W.A.N.G. Newsletter May-2018
PO Box 5722, Austin, TX 78763-5722
in this Issue.....
- CodeNEXT Redux receives Failing Marks by President Cathy Kyle
- Brackenridge Tract Development Looms by August Harris
- W.A.N.G Monthly Meeting Minutes for May
- District 10 Update - CodeNEXT Townhall
- Code news - CodeNext
- Letters to the Board...Mayfield Park, & Sidewalk Construction
- Neighborhood Real Estate Stats - April 27
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Mud daubers
CODE NEXT REDUX RECEIVES FAILING MARKS
by Cathy Kyle
I was gardening in my front yard recently, and some neighbors stopped to ask about CodeNEXT. They didn’t know what it was or what it meant for them. As an introduction, CodeNEXT is the proposed rewrite of the City’s land development code (LDC). If adopted in its current form, it will change the zoning category for every piece of property in the City. Despite being presented with a petition with over 30,000 signatures calling to put the proposal on a ballot in November, the City Council last week refused to include CodeNEXT on the ballot. Our only recourse is political, contacting the Mayor and Council Members to voice our opposition, and building consensus with neighbors from other parts of the City.
Supporters of CodeNEXT argue that the current land development code is woefully out of date and labyrinthine. They claim that the provisions of CodeNEXT allowing increased density of development in the inner city will provide affordable housing, streamline the permitting process, improve transportation options, and improve the quality of life in the River City. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
The process of reworking the land development code began nearly five years ago. Since then, the City has spent over $8.5 million, paid to consultants hailing from Portland and San Francisco and who know nothing about Austin, for a product that completely revamps zoning throughout the City, from the number of structures that can be built on a lot, setbacks, sidewalks, and building height, to name but a few. The new code is more convoluted and voluminous that the current code, and it delivers on none of the promises. The process is developer driven, and the Council has admitted that the new code WILL NOT provide more affordable housing for underserved communities. The rewritten code is years overdue, $6 million over budget, and has gone through five project managers.
Rather than addressing the critique on the merits, supporters cry foul, claiming that opposition to CodeNEXT is racist, trying to leverage the timeworn divide between east and west Austin for their own political profit. We need to move beyond these divisions and realize that the draft code was not driven by anyone’s community. The consultants did not solicit input from neighbors or from neighborhood associations, nor did they incorporate neighborhood plans or Imagine Austin. And, the problem is not limited to west Austin. Housing expert and head of the Save Montopolis Negro School Coalition, Dr. Fred McGhee notes, “CodeNEXT does nothing to prevent displacement on the Eastside; it would accelerate it, wiping out our communities.”
In February, the City Council released the third rewrite of CodeNEXT. While we hoped that the input provided by the community would solve the problems with the draft code, many issues remain. For example, the most recent draft allows 2 units on a 3,500 s. ft. lot, encouraging re-subdivision in many single family neighborhoods.
Also, the draft overrides neighborhood plans, allowing increased and varied commercial uses. Generally, CodeNEXT allows personal services, restaurants, doctor’s offices, bars, commercial services and adult entertainment in areas that they would not be permitted today, without the zoning variance process, petition rights, or public hearing that would be required now. Currently, neighborhood commercial zoning (LR) with a conditional overlay provides buffer zones between retail and commercial. Neighborhood Commercial is intended for neighborhood shopping facilities that provide limited business services and office facilities predominately for the convenience of residents of the neighborhoods. But the latest draft removes that buffer zone by moving retail uses and higher traffic uses. And, the City has clearly demonstrated its plan to remove conditional overlays which neighbors and developers negotiated to allow more intense development on limited, specific tracts.
CodeNEXT fundamentally changes property owners’ rights concerning development of adjacent and nearby properties. Today, before a property can be rezoned, nearby property owners have the right to receive notice and an opportunity to be heard on that specific case before the City Council. If the owners of 20% of the property within 200 feet of the subject tract object to the proposed rezoning through a petition, the application requires a super-majority vote of the City Council for passage.
CodeNEXT substantially reduces neighbors’ rights to file a petition with the Council in opposition to zoning changes. The City seeks to do this in two ways. First, the City argues that citizens have no petition rights in connection with the adoption of CodeNEXT even though CodeNEXT represents an extensive rezoning of thousands of properties across the City. Second, CodeNEXT has lowered the standard in many zoning districts, requiring only a conditional use permit (CUP) or an administrative minor use permit (MUP) for an array of land uses that today need a zoning change, neither of which provide any petition rights.
