Neighbors Want to Max Out Housing, Commercial, and Retail in Mueller

FAN member Mueller NA recently adopted a resolution to max out the residential, commercial, and retail density of the Mueller neighborhood.

As reported (with quotes from @neider_dave and @Mateo_Barnstone) in the Austin Chronicle:

• If You Build It, They Will Come: In what might well be a historic first for Austin neighborhood associations, the Mueller Neighborhood Association has passed a resolution asking that the Catellus Development Corp. build out the neighborhood to “full density,” that the city work with Catellus and Capital Metro to address transit issues that would otherwise limit density, and that the City Council consider revising Mueller’s planned unit development “to allow for a significant increase of density in terms of number of dwelling units, building heights and allowances of commercial and retail square footage, so long as all new density (i) adhere to the high standards and sound principles of urban design embedded in the [PUD] Design Book, (ii) maintain all existing and planned parks and (iii) to the extent permissible by law, retain the commitment to reserve 25% of all housing stock for Affordable Housing.” The resolution responds in part to Mayor Adler’s call for 100,000 new units to accommodate residential growth over the next 10 years. In a press release accompanying the resolution, MNA Chair David Neider said, “Increased urban density is key to addressing the challenges facing Austin as it strives to grow as a compact and connected city. Affordability, economic segregation, and traffic congestion all can be addressed by increasing the number of people per square mile, and this resolution directly addresses Mayor Adler’s objective of adding 100,000 housing units to the city core.” It is virtually unprecedented for a local neighborhood association to request greater residential density within its boundaries, but MNA Steering Committee member Mateo Barnstone said, “Density improves social interconnections, energy efficiency, healthy families and helps produce a quality of life reminiscent of urban neighborhoods of a half century ago. We hope that this remarkable resolution can serve to influence planners to reexamine and update their attitudes toward density.” – Michael King


Wow, that is amazing compared to what we see from more traditional neighborhoods.


Or at least very different from some of the more vocal leaders in the less progressive neighborhood associations.


For those interested here is the text of the resolution.

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And the news release is here.

I think the big difference here is that Mueller is a new development that’s planned for this kind of density from the start. I commend them for their work to make the most of their opportunity to “start from scratch” as a neighborhood. It’s kind of apples and oranges, though, to compare this kind of development to 50+ year old neighborhoods nearby. There are a lot more vested interests in the older neighborhoods, and the expectations for, and ability to comfortably accommodate, density are very different.

The best urban neighborhoods evolved from lower density neighborhoods. Even Manhattan!

I can’t think of any urban neighborhoods I actually like that were planned that way to begin with. Mueller, as a matter of fact, is a disappointment to most urbanists, because its top down large lot planning prevents many of the things we like about good urbanism that exists in other places.


Good observation, Mike. Many of the most desirable neighborhoods in the world are dense ones that evolved organically from lower densities. It’s a natural evolution when exclusionary zoning hasn’t been imposed on them.

I got interested in civic planning to work on destroying vested interests like systemic racism and income inequality. I was inspired to work towards solutions that add more housing stock in existing neighborhoods to help slow housing value increases for long time residents and allow them to keep their homes. I also wanted to help preserve the earth for my children and grandchildren by changing our neighborhoods to no longer be car dependent.

I’m curious what you see as valid vested interests?

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Adding more housing stock can’t alleviate systemic racism and income inequality as long as Austin continues to have unsustainable growth.

Supply and demand apply to housing like anything else. If by “unsustainable growth” and “can’t alleviate” you mean the typical past scenario where 100 new people need housing units and the old-model neighborhood associations prevent all but 5 from being built, and the 5 new units can’t stop prices from skyrocketing, you’re “right”.

But most of us in this forum are advocating for at least 100 units to be built for every 100 new residents (more to alleviate past shortfalls). If you build enough housing units, landlords cannot afford to be racist.


Tim, racism? Racism is a vested interest? Come on! I encourage you to crack open a dictionary. You ask what is a valid vested interest? It’s money and quality of life, duh. When you buy a house and commit to a neighborhood, you have a very tangible vested interest in the quality of that neighborhood. You want to see it grow in a smart way, and make sure that the baby isn’t thrown out with the bath water. If you like your neighborhood, then you defend what you like about it when it’s threatened. I don’t understand why this idea is so hard for so many people to grasp.

Roger, to your point: Many of the most desirable neighborhoods in the world are also less dense ones. A lot of people would argue that the desirability is what led to the density, and not the other way around.


I’m not going to address racism. If you react with incredulity to the concept that there is structural racism (when most neighborhood meetings I go to have examples of overt racism) you are clearly not interested in having a productive conversation on the topic. You can search Google for scholarship on the topic if you’re interested in learning more.

And @clay while I see “preserving the buildings in your neighborhood in amber” as a legitimate neighborhood interest, I don’t find it very compelling. Nor do I think it rates very highly when we still have pedestrians being killed by drivers, or huge portions of of our population being priced out of town because there’s nowhere for them to live. But you’re right, it is a valid vested interest.

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To your point, for what it’s worth, when we wrote and discussed the Mueller resolution as a community, our intent was precisely to see the neighborhood grow and meet the demand signal of a growing city with additional housing, commercial and (crucially) transit while preserving the quality of the neighborhood. I want to be very clear about this - the association feels this resolution is very much in our interests.

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@Rahm, @neider_dave, @Mateo_Barnstone, sincere thanks to you and your neighbors @ Mueller for your leadership!