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The City Council was unable to reach a decision Thursday night on whether to convert some one-way streets downtown into two-way streets. After several hours of testimony and discussion, the Council decided to postpone any vote on that proposal until at least February to allow for more study or a possible work session on the topic. “The vision of two-way streets is definitely a very civilized, safe place to be. In fact, it’s what downtown used to be,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, who supported the delay. “Of course, what we didn’t have then was as many vehicles downtown. I think that a comprehensive plan for downtown has to address where those cars will go.”

Friday, December 6, 2002 by

Under the proposal, not all one-way streets downtown would be converted to two-way. Through streets and those bearing the most traffic would remain one-way. The proposal put forth by staff as part of the Downtown Access Mobility Project (DAMP) would convert Brazos and Colorado to two-way between Cesar Chavez and 11th Street, and convert parts of Trinity and San Jacinto to two-way. In addition, the proposal calls for converting 9th and 10th Streets to two-way between Guadalupe and I-35 and switching parts of 7th and 8th Streets to two-way.

The change to two-way streets is only part of a package of 15 recommendations to alter the flow of downtown traffic. Opponents of the two-way street plan argued that anticipated traffic delays, loss of on-street parking and the price tag as reasons to reject it. Supporters said the measure would help calm downtown traffic, create a better environment for pedestrians and ultimately contribute to the development of street-level retail. Council Member Will Wynn said those two strongly held and conflicting viewpoints were the perfect reason to delay any action.

“We haven’t done a good job of developing a consensus among all the different entities downtown on that,” Wynn said. The motion to postpone passed 7-0. Opponents were satisfied that the delay would give them more time to lobby Council members. “I’m ecstatic about the postponement,” said David Kruger, one of the more vociferous opponents of the two-way street plan and proprietor of Kruger’s Diamond Jewelers at 8th and Congress. “We’re going to put this deal in high gear and we’re going to be on them like white on rice.”

Wynn also pointed to an impasse over two other items on the list of proposals as reasons to put off a decision on the plan. The Council postponed until January any action on choosing a route for the Lance Armstrong Bikeway on either 3rd or 4th Streets, and also delayed consideration of changes on Cesar Chavez. Both of those items could significantly impact east-west traffic on 3rd Street and the rest of the downtown traffic grid.

“Those two or three decisions will drive whether or not two-way is even feasible,” Wynn said. “So why put everybody through this pain and heartburn over two-way streets if, because of other decisions we might be making, we’re not going to do two-way streets anyway?” City staffers had recommended dedicating lanes for the Lance Armstrong Bikeway on 4th Street through downtown, but Council Members Wynn and Betty Dunkerley both indicated they had serious concerns about the safety of cyclists along that route. The Council will discuss the Lance Armstrong Bikeway route and changes on Cesar Chavez in January.

While those contentious issues were put off until next year, the Council did pass several recommendations that have not drawn opposition. These include:

• Providing north to west and south to east dual left-turn lanes from Lamar to Barton Springs Road.

• Converting 2nd Street to two-way between San Antonio and Trinity.

• Constructing a north to east right-turn bay from Lamar to Sandra Muraida Way.

• Extending West Avenue between 3rd Street and Cesar Chavez.

The Council decided not to take any action on a proposal to limit left turns from Lamar to 5th and 6th Streets during rush hour. City staff had proposed a six-month study period at those intersections. After much discussion, the Council endorsed a measure to eventually reduce the width of Riverside Drive to one lane in each direction in the vicinity of Town Lake Park. The measure includes direction to staff to continue working to make the removal of Riverside Drive through Town Lake Park a possibility. But those instructions are predicated on the city taking appropriate steps to compensate for the resulting loss of traffic capacity.

Some of the items passed by the Council have already been funded by a 1/4-cent sales tax from Capital Metro. Some projects will fall below the cost threshold that requires Council approval, while others will have to come back to the Council for funding as they are developed. And instead of a six-month trial period to restrict left turns along Congress Avenue during rush hour, the Council approved a proposal to test out signal lights with left-turn arrows at 6th, 8th and 10th Streets.

The Austin Music Network (AMN), always a source of consternation for budget-minded TV news reporters and editorial writers, got only three months funding from the City Council yesterday after Council Member Will Wynn questioned whether Kenneth Threadgill's Music Foundation is living up to its end of the contract with the city. Wynn noted that the contract called for a performance evaluation of the channel by the Austin Music Commission, which had not been done. “I’d just feel comfortable having an objective third-party analysis,” he said. When I looked at the contract I saw that there is no way they’re in compliance,” Wynn said. “And perhaps, there’s no way we’re in compliance. It says, for example, that we are supposed to set the programming policy. I’ve never been asked whether I want to have country-western on Tuesday night or not. I’m not comfortable extending an existing long-term contract where we’re just in a different world than we were when this was negotiated.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, a supporter of AMN, pointed to various problems with the current contract that did not necessarily lie with AMN or Threadgill’s Foundation. “Our former music person went to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, so we haven’t really had the staff to help the commission do such a performance evaluation.” ( http://www.austinmusicnetwork.org/) ( http://www.threadgills.com/music/musicmain.htm).

City staff will review the document to determine which portions of the agreement were not being met, and which could not be met given the current circumstances. “Along with not having staff that can facilitate what was originally contemplated in the contract . . . the amount of money with which we’re funding the network is not nearly the amount of money that was contemplated and spoken of as an imperative for how best to fulfill the contract,” Goodman said. “The expectations when this contract was written were for a vastly larger amount of operating revenues. Realistically if you’re going to expect benchmarks to be reached, you have to resources to reach them.” The Council had been posted to approve $675,000 for AMN for the next year. The three-month interim allotment will be approximately $168,000.

