Public Notice: Two Tales of One City
Land use Commissions Diverge; Go to the Dogs
The action is flying fast and furious as the Planning Commission and Zoning & Platting Commission both try to formulate their final recommendations on latest draft of the CodeNEXT land development code rewrite. That's fast for PC, as they try to race through nearly 1,000 proposed amendments to the draft, with discussion and a vote on each, in the next week. And furious for ZAP, who are meeting as we go to press to vote on a resolution urging City Council to "Immediately terminate the CodeNext project," and start over again on two fronts: One, digitize the current code to make it more usable and searchable, then study it to see what its actual problems are and what actually needs to be fixed; and two, act immediately "to minimize displacement and provide affordable housing," using tools outside the code, as recommended by "the Mayor's Taskforce on Institutional Racism and the People's Plan," including "strong disincentives against the demolition of" moderately priced housing.
But here's the rub: While just about everyone would now agree that that's the process we should've taken several years ago, before starting down the CodeNEXT rabbit hole, it's very much an open question whether Council – or even a majority of the very disgruntled ZAP board – has the stomach, or political will, to take that step now: to admit that four years of effort has essentially gone down the drain, that "further attempts to revise or amend CodeNext will only waste additional time and City resources," as the resolution reads, and the "new City Manager ... should not be saddled with implementing a flawed land development code in which he had no part in preparing and in which there is so much community opposition." Ouch.
PC, meanwhile, is plowing through some 950 (and counting) proposed amendments to the Draft 3 code. They're really just nibbling around the edges of the basic problems identified by ZAP, but judging from early results on Tuesday night, PC seems ready to side – by the narrowest of margins – with the "compact" side of the "compact and connected" mandate in the Imagine Austin master plan, even if it's to the detriment of the "connected" end. In a pair of contentious 7-6 votes, they recommended removing all requirements for developments to provide Common Open Space, and requiring Civic Open Space only on sites that are 8-12 acres (four to six city blocks), which essentially don't exist in town. So, no requirements for public plazas, park benches, ped/cycle connectors, etc. – the amenities that city staff vehemently defended as necessary to the civic fabric.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Commissioners have thus far gotten through less than a third of the proposed amendments, and they're going in order of the text itself, so they haven't gotten into the meatier issues yet, such as parking requirements, or rules for any of the specific zoning categories. They'll start on those at their next special-called meeting Monday at 4pm, and later in the week, place and time still TBD. Then comes the mapping itself – what zones get applied where – which is where the real bloodbaths will start ... unless someone stops them.
Meanwhile, a bunch of masked white assholes calling themselves Defend Our Hoodz turned up at an Eastside community meeting Sunday to tell folks they weren't being gentrified out of their homes, and, presumably, that more vanilla lattes are good for everyone.
Drink for Dogs
• Sign-up is now open for the annual AHS Pup Crawl. A $25 wristband benefits the Austin Humane Society, and gets you a T-shirt and drink specials at three Rainey Street hot spots on Saturday, May 19, 2-6:30pm. See www.austinhumanesociety.org/pup-crawl-2018 for info.
• And it's still not too late to take advantage of Barks for Beers, a monthlong fundraiser for Divine Canines, who provide free therapy dog services to various populations in the area – hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, and the like. Buy a Divine Canines pint glass and pawsport for $30, then for the rest of May, get one free pour at each of 25 Austin craft breweries. Full info at www.divinecanines.org/barksforbeers.
East Austin Parking Woes?
As of this week, pay to park will be enforced all day long in East Austin, at all metered parking from I-35 to Chicon, and 11th St. down to the river, from 8am-midnight, Mon.-Sat. – instead of 6pm to midnight, Tue.-Sat. The city Transportation Department bills this as a service, intended "to increase parking availability and combat congestion associated with vehicles circulating to find parking." (More grist for the CodeNEXT parking reduction debate?)
On the other hand, May is Bike Month, so maybe that's a better way to get down to East Sixth anyway. Specifically, Bike to Work Day is coming up next Friday, May 18: 40 fueling stations around town will offer free coffee, snacks, and swag to riders who stop by, and we trust that by the time the event rolls around, they'll post a list of those stations at www.bikeaustin.org/b2wd.
This summer, Austin ISD will serve anyone 18 years old and younger free healthy meals – both breakfast and lunch – at more than 40 schools through the Summer Food Service Program. Visit www.summerfood.org for an interactive site locator map, or call 211 to speak to a live operator.