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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Council looks at compromise on Rainey Street density bonus plan
Austin City Council members returned Tuesday to the question of how to calculate public amenities associated with density bonuses for projects located in the
Morrison’s proposal would adopt the Downtown Austin Density Bonus Program for
“That way, we would still be able to achieve on-site (affordable housing) getting to 12:1, but nobody would have to do the collection of programs in the Rainey program for the bonuses,” she offered. “Any time you are going to be doing the other (community) benefits, it would be the (Downtown plan) benefits.”
The original item as brought forward by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Chris Riley is an attempt to reconcile a gap in the respective density bonus program offered for
The Downtown Density Bonus program offers developers the option of a fee in lieu of providing local affordable housing. That fact has raised concerns from Council Member Kathie Tovo.
On Tuesday, Tovo asked her colleagues to consider an option that “would not have…what I would perceive as a little bit of a step back from that
Morrison had called for more clarity on the issue as part of deliberations two weeks ago. “It makes sense with regard to extra square footage for some of the community benefits but when it comes to affordable housing – since affordability is a central component of the Downtown Density Bonus plan – what wasn’t clear to me was: How do you actually integrate those two (the Rainey and Downtown bonuses),” she said at the time.
Cole agreed that a delay two weeks ago was for the best. “I want to make sure that as we go from base zoning to 15:1, as we have in the Downtown Austin Plan, that we do that consistent with the code and there are some conflicting provisions that are coming into play and I want to visit with staff about it,” she said then.
Tuesday, it was clear that Cole and Riley were ready to move forward. As Tovo pushed toward the idea of including on-site affordability, Cole acknowledged that she had considered the option. However, Cole added that it was deemed a practical one.
Cole told Tovo that she had considered implementing
She also reminded her colleagues that the ordinance as proposed by herself and Riley would offer more clarity to the city’s Planning and Development Review Department.
The city’s Urban Development Design Review Manager, Jim Robertson, confirmed that this was the case. “I’m not highly enthused about (the Tovo proposal),” Robertson said. “Some of the basic tenants – at least within the Downtown Plan about density bonus programs – is that they should be fairly predictable administratively transparent, and relatively easy to execute.”
Robertson carefully suggested that this might not be the case with the Tovo proposal.
Morrison’s proposal emerged as a suggestion for a compromise between the Tovo and Cole positions. Robertson also appeared to leave room for Morrison’s idea. “The option you are proposing would remove some of this layering (of programs),” he told Morrison.
The item is set for a vote today.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
City of Austin Downtown Density Bonus: The downtown density bonus program was approved as part of the city's 2011 Downtown Austin Plan. The program is a way that developers can earn additional height and density by providing community benefits, most notably affordable housing or money towards affordable housing.
Rainey Street: Once a quiet residential street, Rainey Street quickly transformed once the historic district was incorporate into the Central Business District in 2004. Currently, the street remains in transition as the bars in the original homes there make way for larger development projects.