The Austin Chronicle

City Council: Getting It All Planned Out

Inching toward Imagine Austin

By Mike Clark-Madison, April 12, 2019, News

It's a wonky day at City Hall today, Thursday, April 11, as Council aims and hopes to give its final blessing to the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (Item 33) and begins to consider (and take public comment on) "Land Development Code Revision Policy Guidance" – that is, CodeCronk, City Manager Spencer Cronk's "five questions" designed to get Council on record with decisions on key flash points like parking, housing density, and "compatibility" standards. As the long march toward a new code enters its seventh year and after hours of CodeCronk discussion at Tuesday's work session, you might think Council is ready to take the votes Cronk has asked for and move on. Certainly, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza is ready, as she lamented on Twitter: "Tired of the vision and goals blah blah in rewriting our land code. The current one is steeped in our racist past. Let's get this done. We are in a housing crisis. The longer we sit and talk, the more families we push out of Austin. I answered the questions. Next!"

It would be surprising, though, to see that action taken this week. After all, as CM Leslie Pool said at the beginning of Tuesday's work session, "We still need to hear from the public!" Nor is Council officially done hearing public comment on the ASMP, although its main task this week is to adopt amendments to that plan before they adopt the whole plan as an amendment to the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Both Pool and CM Alison Alter have proposed amendments, along with those crafted by Austin Transportation Department staff in response to the last few months of feedback the ASMP has gotten at community meetings and boards and commissions.

And there's other business on the agenda that, in its own way, impacts the city's ability to achieve Imagine Austin's many, many worthy goals. Item 9 formally dedicates as parkland property on Lower Onion Creek purchased as part of the city's buyout of that flood-stricken area, while Item 26 directs Cronk to find additional funding sources to open the Salvation Army's new Rathgeber Center shelter for homeless families with children. And Item 30 would, through the adoption of a final operations plan as required by state law, allow the city to start spending the money it's accrued in Homestead Preservation District 1 (basically, the East­side). The tax-increment financing (TIF) district is intended to capture some of the revenue generated by skyrocketing Eastside property values (median home values in the district appreciated 63% from 2011 to 2016) and reinvest it in affordable housing, an idea that was first conceived and written into state law (by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez) back in 2005; over the 10-year life of the TIF district, the city expects to capture nearly $22 million.

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