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‘Something has gone horribly wrong’: Adler calls for a reset on CodeNEXT process

Thursday, August 2, 2018 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Mayor Steve Adler wants the city to scrap CodeNEXT and start over.

In a post to the City Council Message Board Wednesday, Adler asked that the city manager come up with a new process for updating the city’s 34-year-old Land Development Code. The mayor bemoaned “misinformation” surrounding the yearslong discussion.

“When a long-time resident says with a straight face that CodeNEXT means every property in their neighborhood will be able to sell alcohol commercially, or a neighborhood listserv warns that most every home in their neighborhood will be demolished and each lot subdivided into 25-foot widths,” he wrote, “then something has gone horribly wrong.”

So far, the city has spent roughly $8.5 million and six years on CodeNEXT.

By Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that Adler had the votes he needs to revise this process. A contingent of Council members who have argued for more and denser housing – including Delia Garza, Greg Casar, Jimmy Flannigan and Pio Renteria – backed the mayor’s proposal. They co-authored a resolution for Council to vote on, asking the city manager to devise a new process for the rewrite.

The four Council members called out more affluent parts of Austin, which they said were stalling the process.

“We are disheartened that in a time of national crisis that calls for unity,” they wrote, “factions from Austin’s wealthy and privileged sectors funded campaigns of fear focused on maintaining the status quo – the status of unfair and unequal treatment concentrated in the remaining low-income and working class neighborhoods in our City.”

Council Member Ann Kitchen, who represents Central South Austin, also said she supported the mayor’s proposal, but called it a “reboot.”

“Reboot to me does not mean start over. Reboot to me means: What’s the process that we need from this point? How do we best take advantage of all the excellent work that’s occurred up to this point?” she said.

Four other Council members – Leslie Pool, Ora Houston, Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo – posted to the Council message board later in the evening support for Adler’s proposal. These Council members have aligned themselves with neighborhood preservationists, who are wary of more housing in Central Austin, and a citizen-led petition to slow down CodeNEXT.

“We appreciate that our colleagues have joined us in recognizing that CodeNEXT is flawed and that the public has lost all confidence in the process,” wrote Pool, Houston, Alter and Tovo in a joint statement. “The community has been sending warning signals for a long time that the process is off track, culminating in a citizen-led referendum with more than 32,000 signatures to put this issue to a public vote.”

CodeNEXT has been a divisive process. Residents opposing the measure petitioned the city to put similar large-scale code rewrites to a vote earlier this year. While the city argued that ran afoul of state law, a judge last month ordered that the measure be put to a vote in November.

It’s unclear when Council members will vote on whether to find a new process for rewriting the land use code. They reconvene for their first meeting after a summer break on Aug. 9.

Curious about how we got here? Check out the Austin Monitor’s CodeNEXT Timeline.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post referred to the “remaining” City Council members issuing a joint statement last night. One additional Council Member, Ellen Troxclair, was not included in this group. This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Martin do Nascimento for KUT.

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