Allandale’s Neighborhood Plan
by Allan McMurtry [Email address: amcmurtry #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

Allandale_sign_largeWhen Allandale was being formed, subdivision by subdivision,
starting in the far south along 45th
  Street after WWII and the far east south of
Northland in the late 1930s, the City of Austin
had rudimentary zoning laws. On
occasion, the City would be uncertain as to what zoning was appropriate for an
area and it would identify it as Interim Zoning. This meant that the zoning was there as an
indication only. That zoning could be
changed over owner’s or the surrounding neighbors’ objections much easier than
permanent zoning. Interim zoning only
required a majority vote of the Council to change it rather than a super
majority vote of 75%. The result for Austin wasn’t particularly ominous as Austin was growing slowly and from a smaller
base. As Allandale grew west, but mostly
north, the number of lots of Interim Zoning grew. Back then, residential zoning would allow
both duplex and single family dwellings. This was actually much more permissive than the predominant single
family residential use found in deed restrictions.

MapIn late 1979, the Allandale Neighborhood Association was
experiencing zoning requests that were violations of the deed restrictions
across Allandale, but conformed to the zoning. This required much effort and time, and in some cases, it required
lawsuits. Each zoning case entailed many
hours of work and lobbying before the Planning Commission and City Council, and
the frequency of zoning requests seemed to be escalating. A proposal was made to, in essence, create a
Neighborhood Plan for Allandale. This
Plan would require a massive zoning change for the entire area from Anderson south to 45th St
and from Burnet to MoPac.

The dominant theory was that, if a homeowner signed a paper
endorsing the deed restrictions, as we all do when we buy property in a
subdivision, then the zoning should meet those deed restrictions. Failing that, the Austin Tomorrow Plan
specified that zoning in Austin should reflect the current land. The
idea of a Neighborhood Plan to reflect the land use and agreed use in deed
restrictions began to catch hold. Such
zoning would alert neighbors of changes to both their deed restrictions and
zoning. Further, this change would make
the City a partner in enforcing this duality, a benefit to both the
neighborhood in stability and the City in increased tax revenues.

In order to make this happen, Allandale needed to jump
several hurdles. First, the existing
Interim Zoning had to be changed to permanent zoning (over 80% of Allandale was
interim zoning); second, the A zoning (now SF3) needed to be changed to reflect
the current usage; third, a massive research project had to be undertaken to
identify every subdivision plat in Allandale and the corresponding deed
restrictions; fourth, the ANA would have to make a formal request of the City
of Austin, directly to the City Council, to instruct the Zoning Department to
spend the necessary time to identify every property owner in Allandale and within
300’ for Allandale, prepare legal descriptions of the area, and serve legal
notice to them of the proposal. To that
effect a letter was sent under the authority of the current Allandale Executive
Committee by the President of Allandale, Terry Leifeste, requesting that staff
time. The Plan would be the largest
zoning change in the history of Austin Texas by a factor of 4. It would cover almost 2 sections of land,
some 3050 homes, and notice to multiple businesses. The Executive Committee determined that the
commercial and retail zoning along Burnet and Anderson were appropriate for the
needs of the neighborhoods surrounding them, and left the zoning on those lots
as they were currently configured.

It began with a letter in  February, 1980, from the ANA under Mr. Liefeste’s signature requesting
that the City Council meet to hear our request for this Plan and to vote the
time and funds necessary to complete the process. The ANA went before the Planning Commission
to request the Rollback on February 25, 1980. The City Council met and authorized this process the following month.

The Planning Department had staff limits, and they requested
documentation from Allandale relating to current deed restrictions and current
land use. Also, the ANA agreed to send
out on its newsletter the rationale behind the request for the zoning
changes. This documentation would
include an exact description of all the areas that were included in the zoning
changes. That began the research. A Committee, headed by Allan McMurtry, with
Terry Leifeste (de jure member as President), Lois Zinsmeyer, John Panak, and
Rene Lozano, was formed to provide a single map of Allandale that showed the
outline of each subdivision by name. As
the puzzle began to emerge from plats filed in the Travis County Courthouse,
the names were listed. Some of the deed
restrictions were written on the plats while some we filed in the recorded land
deed for the plat. This meant that each
of the subdivision maps had to be physically located and viewed with an eye to
written notes on them. Then the
instrument creating the subdivision had to be located and copied, looking
specifically for the type of residential use permitted. These subdivisions were listed by Volume and
Page number and by limits as to height, residential use, and any other
pertinent notes.

