Contact Team Meeting Minutes: July 28, 2014

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Contact Team was brought to order by Pete Gilcrease, chair. He announced that a new subcommittee has been created to review the neighborhood’s relationship with the Austin State Hospital. Whoever is interested in serving on this subcommittee was asked to contact John Williams, Adrian Skinner or Mike Pikulski.

The main order of business for the evening was a continued discussion of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The chair introduced the discussion with the following background and observations: the city currently has this issue under discussion; there has been interest in the neighborhood in exploring the impact of changing Hyde Park and North Hyde Park’s NCCDs to allow the construction of 850 sq. ft. ADUs on lots as small as 5,750 sq. ft., as opposed to the current requirement of 7,000 sq. ft.; neighbors are concerned about the increase of property taxes and hope that rent from an ADU would allow some homeowners to remain in their homes; and some neighbors would like the option of providing affordable housing for parents and relatives.

A series of presentations by members of the ADU subcommittee followed. These reflected the ongoing work of the subcommittee and were meant to clarify definitions, offer data on the current situation in the neighborhood and provide results of a recent survey of neighbors to gauge current opinions.

The first presentation was offered by Kathy Lawrence, co-vice president of HPNA. ADUs have a sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom. They include garage apartments, granny flats, guest houses, carriage houses, and cottages. These units are distinct from accessory buildings, which do not include a kitchen sink. The subcommittee has discussed common concerns offered by neighbors about possible changes to the NCCDs, including parking, preventing demolitions, requiring owner occupancy in one structure, protecting heritage trees, and maintaining standards such as FAR, impervious cover, and setbacks. At this stage in the discussion, the ADU subcommittee will continue its work and recommends that no changes in the NCCDs be made unless there are protections from the city to prevent developers from demolishing houses.

Lawrence’s presentation then moved to a new city resolution from Council Members Riley and Martinez. This resolution, if it proceeds, has the potential to change the discussion. It passed Council in a 4 to 3 vote on June 12. The resolution directed the city manager to “develop an ordinance that reduces regulatory barriers to the development of ADUs that are less than 500 sq. ft. on a lot containing at least one owner occupied structure.” Further, it directed the city manager to “convene a stakeholder process” in 120 days to develop additional recommendations for ADUs of any size, including the following code amendments: reduce minimum lot size, reduce building separation requirements, increase maximum gross floor area for second story ADUs, create design standards and allow a legally non-complying structure to add an ADU if located on a lot with sufficient area.

One issue that has concerned neighbors is property taxes. Lawrence contacted Marya Crigler, chief appraiser for TCAD, and learned that ADUs are not covered by a homestead exemption. This includes long- and short-term rentals, as well as offices.

Several neighbors had questions following Lawrence’s presentation, particularly concerning the Riley/Martinez resolution. They asked if Hyde Park could opt out of Riley/Martinez if it is ultimately approved? And they asked if anyone from the city had contacted Hyde Park to participate in the stakeholder discussion and if we needed to act on the resolution now or if it was best to wait and see how the issue and resolution evolve? Council Member Kathy Tovo, who was present at the meeting, noted in response that it was not yet clear how the resolution would apply to neighborhoods with established plans. If Riley/Martinez is a city-wide ordinance that amends city code, it would require changes to neighborhood plans. The 120 day period began on June 12, and we will know results by the next Contact Team meeting.

Lawrence’s presentation was followed by Theresa Griffin’s, ADU subcommittee member. She offered further data about the current situation in the neighborhood and the potential number of lots that would be affected by this change to the NCCDs. She distributed a color map produced by the city: “Secondary Apartment Infill Option Possible Application in Hyde Park.” Her presentation pointed out that the neighborhood plan addresses ADUs and recognizes that they are part of the established neighborhood pattern in some areas [Secretary’s Note: see Chapter 1, Goal 1, p. 15, “Two-family development is a characteristic pattern of the neighborhood including garage apartments and small residences facing side streets. These developments should be permitted in a controlled way as an alternative to converting or adding to a primary structure to achieve a legal duplex development.” And Chapter 6, Goal 6, p. 45, “Foster a genuine community of neighbors of every age and background.” Objective 6.1: Promote and maintain a diverse culture of young and old, students and workers, civic groups and merchants, of various races and cultures….”]

