Statement on the McMansion Ordinance and the recent Planning and Development Review Memo

AURA, a grassroots group that believes in an Austin for Everyone, calls on the city council to rethink the McMansion ordinance.  As the memo from the Development and Services Department and the Planning and Zoning Department on May 1 clearly shows, the complexity of McMansion has added significantly to backlogs, and is in part responsible for the $1.6 million budget hike being proposed for the next calendar year in that department. Continue reading

AURA responds to CAMPO 2040 Regional Transportation Plan

AURA recently submitted a letter to the Capital Area Metropolitan Regional Planning Organization’s (CAMPO) Transportation Policy Board, in response to CAMPO’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. In the letter, which you can read below, we call on CAMPO to prioritize moving people—mobility—over  moving vehicles. We also question the funding priority given to road construction, given the plan’s own recommendations. AURA member John Laycock helped write the article and attended the April 8 meeting of the Austin City Council’s Mobility Committee, where he read the letter during Citizen Communications. Video of John speaking is below. John blogs about urban planning at The Theseus Project.

AURA Policy Paper on Accessory Dwelling Units

AURA has released a policy paper on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), better known as garage apartments, granny flats, or back houses. Allowing more ADUs to be built is a crucial piece of AURA’s advocacy for abundant housing in Austin. Our paper argues for a substitute ordinance that would be stronger than the one currently proposed  by City staff. Thank you to Cory Brown of our CodeNow working group for his work on the paper.  Want to help?  Join AURA today!

AURA suggests improvements to Housing Market Analysis

AURA welcomes the recent release of Austin’s 2014 Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis. The report provides valuable context into the state of the Austin housing market and a stark reminder of the depth of problems Austinites face in finding housing available. We particularly agree with the report’s recommendations for rapid reduction in regulatory barriers toward homeowners building accessory dwelling units (ADUs), a change we have led the push for. However, we are disappointed in both the depth of analysis offered and the scope of the recommendations. The recommendations would barely begin to address the housing crisis in Austin. We offer suggestions for the improvement of this report: Continue reading

CodeNEXT Option 3 is the Affordability Option

At the November 6 Austin City Council meeting, the relationship of CodeNEXT to affordability was raised by Council Members Mike Martinez and Kathie Tovo. Council Member Martinez expressed interest in learning which of two CodeNEXT approaches, “Option 2” and “Option 3,” would make housing more affordable. AURA strongly believes that Option 3, which represents a more thorough revision to the code than does Option 2, is the approach that will yield the greatest household affordability for the city. Affordable housing can refer to two different concepts. The first concept is the plain meaning of the words: low costs, rents, and taxes necessary to acquire housing, whether that housing is provided by the private market or through public programs. In its other meaning, Affordable Housing (capitalized here for distinction) refers to important government programs that directly assist some residents with housing costs. AURA believes CodeNEXT Option 3 is a superior choice for both senses of affordable housing. Continue reading

Austin’s Voters Are Pro-Transit—And Against Bad Transit Plans

For Immediate Release Austin’s Voters Are Pro-Transit—And Against Bad Transit PlansAURA Vows to Keep Pushing for Expanded and Improved Transit Service for All Austinites November 5, 2014Austin, Texas AURA was disappointed when Austin’s leaders decided to put a bad rail plan on the ballot, but we’re relieved that Austinites voted for better public transit by rejecting the $1 billion road-rail bond proposition. From the beginning of the Project Connect process, AURA pushed for data-driven transit planning, but when the city’s own data showed the rail plan would hurt our transit system, AURA was forced to oppose. Continue reading

Why does Austin face the choice between no rail (for now) and bad

There are several points of view on the City of Austin ballot proposition, but other than the property owners and construction companies who hope to benefit directly, it doesn’t feel like anybody is actually excited about this roads-and-rail bond plan. The anti-tax and anti-growth forces predictably don’t like it. And a large number of pro-transit Austinites, like the members of AURA, believe that when given the choice between no rail and badrail, voting against rail is the right choice to save our transit system. We are concerned this plan will have long-term negative repercussions that could reduce overall transit ridership and hurt the credibility of transit with the larger public, like the low-ridership Red Line has. Continue reading

AURA Endorses Candidates in Austin Mayoral and City Council Elections

For Immediate Release AURA Endorses Candidates in Austin Mayoral and City Council Elections October 27, 2014Austin, Texas AURA is a relatively new organization on the Austin civic scene, but it is already having a strong impact representing popular support for our vision of a welcoming city with abundant housing and alternative transportation options. With Austin moving its municipal elections to November and instituting a geographically representative City Council, next Tuesday offers a major opportunity to elect leaders that can help continue to make that vision a reality. The membership of AURA offers these endorsements in Austin’s City Council elections: Continue reading

Many progressive frontrunners for City Council oppose Prop 1

This is part of a two-part series on the supposed ideological aspects of the city of Austin bond proposition (“Prop 1”). Today’s topic is opposition to Prop 1 among liberal candidates for City Council. The Let’s Go Austin PAC has tried to convince liberal and progressive Austin voters that the city roads-and-rail bond proposition (often referred to as “Prop 1”) is an ideological or partisan question. “Know whose side you are on,” the PAC says in a series of recent mailers that try to portray opposition to Prop 1 as a conservative cause. That message has failed to resonate with a vital audience: the leading liberal and progressive candidates for Austin City Council, a majority of whom are openly opposed to Prop 1. Below are listed the positions taken on Proposition 1 held by those candidates for City Council endorsed by at least one of four solidly liberal publications or organizations: the Austin Chronicle (AC), Burnt Orange Report(BOR), Workers’ Defense Action Fund (WDF), and Austin Environmental Democrats (AED). Continue reading

Is the Prop 1 PAC running a campaign for Republican Rail?

This is the first post in a two-part series on the supposed partisan or ideological aspects of the city of Austin bond proposition (“Prop 1”). Today’s topic is funding sources behind the Let’s Go Austin PAC. The second post will cover the widespread opposition to Prop 1 among progressive candidates for City Council. If you’re a registered voter in Austin, you’ve probably received a mailer from the Let’s Go Austin (LGA) PAC telling you to vote for the city’s $1 billion roads-and-rail bond proposition, informally known as Prop 1. As our readers probably know, we oppose Prop 1, and have spent the past two years showing why this rail plan is worse than nothing. Unfortunately, the LGA PAC has favored ideological attacks over a campaign on the merits of the plan. Therefore, we think it is now relevant to examine the funding sources behind the LGA PAC and its expensive campaign. As it turns out, a look at the relevant filings reveals that the LGA PAC is largely funded by deep-pocketed Republican donors. Continue reading