Election Endorsements 2018

AURA has completed endorsements for Austin Mayoral candidates, City Council candidates, and ballot propositions. Endorsement is determined by AURA member vote. We held two candidate forums in May and August and asked candidates to fill out a questionnaire—responses available here. For Mayor and City Council, AURA’s members endorse:

  • Steve Adler, for Mayor
  • Natasha Harper-Madison, for District 1
  • Pio Renteria, for District 3
  • Rich DePalma, for District 8
  • Danielle Skidmore, for District 9

AURA’s members offer no endorsement in District 5.


AURA’s members support the following ballot propositions:

  • Proposition A (affordable housing)
  • Proposition B (libraries, museums, cultural centers)
  • Proposition C (parks and recreation)
  • Proposition D (flood mitigation, open space, water quality)
  • Proposition E (Dove Springs Health Center)
  • Proposition F (fire and emergency stations)
  • Proposition G (transportation, including streets, sidewallks, Vision Zero)
  • Proposition H (amending City Charter regarding appointment and removal of Planning Commissioners)

AURA’s members oppose the following ballot propositions:

  • Proposition J (citizen referendum on comprehensive land development code reform)
  • Proposition K (efficiency audit)

AURA’s members took no action on Proposition I (typographical corrections of the City Charter).


Broad Base of Community Organizations Announce Support for $300 Million Housing Bond


May 8, 2018

Austin, Texas — In response to Austin’s housing crisis, fourteen local community organizations announced today their support of a $300 million housing bond for the City of Austin this fall. The endorsing organizations include the following:

  • AURA
  • Austin Democratic Socialists of America
  • Austin Justice Coalition
  • ADAPT of Texas
  • Austin Cooperative Business Association
  • Austin Tenants Council
  • Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association
  • Family Eldercare
  • Friends of Austin Neighborhoods
  • Left Up to Us
  • Texas Alliance for Retired Americans
  • Texas Appleseed
  • Texas Low Income Housing Information Service
  • Workers Defense Action Fund

These organizations advocate for a broad variety of issues including criminal justice reform, immigrant justice, low-wage workers’ rights, transit, and more.  They have joined together in support of the largest housing bond ever proposed to support Austin families and prevent further displacement. A $300 million bond will provide thousands of homes for working class families, help struggling homeowners stay in their neighborhoods, and will create thousands of construction jobs with wage and safety protections.

“The only long-term way to preserve affordability for thousands of low and moderate income Austinites is to take more housing off the speculative real estate market and reserve it for need, not profit,” says Austin DSA Co-Chair Glenn Scott. “A minimum of $300 million is needed to begin to address this gap.”

Nina Rinaldi, AURA Board President, says “With the 2018 bond, we have the opportunity to live our values as a city. To truly be an inclusive city, we need to make sure we build enough housing so that longtime residents and newcomers alike have a place to live. The market won’t build enough on its own; we need public investment to ensure homes for people from all income levels.”

“Working class communities have been demanding bold solutions for affordable housing for decades,” says Chas Moore, Executive Director and Founder of Austin Justice Coalition. “It is time to take this unprecedented step towards fighting displacement and integrating Austin.”

The coming together of these organizations reveals a broad base of support for affordable housing and a shared community value of ending displacement in Austin.

“I’m proud that organizations representing a wide variety of interests have joined together to support a $300 million housing bond,” said Council Member Greg Casar. “Austin is ready to take an aggressive approach to confront our affordable housing crisis.”


Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) is a community organization that focuses on improving the quality of life for people who are Black, Brown, and poor. Since 2015, AJC has served as a catalyst for positive change towards economic and racial equity for Austin’s people of color in the areas of education, policing, civic engagement, and community building.

Austin DSA is the local branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the United States, and is committed to building a democratically run economy and society that serves the needs of all.

AURA is an all-volunteer grassroots urbanist organization focused on building an Austin for everyone by improving land use and transportation through policy analysis, public involvement, and political engagement.


Chas Moore, Austin Justice Coalition, chasmoore@austinjustice.org, 713-459-2333

Michael Nachbar, Austin DSA, michael.l.nachbar@gmail.com, 302-545-9252

Nina Rinaldi, AURA, nina.dolcia@gmail.com, 541-908-0759

Shelby Alexander, Council Member Greg Casar, shelby.alexander@austintexas.gov, 512-978-2157

We need transit lanes on Guadalupe!