Council Member Betty Dunkerley said she had received emails indicating that AMN is not serving local musicians. She asked that the city manager review what can be done to assist local musicians given the small amount of money—a little more than $56,000 per month—that is being devoted to the effort.

KXAN-TV reported erroneously last night that AMN would have three months of funding and would then have to prove that it is making a profit. The network is on one of the community-access channels and does not sell advertising.

Talent agent Deborah Duckett has been in business for the past 22 years, representing actors who do voice-overs and narration in commercials and movies. Her business generates little traffic since most of her work is done via computer, consultant Sarah Crocker explained to the City Council yesterday. So there should be no reason why she could not operate successfully without adding any more impervious cover to the house she bought at 7402 Brodie Lane. But since she is planning to run a business out of the home, and because she got a commercial loan to buy the property, Duckett now needs a zoning change from single-family to neighborhood office.

The Brodie Lane property is in the Barton Springs Zone of the Edwards Aquifer, making it subject to the SOS Ordinance. Duckett will not be able to expand the 1500 square-foot house, which sits on 1.8 acres of land, most of which lies in the Critical Water Quality Zone . Staff had recommended that the property be zoned RR because the current driveway and parking area is made of crushed granite, which would not be acceptable once the property is zoned for office use. However, Crocker said her client could either use pervious pavers or seek a variance on the parking requirement from the Board of Adjustment once the zoning is granted.

Pat Murphy, the city’s Environmental Officer, said pervious pavers would still be counted as impervious cover, so that would not be a solution. He said, “Our code currently allows you to use pervious paving. You just don’t get any credit for it.” He said pervious paving material had been allowed but not counted as impervious cover for several years. However, the option was removed from the code in 1986 because, “in many cases it was being put over a compacted base,” negating its permeability. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she thought it was time for staff and various city commissions to look at the issue again.

Council Member Daryl Slusher made the motion to approve NO on first reading, adding the condition of no additional impervious cover. He also asked if the applicant would agree to participate in the city’s Grow Green program. Crocker readily agreed to that. Council Member Betty Dunkerley seconded the motion and approval was unanimous.

Crocker said she would file for a variance on the parking requirement with the Board of Adjustment after second and third reading.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Regional summit today . . . Council Member Daryl Slusher and Hays County Judge Jim Powers will be hosting today's meeting from 8:30am to 3:30pm at the Palmer Events Center . . . Dailey leaving city . . . Linda Dailey, who has served as Council Member Danny Thomas’ executive assistant since he took office in mid-2000, is leaving City Hall to move to Houston. A nurse by training, Dailey said she has a job in an emergency room of a Houston hospital. She plans to return to school to finish a degree in public health. Sandra Frazier will become executive assistant when Dailey departs next Friday . . . New ZAP appointee . . . Council Member Danny Thomas yesterday appointed John Donisi to the Zoning and Platting Commission . Donisi works for Bickerstaff Heath and has lived in Austin for the past 12 years. His specialty is administrative law, with an emphasis on representing clients before state and federal agencies . . . Brown Santa Bar-B-Que today . . . The Sheriff’s Department Law Enforcement Association is trying hard to raise funds for its toy program. They will be selling Bar-B-Que from 10:30am until 1:30pm today at Wooldridge Square, across from the courthouse. The price of the brisket plate represents the donation of a new unwrapped toy or cash . . . Susanna Dickinson fees waived . . . The City Council yesterday approved an ordinance waiving fees for relocation of the historic Susanna Dickinson House to its permanent home at the northeast corner of Brush Square. The Landmark Organization will pay the costs of relocation . . . More money for the downtown parking garage . . . The Council also approved additional funds for architectural services for design and construction of the Austin Convention Center Parking Garage and Austin Energy's district cooling plant, but not before Council Member Will Wynn had asked numerous questions about the expenditures and design changes. Assistant City Manager John Stephens told Wynn that the design has been revised, eliminating one exit on 4th Street and adding 25,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the garage. One of the most consistent complaints from both the Downtown Commission and the Design Commission had been the lack of retail on that block. Peter Rieck, director of Public Works, explained that the bulk of increased architectural services would be dedicated to the cooling plant portion of the project. An earlier design had put the cooling plant below ground, but the water table in the area wouldn’t allow it . . . RECA officers ready for session . . . The Real Estate Council of Austin announced that its 2003 officers are once again ready to work on transportation issues at the Legislature. Incoming president Tim Taylor said the organization would particularly support Rep. Mike Krusee in his efforts to correct shortcomings in legislation approved two years ago when the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was authorized.. “We plan to work with Krusee and other legislators to advance bills related to transportation and other issues of importance to the real estate industry.” Other officers include Diana Zuniga, vice-president; James Knight, secretary; and Terry Mitchell, treasurer. These officers will serve one-year terms beginning in January 2003. Taylor is a partner with the law firm of Jackson Walker ; Zuniga is owner of Investors Alliance, Inc.; Knight is the managing principal with Bury + Partners, Inc.; and Mitchell is Vice-President at Milburn Homes. Shuttle to see the lights . . . Capital Metro is providing shuttle service from Waterloo Park to Zilker Park beginning Sunday and continuing through December 23. Santa and musical performances will be provided on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sunday night marks the opening of the trail. For more information on the shuttle, call the Capital Metro Go-Line at 474-1200 . . . Conservationist Bamberger to speak . . . Well-known Texas conservationist J. David Bamberger will talk about habitat restoration and quality of life at the First Unitarian Universalist Church ’s Public Affairs Forum on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Bamberger’s ranch has been recognized as the largest habitat restoration project on private land in the state of Texas. He currently serves on the boards of the National Area Preservation Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife's Land Owner Incentive Program and the Texas Nature Conservancy. The church is at 4700 Grover Avenue.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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