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Link of the day

"The Next Slum?" if anything underestimates how bad things are going to get for the suburbs. There's not much more ability at the margins for people to absorb higher fuel costs, and yet fuel costs in the long-term are going nowhere but up. In the meantime, as the article notes, modern exurbs cannot be reconfigured into anything useful - but even more important, it's impossible to serve them with reasonably priced mass transit due to their broken roadway design.

In the meantime, though, we still subsidize this unsustainable pattern (and every time you get suckered by Sal Costello into fighting toll roads, you persist in this unhealthy subsidy), and we still have, even in central Austin, zoning codes which outlaw the historical development patterns that generated Hyde Park and Clarksville. Even the new Mueller development is laughably suburban. At some point, somebody has to stand up to the ANC and say "enough is enough; we're going to densify with or without you". I think we're almost there.

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"Even the new Mueller development is laughably suburban."????

Strict rules about setbacks; row houses which aren't row houses; strict separation of uses; sprawl retail along I-35 with only nebulous promises for something else later on; etc.

Rather than being "like Hyde Park", it's just a denser Circle C - still going to be highly car-dependent, at least in early stages, and have relatively little diversity of income, housing types, etc.

In other words, there's very little difference between what's being built in Mueller so far and what's being built in the little pods of medium-density suburban sprawl you see in the DC suburbs, for instance. It's easy to call it TND, but there's nothing to walk TO, and there's no garage apartments, and the row houses are really just a block of condos which sort of look like townhouses but don't actually own their backyards, etc.

Garage apartments are an option, at least for houses with detached garages.

The houses are only 7-10 feet apart, and the front setbacks _require_ houses to front the street.

"Row houses which aren't row houses." What difference does the form of ownership make -- condo vs fee simple?

True, there's nothing to walk to now. We'll have to see if the promised "neighborhood" retail materializes. It will be long walk to the town center. But "strict separation of uses"? Have you looked at a zoning map of Hyde Park?

I think Mueller is neither particularly better nor particularly worse than piecemeal infill of existing central Austin areas so long as Austin yields to ANC reactionaries.
There are, of course, the positive signs in recent months regarding the city council forming a backbone when dealing with neighborhoods' VMU applications.
But for Austin to avoid entering the slipperly slope to more sprawl and slums, Austin voters need to do the following in the next year or two:
* resoundingly reject the reactionary and incompetent ANC/BAT candidates
* move towards single member districts
* move to a strong mayor system

More "laughably suburban"

1. Has a HOA which is going to regulate home color and other topics - destroying diversity of building and appearance and yard and everything else.

2. Disallows mixing of multi and single-family residental uses (that's what I meant by strict separation; Hyde Park has a bit of retail on the interior in surprising places, like Avenue B Grocery, but that's not what I meant).

3. No secondary dwelling units (no, I don't believe we'll be seeing garage apartments there).

Houses closer together doesn't define "urban" - most suburban subdivisions in Honolulu have extremely little space between houses. Orientation to the street rather than the driveway is a good element, but not enough to overcome all of the suburban stuff I mentioned.

At this point, if the "neighborhood retail" comes as VMU and hits a home run, the overall project comes up to the level of half-urban at best, given the rest of it (I can't emphasize enough how anti-urban the HOA is).

Well, let's attempt to get the facts right before getting all hypercritical ...

"2. Disallows mixing of multi and single-family residental uses (that's what I meant by strict separation; Hyde Park has a bit of retail on the interior in surprising places, like Avenue B Grocery, but that's not what I meant)."

Wrong. Shop houses are planned for Phase 2 beginning later this year.

"3. No secondary dwelling units (no, I don't believe we'll be seeing garage apartments there)."

Ridiculously inaccurate. I can see a garage apartment across the street on a neighbors house.

Stevie, I don't buy "shop houses" as mixing multi and single-family; but am relieved to learn they haven't outlawed garage apartments. Do you have an address so I could check it out?

BTW, I think it's fair to mention what's coming up, but it shouldn't be given the same level of trust as what's currently being built. Plans change; and what you decide to build first tells a lot about your priorities. In Mueller's case, this meant single-family homes (closer together than typical, sure), and strip retail.

The Standard Pacific homes have full kitchens and a bathroom in their "Carriage House." You can check them out here on the Andrews and Duren models:


Theres more information on the shop houses in Phase 2 here:

Additionally, I think some retail is intended for the bottom floor of the four or five story Simon Vedder apartment building that is currently going up.

I'm honestly not too concerned about the big box vomit that is intended for the I-35 area since those are almost a mile from my house one-way.

[sic] Simmons Vedder

Don't forget that Mueller is a new development. The builder wants the strong HOA regulations until they're done building so everything stays "nice" looking. The community can change it to whatever they want once the builders leave.

