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Username: m1ek
PersonId: 229
Created: Sun Feb 12, 2006 at 10:54 AM CST
m1ek's RSS Feed
Web Page: http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/

Mike Dahmus, former Urban Transportation Commissioner (2000-2005), current crackplogger.

Officially withdrawing my support for rail to Mueller

by: m1ek

Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:03 PM CST

In 2008, I wrote a post entitled "Last Best Chance For Urban Rail Is Here" in which I made the argument that the original Wynn/McCracken urban rail proposal to run doubletrack in reserved guideway from ABIA to downtown to UT to Mueller (maybe not reserved guideway on that last bit) was the best we could hope for, and that it was something we could eventually build good rail on top of.
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 400 words in story)

Reactionary 'progressive' Behind Killing of Live Music

by: m1ek

Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 00:54 PM CDT

(Since no follow-up has appeared here)

So it turns out that the caller who got the music shut off at Shady Grove wasn't, as many assumed, a condo-dwelling Californian, but a long-time single-family homeowner from the Jeff Jack contingent up in Zilker.

While even I'm surprised that he was inartful enough to call in the complaint himself, I believe I made it pretty clear in comments that the force behind the ordinance was not new folks; it's the same old people who have been trying to shut down music on Barton Springs for a decade or more.

Those folks were empowered directly by the actions of one Laura Morrison, as pointed out by Rick Etie's blog...

   In this video, City Council member Laura Morrison, who was instrumental in passing the Amendment that was specifically used against Shady Grove, points out that the problem was that "Shady Grove's Permit had expired". What Ms Morrison fails to point out is that the March 23rd  expiration date was part of (see correction and update in latest post) problems that are now coming around are related to the specific details contained  in Amendments that she ramrodded through on March 12th 2009, on the consent agenda (!), as an Emergency item (!), right before SxSW, when anyone involved in the music business was going to be too busy to rally opposition. I don't think the problem is going to go away, until Ms. Morrison either gets it, and stops carrying the ball for the voter block she wants to retain, or is removed from the process, through recall.. I think Ms. Morrison is that good, at manipulation of the planning process, and it's that serious, in determining the future of music, in Austin.

Laura, past president of the ANC, is the ANC's best friend on council - elected by them; supported by them; and has toed their line in every case possible. Jeff Jack, past president of the ANC, was pushing for the ordinance to keep limits at 70db for restaurants; and was likely delighted by the "cocktail lounge" aspect of the 'solution', given that he was trying to get these places called "night clubs" back in the 1990s when I first ran into him on ANCTALK. As Austin Contrarian points out, there are likely many difficulties ahead for restaurants who want to use the "easy path" to become cocktail lounges and thus get to operate under 85db. More simply, if the cocktail lounge solution was as pain-free as advertised, the people who want 70db so badly wouldn't have offered it as a 'solution', would they have?

Way back when she ran for election, I pointed out that no matter what you call yourself, pandering to the parochial interests of long-time neighbors is NOT 'progressive'; it's actually better defined as 'reactionary'. Despite this, Morrison still got the run-off endorsement at BOR. Anybody doubt me now?

Discuss :: (13 Comments)

Austin: Triple track the Red Line before building real urban rail?

by: m1ek

Mon Feb 16, 2009 at 01:38 PM CST

This is an expanded post from my crackplog -- with additional background at the front. Frontground, if you will.

The Red Line, despite what you may hear, uh, from everybody, is not light rail, and never will be. It's commuter rail - diesel trains running on an old freight railway; vehicles that can not now nor ever be brought directly into the urban core like light rail trains can be. This is NOT what Dallas and Houston and Portland and Salt Lake and Denver and Minneapolis did. This is what South Florida did with Tri-Rail; run big trains on existing tracks in a corridor that already existed because it was cheap to do it that way.

It wasn't always going to be like this - we had a good light rail proposal on the table that Mike Krusee forced early to the polls in 2000; that narrowly lost despite going up against throngs of suburbanites eager to vote for W; that actually passed inside city limits. This plan would have used the same right-of-way from Leander up to Airport/Lamar, and then run down city streets right past UT, the Capitol, and then down Congress Avenue. In other words, basically the same thing all those successful cities did.

