"...every politically aggravated ordinance, debate, delay, duplicate review, or ideological lawsuit over necessary residential development doesn't just cost the 'Evil Developer' – it costs every last one of us,"
Michael King, Austin Chronicle
If you follow urban planning and housing issues, you’ve probably already heard about President Obama’s recent call for American cities to change their out of date development policies in order to increase the housing supply, improve affordability, and reduce segregation.
Recognizing that "zoning, other land use regulations, and unnecessarily lengthy development approval processes [have] reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand," President Obama’s call is consistent with the same call being made by business groups, progressive urbanists and social justice advocates on both sides of partisan and ideological divides.
This week, the Austin Chronicle’s well-respected columnist Michael King localized the issue, using The Grove to illustrate just how counter productive Austin’s time-consuming and costly approval process has become.
King writes: “If we're going to make real progress on bending the Austin cost curve, we've got to find some political middle ground that enables a substantial increase in the overall housing supply, affordable and market-rate alike.”
We’ve worked hard for 22 months to craft a proposal that is carefully balanced and achieves that middle ground, maximizing public benefits and addressing community impacts while still ensuring that this private project is economically viable and able to move forward.
We’ve reduced the proposed amount of office space by 35 percent and capped the size of all retailers at neighborhood scale. We significantly cut the number of single-family homes and greatly increased options and supply for other more affordable forms of housing, and we vastly increased the amount of parkland to 19.88 acres -- or nearly 27 percent of the site. We have proposed to fully mitigate traffic impacts and provide additional, sustainable transportation improvements far beyond the project’s impact.
The Grove has gone through one of the most – if not the most -- rigorous development reviews in Austin’s history and earned a superiority rating from city staff, including the Parks and Recreation Department, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, Watershed Protection Department, Planning and Zoning Department, and others.
We have delivered a well-planned, vibrant and sustainable project that meets the city’s criteria for the zoning requested as well as the community’s vision for this unique property as confirmed by the Zoning and Platting Commission.
But it’s clear that the future of The Grove is now threatened by the same obstacles that helped create Austin’s housing shortage and affordability crisis — obstacles that the White House says have to go.
As Michael King writes: “That is, every politically aggravated ordinance, debate, delay, duplicate review, or ideological lawsuit over necessary residential development doesn't just cost the "Evil Developer" – it costs every last one of us. One can hope for some broader public realization, but somehow I doubt this latest admonition from the White House will have much salutary effect on the Austin housing crisis.”