PUD ordinance at council

BCRC is hitting all the traditional NA communications channels seeking support for an upcoming change they want the city council to endorse which would prevent PUD zoning from proceeding on previously unzoned land unless a supermajority of council approves (this is clearly intended to stop the Grove PUD in its tracks). I think this is a change important enough that the FAN should discuss it and hold a vote on it.

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Agreed. Here’s a message from Evan Gill about this ordinance:

As many of you already know, on Thursday, January 28th, City Council will consider a code modification to the Planned Unit Developmet (PUD) voting rules for certain properties in Austin. The proposed change will make it significantly harder for unzoned land or land with an interim zoning to be zoned PUD.

This modification will force a 3/4 supermajority for Council to zone previously unzoned land to PUD if either the Zoning and Platting (ZAP) or Planning commissions do not recommend approval. I know this sounds arcane, but this change could have significant ramifications. It will make it more difficult for the large swaths of state owned land in Central Austin, which the state may sell in the not-too-distant future, to be developed as PUDs rather than conventional single-use zoning.

I oppose this change for several reasons. Firstly, I feel that this code modification has been brought forth in bad faith. A small group of people have pushed for this modification as a way to derail one specific project. I find it highly disconcerting that certain council members would bring forth a major code modification, which will potentially affect several large developments in Central Austin in the future, in response to a few vocal residents’ displeasure with one specific mixed use project, The Grove. This sets a very bad precedent: Vocal minorities should not be encouraged to move the goalposts when they feel there are not enough votes on council to stop a development. To me, this seems manipulative and anti-democratic. We desperately need more housing stock in Central Austin, and this could be threatened by arcane political maneuvers by a vocal and disingenuous minority.

Secondly, this seems like a betrayal of the public process under the 10-1 system. Large zoning cases, which have ramifications for all Austinites, should be decided by democratically elected council members rather than somewhat obscure appointed bodies. On large, important zoning cases, council members, who are more accountable to their voters than Planning and ZAP, should be allowed to have the final say (because we know if a supermajority is required, no PUD will ever be approved.)

Finally, this modification would make it more likely that the State of Texas will put entitlements on the land via the General Land Office before selling land in the future, completely bypassing the City of Austin process. The State will do this in order to protect their land against political uncertainty (which will reduce the market value of the land the state wishes to unload.) If the state does this, there will be no affordable housing requirements on these plots, and the likelihood that these plots develop as mixed use will be dramatically reduced.

Please consider sending the following council members (and their aides) an email to express your opposition to Item 80. In particular, I’ve heard CM Garza could be a swing vote. If you live in her district, consider writing her and her aide a personalized email. Also, please reply to this thread with questions or suggestions for how best to articulate your stance on this issue.

Mayor Steve Adler – steve.adler@austintexas.gov & john-michael.cortez@austintexas.gov
CM Delia Garza – delia.garza@austintexas.gov & katherine.nicely@austintexas.gov
CM Sabino Renteria – sabino.renteria@austintexas.gov & david.chincanchan@austintexas.gov
CM Greg Casar – gregorio.casar@austintexas.gov & don.lawler@austintexas.gov
CM Don Zimmerman – don.zimmerman@austintexas.gov & joe.petronis@austintexas.gov
CM Ellen Troxclair – ellen.troxclair@austintexas.gov & michael.searle@austintexas.gov
CM Sherri Gallo – sheri.gallo@austintexas.gov & taylor.smith@austintexas.gov

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This is what I ended up sending (slightly shorter):

Dear Council Members,

I am writing you to express concern regarding Item 80 on Thursday’s agenda. PUDs are currently the only zoning tool enabling mixed-use, mixed-income, compact and connected developments. I am not sure why we would want to make this more difficult on state-owned land by giving 3 council members + 1 land-use commission the power to veto projects which adhere to Imagine Austin and provide much needed housing supply to counter the City’s critical housing shortage (which is driving up prices).

I am also concerned with the process by which this code amendment has been brought forth. Although this amendment would have consequences for the redevelopment of all state-owned lands, it seems like this amendment has been brought forth by a vocal minority as an attempt to block or obstruct The Grove at Shoal Creek development. We should not allow vocal minorities to change the rules without a clear public process in order to stop a development, especially given the critical housing shortage in Central Austin. I have confidence in my council member, as an elected official, to represent me and my interests when considering critical zoning cases which could effect affordability and our adherence to the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan. I have less confidence in appointed bodies which do not answer directly to their constituents. Thus, I believe Council members should vote against reducing their power in deciding critical zoning cases which affect all Austinites.

Finally, this item would increase the likelihood that the State will bypass Austin’s zoning process altogether. This means citizens will have no say in how the state-owned lands will redevelop. Clearly, this is not an ideal outcome for anyone.

