Photo by the City of Austin
Thursday, May 14, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Schlotzsky’s PUD clears Planning Commission

On Tuesday night, the Planning Commission voted 10-3 to approve the zoning case for 218 South Lamar, otherwise known as the Schlotzsky’s planned unit development.

Owners Michael and William Pfluger want to build a 96-foot-tall building that would include pedestrian-oriented uses on the ground floor, upper-story office uses, underground vehicular parking, and landscaping that would include rainwater harvesting.

The main objective of the application is to increase the height maximum from 60 to 96 feet. Staffers support the proposal with the addition of a restrictive covenant that would attach a “transportation mitigation memo,” a condition with which the applicant has agreed. A transportation analysis found that the site could not safely allow vehicular access to Lamar Boulevard.

The site does sit in the Butler Shores subdistrict of the Waterfront Overlay, which places restrictions on what can be built greater than the base zoning. However, staffers write that the restrictions, which were created in the late 1990s, “do not reflect the rapid growth of our city over the past 20 years.”

The Zilker Neighborhood Association, which voted unanimously to oppose the construction of the building, objects to the height increase and says the project doesn’t conform to Vertical Mixed Use or commercial design standards. A petition was filed in opposition to the rezoning request; however, it only included 17.79 percent of eligible signatures and therefore did not meet the threshold for a valid petition.

“The primary objective of the Waterfront Overlay is to preserve the views and public open space along the river by preventing the construction of tall buildings too close to the river,” wrote Dave Piper, president of the Zilker neighborhood group. “A 96-foot-high office building near the south end of the Lamar Bridge and the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is a classic example of what the Waterfront Overlay was created to prevent.”

The commission ultimately voted 10-3 to approve the application, which is now bound for City Council. Commissioners Carmen Llanes Pulido, Patricia Seeger and Rob Schneider voted no.

“I definitely appreciate various aspects of this plan,” Llanes Pulido said, explaining her vote. “I agree with a lot of the open space and design and considerations that were made, but I am concerned about the staff recommendation around the Waterfront Overlay, in particular some of the specifics that have been brought up by various community members.”

Llanes Pulido added that the commission should consider the demand for high-end office space in the near future compared to the overwhelming demand for housing.

“I definitely want to remind everyone that while maybe the last comprehensive rewrite happened 34 years ago, our code has been amended tremendously, and one of the changes that was made in 2008 to the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance was made actually to encourage more residential housing in this area and high-density multifamily projects.”

Commissioner James Shieh, who voted yes, argued that the commission should view the district holistically.

“To create a good complete community, we do need a good commercial component there,” Shieh said. “If we want to start decreasing the amount of traffic, then we want people to work and live and play in the same place. This building allows that to start happening.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

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