Anyways, so, we passed commuter rail in 2004, thanks to Krusee, and it's about to open. Now, along comes the federal stimulus plan. Which is where today's news comes in:

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 433 words in story)

Laura Morrison's McMansion

by: m1ek

Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 01:07 PM CDT

(Cross-posted from my crackplog with some new introductory text)

The McMansion ordinance specifies a limit of 0.4 FAR (floor to area ratio) for single-family-zoned property in Austin. This means if you have a 6000 square foot lot, like I do, your total living space must be 2400 square feet or less, with a few exemptions (this is a big change from the prior rules which allowed an unlimited FAR; 2.5 to 3 stories; but 40% maximum impervious cover). A few exemptions apply, such as habitable attic space and basements (both too expensive or too impractical for most folks) and for detached garage space (but not garage apartments - and I'd like to have one of those on top of my detached garage someday too). I worked hard against this ordinance in 2006 and 2007; even partially succeeded in getting the Planning Commission to approve a 0.5 FAR where garage apartments and duplexes were present to mitigate the drastic impact this would have on affordable housing; but in the end the City Council passed the ordinance as-is (0.4 FAR).

My next-door neighbors (family of 5 in about 1100 square feet with a garage apartment which is currently being used by the kids' aunt) were left with about 300 square feet with which to expand, thanks to this ordinance. They've decided to build back rather than up, so they can fully utilize that 300 square feet rather than having any of it obstructed/unusable due to stairs; so despite being rammed through in response to a "drainage emergency", there's pretty strong anectdotal evidence that the ordinance will actually increase impervious cover!

FAR isn't the only thing in the ordinance, but it's the one that hurts the most. Laura Morrison was the chairwoman of the task force that wrote the ordinance.

Now on to the crackplog:

In the past, you've seen me point out the hypocrisy of two or three folks heavily involved in the McMansion Task Force for living in homes which violated the expressed spirit, if not technically the letter, of the ordinance. The spirit being "out-of-scale houses (McGraw) and/or homes which 'tower over the backyards of their neighbors' (Maxwell)".

Somehow, I missed this.

Laura Morrison chaired this task force - and lives in a home which, according to TravisCAD, is worth $1.4 million and has 8,537 square feet. Pretty big, but I had previously assumed it fit well within the 0.4 FAR required by McMansion. Yes, this is a big old historic house, but that's not the metric of the ordinance (it doesn't say "big houses are OK if they are stunners", after all).

A few days ago, though, I was alerted by a reader that Morrison's lot is actually too small -- but she's not subject to the ordinance anyways, because according to said reader, her lot is zoned MF-4 (the McMansion ordinance only applies to single-family zoning). A little history here: the Old West Austin neighborhood plan (which I worked on in a transportation capacity) allowed landowners to choose to downzone their lots from multi-family (most of the area was zoned that way after WWII even though existing uses were houses) to single-family (SF-3) if the property was still being used that way. Apparently Morrison passed on this opportunity (many others took it up; I remember seeing dozens of zoning cases come up before City Council on the matter).

So let's check it out. Unfortunately, TravisCAD doesn't have the lot size, but Zillow does.

Home size: 8537 square feet
Lot size: 20,305 square feet
FAR (before loopholes): 0.42

Caveats: I do not know if Morrison is using the property in ways which would be comforming with SF-3, but I found it very interesting that her ads are attacking Galindo for building duplexes which actually comply with her ordinance yet the home she herself lives in would be non-compliant in a similar scenario, or require loopholes to comply. It's often referred to as a "converted four-plex", and the owners' address is "Apt 9", which may suggest continuing multi-family use, which would also be evidence of hypocrisy given her stand against any and all multi-family development in the area except for a few cases where that plan mentioned above quite effectively tied her hands. Either way, Morrison clearly broke the spirit of her own ordinance and her own activism against multi-family housing, and anyways when you write the ordinance, as she did, it's really easy to make sure your own property is just barely compliant. You notice that you're right over the edge; so you exempt attached carports, for instance, which, oops, you just happen to have!

