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Chris
I'm a land-use lawyer at Jackson Walker L.L.P. in Austin, Texas
Recent Activity
Imagine that the zoning code gave the planning director the unfettered right to reduce the density of a project simply because he thought it was too dense. Zoning might allow, say, 300 housing units on a tract but the planning... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2019 at Austin Contrarian
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Once upon a time, it was pretty easy to build a duplex in Austin. Duplexes could be built in any single-family district. Duplexes could be built on any size single-family lot. Duplexes did not have to share a common wall,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2019 at Austin Contrarian
City Manager Spencer Cronk has asked City Council to decide four fundamental policy questions before staff resumes work on the land development code. Cronk did the right thing by putting these questions to Council. They are intensely political questions about... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2019 at Austin Contrarian
Deed restrictions are a huge constraints. There are entire neighborhoods where duplexes are prohibited by deed restrictions even though allowed by zoning. It's important that any zoning capacity analysis take these constraints into account, otherwise we will undershoot the housing target.
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In retrospect, CodeNEXT failed not because staff produced a bad land development code, but because Council did not instruct it to produce a better one. To be sure, Council did the right thing last summer when it killed the last... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2018 at Austin Contrarian
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The Capitol View Corridors are polarizing. Most Austinites probably believe that CVCs, at least in the abstract, are a reasonable method of preserving views of the Capitol dome while allowing most of the rest of downtown to redevelop. But there... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2018 at Austin Contrarian
Austin History Center on Guadalupe.
Toggle Commented Jan 10, 2018 on Chronicling downtown's decline at Austin Contrarian
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CityLab had an interesting piece a few weeks ago on Sanborn fire insurance maps. These maps were created by Daniel A. Sanborn beginning in the 1800s to help insurance companies map fire risks. The maps were exquisitely detailed catalogs of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2018 at Austin Contrarian
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The CodeNEXT maps are out and, predictably, hand-wringing has ensued. The City released a tool allowing one to compare the old and new zoning side by side. People have begun looking up their neighborhoods to see what has changed. Even... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
I doubt that was the intent. But maybe they did mean that. I went back over the ADU standards and they don't say they're limited to being accessories to single family residences only.
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The key number housing number being bandied about these days is 135,000: this is the ten-year housing unit target recommended by Austin's new strategic housing plan. It includes a mix of market-rate and subsidized housing. Both numbers are unrealistic in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
Tom, (1) With regard to your neighborhood specifically -- and many, many others -- this is an academic exercise, as I'm pretty sure the homes in your neighborhood are deed-restricted to single-family homes. (If they weren't, you'd see a lot of duplexes being built over there, and you don't). Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about this. The same will be the case in many (most?) of the drivable areas built from 1960s on: CC&Rs limit the lots to one single-family home. Zoning is irrelevant in much of the city. (2) Let me turn this around: Where does IA say that you can't lower the minimum lot size for duplexes? Or permit an ADU and duplex on the same lot? Both of those are "relaxing" SF-3 standards. Page 107 of IA does not say you cannot relax SF-3 standards. I'd submit that all of these are consistent with IA. (3) I also think there are neighborhoods in the city where 4-plexes are consistent either with historical development patterns or with the goal of "serv[ing] neighborhood needs and creat[ing] complete communities." (p. 107). At the very least, there are transition zones between commercial corridors and neighborhood interiors where these are appropriate. (As far as I can recall, none of the medium R zones allow zero lot lines.)
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I've been assuming that they will work the reduction in with the density bonus section, but that may be unwarranted.
Toggle Commented Feb 28, 2017 on CodeNEXT and parking at Austin Contrarian
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Ron, are you suggesting that the director could require a fee in lieu in order to take advantage of the reductions along transit corridors? If not, then I don't see how a fee in lieu makes things worse as long as it's just an additional option. Developers can always fall back on the legislated minimums, which are better than today's.
Toggle Commented Feb 28, 2017 on CodeNEXT and parking at Austin Contrarian
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I've been critical of CodeNEXT so far, so it's time to point out one of its positive changes: Parking. CodeNEXT offers meaningful reductions across the board. Take residential parking. The current draft cuts required parking by half. It adopts a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
Any change to the gross floor area IS huge and I need to address it. If they stick with the definition of "gross floor area" in the definition section of 23-2, then you are right. Enclosed garages will no longer be exempt at all from the FAR limit. That would be a large reduction in buildable space. On the other hand, I don't read the definition to count open carports or front porches as gross floor area.
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Each of the lots has to be at least 3,000 sf, but they have to add up to 7,000 sf.The owners of a condo regime can always (if unanimous) dissolve the condo regime. I'd suggest verifying the subdivision requirements first!
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I'm writing a series of CodeNEXT explainers. I will keep this index pinned at the top for ease of reference. A CodeNEXT Explainer, Part I: Transects and the form-based code A CodeNEXT Explainer, Part II: Simplifying building types A CodeNEXT... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
I’ve focused on CodeNEXT’s transect zones in past posts. It’s time to look at some of the non-transect – i.e., Euclidian1 -- zones. CodeNEXT is really two zoning codes. There is the form-based code built around transects intended for the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
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Or handle using conditional overlays, which is exactly what they have said needs to be pruned from the code.
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The Statesman interviewed me and Jim Duncan, a member of the CodeNEXT citizens advisory group and former head of city planning, last week to discuss how we expect the Heritage neighborhood to be zoned under CodeNEXT. Applying the proposed form-based... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at Austin Contrarian
To expand, in T4N.SS, a multi-plex (MP) must have 3-8 units. This implies you can't build a duplex and call it a MP. A MP in T4N.IS isn't limited to 3-4 units. So maybe a two-unit MP is allowed. On the other hand, a front-and-back duplex is not allowed. So maybe you can build a two-unit MP as long as it is not a front-and-back duplex. These ambiguities illustrate why the form-based code will be hard to administer.
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It's not clear that you can build a 2-unit multi-plex.
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These are all fair questions. I don't know the answers. My guess is that they are trying to regulate the internal layout of the duplex; it's not just an envelope regulation. That will generate all sorts of complicated code interpretations as builders present creative layouts. On the other hand, I suspect the categories for single-family homes will be conjunctive rather than disjunctive. That is, if you build a house that falls within the small house, wide house and long house footprints, it qualifies as all of them.
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As I discussed last time, CodeNEXT introduces a new concept, “building types.” If you are developing a property within a transect zone, you must select a specific building type from the palette allowed in that zone – a “wide house”... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2017 at Austin Contrarian