submitted by Tom Linehan [Email address: tlinehan #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ] and Kerry Kimbrough [Email address: kkjpr #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

Neighborhoodplanning_003_1Saturday’s meeting at City Hall was entitled "Neighborhood Planning in Austin – Next Steps."  I attended and participated in the meeting but  I’m not sure what those next steps are other than the  discussion and input gathered from the  150 or so  people in attendance will be summarized and distributed. 

Neighborhoodplanning_001Nevertherless, for those like me who have not been involved in the neighborhood planning process, the meeting was a good primer for understanding the challenges of  neighborhood planning. The meeting began with Patricia Wilson, Professor of UT’s Community and Regional Planning program reporting on the results of a semester-long study on neighborhood planning.

The class looked at 5 Austin neighborhoods that have gone through
the planning process as well as reported on what is going on elsewhere
in Texas and the country with regard to neighborhood programs. You can
find a "Summary of the Lesson’s Learned" as well as the text of their
study at their website.
The comments from those involved in putting together their neighborhood
plan in Austin were enlightening and are worth reading as we embark on
our own neighborhood plan. Hearing how other cities approach
neighborhood planning provides insight into how they addressed some of
the challenges of preparing and implementing plans. In Fort Worth, for
example, neighborhoods compete for a $1.2 million grant that is applied
to implementation of the plan for the winning neighborhood.

After Professor Wilson’s summary, we split off into smaller groups
for the balance of the 5 1/2 hour meeting and worked through vision
statesments, our thoughts on the degree to which the City should be
invovled in the process, what we thought were the top 3 priorities for
the neighborhood planning process, and the wrapup where the results
were summarized and reported to the group as a whole.

The group I participated in listed the following as the top 3
priorities for neighborhood planning: 1.) establish density goals for
the  neighborhood, 2.) come up with the neighborhood plan first and
then talk about  zoning, and 3.) ensure the infrastucture and process
is in place to implement and enforce the plan.  Of course, this was
just the priorities identified by one group out of about a dozen there.
Other Allandale representatives at the meeting were Phyllis Brinkley,
Cheryl Silver, Frances Allen, and Kerry Kimbrough. They participated in
separate groups and I encourage them to share the priorities that
emerged from their groups. Check the Neighborhood Planning Conference website
for a summary of the meeting (has not been posted as of yet) and to
learn more about the findings from the school’s study. I checked in
with Gretchen Vaden about Allandale’s planning process. She tells me
she will have something to report in a week or so but the wheels are
turning and we will be getting underway in May.

Here are Kerry’s comments about Saturday’s meeting:

This workshop made me realize that Allandale is in a
favorable position to begin our neighborhood plan. There is a lot of wisdom out
there for us to tap, from other neighbors and from city staffers who have been
pioneering this process. This workshop demonstrated a real commitment from
Council and city staff to make neighborhood plans an effective part of city
governance. It was clear that earlier efforts have involved a lot of struggle.
But it was equally clear that this was an attempt to reach out and find ways
for everyone to work more harmoniously. Maybe we will!

Here’s a link to News 8 Austin’s coverage of the conference.