CodeNEXT: The preservationist bloc speaks

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I reported in the Monitor:

Four City Council members signaled their discontent with the current direction of CodeNEXT process and announced an effort to develop a new code that is “equitable, sustainable, accessible, vibrant and community-driven.”

Surrounded by supporters at a City Hall press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Alison Alter, Ora Houston and Leslie Pool argued that the current draft of CodeNEXT jeopardizes what makes the city special and will not necessarily lead to greater affordability.

None of this is terribly surprising to anybody who has followed the process so far. As I note in the article, these are the same four who supported putting CodeNEXT on the ballot and they are by far the most reliable votes against controversial developments and regularly express skepticism of density as the solution to affordability and environmental sustainability.

The preservationist quartet (I know some bristle at the term preservationist, but I can’t think of a better term) are supposed to counter the urbanist quartet: Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Jimmy Flannigan and Pio Renteria.

Then there are three unaligned Council members: Mayor Adler, Ann Kitchen and Ellen Troxclair.

The political winds seem to be favoring the urbanist/density crowd. Troxclair definitely supports significantly liberalizing zoning and development regulations and Adler and Kitchen, though sensitive to concerns from neighborhood associations, seem increasingly receptive to the need for greater housing supply.

However, that hardly means that the neighborhood bloc won’t be able to have some influence over the new code. Indeed, Adler and Kitchen, either out of sincere beliefs or in the spirit of compromise, will likely vote for some of the preservationist proposals.

The challenge is that every concession to the neighborhood bloc puts the tenuous pro-density coalition at risk.

For instance, while Troxclair hasn’t said much yet about CodeNEXT (she just got back from maternity leave), the conventional view of those close to the CodeNEXT process is that while her views on increasing entitlements align with the pro-density/urbanist crowd, she may balk at supporting a new code if it doesn’t take meaningful steps towards reducing a lot of behind-the-scenes regulations that developers say drive up their costs. She’s also going to prefer by-right entitlements, as opposed to density bonuses or other policies aimed at encouraging a certain type of housing product (income-restricted, etc).

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