We call on Austin City Council to amend the Draft Corridor Construction Plan to dedicate transit priority lanes along the Guadalupe Corridor.

Guadalupe Street by The University of Texas, also known as “The Drag,” is Austin’s primary transit spine. AURA first recommended extending the downtown transit priority lanes on Guadalupe north of MLK through the Drag in 2015, when we released our Guadalupe Corridor Study, based on AURA members’ on-the-ground research. We further elaborated on this call in our 2016 Transit City report, which called for the extension of transit priority lanes on Guadalupe from MLK to 38th Street.

This past November, we were pleased to see that the City’s Guadalupe Corridor Plan seconded that recommendation to prioritize transit through our most productive transit spine. What’s more, in November, Project Connect, our current high capacity transit planning process, released a case study for a transit line on Lamar-Guadalupe-South Congress; all of the possible scenarios along the Drag include designating right-of-way for transit. We are expecting to see the debut of Project Connect’s system recommendations later this month and fully expect to see transit priority along the Drag as a central part of that plan. Also this year, a new city transportation plan, the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, will go before Council, and is expected to provide performance metrics to determine when a street should begin to offer transit priority lanes.


With so much data and so many plans calling for extended transit priority on Guadalupe, AURA was deeply disappointed to see that the Draft Corridor Construction Plan, which which will determine how the funds from the 2016 Mobility Bond are spent, does not include transit priority lanes through the Drag, other than a small contraflow section between 18th Street and MLK. At a meeting on February 6, AURA’s representative on the Corridor Mobility Focus Group was told that the transit priority lanes did not score high enough for inclusion, but that if other planning processes called for them or provided funding, the plans could be re-aligned.

The exclusion of transit priority lanes on Guadalupe in the Corridor Construction Plan is inexplicable. Transit riders represent about half the people traveling through the Drag during rush hour, but take up only 10% of the space that cars do. Transit lanes would speed up tens of thousands of transit trips each day without adding delay for cars. We understand that pending the recommendations of Project Connect, it may be premature to say what configuration of transit lanes is appropriate on the Drag. Capital Metro and Project Connect should help determine the location and design of the priority lanes. Yet, it seems clear that regardless of the mode of transit recommended for Guadalupe, the need for dedicated right-of-way for transit is crystal clear.215 SIGNATURES500 SIGNATURES


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In Support of Connections 2025

Dear CMTA Board members:

I am President of the Board of Directors of AURA and write to you today to support Connections 2025 in the strongest possible terms. I know you have been hearing many different things about the Connections 2025 service changes. I urge you to approve these changes tomorrow and implement them in summer 2018, as planned.

I’m not afraid to criticize CapMetro when I think they make mistakes, but Connections 2025 is not one of those mistakes. It is an important first step toward getting bus ridership growing again and making Austin a transit-friendly city. In our Transit City report, AURA called for a high frequency bus network and with Connections 2025, CapMetro has delivered on that in a big way. AURA recently gave CapMetro a grade of A- on our Transit City report card, due in large part to the promise of Connections 2025.

It is necessary that to remake Austin for transit, we must make some tough decisions. Some of those decisions may involve sharing neighborhoods with more neighbors, or making it slightly more difficult to use your car, so that more people can benefit from transit. Another tough decision is cutting a few—a very few—bus routes, so that literally thousands more riders can use transit effectively. For some, this may allow them to perhaps make the decision to live car-free or car-light lifestyles. For others, it may be the cost savings that allows them to access their jobs and continue to afford rent in the city by reducing their transportation costs. High frequency networks unlock the city by allowing people the confidence to ride without the fear of missing the next bus.

I was highly encouraged by ADAPT’s endorsement of the new service plan as well.

I am unable to come speak to you in person tomorrow, but I urge you to please, please approve Connections 2025.


Susan Somers

How to respond to CapMetro’s Project Connect Corridor Survey

AURA Board Member and Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee member Susan Somers offers her suggestions on responding to the latest Project Connect survey.

In April, Capital Metro released a survey about potential high-capacity transit corridors under study as part of their Project Connect planning process. The survey allows community members to help “choose the corridors” that will move to Phase 2 of the project as finalists. During Phase 1, Cap Metro has gathered together transit proposals from the past 20 years and assigned quantitative metrics to rank each project. Community feedback on the various corridors is the qualitative aspect of Phase 1 and the survey is a vital aspect of that feedback. As a member of Project Connect’s Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee, I have heard that some urbanists have been unsure how to respond to the survey. So I thought I’d provide a handy guide on how to respond.

