The Housing and Planning Department provides information on the City of Austin's zoning resources and site regulations. Learn more about HPD's Notice of Design Standards, site regulations, Downtown Wayfinding Project, Zoning Districts, and Request for Zoning Verification Letter here. 

Notice of Design Standards & Mixed Use

The Design Standards and Mixed Use Ordinance (Subchapter E of the Land Development Code) is intended to raise the level of for all non-residential and mixed-use development, but within a regulatory structure, offering options and flexibility but not strict requirements. New development is subject to a set of minimum site and building design standards, recognizing that all new development, regardless of six, should be subject to minimum standards. 

These regulations are set to do the following:

  • Foster a built environment of aesthetic and sustainable value
  • Enhance economic development efforts
  • Promote Austin's unique character and natural environment Ensure an efficient development review process. 

Subchapter E of the Land Development Code (Web) provides additional information on the Design Standards and Mixed Use Provisions.

For additional information on how to raise the quality of nonresidential and mixed use development in Austin by providing minimum standards for site and building design, see this training (Web)

Site Development Standards address the following elements:

  • Sidewalks
  • Pedestrian connectivity
  • Parking
  • Lighting

Building Design Standards address the following elements:

  • Features of buildings

Mixed-Use Standards address the following elements:

  • Residential use
  • Office use
  • Retail use within a single/pedestrian-oriented structure or district
Site Regulations

The principal elements that urban design regulates include:

  • Parks
  • Open space
  • Streets
  • Sidewalks
  • Walkways
  • Bridges
  • Water bodies
  • Historical features
  • Trees and landscaping
  • Lighting
  • Signage

Subchapter E (Web) 

Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts (NCCD) Case/Ordinances (PDF)

Residential Design Standards (PDF)

Subchapter F (Web) 

University Neighborhood Overlay (Web)

Vertical Mixed Use (VMU) Overview (PDF

Downtown Austin Wayfinding Project

The Downtown Austin Wayfinding Project is an initiative to make it easier for residents, commuters and tourists to find Downtown Austin destinations and attractions. The “wayfinding” improvement project is an action item outlined in the Downtown Austin Plan adopted by City Council in December 2011. The project aims to integrate a range of navigation and communication tools for traversing the downtown area, such as signage, brochures, kiosks and smart-phone applications.

“Wayfinding” explores ways to navigate from one place to another, and focuses on highlighting the experience of the path and eventual arrival of the wayfinding user. The system will underscore downtown’s unique and eclectic identity, as well as improve movement for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Additional archived resources are below.

Project Documents:

June 14, 2013 - Downtown Wayfinding Master Plan (PDF) & Appendix (PDF)

June 24, 2014 - Draft Downtown Wayfinding Graphics Manual (PDF)

Project Timeline:

Electronic Parking Signage

Completion of Bid Documents: Completed

Construction: Projected Completion- End of 2017

Orientation Map Development: Projected Completion- Winter 2016

Pedestrian Signage

Completion of Bid Documents: Winter 2017

Bid Award: Projected Completion- Summer 2017

Construction: Projected Completion- Fall 2018

Contact Information

For questions, project information, or to provide input, contact Jorge E. Rousselin (Email) or at 512-974-2975

For info on solicitation, bidding or construction, contact David Taylor, P.E. (Email) or at 512-974-7132

Zoning

Zoning is the division of land within a jurisdiction into separate districts within which uses are permitted, prohibited or permitted with conditions. Brief definitions of the different types of uses and structures as relates to zoning are explained here.

Zoning establishes site regulations, such as building heights, bulk (density/floor-to-area ratio), setbacks, building coverage, impervious cover, etc. Zoning is a power granted to municipalities by the State in order to promote public health, safety, morals, or general welfare, and to protect and preserve places and areas of historical, cultural, or architectural importance and significance.

Zoning Districts (Web) are established to promote compatible patterns of land use within the city limits. Zoning districts also establish site development regulations and performance standards appropriate to the purposes and the uses allowed in each district. Distinct zoning districts exist for residential, office, retail and industrial uses. Furthermore, specific use restrictions, site development regulations or performance standards may apply to zoning districts combined with special overlay or combining districts.

