- On July 20, the Austin City Council plans to consider a controversial resolution to convert single-family zoning into multi-family zoning (shown in green in the above map)
- The proposal is part of a series of resolutions to implement components of CodeNEXT
- Austin residents who are opposed to the changes should plan to attend the July 20 meeting and contact council members
On July 20, the city council will consider a resolution (Item 126) to eliminate single-family zoning, which is the standard for most Austin neighborhoods. Specifically, the resolution directs city staff to prepare amendments to the land development code to:
1. Reduce the minimum lot size in single-family zoning districts to 2,500 square feet or less so that existing standard-size lots can be subdivided, and be developed with a variety of housing types such as row houses, townhomes, tri-and four-plexes, garden homes, and cottage courts
2. Amend the maximum number of housing units to allow at least three units per lot in single-family zoning districts without requiring existing structures to be preserved
3. Create a new use for three-family residential that allows for flexible housing configurations in SF-1, SF-2, SF-3, and SF-4A/4B zoning districts
Most residential neighborhoods in Austin have either SF-2 or SF-3 zoning. The minimum lot size in these districts is 5,750 square feet. SF-3 zoning, Austin’s two-unit version of “single-family,” permits a home and an additional dwelling unit (ADU), e.g., a garage apartment, or a duplex on a 7,000 square foot lot.
The proposed resolution would allow a developer to remove homes and subdivide existing single-family zoned lots into two (“or more”) 2,500 square-foot (“or less”) lots and build “at least” three new units on each of those lots, for a total of (“at least”) six units—effectively transforming all single-family zoning into multi-family zoning across the city (see LDC § 25-2-3 (7)). The resolution also allows three units without subdivision. It calls on the city to “streamline site development regulations for single-family zoning districts that will allow up to three dwelling units on smaller lots that are created by subdividing a single-family lot.” For example, an existing 10,000 square foot lot with a single home could be subdivided into 4 lots with a total of 12 units.
Once adopted and the code changes implemented, single-family zoning (with the flexibility to permit ADUs or duplexes) will exist in name only in Austin. The label will stay the same, but the contents will have changed. Ironically, the Lake Austin and Rural Residential zoning districts, each with a minimum lot size of one acre, are exempted.
Lest there be any hesitation over the displacement of families, the resolution emphasizes that the additional units are allowed “without requiring existing structures to be preserved.” Lower-income neighborhoods with less expensive homes will be the first redevelopment targets.
To facilitate the transformation, the staff is further directed to “adjust” setback, height, impervious cover, floor-to-area ratio, site area, and building coverage requirements.
If that isn’t enough, the resolution orders the city manager to propose: “any additional site development regulations necessary to facilitate the creation and development of smaller lots and more housing units in single-family zoning districts consistent with this Resolution.”
The resolution is sponsored by Council Member Leslie Pool and co-sponsored by Mayor Kirk Watson, Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis, and Council Members José ”Chito” Vela and Zohaib ”Zo” Qadri.
If the goal is to allow smaller lots, the code already contains another single-family zoning district (SF-4A) which permits smaller lots of 3600 square feet. The resolution could have simply proposed amending that zoning district to allow even smaller 2,500 square-foot lots. Small lot development under SF-4 could then be considered by request on a case-by-case basis. Instead, the resolution proposes rezoning by redefinition all single-family lots (and adding units), preventing neighbors from knowing when or where redevelopment will occur and with no opportunity to weigh in.
See the Austin Independent interview with Councilmember Pool where she acknowledges her proposal will have “unintended negative consequences”.
Speaking of weighing in, also on the July 20 agenda are resolutions to consider cutting back on notices to the public of land use changes and constraining the time any one person can speak at council by preventing the donation of time.
All of this is on top of council resolutions passed or pending that will eliminate minimum parking requirements, occupancy limits (the number of persons allowed to live in a structure), the necessity for a site plan, and meaningful compatibility protections.
Together these changes, along with the planned creation of high-density transit-oriented districts, represent an attempt to separately adopt many of the component parts of CodeNEXT through resolutions with the goal of reassembling them in the code.
Contact council members using the information below and tell them the following:
Together we can build an Austin for everyone!
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