You should have gotten an email about the Friends of Heritage annual meeting that will be held this Monday Feb 11 at 7 pm at Austin’s Pizza (2928 Guadalupe). One topic we’ll discuss is the city’s focus in 2019 on another attempt at land use reform. We’ll also hold officer elections and get feedback from you about what our priorities should be.
Today several board members from Friends of Heritage met with Mayor Adler’s staff. We wanted to ensure they knew to keep us in the loop on code changes and that the city understood some of the challenges and opportunities unique to Heritage.
Here are the main points we made with the city:
NCCDs should be retired under the new land code: neighborhoods should be treated equitably. Exempting large University-area neighborhoods like NUNA and Hyde Park from density puts all the development pressure on Heritage, a much smaller neighborhood. (This was part of a resolution passed by members in October 2017.)
Mixed-use along corridors must eliminate parking minimums or else it is impossible to redevelop the shallow lots along Guadalupe and Lamar – there simply isn’t enough room to have parking for additional stories of residential units. Eliminating parking minimums will encourage the aging strip centers to be redeveloped with retail on the bottom, parking for the retail in the rear, and several stories of residences above. (This was also part of a resolution passed by members in October 2017.)
Housing types should be chosen with input from neighborhoods. For example row houses should be allowed, while fourplexes (house-form buildings with a single shared entrance) are by design rental-only properties. Heritage has so few owner-occupied residences that limiting us to fourplexes to achieve density would significantly alter that balance. We should have density targets but flexibility about how that is achieved.
The new code must ensure that parking structures are not adjacent to residential lots. It is not sufficient that the structures have “fenestration that is consistent with that of the primary building” (CodeNEXT) because they are still clearly parking structures.
Heritage should be zoned to encourage residential over medical and office. Heritage is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Austin, with multiple MetroRapid lines, many amenities such as grocery stores, Breed & Co, and drug stores that make carless living possible. Zoning should be used to encourage medical offices to be located along 38th Street west of Lamar near Seton, while Heritage’s zoning should encourage residential development on the lots that are currently medical offices. 34th Street in particular bisects the neighborhood and could become a model of urban living if it is redeveloped with residential mixed-use.
It should be possible for a neighborhood to approve an upzoning that is tied to a specific site plan. We should allow a developer and neighborhood to agree upon innovative new designs that exceed current zoning. Neighborhoods will only take that risk if they know the upzoning can only be used with the agreed-upon site plan. This encourages neighborhoods and developers to experiment with creative designs that prove out new approaches to achieving density.
Thoughts? Questions? Chime in here on the forum with a reply, or come to the annual meeting and talk in person over pizza and drinks!