As part of the zoning process, appropriate land uses for an area are identified based on such factors as the intensity, density, height of a proposed project, surrounding land uses, traffic impacts and access to a site, environmental concerns and overall compatibility. An illustration of Compatibility: Height and Setbacks (PDF) shows how compatibility applies to surrounding properties.

Section 25-2-492 of the Land Development Code (Web) establishes site development regulations for each zoning district.

Zoning Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have more questions? View Zoning Frequently Asked Questions (Web) for more information on Austin Zoning.

Additional Zoning Links

Request for Zoning Verification Letter Application

Download the Request for Zoning Verification Letter Application (PDF).

Zoning Districts

The City of Austin has 16 residential zoning districts and 13 commercial zoning districts, 4 industrial, and 5 special purpose base districts. In addition, up to 13 combining districts may also relate to a particular zoning case; these combining districts act as overlays to provide site or use specific conditions for an identified area or project. The zoning section also reviews demolition/relocation permits for historic buildings and districts for consideration by the Historic Landmark Commission (Web), sign permits and alcoholic and beverage permits.

Cases involving historic structures or National Register Districts (Web) have specific requirements in addition to the zoning process.

Base Zoning Districts 

A listing of Austin's base zoning districts can be found in Chapter 25-2 of the City's Land Development Code (Web). To see the descriptions of each of each zoning district, please view the definitions of the below acronyms at this link (Web). To find out what uses are allowed in a given base zoning district, please see the Permitted Use Chart (Web).

LA Lake Austin Residence RR Rural Residence SF-1 Single Family Residence - Large Lot
SF-2 Single Family Residence - Standard Lot SF-3 Family Residence SF-4A Single Family Residence - Small Lot
SF-4B Single Family Residence - Condominium SF-5 Urban Family Residence SF-6 Townhouse & Condominium Residence
MF-1 Multi-Family Residence - Limited Density MF-2 Multi-Family Residence - Low Density MF-3 Multi-Family Residence - Medium Density
MF-4 Multi-Family Residence - Moderate-High Density MF-5 Multi-Family Residence - High Density MF-6 Multi-Family Residence - Highest Density
MH Mobile Home Residence NO Neighborhood Office LO Limited Office
GO General Office CR Commercial Recreation LR Neighborhood Commercial
GR Community Commercial L Lake Commercial CBD Central Business District
DMU Downtown Mixed Use W/LO Warehouse Limited Office CS General Commercial Services
CS-1 Commercial-Liquor Sales CH Commercial Highway IP Industrial Park
MI Major Industry LI Limited Industrial Services R&D Research and Development
DR Development Reserve AV Aviation Services AG Agricultural
PUD Planned Unit Development P Public TOD Transit-Oriented Development
NBG North Burnet/Gateway District ERC East Riverside Corridor TND Traditional Neighborhood District

Combining Zoning Districts

The following are special districts that, when combined with a base zoning district, may alter permitted site development characteristics and uses permitted on a site. Combining and overlay districts are designed to achieve special goals such as downtown design, economic redevelopment and parkland protection.

Conditional Overlay (CO) - Modifies and restricts the use and site development regulations authorized in the base districts. All requirements are in addition to and supplement land development code requirements. Examples include prohibiting permitted uses authorized in a base district, increasing minimum lot sizes, decreasing FAR etc.

Neighborhood Conservation Combining District (NCCD) - Preserves and protects older neighborhoods by allowing modifications to applicable development regulations in accordance with a neighborhood plan, which for NCCDs is intended to protect neighborhoods that were substantially built out over 30 years ago.

Capitol View Corridor Combining District (CVC) - Are applied in combination with the various base districts to limit the height of structures within selected corridors which represent the remaining significant, publicly accessible views of the State Capitol Building of Texas, so that those views may be preserved and protected.

