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TWITC: Save Town Lake Kills Town Lake Trail

Of course, the Chronicle plays this up as a win for the lake:

This would have allowed them to move their secondary setback line from the river forward 50 ft, and 130ft on East Bouldin Creek, pushing their proposed developments at 222 and 300 East Riverside much closer to the waterfront.

Once again, we see the writers at the Chronicle pretty much taking the ANC line hook, line, and sinker - without any qualification whatsoever. And:

it seems likely that CWS will withdraw to lick their wounds and come up with another plan.

but here's the money quotes, courtesy of the ABJ:

If the variance request remains denied, CWS plans to build two highrises -- one 200 feet, the other 120 feet -- and redevelop dozens of apartments that sit as close as 20 feet from the lake shore to sell them as townhomes. Those apartments pre-date the 200-foot rule.

So, who are you going to trust? The developer? The ANC? Well, I'd say at a bare minimum, a journalist ought to at least report what the developer says they're going to do. The ABJ did, but not the Chronicle.

My prediction: While there's a distant possibility CWS would re-re-negotiate, the most likely scenario now is that there's two rather than three towers on the site, and that the existing buildings right next to the water get rebuilt and sold as townhomes/condos. Remember - after the sales happen, any donation of parkland (even a foot next to the water) would require a vote of that condo association. Key here: there's nothing non-trivial left to negotiate. CWS was denied just about the smallest variance that was worth anything; there's nowhere to retreat to from here. And the rich folks in Travis Heights (using the rest of you as dupes) won the battle they really cared about: keeping their property values high and their views unobstructed.

Anyways, this is what you get by standing up behind the ANC and Laura Morrison, folks. Hope you enjoy jogging on the Riverside sidewalk.

Several commissioners referred to the vote as a lose-lose situation because CWS will still rebuild close to the lakeshore and the public will lose an extension of the hike-and-bike trail.

And, Planning Commission, shame on you. Going on the record as saying this is a lose-lose situation but then voting unanimously for the ANC position? WTF?

Additional coverage:

From that Austinist piece, in comments, "Scooby" says:

I see that the Austin Chronicle is a "Waterfall Sponsor" ($2,500 donated). I wonder if that includes the in-kind donation of slanted "news" coverage?
This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , I Told You So , This Week In The Chronicle , Transportation , Urban Design , Walking in Austin (Pedestrian Issues) , When Neighborhoods Go Bad


Once again it seems to me that Austin is dangerously incapable of seeing the big picture as of the last few years. Although at least in this case the main losers are limited to Town Lake users, as opposed to being a missed opportunity to provide an alternative to expanding environmental destruction outside town.

Here's what I'm puzzled about: Why didn't Mayor Wynn provide some leadership here? It must be obvious by now that ANC, whatever valid concerns they may also have, is purely reactionary and incapable of compromise or vision. This is excepting the occasional self-contraditory PR "vision" statement of course (e.g., "no density in intown neighborhoods, but we are for affordable housing and against sprawl!")
So wouldn't this've been a great time for Wynn to say "hey, look at all the facts here. let's try to come together and get something good for the city citzenry as a whole". Sure seems like a better place to spend political capital than Las Manitas.
I guess it's possible that:
1. Wynn is crippled by his former developer connections. Perhaps he feels he must recuse himself. I could understand this one, but if you're going to be mayor, you've got to lead.
2. Wynn sees something I don't, due to his real estate background. Possible, but people like AC are presumably quite knowledgable in this area and seem to have covered the issue well.
3. ANC has gotten so good at riling up the unquestioning "two legs bad, four legs good!" crowd on these issues, that he's too cowed (or weary) to say anything.

I watched the hearing and was surprised that vote to deny was 9-0. The Commissioners had a clear grasp of the issues. They cut through STL's Bu11sh*t. (Commissioner Dealey even called the STL "poll" misleading because it failed to tell the respondents about the existing structures. STL had no answer to this.)

Sullivan (who I generally admire) nailed the vice chair of the Travis County Democratic Party -- which backed STL -- for not asking for more affordable housing in return for a variance. Made him look like a real hypocrite. (And since when does preferring more parkland to less make you a Republican?)

Reddy, who moved for denial, even said it was a "lose-lose" situation; he could only cite "democracy" as the reason he moved for denial.

Just bewildering.

by made "him" look like a hypocrite, I meant the TCDC guy, not Sullivan

I got a phone call (during dinner, of course) by someone conducting an "independent" (read: push) poll about the CWS project. I told them I was for the variance, the lady told me thank you, and I got back to eating before the food had a chance to get cold.

I assume that was the poll you mentioned, AC? And what were the actual poll results?

I'm beginning to draw the conclusion that STL's real objective in this matter was an attempt to prevent any towers from being built, as this would obscure their views and ostensibly add more traffic to the area. Their covert hope was that the low-density apartments along the lakeside would be turned into condos, and that there would not be any room left on the lot to build towers.

Now, everybody loses. Travis Heights probably gets towers built there anyway, the rest of us get to detour to Riverside while we run on the lake forevermore. The boardwalk will cost a fortune, if it ever gets built (it's been in the "planning" stages for years). I can't see the new condo owners, Joe's Crabshack, and that neighborhood on the bluff by 35 just readily agreeing to the construction project to build this boardwalk along "their" shoreline.

And all of this over a one-time 50 foot variance. I just traced it out, it is about 70 feet from my office to the men's room. It took me about 15 seconds to walk it.

AC: Yes, Dave Sullivan is almost always in the right. When he and I disagree it's almost always in a case like this where he'd probably tell you he knows what the right thing is but he doesn't feel comfortable dragging the public so far from where their comfort zone is (I disagree with that philosophy; I think the whole point of citizen-expert advisory commissions is to pull, big-time, but I can respect his views).

Also, bear in mind that occasionally votes like this go against the commissioner's grain because of pressure from their appointing council-member. Although Slusher never talked to me about commuter rail, for instance, I'll bet that if he did, he'd have told me which way to vote (or to keep my mouth shut). Other commissioners had more direct relationships with their council-members than I did, too.

Snowed in:

Poll results here. http://www.savetownlake.org/pollresults.html

I think the question Dealey was talking about was the one on variances. It didn't mention the existing buildings.

Different poll, then. (But that one certainly satisfied the requirements for a push poll.) Mine was probably a week and a half ago, and it was just the one question (variance: for or against?).

"I can't see the new condo owners, Joe's Crabshack, and that neighborhood on the bluff by 35 just readily agreeing to the construction project to build this boardwalk along "their" shoreline."

I have to say, that while the "easy" compromise solution is now gone, there shouldn't be any reason why the extension could get built, under the proper leadership. Some mayor-level leadership combined with a few generous donations from some big names could get things moving.
The first part of that is hard because Austin still isn't a strong-mayor system. I am becoming further and further convinced that is what Austin really needs. Forget these baby-step charter proposals that never get passed: change the whole system to a strong mayor and a council with set districts. It's time for Austin to grow up already. (I'll add that all these conspiracy-theory level grumps about Toby Futrell would go away in a heartbeat if she was an elected mayor)
And as for the donations part, you'd think one of the big Austin area names (calling Michael Dell) would step up given a concrete opportunity.

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