First off, let’s review some of the basics about Project Connect:

  • This Project Connect study is a new process; the failed 2014 road-rail bond is no more.
  • Project Connect is studying both new high-capacity transit investment corridors and enhancements to current high-capacity transit; this survey and blog post address only the investment corridors portion of Project Connect
  • “High capacity transit” can mean rail, bus rapid transit, or other modes (gondola, anyone?). Project Connect Phase 1 is mode neutral; mode options for the corridors that advance will be studied in Phase 2.
  • We’ve been told that the ultimate goal is to identify multiple projects and create a system master plan for high capacity transit—potentially in the multi-billion dollar range. (Of course, once you create a master plan, then phasing becomes an important concern for urbanists. We want to make sure the most cost-effective, high-ridership lines get built first.)
  • The investment corridors are divided into three categories. “Commuter” corridors connect suburban areas outside Austin with central Austin. “Connector” corridors are within Austin and correspond with major city streets. “Circulator” corridors move people around within a specific, concentrated business district—usually downtown. Some urbanists and transit advocates have criticized this tripartite breakdown, since it seems to ensure that high-subsidy “Commuter” corridors will make their way into the final package.
  • Cap Metro has already released the Phase 1 quantitative analysis and proposed finalists for Phase 2 (see image below). However, there is still the opportunity to lobby for additional routes through the survey tool, with adjustments likely to happen before the final list of corridors goes before the Cap Metro board at their June meeting.

Now on to the survey!

Question 1:  Which of these commuter corridors would you support to meet community needs? Select up to three corridors.

I can’t recommend investment in any commuter corridors at this juncture. Austin taxpayers should not utilize precious resources to subsidize transit lines that will only serve those outside the city and Cap Metro service area, create safety issues for pedestrians attempting to access stations, and incentivize sprawl. Additionally, some of the proposed lines (in particular I-35 Bus Rapid Transit) will require the support and collaboration of TxDOT, a dubious partner that has historically shown little interest in transit. Also note that the Union Pacific line was effectively ruled out when UP backed out of their agreement with the Lone Star Rail district in early 2016. The bottom line: bear in mind that our current commuter rail service, the Red Line, already posts a staggeringly high per-rider subsidy. When Cap Metro implemented the Red Line, they had to cut bus routes and frequency elsewhere. Like the Red Line, these commuter corridors are likely to require riders to drive to a park and ride from their home, board the line, and upon arriving downtown, undertake either a long walk or board a circulator route. Evidence shows us that the more transfers like that, the less likely an individual is to choose the commuter service over their car. Thus my doubts that any of these lines will generate high ridership. Although I expect that in the coming months we’ll hear that innovative partnerships may emerge to cover construction costs for some of these lines, I’m concerned that the operational costs will kill Cap Metro’s bottom line and kill our chances for true urban light rail in the future. If you feel compelled to choose a commuter corridor, choose the Airport line. Rail to airports, although often a popular concept with the public, has been a losing financial proposition for many cities. However, this particular iteration of airport rail may at least merit further study.


Question 2: Which of these connector corridors would you support to meet community needs? Select up to 5 corridors.

AURA recommends selecting “connector corridors” based on bus lines with high ridership. Keeping in mind that we’re still mode-neutral until Phase 2, high ridership rail lines save CapMetro money on operational costs since more people fit on light rail vehicles than on buses. Cities that build rail that has high ridership on day 1 can reallocate operational dollars back into the bus network, and will have the finances and political buy-in to build additional rail lines in the future. Cities that build low-ridership rail will struggle to build future lines, and may have to cut bus service (as Cap Metro did after the Red Line). The data at hand shows us that the 801 and 803 corridors are our highest-ridership bus lines: that’s why they were selected for MetroRapid service. Riverside is also a high-ridership line surrounded by residential density; that’s why it’s proposed as the next MetroRapid expansion. So that would give us: North Lamar/Guadalupe, 45th/Burnet, S. Lamar, Riverside and Congress. That’s all five choices. The good news is that all five of these routes are currently slated to advance to Phase 2. (As seen in the image above, right now, the finalists, based on the quantitative analysis alone, would be N. Lamar/Guadalupe, Highland/Red River/Trinity, Congress, Riverside, 7th/Lake Austin, Manor/Dean Keeton, 45th/Burnet, and S. Lamar.) However, there are two other corridors at risk of being cut out of Phase 2 that deserve a chance to advance. Those two corridors are Pleasant Valley and Oltorf. Why? Both are fairly high ridership corridors. Pleasant Valley in particular serves low income families. And both of these routes provide coverage of areas of the city not served in the projected finalist group. By swapping in Pleasant Valley and/or Oltorf when you vote, you help bolster the argument a number of MCAC members have made for these corridors to be analyzed in Phase 2. Ultimately, any of the seven corridors I’ve discussed here are very valid options for your vote.


