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Pool’s 2022 priorities include district-level plans, increased EV use

Thursday, December 23, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

With City Council set on implementing building code changes by individual plans and priorities, Council Member Leslie Pool said in 2022 every member of Council will get their own “time to shine” with the chance to push the changes important to their districts. Of course, each of those initiatives will need to have broad support to win the nine-vote supermajority now required to approve building code changes, as a result of the lawsuit challenging the comprehensive code rewrite that began in 2012.

In addition to updating the North Burnet Gateway Plan and amending the regulating plan for the Domain mixed-use development, Pool wants to push through policy and funding to create district-level plans that address the zoning changes in high-priority areas beginning with the Del Valle community in District 2 and the area around Lakeline Mall in District 6.

“It is to make things standardized, so we’re not approving zoning cases piecemeal, which is what we’ve been doing. Instead we’ll have a larger area written into a plan, because it’s pretty staffing- and resource-intensive to do zoning cases one by one,” she said.

“The Uptown ATX project is a real driver for me because included in all the elements, there’s 6 million square feet of occupiable space, plus the parks and the rail station. That’s kind of exhibit A for the district-level plan, but also is part of the North Burnet Gateway regulating plan, which also needs to be updated to not only embrace what we’re doing at the Domain, but to push out further beyond that, because that area is developing and we’re just having to do a lot of individual cases.”

Pool wants to address the need for “missing middle” housing by finding ways to incentivize developers to build the urban family residences, condominiums and townhomes included under single-family 5 and 6 zoning designations, rather than multifamily zoning that is likely to bring more objections from neighborhood groups.

She said those classifications shouldn’t be prioritized in specific areas such as transit corridors, preferring instead to let the private sector find the best regions of the city to increase the number of housing units.

“We’re staying away from mapping because that’s what caused so much controversy, so we’re talking theoretical at this point,” she said. “If we can get the code itself updated and make some changes a little bit at a time, then we can test it out in those areas where maybe a developer has decided that rather than doing MF 1 or 2, they’re going to give a go with SF 5 or 6, and then we can see what that looks like.”

Pool hopes the work she did to help Austin Energy and the city become more resilient in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri will result in more robust services for city residents in general. And in line with her longtime emphasis on environmental and renewable energy issues, she hopes the city’s push to incentivize staffers to try short-term leases on electric vehicles will lead to an increase in their use throughout the city.

Related to the city budget, Pool is grateful the city was able to dedicate more than $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act toward the community’s “four-legged stool” approach to ending homelessness, with Travis County, nonprofit groups and the private sector also needed to complete the $500 million effort. About 80 percent of that money has been raised, and Pool said she expects the city’s business community to meet the call for fundraising.

“There was a challenge put out there for the city to prove that it could pull together a sizable amount of money to do the work as well as the staffing, programming and the operations,” she said. “I’m still waiting for the other sides to step up, the business community especially to step up to the plate. They promised to do that … I would like to see the business community step up in a really big way – a big, splashy way to help with the homelessness challenges.”

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