Imagine Austin, CodeNEXT, and Historic Preservation

In June 2012, the City of Austin adopted the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan (IACP) to guide the City’s growth and aging over the next generation. IACP, which was written with the help of several historic and cultural preservation advocates, contains a number of policies and suggested actions that are of importance to members of Preservation Austin and that are discussed below. The City Charter allows the relevant elements of the City’s adopted comprehensive plan to be encoded in a “land development code.” CodeNEXT is the branded term for the current project to adapt the current Land Development Code (LDC) to be in alignment with Imagine Austin. The City’s professional consultant on CodeNEXT is Opticos Design of Berkeley, CA, and they have several local Austin subcontractors who are very knowledgeable regarding local issues.

CodeNext is now in a listening stage, with the Code Advisory Group, City Staff, and the consultant team talking with stakeholders about wants and wishes for change and preservation. For example, we’ve been asking
• “what do you like about where you live, work, and hang out?” and
• “what don’t you like about where you live, work, and hang out?”
Answers to these simple questions along with more detailed submissions by stakeholders are being compiled for use in the next stages of this project. Although “listening” will go on throughout the project, the next stages beginning in 2014 are a rigorous diagnosis of the existing LDC comparing it with itself looking at internal inconstancies, with the IACP text, and with the best practices in modern urban planning, and development of a draft outline for a new LDC. The code diagnosis work and draft LDC outline development will be accompanied by more public meetings. CodeNEXT progress toward a finished product will continue into 2015 and 2016.

The City provides several options for citizen input. An on-line survey was conducted until Dec. 13, 2013. Now, we offer the following five options:
1. Sign up for e-mail alerts in the top right corner on http://www.austintexas.gov/codenext
2. Request a presentation by e-mailing codenext@austintexas.gov
3. Become a CodeNEXT ambassador by e-mailing codenext@austintexas.gov and we can provide more information.
4. Frequently visit the CodeNEXT website (www.austintexas.gov/codenext) for fresh information and more opportunities to share ideas.
Historic Preservation and IACP
During the development of the IACP, a workgroup on historic and cultural preservation met several times to develop a set of aspirational policies to guide the next 25-30 years and a set of specific actions suggested for the next few years, and these are listed below. CodeNEXT will consider how to encode these in the new LDC.
• Land Use & Transportation Policy 37 (LUT 37). Promote historic, arts, culture, and heritage-based tourism and events.
• LUT P38. Preserve and interpret historic resources (those objects, buildings, structures, sites, places, or districts with historic, cultural, or aesthetic significance) in Austin for residents and visitors.
• LUT P39. Maintain and update inventories of historic resources, including locally significant historic properties not listed on national or state registries, archeological sites, etc.
• LUT P40. Increase opportunities for historic and cultural learning at the City’s public libraries.
• LUT P41. Protect historic buildings, structures, sites, places, and districts in neighborhoods throughout the City.
• LUT P42. Retain the character of National Register and local Historic Districts and ensure that development and redevelopment is compatible with historic resources and character.
• LUT P43. Continue to protect and enhance important view corridors such as those of the Capitol, Lady Bird Lake, and other public waterways.
• LUT P44. Preserve and restore historic parks and recreational areas.
• Land Use & Transportation Action 42 (LUT A42): Create incentives and develop funding mechanisms and regulations to promote the rehabilitation, reuse, and maintenance of historically designated properties.
• LUT A43: Conduct ongoing updates to the historic and cultural resource survey and inventory to include iconic heritage trees, sites, structures, and districts.
• LUT A44: Develop and implement straightforward and transparent preservation strategies, guidelines, and regulations for historic areas, sites and structures, and cultural resources that preserves Austin’s heritage, while being respectful of the local character, community values, and of the desires of property owners.
• LUT A45: Develop a program that acknowledges and rewards notable contemporary and historic architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.
• Housing & Neighborhood Action 21 (HN A21): Align future development with the Growth Concept Map through adoption of small-area plans (e.g., neighborhood, corridor, and station area plans) that contain provisions set forth in Imagine Austin, including: … Historic preservation …
• Creative Action 1 (C A1): Create a City of Austin function to oversee all arts, creative, and heritage programs, such as: … developing a mapping and way-finding system for arts, creative, cultural, and historic resources…
• C A4: Cultivate cultural and heritage education and tourism by marketing and promoting Austin's museums, libraries, historic sites and venues, and providing education and training to frontline tourism workers

Work Underway
The City Planning, Development Review division is establishing teams to implement the IACP. One team addresses preservation issues is the “Grow and invest in Austin’s creative economy” Team. Among the projects being addressed are the following:
• The Austin History Center’s Community Archivist Program focuses on African American, Mexican American/Latino, and Asian American history, as well as an online history tour through History pin.
• The City’s Historic Preservation Office partnered with the University of Texas School of Architecture to create the Austin Historical Survey Wiki Project (http://beta.austinhistoricalsurvey.org/), allowing anyone to find and contribute information about Austin’s historic buildings and sites.

The Land Development Code Advisory Group meets the third Monday of the month at 4 p.m. in City Hall. All meetings are open to the public, and citizen comment is taken at the end of each meeting. Additional comments can be sent to me, Dave Sullivan, via email at sully.jumpnet@sbcglobal.net, or submitted as described earlier at www.austintexas.gov.

Dave Sullivan
Land Development Code Advisory Group