Density Bonus Program Stalls

For better or for worse, ROMA’s density bonus recommendations aren’t likely to be adopted anytime soon.  The Planning Commission believes that not all party’s concerns have been addressed and they are requesting a four-month review period.  My experience with the density bonus recommendations is that ROMA and the City’s Planning and Development Review Department went above and beyond what was necessary to gather input.  They’ve held town halls and sought out stake holder input, ad nauseam.  Did it feel like a seminar?  Yes, at times, because these are complicated issues with a learning curve.  As someone that’s opined at these input gathering sessions, I always felt my opinion/concerns/questions were being listened to.  Anyone that hasn’t weighed in on this yet cannot credibly claim they’ve not had the opportunity to do so.  Difficult decisions will need to be made that will not always assuage the concerns of all parties.

I’m still ambivalent on the density bonus.  But it’s easy to be frustrated with City Council and the Planning Commission because there has been a year of planning and citizen input on the recommendations put forth.  What does that say about the process of stakeholder input?  Maybe an additional four month review is warranted, but the notion that ROMA and the City’s Planning and Development Review Department have not made every effort possible to seek input is patently false, and leaves me to be skeptical that this is nothing more than junk-politics at work.

For two perspectives on the issue of warehouse district protection – a highlight of ROMA’s density bonus recommendation – check out this contribution by Mike McGill and Roger Cauvin.

Statesman link

Mayor Leffingwell's State Of Downtown Austin Address

Mayor Leffingwell's State Of Downtown Austin Address



At the DAA’s Annual Luncheon & Mayor’s State of Downtown Address yesterday, Mayor Leffingwell gave a bullish speech about downtown Austin growth.

I sat at the DANA table and observed Mayor Leffingwell as I’ve never seen nor heard him before.  A Mayor who recognizes that growing Austin’s downtown is not at odds with preserving Austin’s character, and that growing downtown is in fact complementary and necessary to smart growth for the entire city.  This is what we heard yesterday.

PRO downtown Austin growth
PRO urban rail system
PRO getting the bums out and dealing with crime*
PRO hotel and convention center growth

*I’m paraphrasing, he was much more diplomatic.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  There was a quorum of City Council members in attendance, including City Manager Marc Ott, who can provide their own testimony.  The Mayor provided some genuinely funny jokes, too.  The best one [kindheartedly] jibbed former Mayor Will Wynn, a downtown resident, about how much he enjoys greeting construction workers in the morning.  :-)

downtown-austin-alliance-2009-report (pdf)



City Hires Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Director

According the City’s press release, Kevin Johns, was recently appointed to be “responsible for implementing economic programs that foster jobs and nurture Austin’s creative industries.”

Judging by that title, Kevin’s role in the future of Austin could have big impact.   What’s interesting to me is how much media coverage is given to how tall downtown buildings are allowed to be, all the while hugely important positions like this receive minimal dialogue in the blogosphere.  Maybe it’s just where I’m looking.

I’m interested in learning more about this position.  Godspeed Kevin.  Maybe you can rekindle Villa Muse.

Statesman Endorsements for Austin Mayoral and City Council Races

On Sunday, the Austin American Statesman released their endorsements: Brewster McCracken, Chris Riley, Bill Spelman, Mike Martinez, and Sheryl Cole.

Brewster with Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim Leage

Brewster with Richard Linklater and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League

/link to drafthouse [just because :-)]

Chris Riley Has Broad Support Throughout Austin

Chris Riley For Austin City Council Place 1

Chris Riley For Austin City Council Place 1

DANA board member Greg Anderson – “I think out of all the candidates running, Chris best understands the problems which we as a society are facing. Chris understands the need for sustainable communities: walkable, dense and vibrant places where there are options other than driving.”

Chris Riley continues to pick up a breadth of community support: Burnt Orange Report, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, and NOKOA The Observer have all recently announced their support of Chris.  These are in addition to being endorsed by the majority of Democratic clubs, local public safety unions, as well as numerous other civic organizations and community groups.

Single Member Districts



State Senator Jeff Wentworth is sponsoring Senate Bill 1618 which would mandate single-member districts for municipalities with more than 500,000 people.  Austin City Council has called a special session today to hear from staff and legal council.

Here is a pdf of the bill.

David Buttross and Affordable Housing

I met David Buttross for the first time this past Saturday at the Urban is Core candidate forum.  At the dais, David’s responses were refreshingly crisp and practical. Now, those won’t win him an Austin mayoral election, but the benefit of ‘underdog’ candidates, especially those who are as successful as David is, is to reality check the front running candidates.

For example, an issue that local politicians love to pander to but can’t quite solve is affordable housing.  Realizing the difficult reality of placing affordable housing where land is expensive, David’s message is clear:

You can’t have affordable housing:
1) Without density to increase housing stock
2) Without mass transit to connect people

I’ve always been frustrated by local politicians that call for more affordable housing and simultaneously denigrate density in their own neighborhood.  I’ve always held that you can achieve affordable housing by fixing onerous SF-3/McMansion zoning, mitigating NIMBY-ism by spreading affordable housing everywhere, then organically grow mass-transit to connect people to where they want to go.


Austin Super Forum – Martinez and Spelman Prepared

The Austinist has published Councilmember Mike Martinez’s and candidate Bill Spelman’s written responses to 22 questions in preparation for the Urban Is Core Super Forum this Saturday.

Generally, I find their responses encouraging.  Progressive on land use and transportation issues.  Realistic on social service issues.

Bill Spelman responds
Mike Martinez responds

UPDATE: complete list of responses below

McCracken: response
Leffingwell: response
Ingalls: response
Buttross: response
Strayhorn: No response

Place 1:
Riley: response
Cavazos: response

Place 2:
Martinez: response
Quintero: No response

Place 5:
Spellman: response

Place 6:
Cole: response
Osemene: response