Question 3: Which of these circulator corridors would you support to meet community needs? Select up to two corridors.

I recommend the Downtown Circulator. Ever since the ‘Dillo service was canceled, Austin has lacked a downtown circulator to help distribute commuters and visitors around the Central Business District. With most lines running along a central corridor, circulator routes could be a boon for potential riders who need to get to the far ends of downtown. They could also prove an excellent resource for people who need to make short trips during the day. I recommend the circulator be free of charge. Collecting fares on a short route will bog down the boarding process and slow the circulators to the point of uselessness. The beginning of fare collection on the ‘Dillo was widely—and accurately—regarded as the death knell for the service. Capital Metro should not make the same mistake twice.Do you like this post?

Cap Metro’s Connections 2025 Plan Response


Earlier this year, AURA released Transit City: A Vision for a Multimodal Austin wherein we outlined a number of critical steps for increasing ridership on public transportation. Our recommendations focused on ways to increase the usefulness of transit in order to make riding a better option for more people. AURA is pleased that a number of these recommendations are reflected in the draft of Capital Metro’s Connections 2025 plan. We view the core of the plan as a network of frequent bus routes across the city, which was one of AURA’s highest priorities. It will be key to implement truly frequent service with appropriate stop spacing, generally no more than ¼ mile spacing between stops along all the frequent routes, whether they are officially dubbed “MetroRapid” or local. There are a few parts of the plan, including the perplexing proposal to put high capacity bus service on I-35 and continued large investments in the high cost Red Line, that seem highly questionable.  The actual plan as written so far, though, would be a huge improvement over current service.  More detailed suggestions follow. 


The draft of Connections 2025 indicates a strong shift to the kind of direct, high-frequency transit network that 1) is easy for new riders to understand, 2) reduces wait times, 3) moves people efficiently, and 4) ultimately makes transit more useful to more people. We applaud Capital Metro and their consultant, TMD, for proposing a bold network redesign that will bring frequent service to a large portion of Austinites. There will undoubtedly be calls to dilute this vision in favor of more low-frequency routes to places where few people currently choose to use the service; we urge Capital Metro to remain focused on providing high-quality service where it will have the greatest benefit for the most people. In doing so, it is critical that Capital Metro follow a data-driven assessment of current conditions rather than speculative claims of where people might ride based on little evidence.


Limited stops on MetroRapid (sometimes in excess of a mile apart) were billed as a way to speed up service, but without exclusive right-of-way and off-board fare payment, infrequent stops have done little to make MetroRapid any faster than parallel local routes. Furthermore, in the hostile pedestrian environment along most of Austin’s major thoroughfares, stops in excess of a quarter mile apart don’t make as much sense as they might in a more walkable city. Therefore AURA was pleased that the need for additional stops has been acknowledged in the Connections 2025 draft. The final draft should clarify a commitment to standard stop spacing of every quarter mile and outline a specific short-term plan to address the problem. Riders should not have to wait on construction of expensive “branded” stations to remedy this. Using existing local stops can provide an interim solution until new stations arrive.


Capital Metro’s consultant was spot-on in its recommendation to lower premium fares to match the rest of the local system, and we applaud the board’s swift action to equalize fares. Premium fares on MetroRapid have negatively affected the transit system’s ability to perform as a coherent network.


