Public Notice: Here Comes the Vote
Council preps for marathon Land Development Code hearing and first reading
After two lengthy work sessions on the Land Development Code revision this Tuesday and Wednesday, City Council takes a breather to deal with the easy stuff like police oversight and homelessness at their regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 5, then dives back into the weeds with its sole LDC public hearing on Saturday (perhaps dragging into Monday), and then a first-reading vote Monday (unless it's delayed to Wednesday, Dec. 11). And then the real discussions start.
That's because Council seems to have essentially decided that at this first reading, it will pass the code revision as currently drafted and revised, probably with few, if any, amendments that aren't agreed upon by consensus. Here's the drill:
• Sat., Dec. 7, 10am, City Council Public Hearing: Speaker sign-up will start on Friday, 8am, at City Hall, where there's free 30-minute parking; it'll continue until 3pm on Saturday, and if there are more speakers (at two minutes per person) than Council can hear in that one day, the public hearing will be continued in the Monday Council meeting. There will be on-site child supervision, and also pet adoptions from the Austin Animal Center.
• Mon., Dec. 9, 10am, City Council Special Called Meeting: Following a process Mayor Steve Adler proposed on the Council message board, the day will start with more public testimony (limited to one minute for anyone who spoke Saturday); Council will then consider a base motion consisting of the draft Code text and Zoning Map, plus the changes contained in two supplemental reports, plus the Planning Commission's recommended changes on which the staff reported they agree. So far, so good; while there remains considerable rancor on all sides over various provisions of the new code and map, Council could decide to leave those fights for another day (sometime between now and second reading in February or so). But the base motion will be open for amendments, and that's where things could start getting sticky. There's a good bit that CMs can still find consensus on, but none of the serious policy divides have yet to really be addressed; if members start putting forward proposals that seem to lean too far either way on the density/preservation scale – that's when things could get bogged down, and the continuation to Wednesday could come into play.
Indeed, one of the staff leads, Brent Lloyd, seemed to hint in that direction late in Wednesday's meeting, suggesting that for Council to see changes in the map to be voted on at second reading, it would need to make decisions now, as directions to staff, with the first reading. That's a lot of pressure to put on this first vote, especially when much of the draft remains open to fairly major revision as Council continues to brainstorm from the dais. (A couple of weeks ago, it was, "What about allowing triplexes everywhere?" Today, it was, "Perhaps there should be a new kind of three-unit zone.") Staff's final presentation on Wed., Dec. 4, showed them still "considering" a lot of different tweaks and "continuing to work with design professionals to model and calibrate zones," and while there have been mapping changes, there is no draft map to look at at this point. But that's this week.
This year's United Nations Climate Change Conference COP25 is ongoing in Madrid (Dec. 2-13), and Austinites Bee Moorhead and Erica Nelson are there representing Texas Impact and the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy – and thanks to those organizations, so are local videographers Eric Graham and Robert Moorhead, producing daily videos for The Austin Chronicle and TICPP. In the first four editions, they've covered Nancy Pelosi's address promising America's commitment to fighting climate change despite President Trump; discussions of global "loss and damage" as they relate to the climate crisis and of faith leaders' roles in advocating for climate change action; and the presentation of "Fossil of the Day" awards to bad-acting countries. See tomorrow's news today at austinchronicle.com/cop25.