CBD zoning was required to create the giant residential tax base we now have in downtown Austin. CBD zoning also enables bars to easily obtain OMV permits. These are good examples of the power of CBD zoning. However, there is a legacy problem surfacing in CBD zoned non-entertainment districts of downtown Austin: compatibility.
The surge in new OMV permits issued outside of the established entertainment districts in downtown Austin has generated a response from the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association. DANA has issued a position letter (pdf) that suggests procedural, enforcement, and compatibility improvements to be applied outside of E. 6th Street and the Warehouse District.
BTW, the local news media is going to generate plenty of hyperbole and “show down” sensationalism. I choose to ignore it. The solution to compatibility problems boils down to common sense and compromise.
1) The permitting process is flawed… a) it disenfranchises residential apartment dwellers and condo owners from having an equal voice to someone who owns a single family house. b) it is complaint driven rather than officer enforced.
2) Downtown Austin should not be treated as one giant entertainment district, and common sense compatibility concerns can’t be ignored. There are established entertainment districts in downtown Austin: E 6th Street and the Warehouse District. Downtown Austin also has established residential neighborhoods: Judges Hill, Original Austin, for example.
3) In general, it would be unreasonable for a resident to complain about an OMV if that resident moved into or adjacent to E 6th Street or the Warehouse District. Conversely, new OMV permit requests outside of the established entertainment districts require greater scrutiny given the extent of residential investment (ex. $250 million in high rise residential in the case of Rainey Street)
I’d like to see a truly mixed-use downtown Austin anchored by entertainment districts. The tidal wave of new OMVs could discourage adjacent residential high-rise development and dense family-friendly housing in downtown. The thing about OMVs is that sound carries, especially bass frequencies. So, DANA is looking at placement, directionality, limiting decibel levels, and sound mitigation as tools to consider when incompatible property uses sit adjacent each other.
The Chronicle’s Wells Dunbar offers some perspective.