The City occasionally gets land-use planning right. Downtown's Great Streets program is a success. The City has reduced minimum parking requirements downtown; the minimum is now below market demand, which is a good thing.
But elsewhere, the City is still getting things wrong. It over-regulates land uses. It sets aside too much land for low-density, single-family housing. It imposes wasteful water-retention and drainage requirements. It mandates too much parking.
The City also sets bad examples when it has the chance to set good examples. The new Twin Oaks library in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood is a case in point.
The library is supposed to epitomize eco-friendly design. I know this because it has solar panels and (obnoxiously) reserves prominent parking spaces for hybrid vehicles.
These are mere flourishes, though, gestures to environmental correctness. In reality, the library epitomizes car-centric, suburban design. It's most prominent feature is not the patch of solar panels, but a giant parking lot:
This parking lot has 51 parking spaces and spans roughly three quarters of the lot's width. That's a whole bunch of parking for a little neighborhood library.
Now, it's a really nice parking lot. It has an attractive central island and sidewalk and planters. These expensive features were only necessary, though, because the parking lot is so big. Had it cut the parking lot in half, the city could have saved money and space.
I don't know how the planners settled on 51 parking spots. I am deeply skeptical that the parking lot will ever be even half full, though. Opposite the library is a small commercial cluster consisting of a barber shop, mini-mart, Thai restaurant, coffee shop, clothing boutique and architect's studio. They have fewer than 3o parking spots combined.
Even if 51 spots were "necessary," though, there was no need to build them all on-site. The library is surrounded by residential streets with plenty of room for on-street parking. Curb parking here:
is just as handy as a striped parking spot, and shaded to boot.
That's the suburban mentality: build on-site parking that will sit mostly empty most of the time; "protect" neighboring residents from the insult of having a strange car parked across the street.
All that extra asphalt causes unnecessary run-off, which is bad for the environment. All that extra asphalt ran up the construction cost. Perhaps most importantly, though, all that extra parking wasted a lot of land. Had the city shrunk the parking lot by half, it could have sold off the other half for redevelopment as a small neighborhood store. Land is expensive in this part of town. The cost of that wasted land was the lot's biggest cost.
Update: I don't have a problem with the design of the building itself. As one commenter noted, the building was placed in the front corner of the lot, which is better than relegating it to the rear. The building's architecture is fine -- it has a modern, Austin flair, and fits the neighborhood. There is a solid iron fence and sort of moat separating the library from the sidewalk on Mary, which is unfortunate. I assume the moat was dictated by topography so I'm giving the city a pass on that.