CodeNEXT and Imagine Austin

By Nicole Joslin and Thomas Visco
Originally published in the May 2018 issue of The Flea

Evolve Austin, founded in 2014, is a non-profit coalition comprised of 30+ organizations whose mission is to champion the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and help Austin’s citizens and residents understand policy changes that will affect their lives.

City Council adopted Imagine Austin in 2012 after receiving input from residents from all of Austin’s neighborhoods and concluding one of Austin’s most comprehensive community engagement efforts to date. The plan was written to be both broad enough to accommodate Austin’s needs as times change and specific enough that policy makers would look to the document for guidance. Imagine Austin established six Core Priorities for Austin:

1) Grow as a compact, connected city;
2) Integrate nature into the city;
3) Provide paths to prosperity for all;
4) Develop as an affordable and healthy community;
5) Sustainably manage water and other environmental resources; and
6) Think creatively and practice civic creativity.

In order to realize those core principles, Imagine Austin also called for a rewriting of the city’s Land Development Code through a process called CodeNEXT. The goal of CodeNEXT is to develop a Land Development Code that can help realize the vision for the city established by the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan.
Austin’s Land Development Code is the underlying DNA for the city and has a significant impact on our daily lives— from shaping the kinds of places where we live, work, and play—to influencing the design of our streets and public spaces.

A city’s Land Development Code can incentivize and facilitate diverse housing types, mixed-use developments, public transit, commercial/job centers, and everything in between. According to the city’s demographic estimates, a projected 1,328,046 people will live within Austin city limits by 2042—almost 500,000 more than live in Austin today. The most important question that CodeNEXT seeks to answer is how Austin will accommodate this massive population influx over the next two and a half decades while maintaining basic levels of affordability, economic and racial diversity, quality of life, transit accessibility, and green spaces.

The latest draft of CodeNEXT was released in February and fell far short of accomplishing the goals established in Imagine Austin. We must work to ensure the final product aligns with our established priorities for the city, including: meaningfully reduce the rate of housing cost increases, contribute to mode shift away from single-occupant car commutes, increase economic and racial integration, increase “missing middle” and affordable housing types, decrease impervious cover city-wide, increase the total number of income-restricted units, and ease gentrification by distributing development opportunity city-wide.1830 Plan of Austin. Source: Texas State Historical Association.

Jennifer Potter-Miller

About Jennifer Potter-Miller

Chair, Friends of Patterson Park, Social Media Chair, Maplewood Elementary School PTA, and Content Editor, Flea newsletter

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