Austin Mayor Steve Adler answers questions from RECA

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On Thursday, the Real Estate Council of Austin invited Austin Mayor Steve Adler for a question-and-answer session that touched on several city policies germane to the real estate community.

Council members, lobbyists, developers and real estate executives were among the 400 attendees who packed the Four Seasons ballroom on Thursday for the RECA­ Mayoral Town Hall Luncheon.

After a short speech from Adler, the mayor answered a series of questions submitted by RECA members that touched on several city policies, from economic incentives and property rights as they relate to Capitol View Corridors, to the upcoming CodeNEXT maps and managing Austin’s inevitable growth.

Here are the highlights:

On reviewing the city’s economic incentives policy and bringing companies and jobs back to Austin:

The issue of the city’s economic incentives policy has been near center stage for the last month. Last week, Austin City Council passed a resolution that will begin the process of shifting and modernizing the city’s economic incentives policy.

“We want to refocus how we do economic incentives so it could give us the tools to get middle-income jobs back in the city,” Adler said.

He went on to say there are 30,000 open positions in the city and 30,000 unemployed people looking for jobs that don’t match up. He said the city needs to do a better job of addressing that issue.

How do you balance the taking of private property and property rights that would occur with the proposed new Capitol View Corridors with the desire for equity and recognition of the minority community on the east side who have been historically left out?

City Council approved a resolution that authorized a study into the feasibility of creating Capitol View Corridors on the east side. The idea of new Capitol View Corridors, which District 1 Council Member Ora Houston proposed as a way of furthering equity on the east side, was met with pushback from some in the community who said the plan would impede on property rights and limit development.

“How do I balance this desire?” Adler said. “The law determines what that balance is.” Adler said the process is fair as long as the owner of the property being taken for public use is provided compensation equal to what is sacrificed.

Adler went on to say that the Capitol View Corridor resolution passed by council only started a conversation on the topic and no corridors were officially proposed.

Can the city council pass the best land use code without the interference of city politics?

“The call to having a community-deliberate process happen in the absence of politics is beyond unrealistic,” Adler said. “That is how a community makes choices. It’s important that at the end of the CodeNEXT process that we not only get this done, but done in a way that is supported by the community.”

The mayor said that no one in the community will get the zoning map they want but is optimistic that the map will be something everyone supports. When the first draft of the maps come in April, Adler said, they will be wrong, and it will be up to the community respond.

“I hope when the map comes out [in April], we all say, ‘These are wrong, but we didn’t expect them to be right. Let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out how we start moving the possibility of supply around this map,’” Adler said.

Would you support changing single-family zoning to allow for three-to-four smaller houses on lots for families who don’t want to live in the apartments along the major corridors?

“I do not support changing single-family zoning throughout the city,” Adler said. “If we can give ourselves the best map we can have, that will enable us to have the supply of housing we need in this city … but still preserve what is that is special about this city. Frankly, I would not support either extreme in this argument.”

As Austin continues to grow and land demand continues to rise, the central argument has been between increased density and the preservation of character in Austin’s neighborhoods. Adler said a zoning map that would heavily favor one over the other would be unsuccessful in for the city.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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