Allandale had some 39 subdivisions. The City was very interested in the legal
arguments for changing an Inter A (allowing duplexes or multi-family use) to a
Permanent AA (single family residential use only). While the deed search continued, the process
of determining actual use began simultaneously within the City and within
Allandale. Ultimately, any use that was
not single family use was listed by type for each lot in Allandale. Both the City of Austin and Allandale participated in this
search for different uses, comparing notes and lists, and verifying the
accuracy of a master list. Further, each
lot was listed by its City Plat number.

By August, 1980, the process was
complete. Some seriously divisive issues required in
depth research into zoning cases dating back to 1969. One such case was
on Montview. Several lots were zoned for Apartment use and
a request for construction of 55 apartment units had been filed with
City. Research verified that such use
was granted merely to provide a paved road from Burnet to Montview in
middle of the block. The then owner
stated that the purpose was not to build apartments but to provide
access to
his business, a drive-in bank, from the back. Close to this lot was
another lot zoned for Apartments. One of the owners, Doug Tabony, upon
that the lots in mid-block were not actually zoned for apartment use
included his lots in the rollback, provided the lots at mid-block were
back to single-family use. Another area
of 4 lots of light retail on Great Northern was changed to single
residential use.

There were several cases like this that were critical to
establishing a single-family residential area that was unified.
Numerous holes would make the Plan harder to
sale, so this research paid off handsomely for those who owned houses
Montview. As is always the case, the
periphery is where the first battles begin. Getting the area behind
Burnet solid was imperative. And, basically, it was accomplished.

There were 25 people who opposed the new zoning. The City notified the following:
– 3021 single family homes (my notes show more than this—these are from the City)
– 53 duplexes or town homes
– 3 apartments
– 11 business parcels
– 21 public or non-profit parcels
– 14 vacant parcels
– 1235 acres of land
– 46 identifiable
(One section lists 3516 lots in the rollback area)

The key dates were as follows:

  • Feb 24, 1980 – Planning Commission official approval
  • March 1-3, 1980 – Sent out leaflets around Allandale
    regarding the process
  • March 12, 1980 – Complete the land survey
  • April 12, 1980 – Complete the ownership identification
  • July 2, 1980 – City Staff began the process
  • July 25, 1980 – Legal notices mailed to all concerned property
  • July 30, 1980 – The ANA posted signs around the neighborhood
    regarding the Public Hearings
  • August 5, 1980 – The Planning Commission held a public hearing
    and voted unanimously to adopt the ANA’s recommendations
  • August 5, 1980 – The Planning Commission voted to place a
    moratorium on zoning changes within the Allandale Area until the City Council
    had a chance to vote on the entRollback_letterire Plan
  • August 28, 1980 – The City Council held its public hearing
  • September 15, 1980 – City Council voted 7-0 to change zoning
    on Allandale properties as outlined with the listed exceptions – 6 plus ??. Those who opposed the rollback but had deed
    restrictions requiring SF2 were rolled back by a 6-1 vote with Mayor Carole
    McClellan voting no.
  • March 18, 1981 – The City formerly adopted the Ordinance
    making the Council Vote law.

The ANA committed to:
– Determine existing land use
– Assist in determining legal ownership
– Code forms for mailing labels
– Put up signs and answer questions
– Speak at the public hearing on the request

In addition, the ANA Rollback Committee listed every non-SF2
lot in Allandale by Plat Number and street. It also listed the exact legal Aas_article_on_zoning_rollbackdescription of each of those 80
lots. All this was done by going street
by street classifying lots.

Another part of the process was to gather signed petitions
in support of certain actions. This was
generally part of the process on Montview where retension of SF2 housing was
crucial. These petitions required
walking the streets, house-by-house to explain the situation, with maps, and
ask for written support.