About two dozen visitors attended the city’s first multilingual open house on CodeNEXT, a rewrite of the city's land development code, at Hart Elementary in North Austin on Wednesday.
The audience had the option to check out headsets that would translate the presentation into Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese or Mandarin. City staff say they tried to get the word out about the event through social media and multilingual news outlets, but in the end, only two people checked out headsets, both of them for Spanish translation.
Jorge Rousselin, the city’s project manager on CodeNEXT, said he thinks the open house was a success in terms of introducing new people to the code.
“I wish more folks could have attended, obviously,” he said. “Certainly that’s something that we will continue to explore. We extend those opportunities for the community to come interact with CodeNEXT.”
During the open house, interpreter Susana Pimiento stood at the edge of the room, speaking softly into a headset. She was live-translating a presentation on CodeNEXT into Spanish. Pimiento tried to brush up on some land development lingo in advance of the event. But she said it can be difficult to quickly translate the many acronyms that come along with CodeNEXT discussions, such as ADU or accessory dwelling units.
Raquel Escobedo, one of two visitors who checked out a headset, said she heard about the meeting because she's a custodian at Hart Elementary.
Escobedo called the presentation "fantastic" and said she learned a lot about housing regulations.
CodeNEXT will govern what can be built in Austin and where it can go. Austin City Council is set to vote on adopting the new code in April, though some council members are pushing for a delay.