Last Saturday, more than 700 local residents attended the Austin City Council’s only public hearing on the next CodeNEXT. Nearly 70 percent opposed it.
Mayor Steve Adler and his acolytes clearly didn’t get the message. On Wednesday evening, they pushed through a preliminary approval of the city’s controversial, 1,366-page rezoning plan after a three-day marathon of chaotic council sessions that looked more like speed dating than mature deliberation.
Adler tentatively scheduled a final vote on the plan for early March of next year. If it passes, it will rezone every residential property in the city and effectively abolish single-family neighborhoods throughout Austin. In the city’s so-called “transition zones,” the plan will allow buildings up to 45 feet tall on some lots, with up to 10 dwelling units on each. Up to 60 percent of many of those lots could be covered by concrete or other impervious materials.
The mayor may have swayed a majority of the council on Wednesday, but he failed to achieve a consensus. Alison Alter (District 10), Ann Kitchen (District 5), Leslie Pool (District 7), and Kathie Tovo (District 9) voted against the plan, enduring hours of condescension and disrespect while tenaciously advocating for a code that will bring our community together rather than divide it.
The special interests they stood up against pushed to make the rezoning plan even more extreme, with more than 200 amendments debated over the course of the week. Many of those amendments were on paper and never made available to the public, but here are a handful we know are under consideration:
- An amendment incentivizing demolition of existing homes by increasing entitlements for a greater number of replacement units
- An amendment expanding transition zones around areas designated as “activity centers”
- An amendment expanding the extra-unit “preservation bonus” to homes 15 years and older, allowing “simple resubdivision” with no minimum lot sizes
- An amendment allowing the rezoning of homes in the middle of neighborhoods for commercial uses, such as restaurants
Omitted was any serious consideration of the People’s Plan, a systematic set of solutions for our community’s displacement crisis. Once again, City Hall has paid lip service to anti-displacement measures while failing to take meaningful action.
The city’s staff have promised to release a fresh draft of the plan and a new rezoning map by late January. The mayor stated his intention to hold an intermediate vote on those items in early February, giving the public only two or three weeks to review them.
Austinites opposed the plan can continue to file official rezoning protests until the City Council’s final vote. Once you protest the rezoning of a piece of property, Community Not Commodity’s legal team believes the City of Austin will be unable to rezone it without a vote of three-fourths of the city council (9 of 11 votes), rather than a simple majority.
Community Not Commodity wants to give a special thanks to the members of the Austin City Council who have chosen to stand up against the land developers and other special interests pushing for the next CodeNEXT. With their help, we will continue to fight for a land code that benefits our entire community.
Together we can build an Austin for everyone!