Development Process in the City of Austin, Brentwood and CODEnext

March 27, 2014

This article will attempt to explain the development process in the city of Austin for the owners of residential properties within the Brentwood neighborhood. Further, it is hoped, this information will reduce fear of new development, and allow our neighborhood to be better equipped to engage with the City of Austin Land Development Code rewrite team, through the CODEnext project.

First, homeowners must understand that their properties have a zoning category attached to them that regulates the amount, size, setback, utility service and land coverage that is allowed. Most single-family lots in Brentwood have SF-3-NP zoning. A homeowner can find out what their property’s zoning category is, along with floodplain, topography, aerial photos, and adjacent property zoning information at the City’s GIS database. Go here:

The SF-3 zoning category restricts development to 45% impervious cover, and 40% building cover, with a Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) of .4. Floor to area ratio is your Gross Building Area divided by your lot area. Our recent “Mcmansion” ordinance set this limit, along with many other restrictions, including the Tent, the Sidewall articulation, and the calculation method defining Gross Building Area. The SF-3 category also defines your building setbacks from the property lines. These are typically 25 feet for the front yard, 10 feet for the rear yard, and 5 feet for the side yards. The side yard setback is increased to 15 feet if your lot is on the corner facing a side street. For lot areas exceeding 7,000 square feet, a duplex can be built. Duplex development has its own set of restrictive guidelines, including common wall requirements and additional parking requirements. Zoning and regulatory ordinances can be found in the City of Austin Land Development Code: specifically, Chapter 25. The Land Development Code is the subject of the CODEnext project. Go here:

The NP portion of your zoning indicates that a Neighborhood Plan is in effect. The Neighborhood Planning process occurred in Brentwood several years ago and, after much input from property owners, our NP was adopted in May of 2004. The NP established a Future Land Use map, as well as analyzed the neighborhood character, and targeted potential improvements such as sidewalks and traffic calming. During this process the Neighborhood adopted a few of the “Infill Options” that City Staff had promoted to ease development restrictions. One of the Infill Options was the Secondary Apartment Special Use that allows an 850 square feet additional living unit on lots exceeding 5,750 square feet Further, the NP implemented some “Design Tools,” including the Garage Placement Restriction, Impervious Cover in the front yard limited to 40%, and the reduction of the front yard setback from 25 feet to 15 feet for a front porch open on three sides. Any changes to the adopted neighborhood plan, or the Future Land Use Map, can only occur through a zoning change request that must be submitted to City of Austin staff at the beginning of each calendar year. The Brentwood Contact Team is the first neighborhood group to hear zoning change requests. The Brentwood Steering Committee is a group of concerned neighbors directing development within our neighborhood, and the Brentwood Neighborhood Association is our governing neighborhood group. The Brentwood/Highland adopted neighborhood plan and links to the Infill Options and the Design Tools can be found here:

No new development can exceed the limits defined by the associated zoning and our NP without a variance request. In order to be granted, a variance must have several qualities including some form of hardship (not economic), and prove consistency with the surrounding neighborhood context. A variance will also require notification of all individual properties within 300 feet of the subject property, and notification of the neighborhood association. The public has an opportunity to argue against any variance or zoning change request made by a property owner.

Next we can look at the permitting process. If you want to develop your property, either through a simple remodel, an addition, or a demolition and new build, you will need the appropriate permit (or permits). With very few exceptions, all work on your property must have a building permit. When an application is filed for a building permit a series of reviews takes place at the City. The first review is, whether the property is legally subdivided and what zoning applies. Next, the city checks to see if there is a floodplain within 150 feet of the property. If so, then a floodplain review is initiated. Then, if there will be any demolition, even partial, an historical review of the proposed work will take place if the existing structure is over 50 years old. Next, a review of the protected trees on the site will be undertaken. Finally, documents must be provided to the City Permit Reviewers that demonstrate that the project meets all requirements of the City Land Development Code and Neighborhood Plan. This process of review can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months. These documents become part of the public record and any new residential permit can be reviewed here:

