Time to weigh in on The Grove?

#1

The Grove at Shoal Creek development seems to fall in line with the FAN vision, and it will probably be before Zoning and Platting sometime in June. I think it is important that those of us who support more housing supply and a greater diversity of housing options are heard. If we’re gonna do this, we should probably do it pretty soon, before it gets to ZAP

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#2

What do you think FAN should weigh in on? The project as a whole? Specific aspects of the proposed project?

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#3

Maybe we could focus on housing? We could support the full 1,515 units the developer wants to build (instead of the reduced number Staff is supporting). Or we could say that the density of the project should not be arbitrarily limited. We could comment on the mix of housing types and uses. Here is the plan (before the cuts in density recommended by Staff): http://www.thegroveatshoalcreek.com/march-30-master-plan/

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#4

Here are my ideas:

  • We support the developer’s plans to create a relatively dense, walkable, mixed-use community with a diversity and abundance of housing types and sizes.

  • We support the Parks Department in their efforts to secure superior parkland on this site. However, parkland requirements should not be calculated in a way that negatively impact housing density, supply, and affordability. Parkland requirements based on an acres per unit figure run counter to Imagine Austin’s goal of promoting compact and connected development, because they encourage developers to cut density and housing supply in order to meet parkland requirements. We ask the Parks Department to recognize that increasing the number of households able to live near a park does not negatively impact the park, and in fact improves parkland accessibility.

  • In light of the severe housing shortage which is driving up rents and home prices, especially in Central Austin, we ask Staff to remove unit caps, density caps, square footage caps, and caps on the number of Congregate Care units. New housing supply is beneficial to the community, and should not be arbitrarily capped or discouraged via square footage caps or overly restrictive height limits.

  • Specifically, we ask Staff to reconsider their decision to ask the developer to cap total square footage at 2.4 million. This decision to arbitrarily cap density will negatively impact housing supply in Central Austin, and will reduce the number of Affordable units the developer will provide.

  • We vehemently disagree with the Environmental Board’s resolution, which calls for the developer to further reduce square footage to 1.9 million. Limiting density in Central Austin will push more of our growth to the periphery, leading to longer commutes and more traffic. Moreover, since sprawl is more land intensive than infill development, limiting density on this site will lead to a larger net loss of undeveloped open space in the region.

  • We recognize that office and retail space are integral to creating a walkable mixed-use community. We also recognize that shortages in available office and retail space are driving up office and retail rents, negatively impacting local businesses. Thus, we disagree with efforts to arbitrarily cap office and retail space.

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#5

Would all of those things be one vote that we would take?

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#6

I think we should have one vote rather than multiple votes. I’m open to modifications, these are just my initial thoughts. We should probably try to move on this fairly quickly, as the PUD application will likely go before ZAP later this month.

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#7

That’s a lot for the membership to consider and digest. Maybe there’s a simpler and more general version?

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#8

Here is my idea for a simplified version:

  • We support the developer’s proposal to create a relatively dense, walkable, mixed-use community with a diversity and abundance of housing types and sizes.

  • In light of the severe housing crunch which is driving up housing costs and displacing the working and middle class from the urban core, and in light of the environmental benefits of compact development, we ask city Staff and the Environmental Board to reconsider recent demands for the developer significantly reduce urban density on this site.

  • We ask the City to calculate parkland requirements for PUDs in a way that does not discourage housing supply, density, and affordability in the urban core. Basing parkland dedication requirements on the number of dwelling units encourages developers to cut housing units to meet parkland requirements. In order to promote parkland accessibility, the City should encourage developers to build more homes near existing and future parks.

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#9

Overall, I like Evan’s resolution. Here are few minor changes I’d like to see to the wording:

  • We support ARG’s proposal to create a relatively dense, walkable, mixed-use community with a diversity and abundance of housing types and sizes.

  • Due to our severe housing crunch and the known environmental benefits of compact development, we ask city Staff and the Environmental Board to reconsider demands for the developer to significantly reduce density on this site in our urban core.

  • We ask the City to calculate parkland requirements for PUDs in a way that does not discourage housing supply, density, and affordability in the urban core. In order to promote parkland accessibility, the City should encourage developers to maximize the number of people that can live near existing and future parks instead of focusing on arbitrary acreage requirements.

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#10

I agree with Ricky’s suggestions.

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#11

Good stuff.

Regarding parkland, I think it’s important that Imagine Austin states on page 158:

“Despite having an above-average amount of parkland citywide, many neighborhoods are not within walking distance of a park. The absence of these smaller parks means that many areas of the city are not adequately served by the park system.”

And here is a corresponding complete communities indicator: “Households within ½ mile distance of park or accessible open space.” You don’t move this indicator in the right direction by increasing acreage; you increase it with smaller parks interspersed among as much residential density as possible.

I suggest these revisions:

  • We support granting zoning and entitlements at the Grove at Shoal Creek necessary to create a dense, walkable, mixed-use community with an abundance of housing and jobs, and a diversity a housing types and sizes.

  • We urge the developer, city staff, Environmental Board, and other boards and commissions to maintain or increase - rather than decrease - the planned and allowable density for the site in a manner that supports frequent transit service and realizes the known environmental benefits of compact development in our urban core.

  • Consistent with Imagine Austin’s call for smaller parks serving greater numbers of households within walking distance, we ask the city to calculate parkland requirements for this site in a way that does not focus on acreage, which limits space available for housing and jobs, but instead maximizes opportunities for people to live within a short distance of parkland and open space.

Rather than “taking sides” and expressing across-the-board support with language such as “we support ARG’s proposal”, I’d prefer we state more specific things we’d like to see that strongly support the FAN vision and that may improve upon ARG’s proposal.

Just some suggestions. Please feel free to ignore them :grin:

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#12

Roger, I definitely agree with your suggestions regarding point one.

For point 2, I want to convey the idea that density should not be viewed as something which should be arbitrarily reduced. Perhaps if I provide a bit of context my idea will make a little more sense.

Originally, the only factor limiting what the developer would be permitted to build was traffic. Basically, during early talks with Staff, the developer agreed not to build above a level at which traffic would be made worse on the surrounding streets, given the improvements to existing street infrastructure the developer committed to fund.

According to the City’s Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), the site should be able to support close 4 million square feet of total development (which would have supported 3 million square feet of housing, or 2,000-2,500 units). And we know that TIA’s usually overstate traffic in the core, because they assume that people drive everywhere, even in mixed-use developments.

In June 2015, the developer agreed to cap housing at 1,515 units (excluding Affordable and Congregate Care units).

In September 2015, Staff asked the developer to cap housing at 1,695 units including Affordable units (essentially placing a cap on Affordable units)

In February 2016, Staff asked the developer to cap Congregate Care units at 600

In March 2016, Staff asked the developer to cap multifamily units at 650. The first 250 Affordable multifamily units do not count towards this cap, but additional multifamily units do. Why Staff feels the need to limit the proportion of rental housing in the development is beyond me.

In May 2016, Staff asked the developer to reduce square footage to 2.4 million. The developer says they will probably have to cut housing to 1,250 units to meet this demand.
In late May, the developer submitted a proposal to PARD reducing the number of Congregate Care units from 650 to 150, because PARD was counting congregate care units with kitchenettes as residential dwelling units in determining parkland dedication requirements.

A few weeks ago, the Environmental Board passed a resolution asking the developer to reduce square footage to 2.1 million, which would mean an additional loss of around 300 units.

So according to the TIA, which overestimates traffic, the site would support around 2,500 housing units, 600 congregate care units, and 600k square feet of other uses.

The most recent Staff recommendation will likely mean the developer can only build 1,250 housing units, and 150 Congregate Care units, or less than half of what the site could handle, with additional caps limiting office to 210k square feet and retail to 150k square feet. The EV Board recommendation, if followed, would likely mean a further reduction in housing units to 950. Keep in mind that the EV board is an advisory body with limited power, so the developer may choose not to adhere to their recommendations.

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#13

@cevangill, @NatalieGauldin, @rcauvin - can the complete communities indicators be used as metrics here to quantify progress against the goals of Imagine Austin? Some are always going to want “more”, others “less”, it would be nice to have the conversation go back to how it aligns with the agreed upon strategic plan.