CodeNEXT’s changes also dramatically increase traffic and on-street parking. The draft code allows new construction to include only one parking space, which will push parked cars onto our streets, creating a hazard for children, pedestrians, and cyclists.
With the expiration of the lease of the Brackenridge Tract looming in May 2019, we are especially aware of proposed development of that area. This development will occur regardless of the adoption of CodeNEXT. We laid the foundation for accommodating increased density arising from the possible development of the Brackenridge Tract in our neighborhood years ago when we adopted the Central West Austin Neighborhood Plan, our vision for the future of our neighborhood. Our neighborhood plan supports development along main transportation corridors, not by cramming multiple living units into residential lots. Our neighborhood planning process pre-dated Imagine Austin, adopted in 2012, which envisioned the creation of regional nodes, drawing heavy traffic away from the City’s urban core. CodeNEXT has utterly abandoned Imagine Austin and ignores the goals adopted in neighborhood plans.
Contrary to supporters’ claims, the effect of the increased density imposed by the new code will not magically make housing cheaper. Instead, single lots will be layered with high-end condos and apartments, ratcheting up the price per square foot and increasing the tax base. Not only will middle-class folks be unable to afford the new offerings, but current families and retirees living in central Austin will be unable to afford the skyrocketing property taxes.
Also, nothing in CodeNEXT addresses our woefully lacking infrastructure, which is straining to keep up with current growth. The more intense development that will occur under CodeNEXT, if adopted, will significantly tax our aging infrastructure – roads, bridges, and utility lines, both above ground and beneath. Also, the increased density could create flooding hazards if not properly managed, yet another issue that the draft code does not address.
Tarrytown’s housing stock over the past ten years has been decimated. Lot after lot has been razed to make way for enormous houses – not duplexes, as are allowed under the current code. In fact, the smaller, older homes that have been torn down are far more affordable than the new construction erected in their place. This problem is not limited to Tarrytown – all central Austin neighborhoods face the same problem. The changes imposed on property owners amount to an undemocratic restructuring of the City, significantly impacting the available uses for residential property.
Another problem with CodeNEXT is its failure to consider environmental concerns, including Austin’s unique topography, the importance of preserving Lady Bird Lake, or the impact of the increased density on Austin’s drinking water. Our sole source of drinking water is the Colorado River. Failure to take into account the impact of increased urban runoff, with accompanying pollutants, could have a significantly detrimental effect on our drinking water.
We at WANG urge you to get involved if you believe that CodeNEXT presents a genuine threat to Austin’s neighborhoods, as we do. Join us in communicating our opposition to the City’s tone-deaf approach to the revision of the Land Development Code. Thirty-five years ago, Statesman columnist John Kelso described north Austin as a bad imitation of Dallas. Let’s work together to make sure that his prophecy remains hyperbole rather than reality.
Brackenridge Tract Development Looms
by August “Happy” Harris
The Brackenridge Tract
Because of my involvement over the years on neighborhood issues, neighborhood planning and the Brackenridge Tract, I am frequently asked by friends and neighbors about what is going on and what the future might hold for the Brackenridge Tract (“Tract”), for Lions Municipal Golf Course (“Muny”), West Austin Youth Association (“WAYA”), etc. In May of 2019, a mere year from now, the first term of the Brackenridge Tract Agreement (“Agreement”) between the University of Texas (“UT”) and the City of Austin (“City”) of the agreement ends. The Agreement could be automatically extended for 5 years if neither the City nor UT choose to terminate the Agreement. Why is the Agreement so important to you, to the future of our neighborhood, the City and UT? Simply, it has mandated how the 345 acres of land that comprises the Tract would be used and how it or portions of it potentially would be developed in the future.
Opinions are cheap and everybody has one, yours truly included. My sense of things is that there are a lot of folks trying to find a “soft landing spot.” What that looks like at the moment is anybody’s guess as there are just too many variables. Regardless of what it ultimately looks like though, West Austin will be changed in the decades to come. Unless, of course, there is a noble donor with a couple of hundred million dollars to spare…. There is a solution out there – and it needn’t be complex.
The biggest challenge to getting something done that produces a relatively good outcome, and I use that term loosely, for the neighborhood and UT is not, surprisingly to some, the University or even the Legislature. It is our new City Council format of single member districts. In November of 2012, citizens voted to change our form of government from an at-large format to single member districts. In the past, we could work with all the Council members because they all had to be responsive to us – they served everybody and we had the right to vote for each of them. Now, only one of ten Council members has to be responsive because the other nine Council members don’t need your votes – and some have demonstrated that they frankly don’t care what happens to West Austin if it doesn’t further their objectives. Ward politics and differing political and social agendas are taking root. As our Council member Alison Alter often notes, it takes six votes and those votes could be hard to come by in the current political environment though there are a few Council members who get it.
