Now that the first draft of CodeNEXT is out, the reactions from groups around the city are also emerging, and they range from urging the city to move forward to calling for a slow down to reconsider the proposed new land use regulations.
The Austin chapter of the American Institute of Architects met in May and sent a memo to the Austin City Council outlining its concerns about CodeNEXT. Those include worries that CodeNEXT’s zoning categories are contradictory and confusing; that it is “overly prescriptive” with form-based regulations that dictate what can be built in transect zones; and that CodeNEXT doesn’t allow for enough “missing middle” housing that’s affordable for middle class residents. Read the AIA memo here (PDF link).
In Hyde Park, the neighborhood group Friends of Hyde Park sent out an email stating concerns that CodeNEXT’s revisions will result in codified racial segregation. The group is asking City Council to do more to support housing affordability and fair housing practices in CodeNEXT.
Some Councilmembers – Kathie Tovo of District 9, Alison Alter of District 10, Leslie Pool of District 7, and Ora Houston of District 1 – have called for an extended time frame to examine CodeNEXT’s proposals.
But that suggestion has met with opposition from the Real Estate Council of Austin and Evolve Austin. Both released statements in early June urging City Council to stay the course with CodeNEXT.
“Three years, millions of dollars and thousands of public comments have already gone into this process and it’s important that it stays on track,” RECA’s statement says. “If the process is efficiently run and managed, we should make a good faith effort to adhere to the current timeline. Delaying CodeNEXT will only delay and exacerbate our city’s problems — there is still time in the coming months to get it right, and RECA looks forward to working with City Council, city staff, and the community.”
Evolve Austin also wants City Council to keep the timeline, and argued that there is still time to make the necessary revisions. Council is expected to give a final vote on CodeNEXT by April 2018.
“Delaying CodeNEXT will make traffic, the cost of housing and the cost of living even worse,” Evolve Austin’s executive director Andy Cantu says in a statement. “While the current draft code does not reflect the principals of Imagine Austin or provide a more transparent Code that is user-friendly, it is possible to adopt a code that represents our community’s shared vision for Austin’s future in a reasonable timeframe. Opponents of CodeNEXT want to sit on the sidelines, watch traffic increase and affordability worsen, and do nothing. Doing nothing is not an option. We need to stop reacting to the fear and derision coming out of small corners of the city and instead work together to focus on improving the lives of all Austinites.”