Equitable Development Workshop

The city is collaborating with the EPA and Capital Metro on a sustainable and “equitable development workshop”.taking place September 21. The target area is Burnet Rd., from W. 45th St. to Highway 183. It’s an invitation-only event, and FAN received an invitation. If you’re a FAN member and would like to participate in the workshop on behalf of FAN, let me know!

The details:

I wanted to follow up to an Eventbrite invitation you should have received from the City of Austin on an upcoming workshop on equitable development. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the City of Austin, and Capital Metro are collaborating to host an Equitable Development Workshop on September 21, 2015. Part of the EPA‘s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program, the workshop will bring national and local experts together with City leaders to identify tools and strategies to preserve and develop sustainable commercial districts inclusive of all business types, promote housing choices for all incomes, ages, races, ethnicities and household sizes, and manage development to maximize the public’s investment in higher capacity transit.

Austin’s explosive growth rate presents challenges but also provides opportunities to leverage resources in a coordinated manner to address systemic problems. There is a need to collectively develop strategies that will address Austin’s growing affordability issues, enable residents and established businesses to stay and thrive, and support more transportation choices. The workshop will examine Burnet Road, from West 45th Street to Highway 183, as a case study. This corridor exemplifies many of the growth and affordability issues found on many of Austin’s corridors. With the MetroRapid Route 803, it also provides an opportunity to leverage existing federal and local transit investments as a part of an equitable development toolkit. The strategies discussed during the summit will enhance the city’s ability to implement the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and planning efforts across the city, including the future Burnet-Anderson Corridor planning process in 2016.

The invitation will ask you to choose one of two invitation-only stakeholder sessions on Monday, September 21:

· 2-4pm (session 1) -OR-
· 6-8pm (session 2)

You should have received the link to register from the City of Austin in an Eventbrite invitation in the last two weeks. Please let me know if you need this invitation re-sent to you or more information. Looking forward to you being part of the dialogue.

I am interested! I’d only be available for session 2.

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Great! I’ll hook you up with Erica Leak.

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Natalie, I’ll be there for session 2.

I’m interested as well - available for first session.

Awesome. Unfortunately, FAN has only one invitation. If you’re able to make it to the first session, though, @lauren, please let us know and give us a summary of what happened!

@NatalieGauldin @hfrankel07 @lauren Can each of you that went provide a summary?

I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures of the brainstorming lists we made, but my understanding is that the workshop leaders plan to produce a summary of the comments. I’ll post those here when they become available.

The workshop was a full two hours and consisted of a quick presentation in the form of PPT slides and a longer group brainstorming session. The attendees ranged from community members (business owners, NA reps, stakeholder organizations) to
CapMetro and COA department staff.

The group answered the following questions:

  • What is equitable development?
  • What are our concerns for the future of Burnet Rd corridor?
  • What are the opportunities to address our concerns?

The presentation complimented the discussions by offering data on trends in the area.

  • Nationwide trend towards urban, car-free/ car-light lifestyle
  • Increasing housing costs
  • Increasing commercial business costs
  • Population changes including notable decreasing Hispanic population

I found the discussion fairly balanced, but somewhat predictable based on the individuals that were in attendance. I’ll comment more when COA releases the report.

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This will mirror Natalie’s summary a bit. In many ways it was the usual battle between those who want to quell growth, and those who want to respond to the growth. One on hand, statements about ROI, context-sensitive infill, and diverse housing options, the need for funding for pedestrian and transit infrastructure, solutions for business retention, and the need to address compatibility standards and parking requirements. On the other, frustration related to traffic and parking, fears about a city council who is only seeking to color Burnet with the downtown density crayon, concerns about bring priced out, and seeming disinterest in strategies that create greater proximity.

The city was chosen from about 150 applicants for this 2-day technical assistance workshop. A memo produced by the EPA in the coming weeks will outline results and recommendations (I think), intended to assist the city with the implementation of a full corridor study (45th St to 183) that will commence in the spring.

Here were some of the important points made by the participants:

  • We cannot rely on CodeNext to serve as a toolkit for this corridor planning
  • Policies related to fees in lieu, waivers need to reconsidered
  • Affordability that leads to demographic diversity is great, but the corridor also needs great public spaces that facilitate actual contact between residents
  • A point was made about retention of businesses, and whether we are accurately assessing what kind of impact increasing commercial rental rates are having on local businesses – Russell Korman and Austin Diner were used as examples of establishments that have moved, but were able to simply relocate further north on Burnet (Russell Korman moved from 38th and Lamar).
  • There are going to be generational shifts that take place in the corridor, and along with those shifts come different preferences for housing types, transportation options, etc.

There were a few things that were not brought up:

  • The idea of a “transition zone” between the transit/commercial corridor along Burnet and the surrounding neighborhoods was not addressed.
  • No one countered the expressed fears about increased traffic due to increased density by making the point that this is not an inevitability if we redesign the right-of-way in a manner that fosters ease of use for alternatives to SOVs, and eventually behavioral shifts. Folks throughout the night talked about transportation and land use in the same breath, but no one made the point that safe and accessible multi-modality should also be a goal reflected in the top priorities. The consultant presented two priority goals were focused mainly on preserving existing housing and housing choice, and retaining local businesses.
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