Developers are frequently criticized for failing to provide community benefits. This is sometimes a fair criticism. But neighborhoods often deserve the same: they have no incentive to consider anything other than their own parochial interests when developing their neighborhood plans.
Here is a case in point.
Grayco Partners wants to put 1,300 residential units and commercial space between East Riverside and South Lakeshore Boulevard:
It is pushing for (much) more height than existing zoning allows, which is drawing predictable opposition.
But this neighborhood objection really is too much:
The East Riverside/Oltorf Combined Neighborhood Planning Area, made up of several neighborhood associations, has "serious concerns" about the development, Chairwoman Gayle Goff said.
Goff said the proposed project violates guidelines of a neighborhood plan that envisions more homeownership opportunities in a part of town that has hundreds of apartments.
Drenner said Grayco "has proposed the possibility for some condos, depending on the market."
We give neighborhoods a say on urban form. We give neighborhoods a say on density. We give neighborhoods a say on the placement of uses. But allowing neighborhoods to dictate the mix of apartments and condominiums?
Homeowners inevitably have a greater interest in local development than renters because of their obsession with property values. But, as I've argued before, that obsession makes homeowners risk averse and is a prescription for NIMBYism. (The resistance of some Town Lake condo owners to the proposed Town Lake boardwalk is a vivid example.) Austin does not need to create more NIMBYs on a key transit corridor like East Riverside.
I suspect that the neighborhood's ulterior motive is to draw (what the neighborhood perceives to be) a higher class of residents. Neighborhood activists are entitled to their preferences, but this is hardly one the City ought to help implement. This is particularly true today, given the collapse of the credit market; we need an ample supply of rental units now more than ever.
(By the way, don't read this as an unqualified endorsement of Grayco's plan. I'm particularly unhappy about its decision to defer commercial development on the strip of land fronting East Riverside Drive.)