Happy New Year and greetings from the Austin Code Department. Austin Code's fiscal year 14/15 kicked-off in October by joining our national industry partners in celebration of Code Month. The celebration began in Austin with a news conference to officially reveal our new department brand and a proclamation by Mayor Leffingwell and City Council. Austin Code continued our long-standing tradition of partnering with our friends at the Austin Police Department to commemorate National Night Out. Code Officers walked numerous neighborhood blocks, cooked hundreds of our famous hot dogs and conversed with thousands of residents in various areas throughout Austin. Every Thursday in October Code Officers gave back by hosting community clean-ups in public locations in each quadrant of the City.
This quarter, City Council actions resulted in the revisions and/or additions of the following ordinances and enforcement programs: the Repeat Offender Program, Administrative Hearing Program, and gender-neutral restrooms. In addition, the City Manager approved the implementation of an Interdepartmental Team pilot program. This program will work to improve the quality of life of Austin residents in target neighborhoods. The Rundberg Neighborhood was selected as the pilot because of the extremely high volumes of public health and safety service calls.
In December, Austin Code Executive and Management staff met with leadership from the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) and neighborhood leaders in the Restore Rundberg area to address problem properties. This is one example of our commitment to continue stakeholder collaboration efforts.
Code Officers ended the quarter by participating in Operation Blue Santa. Below you will find a summary of our first quarter Code By The Numbers, program updates and community activities. For additional details, feel free to contact the department.
As always if you see a possible code violation, call 3-1-1. And remember, you can always call anonymously.
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REPEAT OFFENDER PROGRAM
New Tool for Listing Problem Properties
All rental properties that have received numerous health and safety complaints within 24 consecutive months are required to register with the City of Austin Repeat Offender Program by City Council resolution (Ordinance No. 20130926-012).
Austin Code has recently launched an interactive map and searchable data list of all properties that are on the Repeat Offender Program. It is the goal of this program to ensure that residential rental properties in the community are safe and maintained in accordance with public health, safety, and property maintenance standards in the City Code.
Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET)
An Interdepartmental Team pilot program called the NET (Neighborhood Enhancement Team) has been approved by City Management to launch Jan. 2015. The project manager and attorney, in collaboration with the team, will address problem properties and areas that are plagued with neighborhood issues including but not limited to: multiple code violations, criminal activity, and social service needs.
The components of the program will consist of a public education campaign and community engagement approach that involves:
Austin Code Helps at North Austin Apartment Complex
For three months a mother and her five children lived in a two bedroom unit soiled with sewage residue due to a damaged plumbing system.
The City of Austin Code Department received the first complaint from a concerned neighbor and during an inspection on Nov. 19, the Code Officer noticed a strong odor of feces prior to entering the unit. Upon entering the unit, the Code Officer witnessed five gallon buckets of toilet water and a bathtub filled with brown water. The mother of five informed the Code Officer that she and her children were using the restroom facilities located in another unit.
Austin Code immediately worked with the onsite property manager to relocate the mother and her five children to vacant unit within the complex. In a matter of 72 hours following the inspection, Austin Code partnered with Austin Water, Austin Energy, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Health and Human Services Department and others to respond to the sewage leak and provide social service needs.
Austin Code was also successful in notifying the out-of-state property owners of the code violations and the poor quality of life the tenants had experienced. The property owners took immediate action and terminated the management company.
On Nov. 22, at the owners' request, the new management company began repairing the plumbing system and conducted a full assessment of each unit within the complex.
AUSTIN CODE MONTH
New Name, Renewed Focus
On Oct. 2, 2014, the Austin Code Department announced their official name change and new branding campaign. The name change from the Code Compliance Department to Austin Code Department represents a balance between code compliance and code enforcement, two equally important processes used by the department.
The branding campaign consisted of not only color changes and logo redesign, but a renewed focus for the department to further engage with the community. The rebrand of Austin Code includes educational campaigns, training for the officers and staff, a continued focus on customer service, consistency and transparency. The campaign launched in October, kicking off Code Month, which Mayor Leffingwell proclaimed at a ceremony during the City Council meeting later the same day.
To share the message that Austin Code is here to help keep Austin clean and safe, the department conducted district clean-ups each Thursday in October. This gave Code Officers and other staff an opportunity to educate, collaborate, and partner with the neighborhoods they serve. Also, Austin Code participated in National Night Out, and visited with neighborhood groups around the city, in an effort to develop and enhance community partnerships.
"We are excited about the transformation of the department. As Austin continues to grow, we are adapting to accommodate the needs of the community we serve," said Carl Smart, Director, Austin Code Department.
The Austin Code Department collected almost three tons of trash and debris in the four districts where clean-ups were held. The department worked in collaboration with Austin Community Court to remove and dispose of all trash and debris collected.
In closing, the Austin Code Department would like to invite our partners and friends to view our new public service announcement.