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East 12th Zoning Changes, passed 1st test...East Austin Real Estate news. 9.6.2023 per Austin Monitor


East 12th Street rezoning wins first-round approval

At last week’s meeting, City Council voted unanimously to approve greater height and a zoning change for a property at 3117 and 3121 E. 12th Street for construction of 80 dwelling units, 10 percent of which would be affordable. The property is currently zoned Commercial but would become Mixed Use, allowing for construction of apartments and ground-floor commercial. In addition, Council agreed with staff’s recommendation that the current 40-foot height restriction be changed to 60 feet. Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents the area, made the motion to take action on first reading only.

Attorney Michael Whellan, representing the applicant, pointed out the many changes in transportation options that have occurred in the area since the neighborhood plan with its height restriction was adopted in 2001.

Whellan said, “Since the neighborhood plan was adopted, transportation options have expanded near the site to include four bus routes, including a weekday high-frequency route into downtown,” as well as the MLK Jr. rail station. He noted that the project would add needed affordable housing at 60 percent of the median family income within 400 feet of Airport Boulevard, which has been designated as an Imagine Austin activity corridor. According to the staff report, 60 percent of the median family income in Austin for a household of two is $52,984; for a household of three it’s $66,180.

Neighborhood resident Chris Page complained that the applicant had not provided any evidence that they were planning to construct anything on the site. Evidently, other developers have gotten zoning changes in the area but have not yet produced any new buildings. But his biggest concern seemed to be about the increased height.

Page said, “The conditional overlay of 40-foot height regulation was established to counterbalance disproportionately intense zoning that was put into East Austin and into the Rosewood neighborhood area because of the city’s history of discrimination and disparate zoning practices.” He also complained about inadequate streets and argued that the neighborhood was not simply opposed to development, saying, “We want deeper levels of affordability. We want greater levels of environmental sensitivity. We want thoughtful community informed development.”

Whellan told the Austin Monitor about some of the neighborhood’s requests that seem highly unusual. For example, Whellan said, “They want to route all vehicular traffic to Airport Boulevard through Harvey Street, which would require a third-party owner to agree, and route it though the neighborhood, rather than use 12th Street. And they want to create a vehicle barrier at the end of Sol Wilson Avenue.” That might benefit some members of the neighborhood while inconveniencing others.

Although there was neighborhood opposition, there were also a number of neighbors who told Council they were in favor of the project. Architecture professor Charles Di Piazza told Council he supported the zoning change. Noting that he lives near the site and has discussed the project with the owner, he said the development proposal will be a plus for the neighborhood.

Harper-Madison said, “I’m generally supportive of increased housing, especially income-restricted housing where it may not occur otherwise. I think housing that is connected to our transit system and provides access to nearby jobs is imperative. But that said, I believe this particular case and its location warrant additional conversation between the applicant and neighboring property owners.”

Whellan said Tuesday that he does plan to meet with neighborhood representatives again prior to Sept. 14, when the zoning application is scheduled to come back to Council on second and third reading.

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