to be by the neighborhood working with the city. I think we can do that,” King said.

Moving forward
Although Rusthoven agreed that existing plans need updates and reconciliation with Imagine Austin, he said the planning and zoning department’s plate is full, and the lack of resources in the planning and zoning department keeps that from being an immediate priority.

“Council said we’re supposed to go back and update the plans every five years; we haven’t done it for a single one of them yet,” Rusthoven said. “Right now we’re working on the CodeNEXT process, and when we’re done we’re going to be looking at the new areas to map. I can’t tell you updating plans is the first thing we’re going to do after CodeNEXT because I don’t think it is.”

However, he said the city is learning from past mistakes and adapting its process. Rusthoven said neighborhood planning after CodeNEXT will be more deliberate and based on specific criteria—such as expected growth and areas near upcoming mobility bond projects—as opposed to the free-for-all, next-in-line strategy from before that gave the city its existing landscape of neighborhood plans.

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