After a permit is issued, building construction can begin. During construction a project will have numerous inspections to prove that its construction complies with the City’s adopted Building Codes. Currently the City of Austin has adopted the 2012 International Residential Code for One and Two Family buildings, as well as the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code. Information about the adopted Building Codes, and the City of Austin specific amendments to those codes, including our visit-ability(accessibility) ordinance can be found here:

It has been several decades since the City of Austin has taken a look at their Land Development Code, and the multitude of ordinances that provide the guidelines to development. The neighbors of Brentwood should know about a project to review and rewrite the Land Development Code called CODEnext. The city has hired Opticos Design to conduct this rewrite process that is still in the beginning stages. All indications are that the existing neighborhood plans will be respected and reinforced in any proposed changes. However, there is a critical opportunity for public involvement. CODEnext is currently soliciting information regarding our neighborhood that will be used to supplement the information found in the NP. This request is called Community Character in a Box, and asks neighbors to photo document conditions in the neighborhood that best define its character. Several Brentwood neighbors are currently engaged in this process and if you would like to get involved you can request information here:

The development process and permitting can be very difficult and time consuming. The variety of ordinance, the complexity of the code, and the layers of information one needs to wade through to get the answer can seem daunting. However, this process is the same for homeowners and developers alike. When we consider the fact that developers created our neighborhood in the late 40’s, a lot has changed. Brentwood is a vibrant, living neighborhood with multi-generational families, new young couples, and elderly pioneers. To keep it so, we should do our best to be informed about the processes that shape and direct the changes to come.


Cullen House complete and ready for market

February 22, 2013

Crazy nice house in Crestview…..Image

Home Available for Purchase 1805 Cullen Avenue

December 3, 2012

1,810 s.f.

This home has Three Bedrooms, and Two Baths,  with a Large master suite and utility room.  The addition and remodel includes completely new A/C, Plumbing and Electrical systems, and spray foam insulation.  The new kitchen has stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, and custom cabinetry.  The home has  received new windows and roof and utilizes original and new hardwoods throughout.

This neighborhood is a hidden gem in Austin.  Crestview has it’s own IGA market and deli within walking distance, as well as close access to the Austin Metro Rail, and numerous quality restaurants.  Cullen is a quiet street in the heart of Austin.  If you might be interested in this home, please contact 512-773-0880 and ask for Stacy.

Here is the floor plan for review:


Crestview Addition

September 27, 2012

Well, we have started the work on a small residential addition in the Crestview neighborhood.  Following green building principals, this work will reuse everything we can from the original 912 s.f. home, while adding about 900 s.f. to create a 3 bedroom, 2 bath.  It will be single story, and will do it’s best to fit in with the neighborhood.  It is certainly more economical to tear down and build new, but often the result is less satisfying.  We’ll keep you posted on things as they progress.Image

Houzz is an interesting website showing 1000’s of images to allow clients to formulate ideas for their project

June 22, 2012

Austin Realtors Highlight Positive Urban Growth Solution

June 2, 2011

Looks like the the PUG is getting some notice.  Check out hot shot real estate agent Krisstina Wise’s Good Life Team blog post about secondary apartment units in Austin!


Pug arrives

June 1, 2011

Here are the latest images of the PUG(nacious) and a reminder about the 2011 Cool House Tour here:



Progress Photos of PUG(nacious)

January 30, 2010

steel moment frame and lower walls

Steel to pier connection

The Frequently Asked Questions that will become part of the Website

January 29, 2010


PUG is an innovative Austin-based company made up of Architects, Designers and Builders dedicated to creating innovative, unique, residential structures.  PUG partners have spent the last 18 years designing, constructing and financing residential architecture throughout the City of Austin.

PUGs are “A Lot of House, in a Small Package,” and represent Positive Urban Growth.

