CodeNEXT: Take Four?
When is an addendum really a new draft?
Land use commissioners were settling into their Friday nights on April 20 when they received an email containing three new additions to the proposed zoning rewrite's third and supposedly final draft. The CodeNEXT document already runs more than 1,500 pages, and commissioners received a 410-page addendum, plus an errata with "minor edits that do not alter content," and a map atlas to guide users through changes to the newest map. Bad timing: City Council expects to receive the LUC's recommendations before May, leaving commissioners with little time to make sense of the new changes.
The attachments arrived days after the joint land use commission work session last Wednesday, where Planning Commission Chair Stephen Oliver implored city staff to tread lightly with new material. He was responding to staff's confession that there would be "some changes" to the Main Street zones in the draft three map. That draft zoned certain corridors MS3, which, in theory, allows greater height and impervious cover, though many sites are physically incapable of reaching that classification's maximum height. One of the addenda drops these zones down to MS2, in staff's attempt to reflect the most accurate zoning of existing properties.
But the changes don't stop there. Zoning & Platting Commission Chair Jolene Kiolbassa told me staff has added new sections, and removed others. Planning Commissioner Greg Anderson railed against the addendum at the PC meeting Tuesday night, accusing staff of depleting housing diversity by removing accessory dwelling units from R2C lots smaller than 5,000 square feet. "The more I look at it, the more I realize this is not an addendum; this is draft four," he said.
"It's 11:59 on the CodeNEXT clock, and I don't know what's been changed," Kiolbassa said earlier in the week. Exhausted executive lead Greg Guernsey tried to alleviate fears on Tuesday night, telling commissioners that staff believe the addendum offers draft three "clarification." But in light of the new information, Oliver presented a resolution suggesting his commission center their recommendations on the zoning text and mapping, as opposed to the chapters outside of zoning. Oliver's goal is to "take up the hardest stuff first" to help Council start on CodeNEXT, then tackle the more technical chapters with additional aid. Commissioner James Shieh supported that proposal. One of his "biggest concerns" is "there's stuff that none of us get," leaving him uncertain about how to weigh in on certain sections. "We need to make it clear to Council that they need to go through position papers to make sure that they [understand it]."
Who's a Planner?
Before that happens, Council must clarify membership requirements for the Planning Commission. The topic will be taken up today, April 26, after Community Not Commodity and the NAACP have argued that the commission's current makeup is illegal under the City Charter. CNC says seven commissioners are connected to development; the charter mandates no more than one-third (or four people on the 13-member board) should be "directly or indirectly" tied to real estate or development. Council will decide between narrowing the definition to "only" include "more intensive development of real property"; or broadening it to include architects, engineers, and more (which could affect Oliver's standing, since he's an architect). CNC head Fred Lewis said both options "only weaken" the charter, contrary to voter's wishes.
Land use commissions have public hearings scheduled for Saturday and Tuesday. See “Public Notice,” Apr. 27.