Thank you for your time, and please consider voting against Item 80 on Thursday.

I know that “I have confidence in my council member to represent me and my interests” is BS but it’ll help stroke their egos a little bit. We know that there are at last 4 votes for this item (guess who). Garza and Gallo could be swing votes. Casar + the Republicans are against, probably the Mayor too.

For anyone that wants to be able to easily send an email to council about this issue, please use the link below. You just click “Send” and it’ll send a pre-written email. It just takes a few seconds. You don’t have to worry about creating your own email. It also allows you to edit the email message before you send it, if you want to do that.


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All properties being rezoned as PUDs should be treated the same. It should not matter whether the change to PUD is from another zoning category or simply unzoned. This ordinance was proposed by staff and is not only about one particular PUD proposal. It is about PUDs on all of the unzoned land in Austin. The proposed change will require 9 votes instead of 6 on cases that are not recommended by the appropriate board. These boards also have city wide representation with members appointed by the mayor and each council member. Requiring 9 votes will simply encourage developers to engage all stakeholders and make agreements that everyone can live with BEFORE the cases come to PC, ZAP, or Council. When the stakeholders go hand in hand supporting a PUD, there is no need for hours of contentious testimony at Council and everyone is happier with the resulting development.

So that means two council member can stop it.

If we want all PUDs to be treated the same, we should strike the super majority rule altogether. I do not see the supermajority rule leading to better PUDs, just more obstruction and behind-the-scenes deal making. And I also think that this ordinance is targeting one specific PUD… is it a coincidence that it came up shortly after the Bull Creek tract was purchased by a developer wanting to do a PUD?

The FAN vision states “A neighborhood voice is best structured around individual city council districts”. Pete has linked to an auto- email website, which is open to non-Austin residents. It seems to me that, in using social media and encouraging all to publicize a website like this, the democratic process is being manipulated and subverted.

If any and all outside interests are allowed to lobby under the guise of “AustinSpeaksUp.com”, how does this serve the FAN vision?

Any and all can lobby in person or send Council an email from the city’s website. Is there something about this you see as different?

I would love to have a district drop down on that website though. The city website never figures out my address and thus doesn’t populate my district.

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The city’s website is open to all, regardless of their viewpoint.
Pete’s website calls itself “AustinSpeaksUp”, which implies that it represents the voice of Austin residents, when really it could be anybody’s voice. It’s also limited to presenting one particular viewpoint.

So yes, I see a difference.

He’s done the same thing to promote the pro-STR issue, creating an auto-email website and promoting it on social media. So now, anybody who’s ever stayed in an Austin short-term rental can easily lobby our city government under the banner of “AustinHomeSharingWorks”.

Does it serve FAN’s vision to artificially boost support for an issue by encouraging the voices of tourists to overwhelm the voices of Austin residents?

The same is true for any outlet other than voting. The city doesn’t screen emails sent to the council from individuals outside of Austin.

Instead of bouncing around online spreading your conspiracy theories, you should try to actually discuss the issues. I’ve started to notice the NIMBY talking point has basically turned into asking us to shut up.

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I’ve never asked anyone to shut up.
I’m not spreading conspiracy theories. I’m questioning one particular action that seems to be in direct conflict with FAN’s stated vision.

If it asked for the contacting person’s district and added it to the email would you still have an issue with it?


Thank you for the respectful response.
If it asked for name, address and district, and if it screened out non-Austin addresses, I’d have no issue with it.

Liz, yes you have. First, the website Pete setup is unaffiliated with FAN. He did it on his own. Second, you’ve been spreading conspiracies about how we’re funded by developers. Third, you’ve basically been saying ‘I don’t like what you’re saying and I don’t like how you’re saying it.’

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with saying that people outside of Austin couldn’t comment (since I can see that someone from Leander could have interest and valuable feedback on CapMetro service for instance), but clearly marking those as from outside of a city district.

Pete, how hard would it be to add that? And do you need help with any of that? I almost built this same website fairly recently.


I’ve never said FAN is funded by developers, and I really don’t appreciate your throwing false accusations at me.

I know Pete set up the websites on his own. I’m asking whether this particular tactic, which I see as diluting the voices of Austinites, is compatible with the FAN vision.

@LFranklin ,
To answer your original question, “A neighborhood voice is best structured around individual city council districts” is actually about the concept of having planning and advocacy at the district and city level, not at the individual neighborhood association level as occurs right now. It fits into the vision “we as citizens must never place the needs of individual neighborhoods above those of the city-wide community.” So I would say anything that makes communication with Council easier and more accessible would fulfill that vision.

I’m not a moderator, but I would ask everyone in this thread to remember to treat each other with respect. That’s the one thing I’m most excited about FAN being able to do.

That said FAN doesn’t have particular viewpoints. You can suggest a resolution to be voted on by members.