Public Notice: Deadline Crunch
CodeNEW set to drop in three weeks
City Council got their next-to-last staff briefing on the Land Development Code rewrite at a special called meeting Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 11. City staff explained their strategy on several specific topics:
• Existing market-rate affordable multifamily properties (older units that are affordable for those making 80% median family income or below) will keep their equivalent zoning in the new code, except they may be eligible for an affordability bonus;
• outside of transition areas, no properties will be upzoned, except if they opt into affordability bonuses;
• "unique zoning districts" (NCCDs, TODs, PUDs, etc.) will be left under the existing code, except transition areas around corridors that will be rezoned, so NCCDs will shrink, perhaps by as much as 50%;
• and affordable housing incentives are ... well, they're complicated, and we hope they'll work. But in the transition areas, as Council Member Alison Alter stressed and staff admitted, the broad upzonings work against the bonuses being used.
Next up: A previously scheduled Council work session on Sept. 17 has been cancelled (and replaced with a Sept. 18 special called meeting on the homelessness ordinances), but there'll be one more briefing – the week of Sept. 23, on Watersheds, the environment, and administrative sections – before the Oct. 4 public release of the draft Code and city-wide mapping. With just three weeks to nail down all the details, write, polish, proofread, organize, and produce (whew) what last time around was a 1,400-page document full of picky but important details, numbers, and cross-references (whew, again), it would seem there's no time left to second-guess assumptions or rethink priorities. On the other hand, this is the exact point at which the last of those details and numbers are being finalized – especially in the mapping, I would presume – so everyone's trying to get in some last spin that might sway a decision on, perhaps, whether your home is going to be zoned R3 or R4, or whether you can get rid of your parking space.
Judging from the Wednesday meeting and the Aug. 28 one on transition areas, it appears that staff is hewing pretty closely to the Council directions that were passed May 2 – which skewed pretty extreme in some of their particulars, often on contentious 7-4 votes that indicate a strong resistance to the rule changes, especially in those center-city neighborhoods who are likely to be affected the most. So at this point, expect pretty drastic upzoning along corridors and broad reductions in on-site parking, to cite just two salient areas of dispute in the urbanist/neighborhood debate. On Oct. 4, Council and the public will see what that looks like on the ground. And at that point, we'll all see whether we're in for another round of 7-4 votes, or whether Council has the stomach for one last push for more consensus.
Saturday, Sept. 14, is Team Sierra's Third Annual Backyard Day Virtual Race, "a day to celebrate the outdoor spaces you call home." The street outside your home, a neighborhood park, a favorite soccer field or swimming hole – "get outdoors and get active in whatever way works for you!" Sign up alongside thousands of Team Sierra members across the country at www.teamsierra.org/backyardday.
Looking ahead, next week, Sept. 20-27, is the weeklong Global Climate Strike, to coincide with the UN Climate Action Summit being held Sept. 23 in New York. Locally, a coalition of high school students have organized the Austin Climate Strike, a noon rally at the state Capitol on Friday, Sept. 20: "Walk out from your school, home, or place of work on 9/20 at 9am! Meet up at noon at the Texas Capitol Building for a program of speakers and a networking opportunity to meet more like-minded people and organizations!" Follow the strike on Instagram @austinclimatecoalition and @s4caaustintx, and Facebook: @austinclimatecoalition.