City Council, District 8
Since I started at City Hall in 2005, I have been involved in continual amendments to the land development code, and I agree that the basic bones of the 34-year old code are in need of modernization and improvement. The conversation around CodeNEXT became a fight over rhetoric rather than addressing code improvements in a reasonable and academic way.
CodeNEXT, as a product, was over 1500 pages (not counting addenda, errata, etc.). There were some things in the recommendations that I supported, some things I do not support, and much more that falls somewhere in between. That said, I was outspoken about my concerns of CodeNEXT as a process. We spent 5-6 years and $8.5+ million on the process; both numbers are indications of the problems that perpetuated and, at the same time, the need for us all to find a way to move on.
To do this, it will be important for us to look forward rather than point fingers. It’ll be my responsibility to move the conversation forward in the most productive and efficient way possible. We need the City Council to come together and give clear direction as a body–not as individuals; all or nothing approaches aren’t helpful. Our council members and community leaders will need to put aside rhetoric and work together. Throughout my time as a council aide, I worked to facilitate compromises on issues, even those with which it seemed unlikely. It’s still possible here.
To provide some insight on my general approach, I view the revision of the land development code as a charter-established duty, intended to implement the directives that have already been adopted within new comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin. From a process standpoint, one of the major problems that occurred is that we lost focus on this main objective. CodeNEXT somehow transformed into both a code rewrite and an entirely new planning process. When these two very different conversations converged, it created unnecessary conflict, escalated rhetoric and made consensus building difficult. We need to get back to drafting and evaluating revisions to the land development code through the Imagine Austin lens.
While I recognize the analysis of how much an amendment might reflect or diverge from Imagine Austin is, to some extent, subject to individual interpretation, there are several examples of easier-to-see discrepancies within what was proposed where planning-level decisions are obviously being made (such as proposed up-zonings and down-zonings that are plainly inconsistent with the Growth Concept Map). Minimizing these discrepancies would go a long way in moving us forward. Planning-level decisions that are holding us back can and should be addressed through the 5-year updates and/or through the upcoming corridor planning.
Other basic decisions–such as whether to reduce minimum lot sizes on residential lots–just need to be voted on. It’s somewhat ridiculous to think that after 5-6 years, one of the major issues we are still debating is whether to reduce minimum lot sizes by 750 square feet. I think it would help if we broke up the conversation and tried to tackle it piece by piece, section by section. Trying to address the whole revision at once isn’t manageable.