Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

NIMBYism in Austin

Dateline: 11:58 am February 9, 2012 Filed under:

Recent proposed urban infill developments in Austin Texas have raised concerns from residents in the Zilker neighborhood of that city. The Austin American Statesman published an article about existing residents’ concern over increased traffic in the area, prompting a response from the Austin Contrarian.

Perhaps the most interesting quote is in the Statesman from a developer, Larry Warshaw. He says, “Urban residential development is the answer, not the problem. When neighborhood activists use traffic as a tactical argument to oppose a residential project, it means they don’t actually have any substantive reason to oppose the project, other than the fact that they are simply afraid of change.”

I think height can be thrown in there as another tactic used by neighbors who are afraid of change. Don’t get me wrong, increased density does increase traffic. And let’s call it what it is – a four story building is four stories tall and will cast a shadow, particularly in the winter. But, as the Contrarian points out, population stagnation or decline isn’t always a good thing, either.

Change is a constant in cities. We’re dealing with the same issues in my neighborhood in Minneapolis as the market demands to live in apartments near light rail and developers are taking them up on it. What the neighbors of the Zilker neighborhood need to focus on is not whether redevelopment will happen, but how good it will look and how good urbanism can benefit them. Will the sidewalks be wide enough and have trees and benches? Will the building faces be attractive with doors and windows? Will parking be sufficient and hidden from view but accessible and not overbuilt? Will the new buildings scale down appropriately in to the neighborhood? Residents of the Zilker neighborhood need look no further than Airport Boulevard in the north end of town to find some guidance.

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