Public Notice: Here Comes the Spin
CodeNEXT draft three winners & losers?
The pro-density team won the first round of the Spin Wars Tuesday morning, when the Statesman's front page headline came out: "CodeNext's third draft neighborhood-friendly." Of course, that ought to be good news for all city residents – we all live in neighborhoods, right? – but in the coded shorthand of Austin politics, that headline gives a first impression, based on the Code team's summary presentation, that this draft leans markedly to one side (very roughly, those who'd like to see more preservation of urban core building stock, with density increases targeted to corridors and centers), and that, as a starting point for negotiations, it will likely have to be reeled back in to accommodate the other side (very roughly, those who'd like to see widespread density and more new construction in the urban core, and less parking and compatibility restrictions).
But of course, as always, the reality is nowhere near that simple. It is true that direct upzonings of current single-family zones appear to be scaled back dramatically, but with corridors tabbed for even more density and even less parking, compatibility with adjacent neighborhoods seems to have taken a hit in exchange. New regulations encourage ADUs ("granny flats"; see Sarah Marloff's "Now the Fun Begins," p.18), but then they're removed again from swaths of West Austin zoning categories, which is just bizarre. On the pro-density side, folks have to be ecstatic at the further indiscriminate reductions in parking requirements, but you won't hear them admit it. Likewise, those who've insisted that the most important goal is housing capacity should be cheering at the consultants showing the highest capacity numbers yet – without disrupting existing neighborhoods (much) – but that's not what you'll hear from them, either.
Trying to set the tone even before the draft release, two sets of City Council members weighed in with policy statements last week:
Mayor Steve Adler and CMs Alison Alter and Ann Kitchen released "a framework for discussion" titled "Key Goals for a Successful New Land Development Code," which essentially reframed most of the central goals of Imagine Austin, including the sometimes-conflicting "Provide more housing choices and supply for Austinites at all stages of life and incomes," and "Preserve and respect neighborhood identity and quality of life." It's a centrist view, from what is likely the centrist bloc on the dais.
Meanwhile, the density Gang of Four – Delia Garza, Pio Renteria, Greg Casar, and Jimmy Flannigan – posted an editorial on Medium, headlined "The Time Is Now: The Code Is Broken and Fixing It Is on Us." But despite that dynamic title and some pugnacious rhetoric, the policy outline is fairly milquetoast: "It's about building activity centers and corridors so that downtown isn't the only option for people to live, work, and play," they say, before concluding "We are dedicated to ensuring CodeNEXT prioritizes affordability, inclusion, and sustainability in transportation and housing." Okay, I think we can all agree on this thing after all.
Vote Republican! Well, it's just an idea. With just a smattering of truly contested races on the Democratic ballot, some Travis voters may find themselves staring at their sample ballots this season with a feeling of meh. If that's you, and you trust that Beto O'Rourke and Mike Collier are going to win, and you don't really care about the judges' races (no judging here), you could do worse than holding your nose and walking over to the lonely old woman behind the "Republican" table and taking one of their primary ballots, just to put a big X next to Scott Milder for lieutenant governor. He seems like a good person, he's Not Dan Patrick, and he rates better than a snowball's chance in hell of winning this primary. There are certainly worse reasons for casting a ballot. And remember, no judging here.
AISD's annual High School Showcase is this Sat., Feb. 17, 9am-noon at Austin High School, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez. Students and parents can learn about program offerings at the district's 15 high schools – including six early college high schools, the Career Launch programs at LBJ and Reagan early college high schools, and business and postsecondary partnerships – plus info on transfers, ESL support, transportation, counseling, and other available services.
Pet Party! Come mingle with Hank and other Chronicle pets at our Pet Issue Party, 1-3pm this Sunday, Feb. 18, at Southern Heights Brewing Co., 6014 Techni Center Dr.