Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#TXLEGE SB 822: A TERRIBLE Bill for Austin's Housing Costs....


"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?"
Matthew 20:15

[Author's Note: The Statesman has a good write up this morning's hearing here.]

There's a bill we've been keeping an eye on for several weeks about which we have yet to comment, but considering that it got a hearing this morning, now is a good time.

SB 822 is a weird attempt to get the legislature involved in a West Austin land dispute that's been simmering for at least a decade.  To be honest, we have no idea why the legislature chose to but in this session.  While we have no specific knowledge, considering the neighborhood involved, we suspect there's a lobbyist who's also a participant in the land dispute.

At the heart of the issue is a tract of land (sidenote: What else is new in Texas?!?) on which is currently situated the Lions Golf Course.  The golf course is operated by the city of Austin while the land is owned by the University of Texas system.  That being said, given its proximity to downtown and various other popular locations, this tract is a prime candidate for residential construction in a city that needs to build 150,000 units of new housing over the next decade.


Because it's such a prime location for housing construction, from time to time UT has looked into selling (or long term ground leasing) the property to various developers...which of course doesn't sit well with the anti-growthers at the Austin Neighborhoods Council.  This has led to the disingenuous and tiresome "Save Muny" campaign in West Austin.  With UT's lease with the city set to expire in 2019, ANC is clearly trying to pre-empt a public discussion of the property.

Which brings us to Estes' bill.  SB 822 would transfer the property from the UT system (who might eventually allow hosing (in our city that needs to build 150,000 new units)) to the state of Texas' Parks and Wildlife department.  The P&W department could be expected to keep the property as a municipally run golf course for the indefinite future.

And, of course, keeping the property as a municipally run golf course will permanently remove almost a 150 acres of prime real estate from the housing stock.

Bottom Line: For this website to come down on the same side as UT on an issue before the legislature should tell you a lot about the unusual nature of this situation, but leaving the status quo in place is the best possible outcome for everyone except a few vocal anti-growthers in West Austin.

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Note I: We didn't want to dilute the arguments on the merits above with an ideological tangent, but it's also worth pointing out that no city has any business running any golf course at any time.

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Note II: Where the heck are the Texas Exes on this one?!?  For as much as they loved to play the "the legislature shouldn't micromanage universities" card  during discussions of any attempts to hold Bill Powers accountable for all his misdeeds over the years, this actual attempt to micromanage the university's real estate doesn't seem to elicit a peep.  They're the one group that could probably kill this thing if they got involved...so we hope they do.

1 comment:

  1. I hear the point of needing land for housing. It is worth mentioning that Lions Municipal was the first desegregated golf course in Texas, and South of the Mason Dixon line. It has historical significance. So I am all for preserving history, especially of that importance. But I'm also a realist, and I have a feeling housing will come after 2019. I can't seem to find the results of the hearing today though?

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