Ever since the ‘Dillo service was canceled, Austin has lacked a downtown circulator to help distribute commuters around the Central Business District. With most lines running along a central corridor, circulator routes could be a boon for potential riders who need to get to the far ends of downtown. They could also prove an excellent resource for people who need to make short trips during the day. AURA is concerned that the plan to collect fares on these short routes will bog down the boarding process and slow the circulators to the point of uselessness. The beginning of fare collection on the ‘Dillo was widely—and accurately—regarded as the death knell for the service. Capital Metro should not make the same mistake twice.


AURA was perplexed by a proposal to build Bus Rapid Transit along I-35. As the arterial’s grim history attests, highways and people on foot are incompatible, so we are worried that riders might not be able to safely access stations in the middle. The route seems like it could become a glorified commuter line to park-and-rides on either end instead of contributing to an interconnected high-frequency network. While cities like Chicago and Bogotá have implemented well-ridden transit down the center of highways, the excessive noise, air pollution, and all-around stressful environment is far from ideal. AURA is also concerned that precious time and resources will be spent planning a project that will ultimately require the support and collaboration of TxDOT, a dubious partner that has historically shown little interest in transit.


From lavishing millions of dollars on expanded park-and-rides, to a seemingly endless list of high-dollar improvements to the Red Line, Capital Metro has prioritized investments for the auto-oriented suburbs while investing little in basic amenities for its core riders. AURA is concerned that Connections 2025 will continue the pattern of expanding commuter service and shifting resources away from more urban parts of the city. Chasing so-called “choice riders” in distant, sprawling neighborhoods costs more and serves fewer people. If Austin is to become a truly transit-oriented city, Capital Metro must prioritize service and infrastructure improvements in the dense urban places where public transportation naturally does best and where the large majority of its riders currently live.


With the shift to a high-frequency network, dedicated transit lanes and off-board fare payment will have an even bigger potential to speed up transit and make it an attractive alternative to sitting in traffic. These, along with better stop shelters, require cooperation from city departments and other entities outside of Capital Metro’s control. Nevertheless, it is up to Capital Metro to take the first step and publicly commit to the rollout of these improvements. Given the ambition of the I-35 BRT, we were disappointed to not see any stated ambition for more and better transit lanes on local streets or off-board fare payment systems in the draft of Connections 2025. Transit advocates like AURA stand ready to pressure non-cooperative entities that resist collaboration on these vital improvements. The Austin City Council (which has a significant presence on the Board) has the power to ensure cooperation in most cases. We need Capital Metro to lead Austin toward its transit-oriented future. An expanded network of transit lanes and the ability to pay the fare before boarding—instead of one by one while the bus idles—are essential to that vision.


The proposed MetroRapid 820 is a strong choice of route that will provide an upgrade in service to southeast and northeast Austin. However, we think that it is a grave mistake to align the route on the southern edge of Mueller instead of going through Mueller directly. Mueller is a walkable neighborhood with a mix of restaurants, retail, park space, a grocery store, and major employers. It is worth the few extra minutes of route time for the bus to reach these destinations.


By its name, Connections 2025 sets a 9 year horizon for implementation, although we understand there will be different phasing and most of the plan will be implemented well before 2025. AURA feels that the best parts of the plan should be implemented first. Streamlining the fares, implementing the core network, and building infill stops on the MetroRapid lines should all take precedence over the other parts of the plan.

How to Vote and Why 2016

Prior to the AURA membership vote for our Austin City Council endorsements, the AURA board shared with members its set of recommendations and reflections on each Council race being contested this November. Since the endorsements line up with the board’s original recommendations, we thought we would release the recommendations to a wider audience.

In DISTRICT 2, the AURA board recommends endorsing DELIA GARZA.

Garza has a record of voting for liberalizing land use, including ADUs (where she defeated neighborhood opt-out), the Fair Housing Initiative, and seeking new transit corridors in her district. Garza has consistently spoken out for the benefits of connectivity, and she has been a capable leader on the Capital Metro board, where she has pushed for significant enhancements to frequency. Her opponent Wesley Faulkner states his support for missing-middle housing, but he doesn’t have a full understanding of land-use issues in the city, which is critical for a council member in the Year of CodeNEXT. He has called for more public housing, which is wonderful, but illegal under federal law. He has a lot to learn, but we’re encouraged by his desire to help and hope he serves in some other capacity.

In DISTRICT 4, AURA members have already endorsed GREG CASAR.

In DISTRICT 6, the AURA board recommends NO ENDORSEMENT.

