South Austin public engagement threatened by land use commissions moving meeting place, commissioners say

Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez answered commissioners' and board members' questions at a Nov. 29 meeting. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez answered commissioners' and board members' questions at a Nov. 29 meeting. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez answered commissioners' and board members' questions at a Nov. 29 meeting. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)

City of Austin staff have asked the board of adjustment and land use commissions to move their meetings from City Hall to a new location, but members of the board and commissions said they believe the new location will block public engagement.

The city of Austin’s new Permitting and Development Center, designed to streamline the city’s commercial and residential development experience, opened to the public in July. It sits behind the Highland Mall in North Austin.

In October, a city memo laid out that the board of adjustment and land use commissions would be moving their meetings to the 5,000-square-foot PDC Conference Center.

At a special meeting Nov. 29, several board and commission members said for South Austin residents the commute to the new center could prevent them from attending.

Jim Duncan, a former zoning and platting commission vice chair, rose concerns about safety and accessibility, as bus stops are about a half-mile from the building, and crime is high in the area, he said.


Duncan presented images of the circular 10-mile radius around City Hall and the 10-mile radius around PDC, pointing out that much of South Austin is cut off in the latter radius.

Commissioner Timothy Bray questioned how bringing the board of adjustment and land use commissions to the PDC would streamline processes as the board and commissions also interact with City Council, often in City Hall.

Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez answered questions from commissioners and board members, saying city staff needed more workable spaces for hybrid meetings that are both in person and virtually broadcasted.

Gonzalez said security will be improved at the PDC and that staff will reach out to Capitol Metro to increase public transportation in that area. He said there has not been a directive from City Council to require that the board and commissions move to the PDC.
By Maggie Quinlan

Reporter, Southwest Austin/Dripping Springs

Maggie joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July 2021 after a year spent covering crime, courts and politics at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, near the border with Idaho. In Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs, Maggie covers education, business, healthcare, transportation, real estate development and nonprofits. Prior to CI, she graduated from Washington State University, where she was managing editor of the student newspaper and a section editor at her hometown newspaper based in Moscow, Idaho. Maggie dreamed of living in the Austin area for years and feels honored to serve the communities of Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs.