from a post to the listserve from Chris Allen [Email address: chris #AT# somearchitect.com - replace #AT# with @ ]
Last night, the Planning Commission (PC) voted to forward a
statement of issues and recommendations to the City Council, requesting that
Council grant the Task Force more time to finalize their recommendations.
The following recommendations were included as part of the
– Recommend a FAR of 0.4 for single-family structures and a
FAR of 0.5 for duplexes and garage apartments.
– Recommend the building envelope as proposed by the Task
– Recommend that the proposed single-family residential
design review commission be comprised entirely of licensed design
professionals [no recommended total number of members specified] and that this
commission act within 30 days of an applicant’s request
– Direct City staff to prepare an inventory of possible
corridors and tracts that could be suitable for more dense, future development
within the urban zones of neighborhoods
– Revisit the ordinance in 6 months to determine unintended consequences;
this includes Planning Commission review
– Recommend that affordability be added as a list of
concerns for the SF residential design review commission
Motion as amended was approved on 6-2 vote (Commissioners
Riley, Sullivan, Cavazos, Galindo, Jackson, Stegeman; Dealey and Moore opposed)
With the exception of the duplex comment, all of these
recommendations seem perfectly reasonable. However, in order to ensure that the
Council doesn’t get distracted by the PC’s suggestion that the rules be
different for duplexes, you may want to take time to let them know how you
I am generally able to see merit in both sides of most
issues, but on this one, I’m at a loss. If the development regulations have a
built-in bias to make duplexes 25% larger than single family homes, what would
happen? We’d see a whole lot more teardowns in
and a whole lot more huge, expensive duplexes. Lots larger than 7,000 s.f.
would rise in value for more profitable duplex development, putting them
further out of reach of Single Family homebuyers. Our neighborhoods could be
transformed in fairly short order by this inequity in the development code.
I understand what motivates the PC to push for this inequity.
They feel that duplexes help us to make
that duplex development is worth the cost to neighborhoods. My concern is that
they completely and totally miss the point that slightly smaller duplexes not
only address that issue, but they don’t come with the same devastating impact
that jumbo duplexes can. Further, by definition, smaller units are more
affordable than larger units, which is important also.
In our sample set of houses that caused people the most
grief, large Duplexes jumped out as perhaps of the biggest reason we’re
changing the codes right now. I’d hate to see us solve some problems with SF development,
then sit back and allow duplexes to continue to run with less restriction.
If you agree, take a minute today to email Council in this
issue. Simply click here to email all of them at once: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm .
If you disagree, by all means, feel free to use the same
link at no cost!