Again, I can't believe I missed her the first time around - her hypocrisy on this ordinance is more odious than that of McGraw and Maxwell combined. I apologize for my lack of diligence on this matter.

(Hey, BATPAC: yes, your latest cowardly anonymous attack on me did indeed motivate me to finally take the time to write this! Good show!)

Discuss :: (17 Comments)

"Supporting neighborhoods" is quite often the opposite of 'progressive'

by: m1ek

Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 05:14 PM CDT

(A really interesting discussion as we head into council elections.   - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)

The city council voted 6-0 (McCracken off the dais) on Thursday to approve on first reading the initial zoning of a tract described as follows by Austin Contrarian:

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to sell off a tract abutting the UT Intramural Fields (the Game Warden Academy site).  The tract borders Hyde Park, with 51st Street running along the northern border and Rowena Street along the eastern border.  50th Street dead-ends in the center of the tract's eastern boundary[...]

Hyde Park's planning team negotiated a deal with the developer which basically boiled down to "no access at all from our neighborhood to your project, and we'll not fight you at city council".

Here's the problem: they even opposed bicycle/pedestrian access via 50th St. There's going to be a locked gate which allows fire/EMS access, but bikes/pedestrians? Nope.

Their defense is that people might park on a neighborhood street and walk into the complex - and that said neighborhood street is "too narrow". Left unsaid is the implication that it's not too narrow for the people who currently live there since nobody has suggested simply banning on-street parking on that street for everybody.

In other words, it's too narrow for THEM, not for US.

Note that the developer did not seek any variances from city code for parking. They are going to provide as many spaces as the city says they need. It's the opinion of the neighborhood association that it's not enough spaces, despite this being an area with extraordinarily high usage of transportation modes other than the single-occupant-motor-vehicle. Of course, the leadership of the neighborhood association doesn't qualify - they're disproportionately old-school drive-everywhere types.

Note that the developer DOES have to seek a variance in order to enforce this term of their agreement with HPNA because city code prescribes "subdivision connectivity" in cases like this. Bike/ped connectivity is a fallback position; the standard is supposed to be a fully-connected street grid, even for cars.

Note also that the street is public; the entire city pays for it. Far too many people think that the street in front of their house belongs to them - or at least, to them and their immediate neighbors. Got news for you, sport: it doesn't.

Again from AC:

The Planning Commission, to its credit, not only approved the zoning, but recommended that the Council require pedestrian and bicyle access.

That's the Planning Commission that once housed both Cid Galindo and Robin Cravey. I doubt very much whether they would have voted any differently on this issue were they still serving on the board.

This is precisely the kind of stuff neighborhood associations try to pull all the time in this city - and they almost always get away with it. And if you can define how, exactly, making it more difficult for somebody living in new, cheaper than median, housing in Hyde Park to get by with fewer cars than average is progressive, I'd darn well like to hear it.

As I said at the beginning, the current council, lambasted by some for being insufficiently prostrate before the ANC crowd, approved this disaster over the objections of the Planning Commission (on first reading, anyways). But if this somehow isn't quite enough reactionary thinking dressed up as progressivism for your tastes, you're going to want to vote for the so-called progressives Laura Morrison, Jennifer Kim, and Jason Meeker. Their vision of progressivism is all about keeping things even SAFER for Old Austin's Old Money.

Similar coverage at The Austinist.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Jason Meeker: Legal Analyst?

by: m1ek

Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 00:57 PM CDT

The Statesman reports that Jason Meeker is now saying that Lee Leffingwell should have to effectively step down now if he's interested in running for mayor later. This rests on Jason's interpretation of city code:

Meeker said he has read attorney general opinions and disagrees with the city's interpretation of the law. He said the seat should be filled, not just up for election, within 120 days.

"I don't think they're reading it right, and as a tax-paying citizen, that's good enough (reason) for it to be called into question," Meeker said.

This is the same Jason Meeker who interpreted city code so aptly for his anti-Wal-Mart group, Responsible Growth for Northcross. Anybody remember how that one turned out?

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

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