Meet Prop J, The Post-CodeNEXT Ballot Initiative That Would Put Development Rules To A Vote

Oct 19, 2018

Austin voters will be asked to consider a lengthy ballot this November. There’s the showdown between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz, six City Council elections and a list of 11 local propositions.

Let’s skip past Propositions A through I (you can read about them here), and get into Proposition J.

What It Would Do

Prop J would put every land-development code rewrite, such as the now-defunct CodeNEXT, to a public vote. It would also institute a mandatory waiting period before any new comprehensive zoning laws go into effect.

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Say, for example, City Council passes a new land code in June 2020. It's put on hold until the next City Council election and a separate election for voters to approve it. That means it couldn't go into effect until at least November 2021.

How It Came About

Prop J is the ghost of CodeNEXT, the city’s now-defunct effort to rewrite its 30-year-old land development code. In August, council members voted to scrap the process and start over.

Back when CodeNEXT was still in play, several local groups decided residents should have the right to vote on every citywide land code overhaul in the future. In March, they turned in a petition with more than 32,000 signatures to the Austin City Clerk’s office.

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City Council Members refused to accept this petition or to put it to a public vote. The petition went to court and in July a judge ordered the city to put the petition on the ballot. And so, we have Proposition J.

Prop J and the land code rewrite have drawn lines between those who support more and denser housing and those who fear allowing this would accelerate gentrification and change the “character” of single-family neighborhoods. Environmental groups are divided over it.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall a City ordinance be adopted to require both a waiting period and subsequent voter approval period, a total of up to three years, before future comprehensive revisions of the City's land development code become effective?