There are so many different iterations of what could happen with the Tract but for the sake of argument, let’s say that the best possible outcome is that the 141.4 acres of Muny and the 14.6 acres of WAYA remain more or less as they are. These both obviously are important and irreplaceable assets for our city and our community. However, to preserve them, something else in all likelihood is going to have to give. The value of the land is itself subject to debate but let’s say for the sake of argument (and easy math), Muny and WAYA are worth $100 million dollars together. That is hard money to find unless you made a fast fortune in Bitcoin or an app.
The suggestion of extending the leases for Muny and WAYA is fraught with other perils including the cost of leasing that could be prohibitive for the City and WAYA or the recognition that leases will in turn lead to recurring negotiations rather than a permanent solution. For years, we have tossed around potential solutions to achieve a buyout of Muny and WAYA like land swaps of other City owned land, additional entitlements on other UT owned parcels, municipal general revenue bonds, public improvement districts, tax increment financing districts, etc. With our current Council format and some of the prevailing attitudes on the dais, it is at worst highly unlikely or at best an incredible challenge that any of those tools might be available to use in negotiations with UT. So we start with one hand tied behind our back. Know that engaged stakeholders like the West Austin Neighborhood Group, Save Muny, WAYA, UT and some of its key supporters, Council Member Alter, and our Legislative delegation are on top of this and that the train hasn’t left the station. We hope that you will hop on board with us for what will be the most important issue that we in West Austin will ever face.
The West Austin Neighborhood Group needs your wholehearted support and your engagement like it never has before so that we can work to leverage the best possible outcome for our piece of paradise. The time is now
...HISTORY WORTH SAVING...
“Muny” is a beloved urban green space and civil rights landmark worthy of protection. Save Muny is dedicated to saving Lions Municipal Golf Course from development and preserving its urban green space, civil rights history, and golf legacy for the enjoyment of future generations of Austinites.
WANG MAY 2018 Meeting Minutes
WEST AUSTIN NEIGHBORHOOD GROUP
BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING MINUTES
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
These are the minutes of the meeting of the West Austin Neighborhood Group Board of Directors held Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 6:00 p.m., at Lions Municipal Golf Course Club House.
I. Call to Order:
The meeting was called to order at 6:08 PM by President Cathy Kyle. Board members in attendance included: Mary Arnold, Joyce Basciano, George Edwards, and Holly Reed.
Board members Elizabeth Adams, Joe Bennett, Mike Cannatti, August Harris, Haidar Khazen, Craig Lill and Blake Tollett were not in attendance.
Neighbors in attendance included Philip Ingram, Bill Oakey, John Trube, Ned Snyder, Karen Ingram, Kent Collins and Stephanie Kingpetcharat.
II. Approval of Minutes:
The April Minutes had been previously approved unanimously online.
III. Neighbor Communications:
Kent Collins reported on a parking issue at Tarrytown Boat Club. The Boat Club is located on a curvy part of Scenic Drive. When members park “head in,” at the club, Collins said they are actually parking in the drive lane, and this becomes dangerous as it gets in the way of drivers turning left onto Scenic. He was advised by District 10 Council Member Alison Alter’s office to contact the City’s Transportation and Engineering Dept. Collins discussed the possibility of the city installing parallel parking only signs. Several members of the Tarrytown Boat Club were also present and suggested keeping some of the head in parking spaces. President Kyle noted that the T&E Dept. would have the final say as to what is best and lawful.
IV. Land Matters:
No new matters were discussed.
Sam Sargeant and Roberto Gonzalez from Cap Metro gave an in depth presentation of the Cap Metro Re-map. Every 5 years, Cap Metro reviews the city’s routes, in order to make service changes, taking into account frequency of ridership and coverage of routes.
Sam explained that, because of loss of ridership on the edge of the Urban Core, Cap Metro is changing 70% if its routes to improve ridership and frequency.
In the WANG Area, the 21/22 Bus Route will be replaced by a 335 Route which loops around Exposition, Westover and 35th St., and the 18 Route which loops around the Lions Municipal Golf Course triangle, and heads East on Enfield Rd. The section of Exposition between Westover and Enfield, no longer covered by bus, will be covered by a Cap Metro partnership program with Ride Austin, called an “Innovation Zone.” President Kyle proposed that Cap Metro send feedback from the Innovation Zone for WANG to share with members, as this is a pilot program, and still in the development stages.
