Our organization
 
Sustainable Neighborhoods was founded in November 2007 by members of the VMU and land use teams of four North Central Austin neighborhoood associations: Allandale, Crestview, North Shoal Creek, and Wooten.  In 2009, members of the Highland neighborhood association also joined our organization. In 2011, Sustainable Neighborhoods incorporated as the first step to becoming a 501C3 non-profit.
 
We are proud to work with a number of North Central Austin neighborhood associations and city-wide organizations on issues of common interest.
 

Our vision

SN's vision is to have new development implemented in North Central Austin in a way that is sustainable and neighborhood-friendly.  We imagine a number of distinctive neighborhood centers along the Core Transit Corridors, each with adequate open space to foster a sense of community, robust mass transit options to ameliorate traffic impact, and walkability not only on the arterials, but extending into the districts.  The centers should be attractive to a diverse demographic, including families and seniors.

 

 

Our strategy

 

Our strategy is to engage neighborhood associations, the City of Austin, and property owners in a positive discussion that achieves the goals of all three stakeholders.


Our goals for 2012


 

1.  Influence final language of the Comprehensive Plan, in particular the definition of Activity Corridors like Burnet, Lamar, Anderson, or Airport. We're also still pushing for designation of a future high capacity transit line connecting Jollyville, Anderson Ln and Airport Blvd.
2. Support a North-Austin-wide coalition seeking bond funding of the N Lamar Blvd/Burnet Rd corridor improvements defined in the recent transportation department corridor studies.
3. Continue towards our five-year goal of 100 shade trees planted along Burnet Rd.
4. Deploy a new device, the waterboxx, in a trial to determine if they can be used to plant more trees in hostile locations (like the sides of the road)
5. Get stakeholder consensus behind the proposed Anderson Trail.
6. Continue progress towards our other area open space and connectivity projects. 
7. Inform and educate our neighborhoods on urban planning issues.  In particular, socialize the new white paper on child-friendly infill development in early suburbs.



Our goals for 2011


 

1. "Room to Live" open space initiative. We are hoping to influence the City's new open space ordinance to provide strengthened standards of public and private space for neighborhood centers. 

2. Influence the Comprehensive Plan by participating in working groups, especially Land Use Transportation and Urban Design. We hope to seed policies that will lead to more neighborhood-friendly transit corridors.
3. Continue towards our five-year goal of 100 shade trees planted along Burnet Rd.
4. Continue progress towards our other area open space and connectivity projects.
5. Inform and educate our neighborhoods on urban planning issues.

 
 
Results
 
Sustainable Neighborhoods did a lot of policy work in 2011, but saw few tangible results.  (We expect payoff on several fronts to come in 2012).

The Policy Committee completed an initial draft of a white paper on child-friendly development in early suburbs, with a public draft released in January 2012. This paper pulls together most of SN's core concepts and proposals.

Much of the SN effort was spent at Comprehensive Plan working group meetings, where we laid the groundwork for changes to the definition of activity corridors that recognize the need for location-specific trade-offs between density and traffic impact.  Along with other groups, we helped raise awareness for child-friendly language.  We also advocated for some form of rapid transit on Anderson Lane, connecting to Jollyville and to Airport Blvd.

We were engaged in the discussion of the proposed open space ordinance, which City Council had not passed as of the end of the year. A key objective, to get more open space at strategic places like at rapid transit hubs, elluded us.  But we did get a compromise into the draft on a rule that would have allowed all "open space" in VMU development to be above ground.

SN in 2011 incorporated - a first step towards becoming a non-profit organization capable of more aggressively pursuing neighborhood-friendly projects on area commercial streets.

As usual, our biggest tangible success in 2011 was "on the ground."  We planted 19 more trees at three locations along area commercial streets - 10 on Burnet Rd near the Farmer's Market, 9 at the intersection of N Lamar and 2222.  We also organized a planting of two trees by the Lamar Middle School gardening club at the new pick-up area.  We helped to organize neighborhood engagement in the Austin Transportation Department's Burnet Rd corridor study.  Our overwhelming message was to implement corridor changes that work for children. We also worked to ensure strong neighborhood influence over the pre-design and design phases of future projects on Burnet.


 

Our goals for 2010

 

1. "Room to Live" open space initiative.  We hope to move beyond consensus-building in 2010, to concrete policy and funding changes that assure strong transit station areas near MetroRapid, family-friendly pocket parks, and other design elements that make mixed use districts along suburban transit corridors truly neighborhood-friendly.