  1. PUGs provide small-scale (550sf – 850sf) living units on existing lots, thereby doubling the density without sacrificing the character of the neighborhood.
  2. PUGs utilize existing infrastructure (plumbing, electrical) and are built on land with existing development.  Further, PUGs have a minimal impact on the surrounding environment and participate in slowing urban sprawl.
  3. PUGs provide homes for extended family, guests or renters, and can provide supplemental income for property owners, as well as home offices to reduce commute times and costs.
  4. PUGs conform to the City of Austin guidelines for Secondary Apartments and the Smart Growth amendments adopted by Austin’s existing neighborhoods.

PUGs are quick to construct, economical, and benefit from the latest building science for energy efficiency, water conservation, construction waste management, indoor air quality, and low maintenance and operation costs.

PUGs are dedicated to providing affordable housing within the City of Austin, and economical versions of the plans are available Free of charge to those who wish to build through the Non-profit organization “The Alley Flat Initiative”.


Q:  PUGs are cute and I want one.  How do I get started?

A:  We must determine if your lot has the proper zoning (SF-3 or less restrictive) and if you are a suitable candidate to build a PUG.  An initial phone call can answer many of these questions quickly and is no charge.  An onsite consultation with our Architects will cost $100.

Q:  Can I afford a PUG?

A: A PUG will cost between $100k and $200k.  We can evaluate the financing options available to each Owner in our initial meeting.

Q: Why are PUGs modern looking, instead of traditional?

A: The PUG Company hopes to create architecture that is worthy of preservation in the future.  To accomplish that, we use the latest design and building methods, and feel that local materials, flexible space and contemporary aesthetics represent our time and place.

Q: What if my property does not have the proper zoning, or is not within one   of the neighborhoods that have adopted the Smart Growth Amendments?

A: Contact us anyway, there might be some other options depending on your situation that will allow the PUG to exist on your property.

Q: Are PUGs customizable?

A: Yes, within reason – different materials, colors and custom features are available within the floor plan options.  All PUGs are adapted to their individual sites to best compliment, privacy, view, and affordability.  All Owners will have the ability to visualize their PUG on their site through computer modeling, and edits will be approved prior to construction.

Q: What if I want my PUG to provide truly affordable housing?

A: The PUG Company has partnered with the Alley Flat Initiative to provide economical versions of our plans that can be built to meet the 80% of Mean Family Income or better criteria for Affordable Housing.  Please go to: for more information.

Q: Everyone talks about “Green Building”, are PUGs really Green?

A:  Beside the obvious advantages of developing within existing urban conditions, the construction of every PUG will result in a 5 star rating with the Austin Energy Green Building Program.  The AEGBP is one of the premier programs in the United States and was a progenitor of the LEED rating tool.  PUGs are VERY sustainable, and are designed to meet Austin’s Climate Protection Plan by being Zero-Net-Energy Capable.

Q: What if I want to remodel my house as well as build a PUG?

A:  The PUG team can provide full architecture and remodeling services for any of your residential needs.

Q: Isn’t a PUG a small dog?  What’s with that name?

A: Yes, the PUG is also the name for the largest of the toy breed dogs.  They are known for being a small dog with a big dog attitude. Pugs are also known for their compatibility with the urban environment, for being loyal to their owners, and friendly to their neighbors.  We think that sums up the PUG company philosophy very well.


The PUGnacious”

Stats:  550s.f efficiency apartment above with carport and storage below. Features include rainwater and gray water collection, FSC certified lumber construction, spray foam insulation, and reclaimed wood flooring.

“The PUGalley”

Stats:   840s.f. Two story, two bedroom, 1 – 1/2 bath, with covered carport, highly efficient windows, optional vegetative roofing, and custom graffiti mural by Nathan Nordstrom, AKA “SLOKE”

“The PUGhat”

Stats:  850s.f two story, one bedroom w/ loft, 1 – 1/2 bath, with covered carport, reclaimed wood flooring, metal and cement board rain screen exterior, and 18 SEER a/c heat pump.

Schematic Images of PUG(nacious)

January 29, 2010

So here are some fairly updated renderings of the PUG(nacious). This was one of the first PUG designs developed along with PUG(scope). It is currently being built at 1415 Justin Lane, and should be complete by May 2010.