Public Notice: The New Apartheid?
Everyone hates the non-transect zones
It's early yet in the review process for the first draft of CodeNEXT, the new land development code; but one theme that does seem to be playing out pretty consistently is mistrust and confusion over why the new code includes two wholly different sets of code for areas to be designated "Transect" or "Non-Transect" zones.
It's a strangely bifurcated system, wherein most of the city is zoned as some form of "Transect," ranging in various gradations from T3 (small houses and bungalows) to T6 (Downtown skyscrapers), and regulated primarily by building size and type, rather than by use. But some sizable portions of the city – no one will hazard a guess as to how much – will be zoned as "Non-Transect," get names such as Low-Medium Density Residential and Mixed-Use Commercial, Downtown Core, and be categorized primarily by use: Single-Family Residential or Low-Intensity Industrial, for instance.
As everyone agrees, it's hard to really tell what we're looking at until April 18, when the drafters reveal the mapping that shows where the codes are going to be applied (though it's widely presumed that the non-transect zones will include wide swaths of what is now SF-2 zoning in West Austin). And thus far, as they did with the draft code, staff and consultants are keeping the mapping as closely guarded a secret as, say, the winner of a Best Picture Oscar.
But when the Zoning and Platting Commission got their briefing on the new code this week, even without the mapping, commissioners looked like they'd definitely been handed the wrong envelope. I wasn't keeping careful count, but it seemed just about every one of them, individually, took the occasion to lambaste the bifurcated approach – all variations on wondering why, if the intent is to simplify and clarify the code, the decision has apparently been taken to create two separate but unequal sets of code, containing not just different standards, but different ways of measuring those standards, and even different terminologies to describe them. And unfortunately, Planning and Development Review Director Greg Guernsey had no answers. Or maybe, he was just keeping them hidden in his briefcase.
Traffic: Jammed and Hacked
At their Tuesday work session this week, Council took some preliminary steps toward setting up a framework in which they can decide on how to schedule their discussions about what format they might use to start to move toward providing feedback to the Transportation Department about implementing the Mobility Bond programs. Staff has a list of priority sidewalks they'll start on right away; Council promises to get back to them about that other $700 million, some time after spring break.
Meanwhile, plans are nonetheless being made …
Traffic Jam! A Mobility Solutions Workshop for Central Texans is a public workshop on our "sticky transportation issues," presented by Capital Metro, the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, and the city, with panel discussions, appearances by state Sen. Kirk Watson, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Mayor Steve Adler, Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson, Austin Transportation Dept. Director Rob Spillar, plus "hands-on activities for adults and kids." Breakfast tacos will be served. Sat., March 4, 8:30am-1pm at the Bullock State History Museum, 1800 Congress. See more at www.projectconnect.com.
If that's not hands-on enough for you, head down the road to the first-ever ATX Hack the Traffic event, noon-6pm that same Saturday, March 4, at Galvanize Austin, 118 Nueces. There, ATD and the UT Center for Transportation Research promise "single-board computers, travel sensors, and gigabytes of travel-time data for you to experiment with. Your work could be piloted on real-life Austin streets as part of Austin's Smart City initiatives!" Register for #HacktheTraffic at www.fb.com/events/1422783344433006.
Even deeper in the hacking weeds is the Barton Springs Hackathon, "a technical workshop focused on unlocking a wealth of monitor well data and combining it with precipitation, stream flow, and springflow data to better show the water cycle that influences Barton Springs." It's this Fri., March 3, 9am-4pm at the Texas Advanced Computing Center on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. RSVP at www.bseacd.org/hackathon.
The city's Watershed Protection Department is undertaking a Shoal Creek Flood Mitigation Study, to assess possible solutions to flooding along Shoal Creek in the Downtown area. They have a $900,000 budget, and are holding this open house at "the very beginning of the study, a great time to provide feedback about your concerns and goals." It's Thu., March 9, 6-8pm at Cirrus Logic, 700 West Ave. See more info at www.austintexas.gov/shoalcreekfloods.
The ABC Zilker Kite Festival is the nation's longest-running such event – an 88-year-old tradition, and the longtime sponsor, ABC Home & Commercial Services, recently signed a pledge with the Exchange Club of Austin and Mayor Steve Adler to produce the event for the next 50 years. It takes flight this Sun., March 5, 9am-5pm at Zilker Park, including kite-flying demos, competitions, sales, and much more. It's free, but proceeds benefit Communities in Schools and the Moss Pieratt Foundation. www.abckitefestival.org.