Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

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Steve Adler
Posts: 533
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Steve Adler »

Colleagues,

Thank you for the discussion last week on Item 74 (Item 42 on the 10/27 agenda) to institutionalize consideration of balancing elements so as to avoid, for example, finding ourselves in the position of having to decide between critical environmental initiatives and housing affordability and supply.

As folks agreed to on the dais last week, please share any edits or questions you may have early this week so we have enough time to ensure any issues are addressed. (I appreciated the opportunity to try to address the ones raised at the council meeting.)

I’m posting a Version 3 here – it’s a clean version of Version 2 with my motion sheet I handed out on the dais containing the staff’s amendment language re the Planning Commission.
http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 170729.pdf

-S
Mayor
Natasha Harper-Madison
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:52 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Natasha Harper-Madison »

Mayor Adler,
Thank you for bringing this important item forward. In a time of soaring housing costs due in large part to limited supply, I believe one important community benefit provided by new development is new housing itself, particularly new housing that working Austinites can actually afford.

I don’t believe we should have to choose between water quality or flooding protections and new housing, and I see this resolution as a tool to help streamline our code amendment process so we can have a more holistic consideration of new amendments in a way that doesn’t force us to choose between certain critical community benefits over others.

In my mind’s eye, it’s vital for us to maintain a housing-focused balance between additional regulations and development entitlements so we don’t add more fuel to the fire when it comes to rising housing costs in an increasingly unaffordable market.

Kind Regards,
Natasha
Natasha Harper-Madison
Council Member District 1
Alison Alter
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:52 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Alison Alter »

Colleagues, I am writing to ask for clarification on the goals and expectations for item 74 on the October 13th agenda / item 42 on the October 27th agenda - sponsored by Mayor Adler.

First, please make sure the back up for item 42 reflects your intended most up-to-date version. The posted version for October 27th appears to be version 1 (from item 74 on Oct. 13) which authorizes the City Manager to bring amendments until directed otherwise - austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=394839 and does not yet specify “that we are not changing requirements enacted and initiated in the last two years, including, but not limited to Water Forward, and this retrospective review is not intended to undermine or reverse those requirements." I believe you intended for version 2 from Oct. 13th to be our starting point, possibly with an additional change related to the Planning Commission’s authority to initiate amendments staying intact - see links here https://www.austintexas.gov/department/ ... eg.htm#074. I support those amendments that were previously offered. Thus, I assume the version 3 you posted above is what should be in the backup.

Broadly, I would like to ask the sponsors to examine this resolution to see where there could be greater clarity and precision with respect to what you are directing, including the order of operations and how the pieces fit together in a timeline.

It appears to me that this resolution has two components, one is forward-looking and the other is a look-back. Creating a framework for moving forward is something that I feel comfortable with. What concerns me about this item is the lack of specificity in the look-back component.

The resolution states, “The City Manager is directed to analyze requirements enacted or initiated in the last two years to determine which requirements reduce development capacity or affordability.” I would like to know what specific policy provisions we are trying to examine through the “look-back” process for this item. I imagine there are at least some specific ideas the sponsor and cosponsors have that would have led them to pursue this and it would help our deliberations if you could provide some examples. It also would help to understand how you chose a two year time horizon.

As I mentioned last week, for lines 26-28, the wording is “effectively reduce developable land”. I think we need a qualifier such as “significantly” or “substantially” before “reduce developable land”.

I would appreciate clarity on Lines 34-35, which state, “The Manager is directed to incorporate a stakeholder process in the framework/policy”. Is this meant to include a stakeholder process in the development of the framework or is this meant to direct that whatever framework the Manager comes back with should include some sort of stakeholder process? Would we consider our commission process to satisfy a stakeholder requirement or do we mean that a stakeholder process should be something more than our baseline code amendment requirements which involve our commissions? More generally, what would be the role of our commissions in reviewing proposed ordinance changes that come out of staff’s recommended policy framework?

Based on the direction being given, when are we asking for requirements and offsets to be considered by Council? Are we asking for those offsets to be brought forward only after the framework or will the staff be working on developing offsets while simultaneously working on the guiding framework?

For example, lines 43-45 state, “the process applies to new requirements initiated while the framework is being developed and the retrospective review described below is happening.” So, exactly what is the process that will be used to develop these offsets if, as it seems to imply, ordinance changes are going to be initiated while the framework is still being developed, and what policy guidance are we offering? We've presumably determined that having a framework would be helpful, but are we going to use the framework for the retrospective review?

Finally, I’d say that addressing affordability impacts in code amendments is an important goal. I’m not sure I would say the approach outlined in this resolution makes sense to me yet, though it could with further specificity and clarity.

This has been characterized as very simple. Yet as a council, often unanimously, we have initiated a number of code changes over the last year plus, most of which we still have yet to adopt. My understanding is that a reason it has taken so long is our staff's limited capacity. So, if we are going to provide new direction and tasks I believe we should provide clarity on what they are examining and clarity on what types of trade-offs we would be willing to explore. I am not sure I would prioritize this direction over the amendments we’ve already initiated on a consensus basis.

Regards,
Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10
Paige Ellis
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:37 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Paige Ellis »

Thank you, Mayor, for bringing this important item. I welcome the opportunity for Council to establish that the City’s policy is that we want BOTH strong environmental and safety regulations AND more housing. I'm hopeful we can provide the clarity needed regarding our intent here while still allowing our professional staff the flexibility they need to exercise their expertise in shaping this process and their offset recommendations.

Thanks,
Paige Ellis
Paige Ellis
Council Member, District 8
Steve Adler
Posts: 533
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Steve Adler »

MPT Alter (and colleagues):

Thank you for going onto the message board to post your questions and suggestions. Below is what I hope to be the clarification you seek.

As you suggest, I will ask the clerk to post V3 (as posted on the message board Monday a week ago) as back up to Item 42 on our Oct. 27 agenda and it contains all the elements you mentioned. I am also sharing a new V4 here that contains (a) amendments suggested by CM Pool and (b) the amendments you suggested clarifying stakeholder input and being more descriptive about “materially” reducing developable land. We will have this put in backup as well.

VERSION 4: http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 132607.pdf

You ask for clarification as to the “goals and expectations” for this item. Simply put, they are to enable the Council, when it votes to achieve desired community benefits, to provide at the same time for offsets or balancing elements mitigating what might otherwise be associated increased costs of development or lost development potential.

We believe that it is not necessary to choose between helping to preserve affordability and seeking to achieve important community benefits and this item is to enable the Council to actually achieve both. We believe this requires both to be considered at the same time.

We are not prescribing a timeline or how staff would accomplish this goal, but rather asking staff to suggest a process or framework for how this might be best achieved.

We appreciate that you feel comfortable with this on a going forward basis. Thank you!

But you have questions about the “look back” component. In answer to your question, there is no specific prior council action that is targeted. The two-year period is arbitrary and could have been one-year, three years or any other time period. The co-sponsors chose two-years because it’s a relatively short timeframe, but still a meaningful period of time. Looking back now, ordinances that we’ve passed over the last couple years include parkland dedication, Water Forward, and street impact fees. CM Tovo at the last council meeting asked about Atlas 14, but we think that was adopted more than two years ago.

Importantly, it’s the co-sponsors’ intent and we feel the words of the V4 resolution make clear, that this look back is not to “undermine, reverse, or amend" the policy choices we have previously made in these prior actions. We are proud of our prior work and the items we voted to approve. But we also recognize that we might have been able to better offset or balance any impacts such items might have on affordability had such offsets or balancing elements been presented for consideration at the time of the prior council action. This item would enable the Council to act now as regards those past decisions (within the last two-years) and going forward.

For lines 26-28, you suggest we use a better qualifier to describe when the reduction in developable land is sufficient to warrant attention. We would support the use of “materially,” rather than “significantly or substantially” because whether or not a particular loss is significant or substantial would seem to turn on whether it’s material. Would that work for you?

We see the ambiguity you point out as concerns the mention of a stakeholder process. We would propose this language as providing clarification: “The City Manager is directed to incorporate a stakeholder process as an element of the framework/policy.” The co-sponsors are not prescribing any particular stakeholder process and we want the Manager and his staff to come back with a recommendation as to what they believe would best provide for stakeholders and our process.