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#14

Tying this back to the first FAN principle:

Our neighborhoods should be inclusive and friendly, welcome new residents, encourage participation by the full diversity of neighborhood stakeholders, and offer a diverse, abundant, and affordable choice of housing options.

My main concern is that the “abundance” of housing is under threat. There is a chorus of people calling for a less dense development on this site, and city Staff and Boards and Commissions appear to be listening. Moreover, there is no compelling reason that density should be reduced on this site, since the City’s traffic study confirms the development can handle much more density than proposed, given the infrastructure improvements the developer has agreed to fund.

I think this is a great opportunity for FAN to insert itself into the discussion as countervailing voice. Those who resist abundant housing in the urban core have no qualms about speaking up; however those who support abundant housing supply and embrace new neighbors tend to be much more timid in their messaging, IMO.

This is also a great opportunity for us to gently push back against the outdated paradigm that sometimes persists at the city’s Planning Department, this idea that density and housing supply should be discouraged or dis-incentivized.

Phil, I agree that quantifying the benefits of more housing could be powerful

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#15

Here is my idea, incorporating some of what Roger suggested:

  • We support granting zoning and entitlements at the Grove at Shoal Creek necessary to create a dense, walkable, mixed-use community with an abundance of housing and jobs, and a diversity a housing types and sizes.

  • Due to our severe housing crunch and the known environmental benefits of compact development, we ask city Staff and the Environmental Board to reconsider demands for the developer to significantly reduce density on this site in our urban core.

  • Consistent with Imagine Austin’s call for increasing the number of households living within walking distance of parks, we ask the city to calculate parkland requirements for PUDs in a way that does not discourage housing supply in the urban core. In order to promote parkland accessibility, the city should encourage developers to maximize the number of people that can live near existing and future parks instead of focusing on acreage per capita requirements, which incentivize developers to reduce housing to meet parkland requirements.

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#16

Anyone have thoughts on this? The PUD is going before ZAP in a week, so I think it would be great to have the ability to present the FAN resolution at the ZAP meeting. Which would mean we need to get this up for a vote soon.

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#17

It looks good to me unless anyone else has any suggestions?

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#18

Alright, here is where I’m at. I am still open to suggestions and changes, and I would love to hear from more people, but the clock is ticking…

  • We support granting zoning and entitlements at the Grove at Shoal Creek necessary to create a dense, walkable, mixed-use community with an abundance of housing and jobs, and a diversity a housing types and sizes.

  • Due to our severe housing crunch and the known environmental benefits of compact, mixed-use development, we ask city Staff and the Environmental Board to reconsider demands for the developer to significantly reduce density on this site in our urban core.

  • Consistent with Imagine Austin’s call for increasing the number of households living within walking distance of parks, we ask the city to calculate parkland requirements for PUDs in a way that does not discourage housing supply in the urban core or compromise the viability of dense, mixed-use developments. In order to promote parkland accessibility, the city should encourage developers to maximize the number of people that can live near existing and future parks instead of focusing on acreage per capita requirements, which incentivize developers to reduce housing to meet parkland requirements.

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#19

Is there a way to make it a little more general so it could apply to other developments also? It would be great to be able to apply this resolution to other larger developments in the future without taking separate votes on the issue. It looks like you might be able to replace “the Grove at Shoal Creek” with something like “developments” or “developments in central Austin” in the first part and then rephrase in the second part “reconsider demands for the developer to significantly reduce density on this site in our urban core” to something else and that would make it apply more broadly - “to not demand developers to significantly reduce density on sites in our urban core” or something similar.

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#20

Pete that is an interesting idea. I did try to make it general enough so that it addresses city policy surrounding PUDs, but I do think it would be helpful to mention the Grove specifically. Large PUDs in the urban core are fairly rare (and might become nonexistent after CodeNEXT), so I do not think recyclability should be a major concern.

However, I do think a separate, carefully crafted, overreaching FAN resolution addressing infill/rezoning policy could be a very powerful tool. I think we would want to take our time to get it right, and engage as many FANs as possible in crafting that resolution.

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