Public Notice: Closeout!

Zucker Report finally put to bed? Eh, sorta.

Public Notice: Closeout!

On Feb. 7, with about as little fanfare as the city can muster, the final report came out on the much-discussed 2015 "Zucker Report," a City Council-ordered analysis of the Plan­ning and Development Review Depart­ment. That report had slammed the PDRD's structure and operations, and detailed 462 specific recommendations regarding management and operations, which the city has been working on ever since. This new 96-page report, titled "Roadmap for Building a Bet­ter Austin," lists all 462 recommendations, with their "Closeout," or final resolution.

As the cover memo notes, in 2015 PDRD was reorganized into two separate units, the Development Services Depart­ment (DSD) and the Planning and Zoning Department (PAZ). Because the bulk of the issues in the Zucker Report did have to do with the development review process – i.e., how long it takes to get plans reviewed, and inspections done – some 400 of the recommendations were assigned in whole or in part to DSD, and indeed, the "Roadmap" is a DSD product. But not all of those DSD "Closeouts" are really resolved, and for a roadmap, it sure has a lot of dead ends.

For example, in response to a group of recommendations regarding expired permits, especially those "that represent life safety concerns," the Closeout begins: "The inspections workload is too great to allow an effective program for addressing expired permits with current staffing levels." And to another set of items about trying "to help eliminate plan review backlog," the Closeout notes that while DSD is using overtime, temps, and a third-party firm, "In addition, review times were amended in May 2017 to more accurately reflect what is achievable based on the current regulatory environment and workload," which was probably a good idea, but may not really satisfy the intent of the recommendation – or the needs of the city.

Nor were those the only places where staff is not shy in expressing that they can't fix these problems without outside help, without changes in the code, and/or more bodies on the ground.

And then there remains a rather comical series of one-liners regarding items that were referred not to DSD, but to PAZ:

"Recommendation #56: [PDRD] should review its approach to working with neighborhoods in an attempt to strengthen relations.

"Closeout: Assigned to the Planning and Zoning Department."

Similarly, "#123: Establish a management plan for updating existing neighborhood/small area plans and for creating new plans for corridor development, [and] master plans for the future intensive development areas specified in Imagine Austin. ... #126: Add emphasis to Imagine Austin's proposed new regional, town, and neighborhood centers in the CodeNEXT Land Development Code update process. ... #130: Initiate a long-term process to consider redefining neighborhood planning boundaries and reorganize neighborhood contact groups ....

"Closeout: Assigned to the Planning and Zoning Department."

So that gets those items off of DSD's plate, but Planning and Zoning has in fact done nothing to close out those recommendations, and has in fact been quite clear that they don't have time for such matters, and don't consider it their job. So there's that ...

See the full memo here.


What can you make out of office chairs, grape skins, coolers and freeze packs, and plastic sheets and napkins? That's what the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is looking to find out. They're hoping to find local entrepreneurs who can develop new business ideas using one or more of those waste products that are otherwise going into the waste stream. The opening pitch event, with four local businesses and Travis County showing off their trash for potential users, is Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6-8pm, at Capital Factory, 701 Brazos. RSVP to attend at www.reversepitch.org.


AISD budget town halls: The school district is holding meetings this week for the public "to learn more about the district's academic investments and austerity planning," and to collect feedback "critical to the decision-making process as the district continues to develop the preliminary 2019-20 budget." Thu., Feb. 21, 6-7:30pm, at Reagan Early College High School, 7104 Berkman, and Sat., Feb. 23, 11am-12:30pm, at Austin High School, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez. Spanish interpretation and child care will be provided at all meetings.


The Public "addresses many issues facing cities including homelessness and mental illness, and the story unfolds within an urban public library." So it's a perfect fit for a free preview screening at the Austin Central Library, Sunday, Feb. 24, at 3pm, followed by a Q&A session with Emilio Estevez, who wrote, produced, and directed. There's limited seating; get tickets at aplthepublicscreening.eventbrite.com.


Amplify Austin Day: You live here, you give here. Lots of your favorite nonprofit organizations have matching donor deals, and if you enter "#LoveTitos" when you check out, Tito's Vodka will add an extra $5 to your donation (up to $10,000) – it runs from next Thursday, Feb. 28, 6pm, through Friday, March 1, 6pm.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro@austinchronicle.com.

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