HPNA Meeting Minutes: June 2, 2014

Lorre Weidlich, co-president of HPNA, called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.  The first order of business was a proposed resolution consisting of a membership-requested letter to Austin City Council in which the city was asked avoid in the future the kind of zoning errors made during the permitting process for The Adams House Bed & Breakfast.  A motion to accept the draft resolution was seconded and time was provided for a reading of the resolution.  A proposed amendment to change the tense of the word “supports” to “supported” passed by a majority vote with one no vote recorded.  An amendment to remove “precedent” language in favor of “and should not be used by the City of Austin as a reason to grant future variances” was also passed.  Finally, a requested amendment to change references of “The Adams House” to the address of the property also passed.  The final amended text of the resolution passed by a vote of 20-0-3 and can be found at http://www.austinhydepark.org/2014/06/hpna-resolution-june2014.

Kathy Lawrence led the second order of business: a discussion of infill tools focusing on reduced lot sizes for accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  In April, neighbors heard a presentation at the Hyde Park Contact Team meeting related to the city infill tool that allows ADUs on lots larger than 5750 sq.ft.  Larry Gilg provided a summary of the Contact Team meeting discussion.  (The minutes of the meeting were summarized in June’s Pecan Press.  The primary motivation to modify the neighborhood plan to allow ADUs on smaller lots is to help homeowners stay in their homes.  Neighborhoods continue to lose longtime residents to gentrification and increasing property taxes.  There is a need to ensure that measures are in place in any adopted plan that would prevent developers from building inappropriate structures.

Sharon Brown shared her thoughts on some questions about what this could mean for Hyde Park.  “We all want what’s best for the neighborhood.  The Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan identifies areas for density such as along the Guadalupe Corridor.  Would accessory dwelling units on smaller lots bring new unwanted stealth dorms and duplexes?  How will ADUs positively impact affordability?  Who will benefit the most from them?”

Mike Wong from the Northfield Neighborhood Association presented information about the challenges ADUs and other city infill tools have created for our neighbor to the north.  Noting a difference in housing stock age and type, Mike provided an inventory of infill tools adopted in Northfield:  small lot amnesty, cottage lots, secondary apartments, and corner stores.  Presentations by city staff about infill tools were misleading in their representation of the types of units that would be built under infill.  Developers took advantage by purchasing many affordable lots in the neighborhood, tearing down the primary structure and creating undesirable development.

One of the concerns cited about small lot amnesty involves modified row houses with inadequate parking since small lot amnesty allows .65 floor-to-area ratio (FAR) instead of .40 FAR.  Kathy Lawrence posed the question, “What should we do to make this work for us?”  Mike Wong answered, “Make occupancy limits permanent and potentially lower.  Owner occupancy might also help in the first generation.  Increase homestead rights to encourage owner occupancy and discourage sale for profit to developers.  Add protections into the neighborhood plan.  Create a nonprofit redevelopment corporation that promotes the type of development the neighborhood wants and create well-defined design standards.”

The discussion about ADUs ended with affirmation that the conversation would be ongoing and participation from all neighborhood stakeholders ensured.  Hyde Park Neighborhood Association members and residents at large were reminded of the Contact Team meeting voting requirements: you must attend at least one Contact Team meeting within the prior 9 months to be eligible to vote at the next Contact Team meeting, with only one vote per household permitted.  More information is available on Contact Team Yahoo group postings.


–Submitted by Artie Gold and Adrian Skinner

HPNA Co-Secretaries