Land Development Code Passes on First Reading

This week ABoR’s Government Affairs team have been at City Hall monitoring the First Reading of the Land Development Code, which passed on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know.

After considering 140 amendments, Austin City Council took a historic vote to approve a draft of the revised Land Development Code on the first of three required readings. Overall, the 7-4 vote was a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing Austin’s ever-increasing affordability crisis. ABoR is generally supportive of the revised code process, but we have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks.

Significant amendments were passed to embrace creative ways to increase housing capacity, while addressing pertinent environmental issues. Council also passed an amendment that would ensure existing residential properties, that could become non-conforming, will be in compliance when the revised code is approved.

That said, two amendments were passed that reduce Residential House-Scale FAR (floor to area ratio) and impervious cover citywide. ABoR staff has been very clear with Council that these two aspects of the code are some of the biggest issues for our members and they are willing and committed to work with us before the second and third reading.

There are still a lot of changes to come regarding the depth and locations of transition zones, and we will be monitoring that conversation closely. We support increased housing along transit corridors and in high opportunity areas but are concerned with current transition zones stretching too far into neighborhoods.

The first reading approval was a long time coming for Austin to dynamically plan for the future of our region. We will continue to work on protecting private property rights while supporting this process to shape healthy, sustainable, and responsible development that appropriately plans for growth.

We will keep you updated on our meetings and efforts with Council Members. The second reading is expected to take place in February, and the third and final vote is targeted for late March 2020.

Below are some specific amendments of note:

Positive

Amendment: #1
Sponsor: Council Member Alison Alter (District 10)
Subject: Imagine Austin Centers

Additional mapping of increased entitlements to maintain our housing capacity goals should first prioritize adding capacity by mapping additional entitlements within Imagine Austin Centers, starting with Regional Centers, (except those that currently have a regulating plan and are to be mapped F25) in high opportunity areas, as well as within Imagine Austin Centers containing undeveloped (greenfield) areas.

Amendment: #4
Sponsor: Council Member Kathie Tovo (District 9)
Subject: Housing Affordability in Transition Areas

To protect renters, right zone existing market affordable missing middle housing, including, triplexes, and fourplexes city-wide.

Amendment: #3
Sponsor: Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison (District 1)
Subject: Walkability in Neighborhoods

Consider opportunities for interior neighborhood commercial spaces to offer walkable access to basic amenities such as but not limited to daycares, pharmacies, neighborhood groceries, restaurants, and civic spaces.

Amendment: #5
Sponsor: Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison (District 1)
Subject: Minimum Lot Size

Reduce minimum lot size requirements in missing middle zones to better facilitate fee-simple ownership of missing middle units on current standard lot sizes.

Needs Work

Amendment: RES1
Sponsor: Gregorio Casar (District 4)
Subject: Compliant Properties

If changes to the code cause properties in RM1 zones and below to be non-conforming, allow existing residential uses to be compliant and allow such residential uses to expand to current code site development standards. New site development standards from R1 to RM1 should only apply to new builds. However, properties in RM1 zones and below should not be allowed to expand their impervious cover to levels higher than 40% for single unit development/expansion, as listed in the staff-supported planning commission recommendation, while allow for 45% impervious cover for two-unit development, as listed int he staff-supported planning commission recommendation.

Amendment: RES2
Sponsor: Sponsor: Gregorio Casar (District 4)
Subject: Site Development Standards

To incentivize smaller housing types, R-zones should allow for increased allowable size of structures only as the number of units increases. This would mean a fourplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a triplex, a triplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a duplex, and a duplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a single-family house. Also, staff should continue to explore having a different graduated FAR for large lots compared to small lots to keep with the goal of incentivizing moderate size, family friendly housing. Here is an illustration of FAR requirements that would incentivize family friendly, but modest size, homes without prescription:

  1. 0.35 FAR for one unit
  2. 0.5 FAR for two units
  3. 0.65 FAR for three units
  4. 0.8 FAR for four units

Amendment: RES-6
Sponsor: Staff
Subject: Graduated Impervious Cover

Consistent with Planning Commission’s recommendation, reduce allowed impervious cover to 40% for Residential House-Scale Zones with one unit.

Amendment: RES1
Sponsor: Sponsor: Gregorio Casar (District 4)
Subject: Compliant Properties

If changes to the code cause properties in RM1 zones and below to be non-conforming, allow existing residential uses to be compliant and allow such residential uses to expand to current code site development standards. New site development standards from R1 to RM1 should only apply to new builds. However, properties in RM1 zones and below should not be allowed to expand their impervious cover to levels higher than 40% for single unit development/expansion, as listed in the staff-supported planning commission recommendation, while allowing for 45% impervious cover for two-unit development, as listed in the staff-supported planning commission recommendation.

General Amendments of Note

Amendment: RES4
Sponsor: Sponsor: Gregorio Casar (District 4)
Subject: Preservation Bonus

Amend the preservation bonus as follows:
• Allow the preserved unit(s) to be expanded and remodeled up to the allowable FAR for the unit(s).
• Limit the size of a single preservation unit ADU to be larger than the current allowable size (e.g., 1,600 sq. ft.) and two-unit preservation bonus to 0.5 FAR (or whichever graduated FARs are adopted).
• Allow lots utilizing the preservation bonus to utilize a simple subdivision process and allow them to waive minimum lot sizes upon subdivision.
• Clarify that preserving only the existing ADU does not qualify as preservation.
• Reduce the required age of a qualifying home to be preserved from 30 to 15 years.
• Increase impervious cover from 45% to 50% if preservation bonus is used. Reduce impervious cover in R2 zones by 5% for developments of only one unit (as recommended by the Planning Commission) or an amount that negates the increase in impervious cover, and potentially reduce a small percentage the impervious cover for R2 zones generally to negate any increase in impervious cover.
• Waive parking requirements for preservation bonus units.
• To utilize the preservation bonus, there must be an increase in units.

Amendment: #4
Sponsor: Mayor Steve Adler
Subject: Compatibility - Corridor and Center Sites

Development on parcels within activity centers and fronting activity corridors that participate in an affordable housing bonus program should receive a waiver of compatibility standards.

 

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