Dawn of the Code

CodeNEXT maps released by city staff, presented to Council

“CodeNEXT is CodeNOW.” With that intro, Mayor Steve Adler announced the release of the draft maps designed to accompany Austin’s new Land Use Code, the formal initiation of a yearlong official and public revision process. It’s time, the mayor said, to “roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Mayor Steve Adler with Jimmy Flannigan (l), Elaine Hart (c), Ora Houston (Photo by Michael King)

In a press conference preceding this morning’s Council work session, the mayor described the maps as confirming his “Austin Bargain”: that the city could achieve its 10-year housing plan of 135,000 new units “within the corridors and centers,” without “damaging the character” of traditional neighborhoods by forcing additional density into traditional, single-family neighborhoods. Ultimately, the mayor said, the new Code would allow sufficient additional housing to begin to have an effect on affordability.

In practice, the draft maps appear to suggest that mostly central city and westside single-family housing neighborhoods (SF-3 and SF-2 in current zoning lingo, which will change), would be left largely unaltered, while neighborhoods farther east and already subject to rapid redevelopment would become subject to “transect zone” standards incorporating much of the same prospects. But planners reiterated that the additional density could be accommodated along major "corridors" and within city "centers" like Downtown and the Domain.

Maps in progress

The mayor, accompanied by City Manager Elaine Hart and Council Members Ora Houston (District 1) and Jimmy Flannigan (D6), reiterated that these are draft maps and a draft code, and that officials and planners alike expect many public meetings on the Code and many revisions coming out of those meetings. Houston and Flannigan said they will be meeting with their districts over the next weeks and months, and asked that people see this morning’s announcement as marking “the time to get engaged.” Tuesday’s work session began with a detailed briefing by city planners of the draft code and the maps.

In the meantime, Mayor Adler again declared today “Austin Everybody Chill Out Day,” repeating his exhortation: “The CodeNEXT process will help us manage our explosive growth while preserving what makes Austin special. We have to act and need to begin now – and this map is where we start.”

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