Thursday, May 5, 2011

6ixth Street Austin Endorses Downtown Plan, Opposes Conditional Use

In a letter to the Austin Mayor and City Council, 6ixth Street Austin endorsed the Downtown Plan, but oppossed conditional use permits. Here is the letter's text:

6ixth Street Austin, an association of property and business owners in the Historic Sixth Street Entertainment District, supports adoption of the Downtown Austin Plan (DAP), but encourages amendments regarding conditional use permits and permanent supportive housing location.

The DAP is a visionary document that includes Historic Sixth Street as a priority. We wish to thank the planners, city staff, and appointed and elected officials for recognizing the importance of our historic district and the vision for it as an 18-hour-a-day, mixed-use destination.

6ixth Street Austin strongly opposes changing cocktail lounges to a conditional use. While we share the goals of diverse uses, requiring conditional use permits for cocktail lounges in CBD zoning is the wrong tool. It is ripe for significant unintended consequences, including inhibiting a property owner’s ability to lease property, which could lead to vacant properties and economic instability. Because we share the goals of diverse and day-round uses, we have taken and are increasing voluntary efforts to coordinate with individual property owners, 6ixth Street Austin, Downtown Austin Alliance and others to market our vision and recruit tenants toward those opportunities. We believe that together we can improve the vitality of our district and make it a source of cultural and economic pride for all Austinites.

The DAP makes important recommendations on housing the chronically homeless. A comprehensive plan for social service delivery and housing to guide decision-making and investment is an absolute must. However, permanent supportive housing and single room occupancy units must be scatted city-wide and should not be added downtown, which already contains a disproportionately large concentration of social services immediately adjacent to our centers of nightlife, entertainment and tourism. That co-location has produced significant public order issues and disinvestment, which could be mitigated with longer-term housing opportunities. Those opportunities should not be near existing social services and entertainment areas, not only for the neighborhood but also for the need of supportive housing residents to overcome the cycles and obstacles to more stable and independent lives.

We hope the Downtown Austin Plan will serve as a road map for downtown’s future. We are encouraged that it prioritizes Historic Sixth Street’s needs including parking solutions, public restrooms in downtown, and robust way-finding system with real-time transit and parking information. With adoption of the DAP, the aforementioned requested amendments and an associated 10-year action plan, we are optimistic that the DAP will indeed build on Historic Sixth Street’s global brand and help us to improve it as a high-quality daytime and nighttime destination.