 

2. Influence and garner support for:

   a. increased functional open space required for future mixed use districts

   b. increased pedestrian/bike connectivity within and beyond mixed use districts

   c. short-term and long-term solutions to traffic, including robust mass transit

 

3. Inform and educate our neighborhoods on urban planning issues.
 
 
Results
 
2010 was dominated by the Strategic Mobility Plan.  Sustainable Neighborhoods members participated actively in this City process.  We attended the public input meetings and submitted "gaps" as part of the City-wide solicitation of gap projects.  SN submitted and lobbied for numerous gap proposals, including:
In retrospect, our results were mixed.  Rails with Trails had already secured federal funding and was not really in contention for Bond funding.  Sidewalks on Burnet was highly ranked and should have been funded in the bond package, but was subsequently removed from the list.  The sidewalk funds that would have gone to Burnet Rd were reallocated to projects all over Austin - no sidewalk gaps will be fixed in 2011-2012 on Burnet Rd itself, although SN's recommendation to install a sidewalk on 2222 from Burnet to Arroyo Seco did get onto the list. It appears that the Anderson Trail will be funded. It is not yet clear whether any funding will go to expand MetroRapid station areas at places like Burnet-2222, where the ROW is only 5 to 8 ft.
 
SN was able to work with other stakeholders to keep CapMetro "on track" with the original Rails with Trails design, whereby a trail would run straight along the track from N Lamar to Morrow, and not meander down nearby streets. CapMetro has since performed yeoman work to get the project implemented.
 
The biggest disappointment in 2010 was our failure to get language in the Parks Department Long-Range Plan that would treat VMU the same as TOD for purposes of parkspace support and location.  This despite extended efforts over more than a year.
 
Perhaps the biggest tangible accomplishment of 2010 was the planting in October of 11 trees at Lamar Middle School, on the northwest corner of the Burnet-2222 intersection.  This planting occurred despite the nearest source of water being over 1000 ft away. 
 
 
Our goals for 2009
 

 

1. "Room to Live" open space initiative.  We hope to build a broad consensus for changes to City policy and budget that ensure adequate open space in mixed use districts like on Anderson Ln.

 

2. Influence and garner support for:

   a. increased functional open space required for future mixed use districts

   b. increased pedestrian/bike connectivity within and beyond mixed use districts

   c. short-term and long-term solutions to traffic, including robust mass transit

 

3. Inform and educate our neighborhoods on urban planning issues.
 
Results
 
2009 was a great year for Sustainable Neighborhoods.  Highlights included
  • the passing of motions of support from North Central Austin Neighborhood Associations for a minimum open space standard for mixed use districts (Allandale, Crestview, Highland, North Shoal Creek, Wooten);
  • kick-off and groundwork for the North Central Austin Candidate Forum, co-sponsored by six neighborhood associations. The forum on April 13 drew over 130 people, making it one of the largest forums of the election. Candidates were asked two questions - on how to close the open space gap for North Central Austin's mixed use districts, and what vision they have for a transit corridor like Burnet Rd in the coming years. 
  • a letter co-signed by 120 area residents in support of changes to the Parks Department Long-Range Plan, that led to changes better supporting mixed use districts;
  • a letter to Cap Metro, also signed by dozens of area residents, supporting the Rails with Trails project;
  • endorsements from five neighborhood associations for concrete trail and open space projects that we will present to staff in early 2010.
 
 
 
 
Our goals for 2008

 

1. Influence and garner support for:

   a. increased functional open space required for future VMU districts

   b. increased pedestrian/bike connectivity within and beyond VMU districts

   c. short-term and long-term solutions to traffic, including robust mass transit

2. Support NA's in removing VMU from properties that are not in a viable VMU district, or where additional planning is required to resolve site-specific problems.

3. Inform and educate our neighborhoods on urban planning issues.
 
Results
 
During our first year as an organization, Sustainable Neighborhoods helped to popularize the "neighborhood center" approach to mixed use in North Central Austin.  We supported Allandale Neighborhood Association's successful request to remove VMU from the long, narrow parts of the Burnet Rd. corridor which are poorly suited to create pedestrian-friendly districts, at least in the mid-term.  We created visions for the two most promising potential neighborhood centers - at Burnet and North Loop and along Anderson Ln from Mopac to Burnet. We supported North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association in winning a commitment for minimum open space at The Village VMU redevelopment on Anderson.
 
Our members have also participated in the one-year review of the Commercial Design Standards and VMU ordinance, where we have pushed hard and with some success to make people aware of the risk of mixed use development on corridors like Anderson if they are not supported with adequate open space to create a truly pedestrian-friendly environment.
 
We have reached out and provided feedback to other groups as well, including Envision Central Texas (ECT), Liveable City, the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the City Parks and Recreation Department.
 
In November we made presentations on the critical value of open space throughout a mixed use district to our neighborhood associations, thereby laying the groundwork for our 2009 "Room to Live" open space initiative.
Subpages (1): Allied Organizations