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Approve The Grove at Shoal Creek PUD

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I am calling on City Council to expeditiously approve The Grove at Shoal Creek PUD, as recommended by the Zoning and Platting Commission.

For years, Austin's political and community leaders, fearing an influx of newcomers might threaten Austin's unique culture and quality of life, attempted to steer growth outside of the city core.  The 1979 Austin Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan identified outer fringes of the city as preferred areas for growth.  As the population of outlying neighborhoods and suburbs such as Cedar Park and Round Rock exploded, commuters flooded Austin's highway network, leading to a sharp uptick in traffic congestion.  Suburban-style planning and zoning ordinances restricted housing supply and density in the urban core.  This inevitably led to a housing shortage in Central Austin.  Today, prices and rents continue to skyrocket as numerous would-be buyers and renters compete for a limited supply of housing. Families, teachers, waitresses, musicians and other hard-working people are displaced from Central Austin in search of affordable housing on the periphery, where they will face grueling commutes and inadequate public transit.  Austin's once vibrant African-American and Latino communities on the Eastside continue to shrink, as long-time residents flee in search of more reasonable rents and home prices.  In trying to “preserve” the culture of Central Austin, our city leaders crafted policies which had the opposite effect: They are driving middle and working-class people out of the city by ensuring housing supply will never meet demand.

The tide began to turn with the adoption of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan in 2012.  Guided by community input, Imagine Austin overwhelmingly rejected our prevailing suburban-style, car-centric planning paradigm.  Imagine Austin calls for mixed-use, mixed-income, “Compact and Connected” communities, with a variety of housing types to support a variety of needs.  While Imagine Austin was adopted with broad citizen support, implementation of the plan continues to face fierce opposition.


I am calling on City Council to approve The Grove PUD as recommended by the Zoning and Platting Commission because it puts us one step closer to fulfilling the more progressive planning vision put forth by Imagine Austin.  I am also calling on City Council to refrain from amending the PUD such that affordability and housing supply are pitted against parkland requirements.  The Grove will provide a range of housing types at a range of price points, including "missing-middle" housing types, such as rowhouses, duplexes and garage apartments, and an unprecedented number of "Affordable" units offered at below market-rate prices.  The Grove will provide a compact and connected street grid, with superior infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.  The Grove will provide much-needed neighborhood necessities, amenities, and employment opportunities within walking distance of residents of the development and surrounding neighborhoods.  The Grove will provide much-needed housing supply in central Austin to counter skyrocketing prices and rents, giving more families the opportunity to live closer to where they work or study.  The Grove will integrate ample parkland and green space throughout the development, providing existing and future residents walkable access to nature.   Finally, the Grove will set a high bar for future development in Austin, clearing the way for innovative, responsible, high-quality projects, which will begin to address our persistant and growing housing shortage, so we can avoid becoming the next San Francisco.

If the Grove is rejected by Council, or altered such that it becomes unviable for the developer to build, the site will not remain an open field.  The developer will likely pursue conventional zoning, which means more expensive, single-family homes, less parkland, fewer new housing units, and no Affordable housing.  

In the midst of our citywide housing shortage, which is driving up rents and home prices in all neighborhoods, this would be a loss not just for Rosedale, Allandale, and other immediate neighborhoods, but for all Austinites. Therefore, I am calling on City Council to place the interests of the entire City above those of a vocal minority of relatively well-off homeowners, whose concerns have already been addressed by the developer and the City's professional and hardworking staff. Please approve the Grove without unnecessary delay.

 



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