August 31, 2017
Thank you, Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem, and Members of Council for allowing me the opportunity to testify on this resolution. My name is Geoffrey Tahuahua and I am the Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs for the Real Estate Council of Austin. Together we are comprised of over 1,900 commercial real estate professionals throughout Austin and represent the premier advocacy organization for the Central Texas commercial real estate industry.
Since the release of the Zucker Report in 2015, along with the hiring of Director Rodney Gonzales, the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) has been consistently supportive of Rodney and his team at the Development Services Department (DSD). We also want to commend him for his commitment to implementing the Zucker Report recommendations as well as his proposal for this year’s budget that 80% of the new full-time employees will be dedicated to wait time reduction and quality reviews.
However, even under Rodney’s leadership at DSD, we still have yet to see significant improvements in the permitting and review process related to other departments that touch the development process. This includes departments such as Austin Water Utility, Transportation, and Watershed Protection, which are often the biggest contributors to the delays and regulatory hurdles our industry faces. These delays are often due to conflicting code requirements, outdated procedures, and an unwillingness to work with other departments to develop innovative solutions.
For these reasons, RECA will be recommending specific fee reductions as well as eliminating certain positions in the proposed budget and fee schedule. We believe that it is vital that the other departments work together with DSD to improve existing processes first. Our hope is that once the processes have been improved and efficiencies have been found, the City will have a better understanding on need for additional staff and resources. It is also likely that with these improvements, the City will meet an industry more amenable to fee increases.