Austinites discuss future of codenext at first public hearing – kxan electricity billy elliot broadway

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The Planning Commission and Zoning and Platting Commission hosted the joint meeting at the Dove Springs Recreation Center located at 5801 Ainez Drive in Austin. This is the first of four public hearings in regard to the project the city has presented. The city says CodeNEXT "aims to promote growth in more connected, sustainable, and affordable ways, embodying the values and character of the Austin community."

"We need a flexible land use code that gives us the tools that we need to provide for a diversity of housing for all of our neighborhoods so a diversity of people can live next to each other within the same neighborhood," said Nina Rinaldi, a member of Aura, a grassroots urbanist organization.

Those with Aura like Rinaldi and board member Eric Goff say they believe in an Austin for everyone and say the goal is to stay focused on building an Austin that can accommodate everyone. Goff says they do this through "improving land use and transportation through policy analysis, public involvement, and political engagement."

"It’s a once in a generation opportunity to rewrite the rules for how you build housing," said Goff. "It’s expensive to live in Austin because land is so expensive because so many people want to live on it. If more families can share that land housing gets cheaper."

However, not everyone is in favor of this city project. Jeff Jack, president of Austin’s Neighborhoods Council, and Susana Almanza, director of PODER or People Organized in the Defense of Earth and her Resources and president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association, a community in East Austin, say developers are influencing CodeNEXT too much.

KXAN reached out to the city’s council members and the mayor for a response. So far, only council members Kathie Tovo, Ann Kitchen, Delia Garza, Ora Houston, and Alison Alter have responded with a statement — council member Troxcliar’s office said she is currently on maternity leave.

[On Friday] I voted to adopt the two Code Next petition elements into ordinance, and I support putting those questions on the ballot for voters in November. Although our legal department has raised questions about aspects of the petition, I support the voices of the 31,000 Austinites who signed and will honor the request they made of the Council. – Council member/Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo

The changes we see today are happening under our current 30 year old Land Development Code. A code that is directly contributing to rising housing costs and limiting our ability to address flooding, congestion, environmental protection and the need for affordable housing.

To that end, I will continue to work with our community, and my colleagues to find the right balance and to take whatever time it takes to get this right. That means not rushing to adopt a Code before it is ready AND if the Council adopts a new code, then taking the necessary time to put a new code in place – which includes a waiting period, testing, implementation, and allowing a clear process for amendments.

I care deeply about the fears and lack of trust that I am hearing from some in our community. But I believe there are ways to address these concerns. That’s why on Thursday I made a Motion for the City Manager to include a waiting period and testing in the Code implementation timeline to be presented to Council on May 8th.

First, I asked for a 6 month time period before any new Code would take effect. Second, I asked for an explanation of the process for testing the code, with an overview of the testing that has been going on and how that will continue. Third, we need an explanation of the process for implementation of the code, with an emphasis on timing. And finally, we need a clear process for amending the code as we go into the future.

I appreciate and am very thankful for the time, energy, and work of all who have been participating in this difficult process. I am hopeful that we can be patient with each other, come together as a community and continue to work for solutions as quickly as feasible. There is too much at stake to give up – and we can’t give up on Austin. – Council member Ann Kitchen

I sincerely hope we begin to have a constructive rather than obstructive conversation about CodeNext. We must face the realities that we are a growing cities. For every housing unit we deny, we will push out another working family from our city because the privileged will always be able to afford to outbid lower income families. – Council member Delia Garza

People have put a lot of effort, hope, and faith into the 5 year process. I am not so sure that we have seen any data that will support the assertions that the escalating growth in Austin will preserve the generational wealth or rich cultural history of the folks who were here before Austin became the place to be.

The item on last Thursday’s agenda was to acknowledge and affirm the petition from Austin residents, 31,062 signatures and 6,544 verified from the sample by the clerk’s office. My vote for the item served as an opportunity to publicly state, as a public servant, that I am responsible to and accountable to the individuals who elected me. To dismiss their efforts, concerns, and their voice is a disservice to the democratic process. – Council member Ora Houston

I am not a lawyer, but the fact is that over 30,000 people have signed a petition asking to be able to vote on the adoption of a new code. I want the community members that invested hours of their time on this petition to know that I value their hard work, and I respect the sacrifice that their time represents. – Council member Alison Alter