It’s just important that there be a stakeholder process broad enough so that any no one department, discipline or advocacy group or area provides the needed vetting. For example, if we are to consider a 400 foot setback from the lake to protect against erosion, the necessary stakeholders would include not only those focused on protecting against environmental harm, but also those focused on how to transfer or other preserve development potential that might otherwise have been lost. It could well be that multiple stakeholders would be interested in the related issues, each with different priorities and expertise. Once staff comes back with a proposed process, then we could all work on the questions you ask (if the recommendation itself does not already answer them).

Staff will be the best judge of how to approach this work. We just want to make sure that a future Council that is being asked to consider an ordinance that enables realization of important community benefits also be presented with offsets or balances for any, if any, impacts on affordability (as described).

We agree that it is difficult now to know how best to apply a framework that has yet to be developed, and this item was drafted so as to allow staff to propose how a proposed framework might be used. The language you note as concerns this issue makes clear that this agenda item is intended to ensure that any new community benefit ordinance that Council is able to consider comes to Council in a way that allows concurrent consideration of offsets or balances.

We believe affordability is our city’s current existential challenge and we need to be doing everything we can to make sure that we are able to address and at least consider affordability in most everything we do. We also believe that we do not have to choose between affordability and achieving significant community benefits. But we believe that this is possible only so long as we make sure that we are always able to consider offsets or balances whenever we are asked to consider ordinances seeking greater community benefits. That will be how we achieve both – in fact, we believe this process will be constructive in getting ordinances passed that promote community benefits because they won’t give rise to concerns about affordability

You are correct that staff capacity is not unlimited and if we need greater staff capacity it could be that Council needs to help re-prioritize spending. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure that Council is not put in the position where it has no choice but to detrimentally impact affordability in pursuit of community benefits. For us, this includes ordinances intended to deliver community benefits already initiated or to be initiated in the future (in addition to the look-back). Our current system has not provided for this holistic consideration of benefits and impacts and this agenda item is intended to help address this.

-S
Mayor
Leslie Pool
Posts: 212
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:22 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Leslie Pool »

Mayor, thank you for clarifying the intent of the framework policy in your recent post and for incorporating language from our colleagues.

Thank you for accepting my amendments which are intended to restate the Council’s support, in particular, for the environmental regulations that help sustain the health of our natural resources. I realize they are not the only regulations that are referenced as community benefits, but I am focused on those achievements as they will pay dividends to our residents for generations to come.

I signed onto this resolution because of my support for strong environmental regulations; I see this framework helping us evolve from binary conflicts that pit affordability against the environment, or housing against parks, when we know such arguments were never intended to be won, just fought.

A great city is a healthy city that is protective of its natural resources and great parks, that provides lots of opportunity, mobility, and housing affordability for everyone.

If this framework is crafted in the right way, then it will provide us with more comprehensive help from our expert staff, and it will encourage cross-departmental collaboration in providing us that help. It will also encourage our communities to focus on the real task that is before us: keeping our rapidly growing city healthy and more affordable for more people long into the future.

I look forward to our discussions on Thursday, and to moving forward with this amended resolution.

Leslie
Leslie Pool
Council Member, District 7
Vanessa Fuentes
Posts: 38
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2021 9:02 am

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Vanessa Fuentes »

I also want to thank Mayor Adler for bringing this item forward and for providing further clarification on the goals and intent of this resolution so that our staff has the direction they need to craft policy that ensures we are not choosing between community benefits and housing supply. There is a huge need to increase housing supply, including affordable housing options, in Austin. We need to strike the right balance between development regulations and entitlements to ensure we are not limiting affordable housing options in Austin. This resolution will help us find the right balance for our city and meet the moment of the housing crisis we are in.

Yours in community,
Vanessa
Council Member, District 2
Jose Chito Vela
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 8:16 am

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Jose Chito Vela »

Thanks for the item and the clarifications, Mayor. I support the item. We should not be adopting any policies that negatively affect housing supply and this item should help us to balance and offset any policies that could negatively affect housing supply.

Chito
Steve Adler
Posts: 533
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Re: Balancing/Offsets IFC - 10/27, Item 42

Post by Steve Adler »

Colleagues,

Thank you to those who have shared their support.

Here is Version 5 of the resolution with the latest edits in blue:
http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 192442.pdf

-S
Mayor
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