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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 5.19.22

Thursday, May 19, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today’s City Council meeting could be a long one, with a few contentious items on the agenda in addition to a list of smaller things that can add up quickly. As usual, we’ve gathered the things that are most interesting for this rundown, but the entire agenda can be found online

Though Council won’t take action on either item, it’s likely that the continued discussion of a revised Vertical Mixed-Use zoning ordinance and a new plan for corridor planning will dominate today’s meeting. As we reported Wednesday, Council members are seeking to increase density while avoiding political quicksand. Today, they’ll look into the idea introduced Tuesday and this time they’ll take public comment on it (and the VMU rewrite) as well. In a more narrowly defined resolution along similar lines, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison has a resolution that would allow properties within a downtown overlay to participate in the Downtown Density Bonus Program, expanding the amount of housing (and affordable housing) that can be built.

This week’s agenda also features a number of resolutions aimed at reproductive rights. The first, Item 35, comes from the office of Mayor Steve Adler and affirms the city’s support of inclusive reproductive care and family building, among other things. The other two come from the office of Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, and as she detailed on the Council message board, both are part of the “Fight Back for Reproductive Health Agenda.” The first resolution will likely be heard on June 16, as some of the resolution language is still being refined. Essentially, it “prohibits employment and housing discrimination on the basis of reproductive health decisions” in preparation for the impending undoing of Roe v. Wade and the draconian state laws that are anticipated to follow. Fuentes’ second resolution will provide free menstrual products at city-owned facilities.

In some planning details, a massive development on Regiene Road that was recently approved is back to adjust its setbacks after they were left out of the original approval. A development at 1205 E. Fourth St. would like to pay a fee-in-lieu instead of building on-site affordable housing, and Council Member Kathie Tovo has already said she doesn’t see a compelling reason for that. We’re expecting more discussion today. The recently named Volma Overton Sr. Shores is being renamed again – to Volma Overton Sr. Beach, because of city naming conventions. And a lease for the Escape Game remains stuck in City Hall as Council contemplates what level of rent to charge.

In the ongoing saga of our ongoing lifeguard shortage, a proposal from Council Member Paige Ellis would waive training fees in an attempt to recruit more lifeguards. It will cost about $12,000.

In terms of zoning, it’s always a little hard to tell what will be discussed. However, we’re keeping an eye out for the Chrysler Air Temp house and the revisiting of the 11th and 12th Street Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts, which was approved with surprising ease the first time around.

And finally, a contract to renovate Candlewood Suites is likely to attract a lot of attention. The hotel, which was bought by the city with the intent to make it a domestic violence shelter, has remained a source of agitation for those who opposed the purchase. This was only made worse by a recent break-in, and we’re expecting an attempt to relitigate the hotel’s destiny.

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