At the "Neighborhood Issues" deep-dive session on Thursday, and then pointedly in Monday's workshop on the CodeNEXT rewrite of the land development code, the policy discussion kept drifting back to "Zuckergate": speculation over what's in the so-called Zucker Report, the long-awaited, yet already controversial consultant's report on the city's beleaguered Planning and Development Review Department, which the department appears to be sitting on, and which is widely expected to be broadly critical.
Easily the most provocative speaker at the CodeNEXT meeting was Jim Duncan, the nationally known urban planner who ran Austin's planning and development programs back when the last major rewrite was done 30 years ago. Duncan heartily agrees that a new rewrite is long overdue, but he added a caveat: "I do not think our current code is as bad as a lot of people claim. ... You can have the best code in the world, but if it is not applied and implemented in a consistent and transparent manner, in my opinion, it's not worth the paper it's written on." And over the last 30 years, he went on, "regulations have too often been ignored or diluted by the overuse, misuse, and abuse of variances, waivers, and exceptions. In too many instances Austin, in my opinion, has compromised the rule of land use law."