Don Zimmerman has taken his conservative property-rights perspective to the city’s land development code, and in many zoning cases and code amendments, he’s fought against a code that he rightly recognizes as burdensome red tape that costs everyone—developers and residents alike—more than is necessary. He was a helpful ally on the poorly designed parkland dedication ordinance.  However, Zimmerman is no urbanist. He has voted poorly on transit issues, going so far as to make a motion (which didn’t get a second) to have this year’s bond be exclusively road spending. Zimmerman has also unfortunately spoken out against subsidized affordable housing at every opportunity, which AURA recognizes is a piece of the puzzle to solving our housing crisis. His views on social issues and the environment are offensive, and his prominent seat on the dais to voice those opinions is problematic. We cannot recommend an endorsement of Zimmerman, regardless of the occasional convenient vote. His opponent, Jimmy Flannigan, would be supportive of transit and some density on corridors, but has stated opposition to a diversity of housing in single-family neighborhoods in the city core, an important issue in CodeNEXT and fair housing. Specifically, he’s stated that neighborhoods shouldn’t have to worry about four-plexes, that CodeNEXT transition zones (where missing-middle housing will be most prominent) should be as small as possible, that neighborhoods should avoid change for 20 years, and that a home that is torn down should be replaced with a home of a similar style. These views run counter to stances and initiatives that AURA has taken on in the past year and to what we hope to accomplish in CodeNEXT. As such, we cannot recommend Flannigan either.

In DISTRICT 7, the AURA board recommends endorsing NATALIE GAULDIN.

Natalie Gauldin is an up-and-coming candidate who couldn’t be a starker contrast to Leslie Pool. Pool has voted against diversity of housing options at nearly every opportunity, including our primary advocacy goal, ADUs, last year. She has voted against subsidized affordable housing on corridors. She has undermined the development review process, created false narratives around missing-middle housing, and ultimately seems to have her head in the sand as to a solution for Austin’s growth. Perhaps Pool’s view is that “if we pretend it isn’t happening, maybe it will stop.” Meanwhile, Gauldin embraces a rational approach to housing supply as a primary mechanism for addressing Austin’s affordable housing crisis. She is also a routine cyclist who will support transit and mode shift. She has a deep desire to help fix the city she grew up in and where she’s raising her family, and she knows that Council will have to make some hard decisions to fix our housing crisis. We support Gauldin wholeheartedly.  

In DISTRICT 10, the AURA board recommends endorsing SHERI GALLO.

Sheri Gallo has been a consistent vote for AURA’s land-use platform, and we recommend her endorsement. Despite her occasional disagreements with our policies (most notably on bike lanes and on sidewalk spending in the bond), Gallo has shown herself to be one who can solve problems, find middle ground (not just for compromise’s sake), and create better outcomes. When AURA brought to her attention the terribly written parkland dedication ordinance, Gallo listened attentively and convinced her colleagues to fix the problems, creating a new ordinance that dramatically increased parks funding while balancing it with the critical need for more housing supply. She was a critical vote on the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee of the Council, where she provided a consistent counterweight on land use against Council Member Kathie Tovo, allowing items related to ADUs and Fair Housing to pass to a full Council with a committee recommendation. While Gallo has too much of a focus on cars and parking requirements, we can easily recommend her over her principal opponent, Alison Alter, whose focus on parks, “neighborhoods,” and the Grove PUD is akin to Council Member Pool. While Alter attempts to position herself between “NIMBYism” and “density at all cost,” her position of preserving single-family zoning gives us very little hope.

Election Endorsements 2016

The members of AURA offer the following endorsements in Austin’s City Council elections:

  • Delia Garza, for District 2
  • Greg Casar, for District 4
  • Natalie Gauldin, for District 7
  • Sheri Gallo, for District 10

AURA’s members encourage Austin residents to learn more about these candidates. Please give them your support and your vote if you agree that they are the best candidates to lead Austin’s city government.

AURA’s members endorsed Casar in May, when voting on early endorsements. Members voted this past week to endorse Garza, Gauldin, and Gallo.

AURA is a grassroots urbanist organization focused on building an Austin for everyone by improving land use and transportation through policy analysis, public involvement, and political engagement.

CodeNEXT Expectations

In line with AURA’s Platform for Austin, we expect that the items below will be seriously considered by staff and consultants while writing and mapping CodeNEXT. If AURA does not see substantial progress on most or all of these items, we will have no choice but to oppose the adoption of staff’s recommendations for CodeNEXT.

