The new City Council did us all a solid regarding today's historic first 10-1 Council meeting by postponing all of this week's zoning cases for at least a week, after a somewhat dizzying Tuesday work session on the topic. ("I'm brand new to this, and it's overwhelming," admitted CM Don Zimmerman, quoted in the American-Statesman.)
No shame there. The biggest item on the zoning plate, the intractable Garza Tract, is not going to go down easily. But in truth, that brand of complication is the exception rather than the rule. A good number of the Council's grinding, contentious agenda of zoning items consist of cases that really ought not to be making their way to Council in the first place.
If the new City Council really wants to save a lot of time at its meetings, here's a simple idea: This Council can do us all a favor, and cut their workload in half at a stroke, if they just send a clear message to the Planning and Development Review Department that they're going to stop entertaining idiotic contested zoning change requests, and treat existing zoning as what it is – the law – rather than as a starting point for negotiations, or as one side in an expected "compromise" between what the developer wants, and what the law says they can build. As it stands, if you want to build a condo complex on your single-family-zoned lot, you go in asking for an office tower, and let the city compromise you down to the condo complex. Then it's a win-win, right? (By analogy, suppose you want to rob a bank, but the law says you can't do that. What if you go in threatening to blow the place up, then negotiate a "compromise" that lets you just walk out with all the money at the teller windows? Another win-win.)
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