Despite the trend of obstructionist politics, private parties interested in progress will collaborate and compromise to reach an acceptable solution. Seeking a resolution to Outdoor Music Venue compatibility in downtown Austin’s Rainey Street District is a good example.
Rainey Street is dominantly residential. Ironically, the incredible residential density is a result of permissive CBD zoning. CBD is a sword of a zoning definition that can cut both ways. When the economy tanked, so did the opportunity for Rainey Street bungalow owners holding out for big $$$ to cash out, and they were left holding an expensive property tax bill.
When you have CBD zoning on a small mid-block lot what do you do until you can be assembled into a larger development (like this)? You lease it until the next wave of development comes through.
You won’t find many restaurant or retail operators interested, nor anything which the land use code mandates expensive onsite parking. You lease your valuable CBD dirt or bungalow to a bar operator (bars do not have to provide parking).
Along came Lustre Pearl in 2008 -a repurposed a run down bungalow on Rainey Street. Then [#2] Clive Bar. Then [#3] 96 Rainey became… Bar 96. Then [#4] Icenhauers came along. Then [#5] Blackheart was announced and is under construction. Then [#6] East Avenue Lounge came along. And, there are seven more bars proposed on Rainey Street.
Within 18-24 months of Lustre Pearl, the residential district was besieged with evening-only bars (map). Indeed, the neighborhood embraced the first few. But then, more and more bars were announced, and the existing ones began to turn up the iPod volume on the outdoor patios or host concerts in close proximity to the existing residents. That’s fuel for an incompatibility fire.
Enter the Rainey Neighbors’ Association
Formed in late 2010 as a reaction to a rapidly changing neighborhood, RNA was seeking an acknowledgement from bar owner s that compatibility issues exist and to seek solutions. After months of discussions and working groups, they seem to have reached an agreement.
Scranton Twohey representing the majority of Rainey Street bars, and Andre Suissa representing the Rainey Neighbors’ Assocation, and Don Pitts from the City of Austin hammered out the deal, outlined below:
1. Per 2011 Sound Ordinance – Chapter 9-2-30 (A) (1), the City permits operators to play live music up to 85db between 10:00 a.m. and (a) 10:30 p.m. on Sunday through Wednesday; (b) 11:00 p.m. on Thursday; or (c) 12:00 midnight on Friday or Saturday. Bars will adhere to these live music hours. bars will also adhere to all other requirements laid out by the Sound Ordinance.
2. Each bar is permitted up to five outdoor music venue events per month equating to sixty events per calendar year, and this excludes ACL and SXSW events. These sixty events can be used at any time during the calendar year.
3. Bar operators agree to meet with neighbors and the Rainey Neighbors’ Assocation once per month
4. Bar operators agree to maintain a calendar of live music events that will easily be accessible to residents.
5. Bar operators agree not to play live music that is vulgar or hardcore (ex. heavy metal, rap, heavy techno, etc).
This progress is a direct result of collaboration and compromise. It surely will not please all stakeholders. But that’s OK, because you can’t please everyone. I’m eager to see where we are six months from now, after the dust has settled, and all parties have learned to live with the agreement.