Friday, March 13, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Ott addresses Zucker Report in city memo

The city released a draft copy of the Zucker Report last week amid growing curiosity about what it contained. This week, the aftershocks began.

Zucker Systems analyzed the city’s Planning and Development Review Department last year, and in its 700-plus-page report, recommended 464 changes to current practices. Of those, the report designated 121 as high priority, and Zucker Systems recommends an immediate $3.5 million in improvements.

On Friday, City Manager Marc Ott sent a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and City Council members that offered some context for the recently, reluctantly released Zucker Report. He wrote that “in response to recent local media coverage … I am compelled to provide proper context to this matter, and to our ongoing efforts to improve our planning and development review department.

“It is clear to many, including myself, that changes are needed within PDRD,” wrote Ott. “I want to be clear that the Zucker study is only one recent strategy we have employed to help us improve our planning and development review efforts. No study or set of recommendations will bring a simple fix to our current issues. The only way to achieve effective planning and review is through a visionary comprehensive plan and, most important, a simplified land development code.”

In the memo, Ott detailed the timeline of the department review, and how the Zucker Report came about. He explained that when he became Austin’s city manager, it was “immediately apparent” that the comprehensive plan was outdated and the land development code was “riddled with complexities.”

Those things, he said, led to the commission of the report by his office in 2014. However, on a bigger scale, Ott also prioritized the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, which passed in 2012, and simplifying the code through the in-progress CodeNEXT process.

“The findings of Zucker are indeed valuable and will help us foster positive change,” wrote Ott. “However, until we have a simplified code to work from, we are limited in our ability to address all of our issues.”



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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City Manager Marc Ott: Ott was hired by Council members in 2008 and served in that position until his 2016 departure.

Planning and Development Review: The Planning and Development Review Department is responsible for Austin's city planning, preservation, and design. The department also provides development review and inspection services for the city.

Zucker Report: The final analysis of the Planning and Development Review was released in May 2015. In it were numerous suggestions for the improvement of the city's planning and permitting operations, and the release of the report sparked quick changes, and led to the direct dissolution of the department into two separate departments: Planning and Zoning and Development Services.

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