The new bus routes, fares, day passes, and trip planner can be found on the Cap Metro website, as well as the presentation shown at the WANG Board meeting, called Project Connect:
Cap metro welcomes public input and encourages riders to take their online survey or send comments through the website.
The new bus route system will begin on June 3rd and will have free fares for the first 7 days.
VI. Membership: No Report
VII. Newsletter: The Printed Newsletter will be delivered to the entire WANG Area on May 10, followed by the Online Newsletter, the week of May 14.
VIII. ANC Liaison Report:
CodeNext: Joyce Basciano reported on the upcoming Zoning and Platting/ Planning Commission Meetings about CodeNext.
The Planning Commission Public Hearing will be Noon to 4:00 PM, Tuesday May 22, at City Hall.
The Austin City Council Public Hearings will be held on Tuesday, May 29 and Saturday, June 2, at 10:00 AM at City Hall. Both the PC and Council will take comments from the public at these meetings.
Joyce encouraged the Board and members to review Community Not Commodity’s latest reports on CodeNext:
IX. Treasurer’s Report:
George Edwards reported that WANG has $9184.97 in the Business Account, $487.36 in the Tarrytown 4th of July Parade Account, and $1,207.05 in the Oak Wilt Account.
X. Old Business: None
XI. New Business:
A. APD Patrol Officer Carter Rooney has chosen West Austin as an area on which to focus, and study how to improve police service. He informed the Board that the majority of calls in our area involve property crime. He suggested using the Ring Camera System for package theft. He also asked for input from the Board and neighbors. Holly Reed pointed out speeding, illegal parking and inappropriate solicitation in several neighborhood areas. Dangerous neighborhood cut-throughs during rush hour are also a problem. Comments can be sent to Officer Rooney at firstname.lastname@example.org
B. There will be a Watershed Protection Public Hearing for Meredith Street on May 7.
C. WANG will host a meeting with our new City Manager, Spencer Cronk, on Wed. May 23rd, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Lions Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse.
D. Next Meeting: Tuesday, June 5th 2018 at 6:30 PM, location TBA
XII. Adjourn: The meeting was adjourned by President Cathy Kyle at 7:50 PM.
OUR NEXT NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING...... JUNE 5th
Tuesday, June 5th, 6:30pm
2500 Exposition Boulevard
(the first Tuesday of each month!)
To get an item on the Agenda, send email to President@WestAustinNG.com
Optional RSVP below if you would like to let us know you are planning to attend and receive an agenda as it becomes available (usually the day of the meeting)
RSVPs are enabled for this event.
District 10 update.....
District 10 Council Member Alison Alter, City of Austin City Council
District 10 CodeNEXT Town Hall – May 16
The rewrite of the land development code is a complicated process. From the outset of CodeNEXT, my office has worked diligently to help constituents navigate each draft. We have held dozens of meetings in the district where we've heard a great deal of concerns. I share many of your concerns and have been working hard to take those questions to City staff and CodeNEXT consultants to obtain answers and clarity.
In order to further answer your questions and help familiarize neighbors with the third draft and current proposals, I am holding a CodeNEXT Town Hall on May 16. This is another opportunity for folks to learn about CodeNEXT, ask questions, and provide input so I can best represent the district.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Congregation Beth Israel
Movie in the Park !
Saturday, May 19th, 6:30pm
Tarrytown Neighborhood Park, Austin, TX, USA
CodeNEXT : ADDITIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULED
The Planning Commission has scheduled an additional public hearing for later this month in advance of the City Council public hearing.
Planning Commission Public Hearing
Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, City Hall Council Chambers, 301 W. 2nd St.
Austin City Council Public Hearing
10 a.m. Tuesday, May 29, at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd St.
10 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd St.
Speaker sign up for the public hearing will begin 60 minutes before each meeting. Click here for additional rules about speaking at the Council public hearing. Click here for the rules in Spanish.
The public hearings are an opportunity for you to speak to the commissions and City Council about CodeNEXT. Click here for more information about the public hearings.
The land use commissions had their first public hearing Saturday, April 28, and Tuesday, May 2. More than 150 number of people spoke during the eight hours of public testimony.