Small Area Plans are No Way to Plan a City // Neighborhood Plans, TODs, and corridor plans enable the most active minority to impose their will on a small area and shift all the external costs onto the rest of our city. That’s no way to plan a city, and the entire premise has been rendered redundant by the recent move to a geographically representative city council. CodeNEXT must shift from honoring the exclusionary small-area plans of our past to empowering a future for our entire city.

Dynamic Upzoning with Incremental Development // When an area is more than halfway to its maximum zoning capacity, the code should contain an automatic administrative procedure to increase that capacity. This process is similar to how cities have evolved naturally for centuries. We should future-proof our code and avoid continuing our current, highly contentious, lot-by-lot approach which favors the status quo.

Fair Housing and Household Affordability // Our new code must permit the population in our high-demand areas to respond to that demand. Every neighborhood must accept new residents and further Fair Housing. Staff should create Affordability Impact Statements which examine how the new code and its mapping further Fair Housing and contribute to Household Affordability, taking into account not just the cost of housing, but the costs of transportation.

Significantly Reduce or Eliminate Minimum Lot Size // Minimum lot sizes are an attempt to address wide-area issues by regulating an individual lot. Our minimum lot size is larger than any peer city in Texas and increases the cost of housing. We call for a minimum lot size of 1000 square feet, and reducing the minimum lot width to 15 feet.

No Unit Caps // Our current code limits the number of units that different kinds of zoning can have. We believe a detached building that contains multiple units but looks like a single-family home should be allowed in an area zoned for single family. Similarly, minimum site areas for multifamily zones impose a de facto tax on small, affordable, apartments. The code should govern the built environment, not the people who live within it.

Urban Core Zoned to No Less Than T-4 // The city of Austin has an established definition for the “urban core,” and has enacted policies such VMU and reduced parking burdens within those boundaries. As CodeNEXT will use a transect model, and the lowest transect suitable for urban spaces is T-4, “General Urban,” all developable land within the defined urban core should be zoned for at least T-4.

End Compatibility as Currently Practiced //Setbacks and height limits are our current attempts to regulate compatibility between varying uses. We should eliminate compatibility based on use, and understand that the nature of using transects manages “compatibility” automatically. Currently, compatibility requirements constrain lots in high-demand areas and prevent the development of needed housing.

Significantly Reduce or Abolish Parking Minimums // The Code Diagnosis found that we have a car-centric code, which encourages car usage and exacerbates our current traffic woes. Reducing or eliminating parking space obligations won’t mean that none are built — just as many as the perceived demand is. Consider adopting parking maximums to discourage the excessive construction of expensive parking structures which may be orphaned in the future.

Connectivity Required Everywhere // Revise the subdivision code to require integration of new subdivisions into the larger urban fabric. Reduce maximum block length and revise street design standards so that the most vital of public infrastructure serves all users, not just single occupancy vehicles. Conduct an audit of all Austin streets to determine areas of poor connectivity, develop a “Future Connectivity Map,” and produce an associated plan for implementation.

Replace Impervious Cover Regulations with Limits on Urban Runoff // Flooding is caused by runoff, not impervious cover, yet our code tightly regulates impervious cover in an attempt to mitigate flooding. Limitations on impervious cover are, at best, a highly imperfect proxy for potential runoff, and stifle creative solutions that may reduce runoff while permitting greater impervious cover. As such, blanket limits on impervious cover (and building cover) should be replaced with performance standards for maximum permissible urban runoff.

AURA’s CodeNEXT expectations were first shared with CodeNEXT staff in December 2015.

Election Endorsement of Greg Caser 2016

Members of AURA have voted overwhelmingly to endorse Austin City Council member Gregorio Casar, who represents District 4, for re-election in November.

AURA may endorse candidates in the other four City Council races later in the year. Casar is the only Council incumbent who received support from a supermajority of AURA members for an early endorsement.

Council Member Casar has been a staunch supporter of AURA’s vision of an Austin for Everyone. He has advanced the cause of abundant housing with a variety of practical policy solutions such as fair housing legislation, accessory dwelling units liberalization, and funding for affordable housing. AURA is looking forward to working further with Casar on housing, transit reform, and more in the years to come.