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Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT. A southbound view from FM 969 of John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park. The city is eyeing acquiring land near this park through Proposition B.

Prop B would allow the city of Austin to ‘swap’ one piece of land for another. Here are three things to know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

The city of Austin wants a piece of land to make into a park. And it’s trying to put a sweet deal on the table to make that happen.

That’s the crux of Proposition B. But man, is it confusing.

Some background: Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has its Central Maintenance Complex on a 9-acre piece of city-owned land along South Lakeshore Boulevard. The city uses this facility to store equipment and supplies hat it uses to maintain its parks – drinking fountains and irrigation parts, for example.

But according to a city spokesperson, the buildings are in poor condition and there’s no longer enough space to house equipment and to host meetings at the complex. So, the city’s looking to use this land, which is immediately south of Lady Bird Lake, to arrange some sort of trade.

In other words, the city wants to offer this land to an unknown entity (more on that later) in exchange for land that could be turned into a park (the city won’t specify where, but more on that later), plus funding for new and updated maintenance facilities.

And because the 9 acres of city property is considered parkland, the city needs permission from voters to get rid of it.

Here’s how the ballot language reads:

Shall the City Council be authorized to convey or lease approximately 9 acres of parkland currently used as the Central Maintenance Complex (CMC) located at 2525 S. Lakeshore Blvd. through a public bidding process, where the total value of the bid is equal to or greater than the appraised fair market value of CMC, in exchange for at a minimum: 1) at least 48 acres of waterfront land contiguous to an existing City park; and 2) the cost or construction of a new maintenance facility for the Parks and Recreation Department on other city-owned land; and 3) partial or full funding for the removal of Fiesta Gardens’ existing maintenance facility and restoration of that land to parkland?

1. So, what would Prop B do?

If Prop B passes, it would authorize the city to exchange 9 acres of land it owns on South Lakeshore Boulevard in return for several things:

  • 48 acres of “waterfront” land to turn into a park
  • the cost of building a new maintenance center on an undisclosed piece of city-owned land
  • funding (in full or in part) to remove a maintenance facility (not the one on South Lakeshore Boulevard, but one at Fiesta Gardens) and convert that land to parkland

You might be thinking that 48 acres is a very specific number of acres. So, does the city have a piece of land in mind?

According to one source familiar with the project, the answer is yes. The city’s eyeing land near John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park, east of 183 and on the edge of the Colorado River.

As the Austin American-Statesman has reported, there’s already a deal on the table. If voters OK the city selling, leasing or exchanging its Lakeshore property, Oracle could buy the 48 acres in East Austin and exchange it for the city-owned property on South Lakeshore Boulevard – which happens to be next to Oracle’s headquarters.

KUT reached out to the city of Austin and an Oracle spokesperson to confirm these details. While no one from Oracle responded, a city spokesperson wrote the following in an email:

“The city received an unsolicited proposal to exchange the Central Maintenance Complex for approximately 48 acres.” The spokesperson would not say where this plot of land is.

2. If voters approve Prop B, is this land “swap” a done deal?

Well, no.

If Prop B passes, it would only allow the city to open up the 9 acres on South Lakeshore Boulevard to bidders. Any bids – from Oracle or otherwise – would need to be approved by City Council.

3. Why do we have to vote on this? Can’t the city do what it wants with land it owns?

Typically, yes. But not when parkland is involved.

Both state law and Austin’s city charter state that voters need to OK the city selling or, in some form, getting rid of a park it owns.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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