Public Advisory: How important is size? Plus, cars off Guadalupe! – New

During a work session a few weeks ago, CM Chito Vela talked about the importance of three to five story buildings, which he called the “sweet spot” for a lot of developments, and that’s a key point. There’s a lot of talk about upper height limits – can we go to 75 feet, or 90 feet, to get the highest density density – but actually, as Vela pointed out, those mid-rise buildings that can being constructed with wood instead of steel are the most economical to build (and they are also the most durable).

As a measure of effective density, the maximum height of buildings is grossly overestimated. It’s an easy shortcut, and it’s an easy political rallying point, but in reality, it’s not really a hill worth dying for for either side in the debate over density: most developments don’t want to go anywhere near 120 feet, because very tall buildings are very expensive per square foot; and most neighborhoods and local businesses, to the extent that they may be threatened by redevelopment, will not fall prey to high rises, but three to five storey blocks of mixed-use developments such as rows of condominium buildings that now line the north and south of Lamar, as indeed they line the main thoroughfares of major cities around the world.

Following Council’s actions last week to allow more mixed-use construction along transit corridors, social media may light up with comparisons of where buildings can now reach the permitted 90 feet, but most important is where they can go. 45 or 65, and what they can do within that limit.

Seen from this angle, what the Council has just adopted was mixed. whatever you think affordability requirements – 10% of units? 12%? 15%? Take your pick, as the staff admitted they had no methodology on which to base a decision – there are places they could have done more. Deletion front setbacks in VMU for example, would allow storefronts down to the sidewalk and create more buildable space where the greatest heights are permitted. (As the Hyde Park NCCD does along Guadalupe for example; presumably the more lenient NCCD standard will prevail where the two orders conflict.)

The main discordant note concerned whether a VMU property could be rezoned to VMU2″by right– administrative approval without the normal process of notice and protest rights for neighbors. Council voted yes, which may land this ordinance in the same legal hot water that killed the rewrite of the land use planning code ; Doug Becker, the same lawyer who killed that one, threatened the same lawsuit against this one. So perhaps all of this will also take place in the tubes, although you should assume that the Council has obtained solid legal advice on this point before diving in. City Legal sure can’t be wrong about this Againcan they?

The night lasted a long time: it was past midnight when the mayor Steve Adler closed the meeting, and according to the online transcript on the city’s website (compiled from uncorrected Speech-to-Text), this is how the meeting ended. Cheers.







Connect Project the staff did their long awaited job Drag with traffic analysis presentation Tuesday evening June 14, confirming that their preferred alternative is a car-free transit hub with either a shared bike/bus lane or with dedicated bike lanes and buses running on the train tracks. These are options C1 and C2; Option B – which would leave one lane of car traffic in each direction, but would overall carry slightly fewer total people per hour according to staff calculations – is irrelevant unless someone raises it with at the top.

As for the promised “traffic planning strategies around the Drag,” the bottom line is that Guadalupe and West Campus would be eliminated as a north-south throughway for cars and trucks. There would be a slightly improved route on Nueces and San Antonio streets between 29th Street and MLK, but planners said they considered this primarily for local traffic, not a replacement for the current Guadalupe. Motor traffic would be asked to use Lamar, I-35 or MoPac. Or maybe Red River, if it ever reopens – transportation staff have been particularly quiet about it. They pointed out that converting Nueces to two-way traffic was already in the plans even without Project Connect; they hope to have this work done at the end of this year, during UT’s winter break.

There is one last meeting in the current awareness cycle: a presentation on what subway stations will look like and how they will work, this Wednesday, June 22 at 5:30 p.m. Sign up or check out the public engagement library of previous reports at

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