When does CodeNEXT start over?

The Prop J campaign was pretty straightforward:


It turns out, most people aren’t terrified by the prospect of the “next CodeNEXT.” I think this is something that a lot of people at City Hall suspected, but now the mayor believes it as well. As Audrey McGlitchy reported on Election Night:

“This community has said very clearly that they want us to look forward,” Adler said at his victory party at The Belmont in downtown Austin as his wife, Diane Land, and three daughters stood beside him.

“An overwhelming voice that says, ‘Don’t listen to the voices of the status quo, the do-nothing voices that get us lost in process, voices that don’t let us move forward at the scale of the size of the challenges that we have,'” he said. “It may have been ambiguous over the last couple years as to where the community was on those issues, and there is no doubt tonight.”


“I think the community very clearly, if (Prop J) goes down, is saying they don’t want a three-year delay before we start actually moving forward with significant changes,” Adler said. “They want us to act now.”

After voting to suspend CodeNEXT in August, Council directed City Manager Spencer Cronk to come up with a new series of land development code reforms. We don’t yet have any indication of how Cronk thinks about these issues and how he believes he should go about addressing them. Here are a few key questions:

Who: Are we going to hire consultants again? And if so, are they going to be leading the process, as they did with CodeNEXT, or is it going to be city staff running the show with consultants providing some assistance?

Furthermore, what city staff will be running the show? Planning and Zoning Director Greg Guernsey has said he plans to retire next year. Although the ANC crowd has claimed that city staff is in the tank for developers, urbanists felt that Guernsey & Co. regularly folded in response to complaints from neighborhood groups over density/parking etc. More than anything, Guernsey, like the infamous CodeNEXT consultants, hates to give people answers they don’t want to hear, which means that he often ends up evading questions posed by preservationist members of land use commissions, lending credence to the narrative that the process lacks transparency.

What: Unless Susana Almanza pulls off a stunner in the District 3 runoff, Council next year will be far friendlier to increasing density than is it now. Adler and Ann Kitchen, the two swing votes, will also likely feel better about a bold land use reform, since they’re not running for reelection and the election appears to have shown that the community is not as bent out of shape about the threat of density as the anti-CodeNEXT campaign suggested. So will Council go bold?

Second, how much will the derailed CodeNEXT plans inform what comes next? At least seven members of Council were not actually bothered by the substance of CodeNEXT; they just were worried about toxic process surrounding it. It’s not unimaginable that whoever is in charge of the new draft would just take one of the drafts of CodeNEXT, change a few words and voila!

When: How long of a process are we talking about here? No doubt there will be a push from preservationists to kick off another multi-year stakeholder process, task force, reports etc. I expect an equally strong push from the urbanist contingent on Council to cut to the chase.

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