Thursday, August 2, 2018

#atxcouncil: Requiem for #CodeNext

"Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
Revelation 20:14

Bombshell news yesterday:
Austin’s biggest challenges, such as increasing unaffordability, displacement, gentrification, flooding, and traffic are getting worse. The land development code should be an important tool to help with these challenges, however, our current code is not serving us well. The need to revise this land development code is greater than ever before. Yet, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the CodeNEXT process, so divisive and poisoned, will not get us to a better place.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Mayor Adler goes on to detail his thoughts about how we got here and the way forward.

Honestly, we're surprised.  While this author figured out last February the CodeNext process was unfixable, Mayor Adler and his allies appeared to be so emotionally invested that nothing could stop them.  Kudos to them for recognizing the obvious.


Because our views don't line up neatly with any existing faction, CodeNext has always been a challenge for this author.

On the one hand, we've always supported CodeNext's goals.  Bad land use policies, of which Austin's current land development code is a prime example, restrict the supply of housing.  Restricting the supply of housing drives up costs and increases traffic as people are forced to commute ever increasing distances.  For those who are concerned about such things, traffic also equals carbon emissions.

CodeNext thus offered a unique opportunity to lower housing costs and decrease traffic in a way that was consistent with our environmental goals.  That's why it was worth a shot.  No regrets there.

Unfortunately, the theory about what CodeNext "could" do was bound to intersect with the reality of what it "would" do once it made contact with the city bureaucracy.  This lack of trust in the city bureaucracy, along with Council's unwillingness to seriously challenge said bureaucracy, is why we also supported the petition campaign.  Once again, no regrets.


That being said, the problem of an awful land use development code that drives up housing costs and forces people to sit in traffic hasn't gone away.

Some future oriented thoughts:
  • "Mandatory parking minimums" are an asinine government mandate that should be repealed in their entirety.
  • Ditto "Lot size requirements."
  • There are a lot of elements of the 1983 and the 1928 plans that are still on the books that should be repealed outright.
  • "Density vs. Single Family" isn't the right way to analyze this issue.  The proper way to analyze this issue is in terms of private property rights.  That greater respect for private property rights will also lead to greater density in the urban core while shortening commute times for those who choose to live in single family homes further out is a bonus. 
The biggest thing, however, that we need to understand is that there's no "comprehensive" solution.  We need to break the various challenges into their component parts and solve them individually.  You'd be amazed how much that can accomplish.


Bottom Line: While CodeNext was a (really) bad proposed solution, the problem that led to the process hasn't gone away.

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