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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 6.9.22

Thursday, June 9, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today is City Council’s penultimate meeting before a summer break, which means the meeting is jam-packed with odds and ends that need to get in order before then. This TipSheet is an educated guess as to what might be important in the upcoming meeting. To make your own guess, head over to the city website where the agenda is posted in full

The biggest item Council is hoping to approve today is a rewrite of vertical mixed-use zoning known as VMU2. Up to this point, Council discussions on the matter have been reliably gnarly, as everyone wrestles with potential changes to triggering issues like compatibility, parking and affordable housing requirements. Yesterday, those issues (unsurprisingly) triggered the threat of another lawsuit, which will no doubt be added to today’s discussion. Attorney Douglas Becker, who successfully represented plaintiffs in a suit against the city over the Land Development Code rewrite, wrote Council yesterday to warn them that the proposed changes to VMU would have the same problems as the attempt to rewrite the code. So, in addition to the various details of the zoning itself, we’re expecting a conversation about notification requirements that may or may not hold up the vote. 

As if that wasn’t enough, there is a separate resolution seeking to relax parking and compatibility requirements along “major corridors” that also promises to continue sparking lengthy, tangled discussion. Council will also take another swing at making accessory dwelling units easier to build with a proposal from Council Member Mackenzie Kelly’s office that would eliminate parking requirements for ADUs built within a quarter-mile of the Transit Priority Network and Imagine Austin Centers. 

On the Safer Sixth Street front, Council Member Kathie Tovo has a proposal to increase HALO surveillance cameras and investigate the use of metal detectors at bars. But in what could be much bigger news, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison has a resolution that looks into increasing the building height along Sixth Street to 140 feet and preserving the facades of historic buildings with the creation of design standards for the historic district. 

Council will also vote on a resolution aimed at encouraging e-bike ownership in the city. Members will also, most likely, take up a stalled vote to implement environmental protections on the east side of town and vote on adoption of the CROWN Act, which aims to prevent hair-based discrimination.

In news we could have sworn already happened, Council will look at exploring the future of the former Faulk Central Library as a place for the Austin History Center to expand and showcase its collection. This time around, the difference appears to be that the resolution on today’s agenda would include Travis County Archives in the building in an effort to create “an expanded history campus for all of Travis County.”

In terms of zoning, Council will once again consider a proposal to pay a fee-in-lieu instead of building affordable housing at the Plaza Saltillo transit oriented development. So far, Council (and staff) have not been enthusiastic about the proposal, which would take advantage of the incentives designed to encourage affordable housing in dense, walkable areas without building affordable housing. Council could also take up a project to house the formerly homeless that has faced neighborhood resistance in Hancock. The Austin Opry House, which was still negotiating its venue size when last we checked, is also on the agenda. And changes to the governing development document for East 11th and 12th streets could be up for a second (complicated!) vote. Oh, and did you think the saga of the Crestview Gate had come to a close? Not yet

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