And Hyde Park is definitely still mostly suburban. It just has good public transportation. We really have to find ways to encourage businesses to fill in amidst our neighborhoods. My neighborhood (78741) has thousands of people living very densely, including an enormous number of pedestrians, but still has very little business off of the main traffic arteries. That's where we should start focusing.

Hyde Park has a few businesses off the arteries (and a bunch on Duval and 43rd of course); but I did yield that point. What Mueller doesn't have, or at least that I thought they didn't have, was a diversity of housing prices and types, and anything worth walking to.

As for the HOA, that's the optimistic but naive approach. I've never, ever, ever seen one turn out that way; they all turn into "who has the most time to spend on making their neighbors comply with their aesthetic taste".

I ran by Mueller over lunch today and toured a Standard Pacific carriage house. It had a kitchunettt (M1EK-inspired spelling), a small sitting area, separate bath, and a nook that could be upgraded for a stackable washer/dryer.

M1EK, there really will be a decent range of income types. The cheaper homes aren't as cheap as some wanted (low 200s?), but there are affordable homes and row homes and MF that will provide a good range. And if you were worried about the upper end, the SP rep told me there are houses that will go all the way up to $1MM.

BTW, the first little park looks pretty good so far -- it has a good playscape and will have a pool.

I don't view houses for sale this central as being anything more than a one-time help for affordable housing (they won't be that cheap for long, in other words).

To me, the only affordable housing in single-family zoning in central Austin are secondary dwelling units. Hence my focus on the garage apartments and the (lack of) multi-family in this phase.

I just realized why I had the impression they don't have garage apartments - they call them "carriage houses". Are they still over garages or are they separate backyard cottages? I need to drive over there; haven't been in a few months.

They're over the garage.

I don't remember the restrictions on the affordable housing -- i.e., length of affordability. The problem with affordable set asides, IMHO, is that they drive up the price for the least-expensive non-affordable houses, bumping someone else out of the market.

Quick question, Mike: when you say "suburbs", you're including the outer parts of Austin as well, right? Because Capital Metro pretty much ignores those areas as well (and roadway design in those areas is generally haphazard at best).

Add to that the general lack of state highways in some of these areas, and I guess you get the worst of both worlds, by your description.

(Now back to your Mueller discussion.)

Yes, including outer parts of Austin. Suburban design, not "suburbs of Austin".

There are plenty of state highways in those areas - far more, per capita, than in the urban core (in other words, your typical suburban and exurban resident spends a lot of time driving on roads that get gas tax funding and very little time on those that don't; the equation is reversed in the city).

Add to that the problem of county roads, and it gets much worse.

I cut that off too soon. That presents a funding equity problem (i.e. suburban driving already way too artificially cheap), but it ALSO means that the design of their roadway networks is most often "large-pod-neighborhood to highway" rather than neighborhoods (preferably grid), collectors, arterials, highway. Transit works well on collectors and arterials; but not well at all on highways (i.e. people in the larger pods would have to walk way too far to get to a stop, but it will never be cost effective for a bus to wind through each pod either).

But Capital Metro doesn't even utilize all its existing collectors and arterials very well where it has the opportunity.

For example: I live near Slaughter/Manchaca (but too far for it to be reasonable to walk to a bus stop). Capital Metro could easily run a crosstown route along Slaughter and extend their north/south routes, but they have shown no desire to improve their coverage in this area.

Austin hasn't helped itself in these areas, either, since they have forced the pod-type layout on developers thanks to the NIMBYs who don't want anything other than large arterials because, you know, who knows what could happen if you could go from one neighborhood to another without using an arterial. (Why, people might speed on our streets! Wait, that already happens...) These are the same types who are unnecessarily holding up the connection of the two ends of West Gate (which has a bus route serving it).

And yes, I know part of Manchaca is a state highway, but that doesn't help the commuters who have to deal with the city-maintained (poorly, IMO...it needs widening to 5 lanes, for safety purposes if nothing else...too bad it will never happen) part, which is most of the road.

Crosstown routes seem like a good idea to people who have never dealt with transfers - they are almost universally a bad idea here in Austin (relatively few end up with any decent number of riders; because the density of destinations out there is so low; and the transfer penalty so high).

CM gets raked over the rails (pun intended) when they run a bus with low ridership (although they're never as empty as people claim) - running a bus as far out from the core as you want would basically be sticking a big target on their back. Extending existing routes farther out is about the best you can hope for that far away from the center (which is why my 'doomed' comments come into play - it is not nor will it ever be cost-effective to serve your area with transit that isn't incredibly awful).

VMU for an Anderson Lane stripmall?


Came up yesterday elsewhere. My prediction: RG4N stays silent; ANA opposes.

Of course, they're only redoing the retail in first phase; the VMU part is nebulous and down the road.

Fortunately this is on the NSCNA side of Anderson, so the ANA can't make any VMU opt out claims here (and NSCNA has generally taken a far more reasonable approach).
The best the ANA could do is huff and puff a little. They can't even threaten to sue since they're insolvent now.

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