Resolution suggestion below, but read the background info first if you find it helpful.
An agenda item to remove the 450sf carport exemption from FAR calculations goes to Planning Commission June 28. This is fairly soon.
This came up last year when someone in Zilker put a garage door on their home’s carport to keep their kids’ bicycles safe, and instantly busted FAR because of the complicated way things are calculated. This unleashed the gates of HELL…
Our code is riddled with contradictions. It requires off-street parking, but if you connect it to the house your habitable space is penalized for it. Unless it is a carport, and doesn’t have habitable space above… There is a long list of complicated exemptions like this ,but essentially with this one, the carport doesn’t count against your habitable space allowance. The idea originally was that a carport doesn’t add to the “mass” of a home. However, it is obviously flawed, confusing, and not intuitive to homeowners that want to install garage doors.
I’ve heard from staff that this kind of complexity is very difficult to review as well, sometimes things count and sometimes things don’t count. The permit application is a ridiculously complicated numbers chart. It makes it difficult to train new staff with some many ins and outs. This adds time to project duration, and expense to permit review, which serves to add costs to housing.
So it does need to be fixed, however simply removing the 450sf exemption would make carports count towards your total allowable square footage, making car space compete with people space. This cuts into the total square footage you have to work with and that ripples over into the design of affordable ADUs. Remember the total allowable square footage is fixed as a percentage of the lot, so both the house and ADU are drawing square footage from the same limited amount of allowable habitable space. A flawed carport fix could take precious 450sf out of the total habitable square footage you have to work with. Now that we have ADUs as a viable secondary unit on 5,750sf lots, and they are gaining in popularity as a housing model, this is a dangerous time to limit square footage with certain designs.
Last time this was at Planning Commission, Chair Oliver said something incredibly sensible like “Why don’t we just increase FAR and get rid of all the exemptions?” I think FAN’s resolution should play on that. Possibly also just come out and call for no minimum off-street parking requirements while we’re on this topic.
So here goes:
"FAN, in an effort to place importance on people over cars, calls for an increased F.A.R. limit of .48 or 2,760sf whichever is greater and to remove the parking exemptions section from Subchapter F known as the “McMansion Ordinance”.
If we wanted to get bold we could add this:
“Furthermore, FAN calls for the elimination of minimum off-street parking requirements in an effort to let the market explore the feasibility of more urban housing options without parking structures and extra impervious cover.”