Planned Development Area Combining District (PDA) - Is intended for combination with selected commercial and industrial base districts, in order to modify base district provisions as necessary to allow for appropriate industrial and commercial uses or to reflect the terms of the PDA agreement following annexation of properties subject to the agreement.

Waterfront Overlay Combining District (WO) - Reflects the goals and policies set forth in the Town Lake Corridor Study adopted by the City Council on October 24, 1985. The District is designed and intended to provide a more harmonious interaction and transition between urban development and the park land and shoreline of Town Lake and the Colorado River. There are 15 different subdistricts within the Waterfront.

Mixed Use Combining District (MU) - Is intended to combine with selected base districts, to permit any combination of office, retail, commercial, and residential uses within a single development. The MU combining district is intended for use in combination with the NO base district only when its use will further the purposes and intent of the NO base district. Other acceptable districts are Limited Office (LO), General Office (GO), Limited Retail (LR), Community Commercial (GR), General Commercial Services (CS), Commercial Liquor Sales (CS-1).

Central Urban Redevelopment (CURE) - Is a zoning district for the downtown area and several commercial corridors east of IH 35. The purpose of this recently added zoning district is to provide flexibility and incentives for development within the designated boundaries, including changes to site development standards and waivers from development fees with one application.

Downtown Overlay Combining District - Is intended for combination with the CBD and DMU base districts in order to protect and enhance identified unique features of downtown Austin and peripheral areas.

Capitol Dominance Combining District (CDZ) - Is intended for combination with selected base districts in order to protect the visual and symbolic significance of the State Capitol by keeping buildings in close proximity of the Capitol from dominating the structure. This district includes all land within a one-fourth mile radius of the State Capitol dome.

Congress Avenue Combining District (CAZ) - Is intended for combination with the CBD and DMU base districts in order to protect the historic character and symbolic significance of Congress Avenue and to enhance the pedestrian environment along this unique downtown corridor.

Sixth/Pecan Street Combining District (PSZ) - Is intended for combination with the CBD and DMU base districts in order to protect the historic character of East Sixth/Pecan Street and to enhance the pedestrian orientation of this unique urban area.

Downtown Parks Combining District (DPZ) - Is intended for combination with the CBD and DMU base districts, in order to enhance the pedestrian use and vitality of downtown parks and to establish a unique urban design identity associated with these public open spaces. The DP combining district includes all land within 60 feet of the public right-of-way surrounding Brush Square.

Downtown Creeks Combining District (DCZ) - Is intended for combination with the CBD and DMU base districts in order to promote public accessibility and pedestrian use along downtown creeks, and to protect and enhance the scenic character of these creek corridors.

Convention Center Combining District - Is intended to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public, to promote pedestrian activity and vitality in the Convention Center area, and to protect the existing character of the area.

Zoning Definitions

Zoning: the division of a jurisdiction into zoning districts within which permissible uses are prescribed and restrictions on building height, bulk, layout, parking and other requirements are defined.

Permitted Use: a use defined by the Land Development Code, listed as a permitted use in the use regulations for a particular district, and authorized as a matter of right when conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Code.

Conditional Use: a use allowed within certain zoning districts under certain conditions. It is listed in the regulations for a particular district as a conditional use within that district, authorized solely on a discretionary and conditional basis by the Planning Commission, or the City Council on appeal.

Legal Use: a use that is permitted by the Land Development Code.

Illegal use - a use that is not permitted by right or as a conditional use by the Land Development Code.

Non-conforming use - the use of any land, building, or structure which does not conform with current applicable use regulations, but which complied with use regulations in effect at the time the use was established. However, no use of a building, structure or property which conformed with the zoning regulations in effect on March 1, 1984, is made non-conforming by the passage of Ordinance Number 840301-S.

Non-complying - a building, structure or property which does not comply with applicable site development regulations for the zoning district in which it is located, but did comply with applicable regulations at the time of its construction. No building, structure, or property is made non-complying solely as a result of a change in the use, zoning or development of adjacent property. No building or structure which complied with zoning regulations in effect immediately prior to March 1, 1984, shall be deemed to have become or shall become non-complying due to passage of Ordinance No. 840301-S.