Currently, Hyde Park includes 643 lots (37%) between 5,750 and 7,000 sq. ft. However, some of these already have an ADU or are in the Speedway/Duval corridors or on corner lots that are given exceptions in the NCCD to build an ADU on a smaller lot. According to the city, there are currently189 garage apartments or 2-family dwellings (11%), many of which were built in the 1920/30s. In the Historic District there are 56 garage apartments, 33 of which are on lots larger than 7,000 sq. ft. and 23 on lots smaller than 7,000 sq. ft. North Hyde Park currently includes 133 ADUs.

Adrian Skinner, HPNA co-secretary, then presented the recent survey and its results, which have been posted to the Contact Team yahoo page. In general, he reported that 148 people participated in the survey and that opinion was evenly split between support and opposition, with roughly 20% of survey respondents undecided.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened to discussion, which was wide-ranging. This summary reflects topics by category, rather than chronological order.

A number of neighbors expressed concerns that the Contact Team needs more refined data so that it can assess how many lots might be impacted and where they are located in the neighborhood. They also noted that the data needed to take into consideration that the NCCDs already allow for ADUs on corner lots and in the Duval and Speedway corridors, and that these rules are already looser than the current city ones. A number of neighbors asked for more information about affordability. They observed that building an ADU would not be affordable for everyone and that an increased number might lead to higher rents or might mean that only developers could afford to build them, rather than homeowners.

The majority of the comments and questions focused on the impact ADUs on smaller lots might have on the quality of life of the neighborhood. Many comments noted parking and the impact of more cars on already crowded streets. Additional cars, they pointed out, might make it even more difficult for ambulances or fire trucks, as well as trash and recycling collection.   ADUs would have to follow the general parking regulations, which provide for two cars for the main dwelling unit and one car for the additional unit.

Along with parking, fears were raised that allowing ADUs on smaller lots might encourage further demolition of homes, particularly in North Hyde Park.   Neighbors suggested that the subcommittee ask the city for an opinion about what our possible options for preventing demolitions might be so that we can design effective rules that will prevent further demolitions.

Other comments identified continuing concerns about the impact of more dense building on trees and on flooding in the Waller Creek area, in addition to the loss of backyards and loss of privacy from second story ADUs.

Also, of particular concern in North Hyde Park was the issue of larger lots. In some areas there are lots up to 12,000 sq. ft. Those living in those areas are concerned that a developer could build up to four ADUs, but not require extra parking.

Some neighbors suggested that any proposed rules should include requirements for appropriate scale and size so as to maintain neighborhood integrity. Several neighbors cautioned that we not allow the kinds of developments currently occurring in Crestview, where condo units are changing housing values.

Neighbors also asked if we needed to include rules that do not permit an ADU to be turned into a short-term rental (STR). This led to questions about how expanding the number of ADUs might affect the 3% limit on STRs in Hyde Park?

A number of neighbors critiqued the survey questions as biased towards favoring the changes to the NCCDs. It was suggested that the results of this non-scientific survey should not be presented to the city as such.

A number of neighbors asked that the Contact Team and HPNA follow the progress of the Riley/Martinez resolution and make an effort to participate in the stakeholder discussion. Neighbors asked that if the looser rules only applied to owner-occupied lots, what would happen upon resale of the lot? How would this apply to lots that are currently non-compliant? (The current resolution includes lots that are non-compliant.)

Several neighbors commented, based upon the serious concerns about possible impact, that more information was needed. They also noted that the ADU discussion had now dominated two Contact Team meetings and that they would like a vote at the next meeting on whether or not to proceed with the discussion or to table it pending further information and the results of the Riley/Martinez resolution.

The meeting concluded at 8:30 p.m. Gilcrease thanked everyone for attending and reminded the Contact Team that the next meeting will be held on October 27 at 7 p.m. Reminders and the agenda will be sent out on the HPNA listserv and the Contact Team Yahoo Groups site.

–Submitted by Mity Myhr

Contact Team Secretary