Public Notice: Imagine That
Land Development Code draft ready at last
For planning geeks in Austin, this is the week it finally happens: the long-awaited release of the first draft of the city's revised Land Development Code, aka CodeNEXT. And for real planning geeks, that process started this Wednesday morning, with a City Hall press conference called by "a diverse coalition of environmental, neighborhood, and local community leaders" to lay out "a set of shared benchmarks for success" with which to measure the draft code's consistency with Imagine Austin. Given the makeup of the participating groups – SOS Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Clean Water Action, PODER, Sierra Club, and GO!/¡VAMOS! Austin, among many others – the key standards are not surprising: Increase consistency, transparency, and fairness; preserve and restore the natural environment; reduce flooding and pollution; protect and respect neighborhoods; promote affordable housing; and support healthy and complete communities.
Astute observers will note that this set of standards won't likely sit well with the more gung-ho growth advocates, who tend to say things like CodeNEXT "will be a complete failure if it doesn't result in a massive upzoning of the entire center city." But even more astute observers will note that this set of standards is wholly in line with the Imagine Austin master plan. That plan lists eight priority programs, perhaps the most important being the last, which largely enables all the others: "Revise Austin's development regulations and processes to promote a compact and connected city." And virtually every paragraph of the section explaining that program reiterates the following: "The visions of the comprehensive plan can be achieved by retaining these protections and the approaches taken in the neighborhood and area plans.
"Any suggested rewrite of the City Code, while striving to achieve the broad goals of the comprehensive plan, must recognize, respect, and reflect these carefully crafted compromises, balances, and the assumptions upon which the existing neighborhood and area plans were based and depend.
"Continued protection and preservation of existing neighborhoods and the natural environment must be considered top priorities of comprehensive revisions to the City Code."
Anyway, the draft code will be released on Monday, Jan. 30; look for it at www.austintexas.gov/codenext. (You can also sign up there for email notifications about developments in the process.) The Planning & Development Review staff and consultants will make two presentations on Tuesday: to City Council's work session, 9am in the Boards & Commissions Room, and to a joint work session of the Planning Commission and Zoning & Platting Commission, 6pm in City Council chambers. Both those meetings should be televised on the city cable channel and at austintx.swagit.com/city-council.
Then on Wednesday, Feb. 1, P&DR will host an open house from 4-6pm at Palmer Events Center, presenting the new code and feedback opportunities to the general public, to be followed by the CodeNEXT advisory group regular meeting, which will include a presentation by the consultant team, 6:30-8:30pm at the same location.
Then, presumably, everyone takes a deep breath, tries to absorb the enormous data dump that has just landed, and sets to nibbling at the various edges (or deeper). And official public outreach sessions are tentatively set to begin Feb. 18.
At the same time, the Austin Independent School District proceeds with their own version of city planning, with various hands not seeming to know what the others are doing. Last week's headline, the latest call for widespread school closures, took a lot of flak as various constituencies looked at it and wondered why their corner of the compact and connected city shouldn't have a neighborhood school in it. Last month's headline, the latest call for selling off real estate assets to the fastest talker, is another initiative in trouble, as the district has appeared to snub the city's offer to create joint-use public facilities on some of the properties, and various parties have questioned the wisdom of selling off capital assets for one-time operational benefits.
But help may be on the way. On Monday, the AISD board hired a new head of construction management: Gordon King has an architecture degree from Rice University, a master's in city planning and architecture from MIT, and more than three decades of experience leading construction management projects at MIT, Suffolk University, and Logan Airport, among others. Perhaps he can bring some clarity to the situation.
Meanwhile, everybody has more immediate needs. AISD's Facility Master Plan community engagement conversations continue this week and next. Come tell the district what your neighborhood school is lacking: Thu., Jan. 26 at Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy; Tue., Jan. 31 at Martin Middle School; Wed., Feb. 1 at Burnet Middle School; Thu., Feb. 2 at Gorzycki Middle School; all 6-8pm. More info at www.austinisd.org/fmp.
Friends With Benefits: The Austin Animal Center offers free adoptions Sat.-Sun., Jan. 28-29 at both their locations, and from 10am-2pm at 1327 S. Congress, at the corner of Gibson – courtesy of Zappos.com's "Friends With Benefits" cross-country road trip, kicking off this weekend. More info: www.zappos.com/roadshow or www.austinanimalcenter.org.
The 20th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival is coming up May 3-7; they're hosting a kickoff party Thursday, Feb. 2, 7-10pm at ProductionFor, 3019 Alvin Devane #500. Free food & drinks; special rates on all CLA memberships including badges, swag, and more. www.cinelasamericas.org.
"Beer, Babies & Boobs" is a kickoff party for the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin: free admission, coffee milk stout beer specials, live jazz, a food truck, original artwork, and more. Thursday, Feb. 2, 5-7pm at Zilker Brewing Company, 1701 E. Sixth. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or www.milkbank.org/about-us/news-events.
Films for the Forest annual short film challenge is still taking submissions until Jan. 31; more info at www.filmsfortheforest.org.
Mulch from discarded holiday trees is now available for free on a first-come, first-served basis to Austinites; trees are being shredded at the same location where they were collected at Zilker Park Polo Fields. BYO tools and containers for loading and transporting; more info at www.austintexas.gov/department/holiday-tree-recycling.