Hope for a new land development code

On Tuesday, City Manager Spencer Cronk took his first public step toward a new land development code. Anti-climactically, he told Council that he needed more policy guidance before he and staff could begin the process of rewriting the code.

It’s understandable to be frustrated with yet another call for input. But I’m hopeful that the process Cronk described will force Council to make some tough decisions and get things done.

Specifically, Cronk suggested that he wants “formal votes” from Council on a number of contentious issues: parking, compatibility, density etc. Those votes will be used to instruct the staff writing the code. The up-or-down vote is a sharp contrast with the “fist-to-five” process from last year, where CMs were asked to signal their enthusiasm for general ideas with a show of fingers (5 = yay, 3=meh, 0 = FU).

Now, the question is: how specific are the questions that CMs will be asked to vote on?

When it comes to zoning, there are eight CMs who I’d classify as urbanist-curious, but their appetite for density varies. Adler & Kitchen don’t want to do anything too controversial and Casar has signaled that he greatly prefers upzonings in affluent areas than upzonings in low-income areas vulnerable to gentrification. So what series of votes could Council take that would provide staff with the guidance they need to write a zoning map that aligns with the majority view on Council?

More importantly, Mayor Steve Adler claimed after his landslide victory over Laura Morrison (and the accompanying defeat of Prop J) that he had a mandate for land use reform. But it’s still not clear what he believes that looks like.

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