Friday, March 10, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Adler speech calls for optimism, hard work ahead

Mayor Steve Adler warned the crowd at the Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon Thursday that the CodeNEXT maps showing all the new zoning classifications for the entire city to be released on April 18 will be “wrong,” but the solution is for everyone to take a deep breath and get to work.

It’s not going to be easy, he said, but when the maps come out, “there are two ways we can react as a community – everybody can look at those maps and scream in horror because it doesn’t look like exactly what they wanted it to look like, or we can take a deep breath and the community on April 17 can say, ‘You know the maps are coming out tomorrow and they’re going to be wrong,’ because they will be wrong. And then we roll up our sleeves as a community and say, ‘How do we get from here to there?'”

It may be too late to stop the screaming. Already, one commission has asked that release of the maps associated with the rewrite of the Land Development Code be postponed.

Along with affordability and CodeNEXT, Adler addressed Austin’s housing crisis and the possible expansion of Capitol View Corridors into East Austin.

Adler said it is critical for people in the real estate community to work on Austin’s housing affordability problem, along with neighborhood people and others who see things differently, he said. In solving Austin’s affordability problems, one side doesn’t have to lose for the other to win, he said.

Adler pointed out that “as long as we have 40 people bidding on a house, the price is going to go up,” and it has nothing to do with racism or a desire to gentrify neighborhoods. It’s simply supply and demand, and the laws of supply and demand apply in Austin the same as they apply anywhere else in the world, he said.

The city must do something to address the supply, Adler said, but it is not merely a matter of supply. Many people in the community are very concerned about their quality of life, he said, pointing out that in the next 24 years the population of the Austin metropolitan area would grow from about 2 million people to about 4 million people.

“We will not have made that transition successfully as Austin, Texas, if we lose the spirit and soul of our city,” he said, and become just a consumer of art and not a producer of art and culture.

Asked whether he would support code changes that would put three or four houses on a lot instead of the one house currently allowed, Adler said no. He said by and large he supports changes on transit corridors in areas where people want to live. However, the city could not achieve enough density in the heritage neighborhoods by simply doubling or tripling the number of houses that are currently there.

“And then having removed the worst fears of everybody involved that we’re not going to get the supply that we need or that we’re going to destroy neighborhoods, then we can look at transition zones,” he said.

Adler told the crowd that in order to obtain more housing, the city must find the proper calibration for giving density bonuses. Not only does the city not currently have the appropriate tool, he said, but it may need to be recalibrated each year.

A member of the audience asked the question that seemed to imply that City Council had already voted to add an additional Capitol View Corridor for East Austin, but Adler explained that that is not the case. Council simply passed a resolution directing staff to come back with a recommendation on May 18.

Photo by Jo Clifton.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

CodeNEXT: CodeNEXT is the name given to the land development code rewrite process undertaken in the early 2010s by the City of Austin.

Mayor Steve Adler: Mayor of the city of Austin, elected in November 2014

Real Estate Council of Austin: 501(c)6 for "more than 1,700 commercial real estate professionals representing the top leaders in the Central Texas business community." RECA is a donor to the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent of the Austin Monitor.

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