The Code Diagnosis focuses on summarizing major issues identified by the public, city staff, and the CodeNEXT team within the existing Land Development Code (LDC). While the input and analysis of the document often drilled down to the specifics of particular regulations, this report steps back and presents the overarching issues within the current LDC. This report defines the basis or need for revising the current LDC, but does not prescribe or recommend the direction for the new code.
In other words, the purpose of a code diagnosis is to identify the problems, not the solutions.
How one frames the problems, of course, tends to affect which solutions one proposes. That makes this an important document.
From the summary of key findings (pp. 10-11):
Austin’s current Land Development Code is an extremely detailed, dense, and complicated document created over the last 30 years. The work of identifying specific, detailed solutions to problems identified with the LDC will occur during the approximately 2 year long process of creating a Preliminary and Final Draft Code. This section highlights the top ten issues identified by the consultant team, but it does not propose solutions but rather identifies issues that, based on the consultant team’s experience, are contributing to concerns with the current development review process or could hinder achieving the goals of Imagine Austin.
The most visible and critical issue in the analysis of the city’s regulations is that the code structure and organization is overly complicated, not well coordinated, and does not meet modern-day best practices in code writing layout. A more in-depth analysis demonstrates that the 33 base zoning districts, which are the foundation of the overall system, have been ineffective in creating a high-quality, compatible built environment in the City of Austin, especially as development pressures have grown and the demand for walkable urban living has increased. This is illustrated by the fact that only a little over 42% of the entire city is regulated simply with the base zoning districts.
The ineffective base zoning districts have led to the creation of layer upon layer of supplemental regulations, in the Combining Districts, Compatibility Standards, and Subchapters E and F to name the primary new layers, to try to make this system more effective. This complexity, in combination with the length of the process and some of the specific regulations, has hindered small-scale, incremental adaptive-reuse projects and the incubation of local small businesses. In addition, none of the base zoning districts allow or encourage diverse, small-footprint Missing Middle housing types, which are necessary for Austin to meet its affordability goals. (See Sidebar “What is the Missing Middle?” on page 59.). This ultimately has led to a development review and entitlement process that is highly complicated.
The report is organized around a "top 10" list of problems. Amy Smith has a succinct summary at the Chronicle.
The City will take comment on the draft Code Diagnosis through June 30. The public will have a chance to give live input on May 19, when the City hosts an event it is calling "Cracking the Code: Revealing the major issues with Austin's Land Development Code." See here for details. You can also weigh in on the Speak Up Austin site.