Plz GOP, don't throw Austin in the briar patch

I hope the GOP owns the libs by ending Austin's compatibility regs. But I doubt this bill will do that.

On the right is the back of commercial lots on S. Congress. Right across the alley are single-family lots that trigger "compatibility" height restrictions on the commercial properties. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

Quick hits

Will the cops compromise on oversight? Negotiators for the city express optimism that the police union is open to removing the Office of Police Oversight from the union contract. In theory, this could allow the city to write police oversight measures into ordinance that would not be subject to bargaining. The reason the OPO is essentially toothless now is that an arbitrator ruled –– in response to a lawsuit from the union –– that its efforts to investigate police misconduct violated the union contract. If the police really are willing to exempt oversight from bargaining, it may be because they believe they have a good chance of getting a bill passed at the Lege that would hamstring civilian oversight authority. Or, maybe they even think they have a good shot of convincing voters to support the imposter version of the Austin Police Oversight Act that they have already paid nearly $300k to get on the ballot.

UT's housing crisis: Megan Menchaca of the Statesman reports on how even UT freshman aren't guaranteed on-campus housing by the state's filthy rich flagship. And of course, the housing options off-campus aren't great either. The city has helped by creating the University Neighborhood Overlay, which transformed West Campus from a single-family neighborhood into an extremely dense collection of high rises. However, NIMBYism (Stealth Dorms!!!) has kept the neighborhoods to the north and west of the campus frozen in amber. Of course, if UT is looking for money and land for housing, it need look no further than Lions Municipal Golf Course. But converting Muny into something useful for the student body would require UT to put the interests of students over that of its wealthy Tarrytown donors. The same could be said about Mayor Kirk Watson, the author of the bill that created the Save Muny Historic District.

A 33% raise for the city's lowest-paid workers:  KXAN talks to some of those who will benefit most from the increased minimum wage that Council approved a few months ago. Airport employee Josette Ayala, for instance, will see her hourly wage go from $16 to $20. That will push her annual pay from $33k to $41k. “[It will] help me catch up on some bills that I had, or even to save money because, like I said, I live in apartments and I want to save for a house,” Ayala said.

The Lege threatens to impose environmentally-friendly affordable housing on Austin

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, has introduced a bill to dismantle Austin's worst-in-the-nation compatibility regulations, the rules that limit the height of buildings within a certain distance of single-family homes.

Here's what Hughes' bill, SB 491, says:

A municipality may not adopt or enforce an ordinance, regulation, or other measure that limits the height of a building on a lot based on the lot's proximity to another lot that is located more than 50 feet from the original lot.

The intent seems pretty clear: to end compatibility at 50 feet. Currently, its reach can extend all the way up to 540 feet. Although Council recently relaxed the rules on certain corridors, the standard compatibility standards still prohibit a 60-ft building from being within 300 feet of a single-family property.

Ending compatibility at 50 feet would be great: for housing, the environment, and frankly, for overall quality of life. It would bring Austin's height regulations in line with those of other large cities and unleash a wave of new residential and mixed-use development on our biggest transit corridors. The places where supposedly everybody agrees we need new housing would finally get lots of new housing.