Austin Local News
Group Calls for CodeNEXT Audit
(Credit: City of Austin)
Today Community Not Commodity (CNC) called for an independent audit of work performed by City of Austin staff and California-based Opticos Design and Oregon-based Fregonese & Associates in connection with CodeNEXT, the city’s controversial plan to rezone and redevelop neighborhoods throughout the community.
CodeNEXT was initially billed as a $2 million effort to simplify Austin’s existing land code, but payments to Opticos Design, Fregonese & Associates, the companies hired to help draft the new code, have now ballooned to nearly $8.5 million. $2.4 million of that total was awarded last month despite a widely acknowledged failure by the company and city staff to meet contractual obligations and produce a usable product.
The City of Austin’s Zoning and Platting Commission and Environmental Commission have each publicly complained about the poor quality of CodeNEXT-related work, citing incomplete sections of code and incomprehensible text. Earlier this month, the Environmental Commission passed a unanimous resolution calling attention to these issues.
Yesterday the City of Austin announced that the next CodeNEXT draft will be delayed by at least two-and-a-half months, a move which likely will lead to further cost overruns—and with no assurance of a better product.
“It’s time to pause the CodeNEXT process so that taxpayers can take a close look at city staff, Opticos Design and Fregonese & Associates, their shared work, and their ties to special interests and influential land developers,” said Fred Lewis, head of Community Not Commodity. “The affordability, livability, and safety of our neighborhoods are too important to be left to a broken process dominated by special interests. It is time for the Austin City Council to step up and do something about this train wreck.”