I've been critical of CodeNEXT so far, so it's time to point out one of its positive changes:
CodeNEXT offers meaningful reductions across the board. Take residential parking. The current draft cuts required parking by half. It adopts a uniform requirement of one parking spot per dwelling unit, in both the transect and the non-transect zones. Single-family homes will require one space rather than two. Duplexes will require two spaces rather than four. A one-bedroom apartment will require one space rather than one and one-half; a two-bedroom apartment, one space rather than two.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Parking takes up a lot of space. It eats impervious cover. It generates dirty storm water runoff. If the current draft holds, there will be some projects that are feasible only because of these reductions in parking. And the reduction in expensive structured parking in large multi-family developments will, one hopes, ultimately reduce the costs passed on to renters.
Or maybe not. The market sometimes dictates more parking than even existing code requires. But CodeNEXT leaves it to the market, at least more so than existing code.
The transect zones see another progressive change. The current draft exempts the first 2,500 square feet of a number of uses -- including retail -- from any parking requirement at all. This means that small shops will be able to open on, say, a "main street" like South First without having to set aside expensive and scarce space for car storage. It means that small, neighborhood-oriented stores will be able to open on suitably zoned parcels in neighborhood interiors. That will enable more pleasant, pedestrian-oriented store fronts. And it is hard to overstate how crippling parking requirements can be for new retail construction.
The exemption for the first 2,500 square feet, unfortunately, does not include restaurants. Beloved clusters of restaurants like the one on Duval in Hyde Park are too rare in Austin. New ones cannot emerge if they have to comply with current parking requirements. Sometimes it is possible to squeeze in parking but it's just overly burdensome. Let's hope a future draft exempts the first 2,500 square feet of restaurant space as well (perhaps restricted to restaurants without a late night permit.) A proper urban environment offers pleasant experiences that no suburban development has a chance of matching.
Finally, even non-transect zones see a reduction in parking requirements. The required parking for an office building, for example, will be reduced from one space per 275 square feet to one space per 500. That is a 45% reduction.
Again, these are meaningful, progressive changes. I hope they stick as the code cycles through future drafts.