WANG Board of Directors & Committee Members
Organized 1973......"To preserve our neighborhood and protect it from deterioration"
Board of Directors
- President: Cathy Kyle President@westaustinng.com
- Secretary: Holly Reed Secretary@westaustinng.com
- Assistant Secretary: Blake Tollett AsstSecretary@westaustinng.com
- Treasurer: George Edwards Treasurer@westaustinng.com
- Past President: August "Happy" Harris III PastPresident@westaustinng.com
- Elizabeth Adams ........................................... Elizabeth@westaustinng.com
- Mary Arnold ................................................. Mary@westaustinng.com
- Joyce Basciano ............................................... Joyce@westaustinng.com
- Joseph M Bennett .......................................... Joe@westaustinng.com
- Michael Cannatti ............................................ Mike@westaustinng.com
- George Edwards ............................................. George@westaustinng.com
- Haidar Khazen ................................................. Haidar@westaustinng.com
- Craig Lill ........................................................... Craig@westaustinng.com
- Holly Reed ....................................................... Holly@westaustinng.com
Honorary Committee Members
- Honorary Mayor Steve Adler
- Honorary Alison Alter
- Honorary Kathie Tovo
Please mail application and check to: West Austin Neighborhood Group PO Box 5722 Austin, TX 78763-5722 Annual Memberships (Nov 1-Oct 31) $50-Friend Level; $100-PATRON Level; $30-FAMILY Level; $15-SENIOR Level; $250-BENEFACTOR Level
Letters to the Board.....
Dear WANG Board,
Thank you for supporting Mayfield Park at the highest level for over 20 years as a sponsor for Trowel & Error, Mayfield’s annual rite of spring for Central Texas gardeners. You have been an essential partner in our effort to restore Mayfield Park and its cottage gardens to the beauty that so many visitors enjoy.
As a $250.00 sponsor, WANG was acknowledged as a major sponsor on Mayfield Park’s website, mayfieldpark.org , listed in the event program and in media outreach as a major sponsor, highlighted and thanked from the podium at Trowel & Error, and acknowledged in the annual Mayfield Park News sent to community supporters.
We are greatly appreciative of your continuing and generous support for one of Austin’s most beautiful and historic sites. You are providing a gift of lasting benefit to the people of Austin and Central Texas.
President, Friends of the Parks of Austin
SIDEWALK CONSTRUCTION ON 35TH STREET
Dear Mary and your fellow Board members:
We were notified by the City’s project manager, John Eastman that sidewalk construction on 35th Street has been postponed until next week, May 14th and will still take about 3-weeks to complete. This postponement is as a result of the heavy rains last Friday. However, the initial landscaping efforts to remove select trees, deadfall, invasive species, and litter have been completed in preparation for sidewalk construction.
All my best,
The Contemporary Austin and Laguna Gloria
WANG NEWSLETTER : PRINTED vs ELECTRONIC
WANG NEWSLETTER : PRINTED vs ELECTRONIC
WANG is currently planning to reduce the number of times we send out PRINTED Newsletters members to TWICE a year BUT increase the mail-out to EVERY household in the neighborhood. We will continue our Monthly Newsletters albeit by E-mail only. This should help us get information out to the neighborhood more quickly while saving a tree.
Let us know if you agree or what method of delivery you prefer? Email us at Newsletter@WestAustinNG.com
Give Us your Feedback!
Send us your comments (letters!) and thoughts on any other neighborhood issue for our "Letters to the Board" section.......let's work together
Email us at WANG-BOARD@WESTAUSTINNG.COM
NEIGHBORHOOD REAL ESTATE STATISTICS 04/27/18
by Wizzie Brown, BCE
Mud daubers are a great wasp to have around. They are solitary, generally docile, and can help to reduce various bugs in the landscape. Mud dauber wasps are ¾- 1” in size and come in a variety of colors. They have a very thin, thread-like waist.
Mud daubers create a mud structure that they provision with insects and/or spiders; they lay an egg on each prey item within a cell in the nest, and then seal the nest off. When larvae hatch from eggs, they eat the items provisioned for them, pupate, and then emerge as adults to begin the process over.
Management is not usually needed for mud daubers as they do not guard their nest like other wasps. While they are capable of stinging, they are not considered to be aggressive. If you do not like the look of the mud nests, you can remove them with a putty knife.
This work is supported by Crops Protection and Pest Management Competitive Grants Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27188 /project accession no. 1013905] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
For more information or help with identification, contact Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist
Wizzie Brown, BCE
My Blogs: http://urban-ipm.blogspot.com/
Instagram: urbanipm, Twitter: @UrbanIPM
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