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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 7.28.22

Thursday, July 28, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

After a brief, special called meeting last week, City Council is back in earnest today. How earnest? Well, Mayor Steve Adler joked that there was a betting pool at City Hall about how long the meeting would last, so that’s one sign we’re looking at a robust meeting. Another sign is the 193 items on the agenda. Settle in, everyone, vacation is officially over. (Though an ongoing space crisis at the city animal shelter means that there might be some adoptable distractions at the meeting, we hear.)

The biggest item on the agenda is probably a planned vote on the Statesman PUD. While it looks like Council is probably going to postpone the vote because of a request from the neighborhood, public comment will still be taken up and Council members plan to continue a truncated discussion from Tuesday’s work session. So, vote or not, there will probably be a whole lot of talk about the project. 

Council is also scheduled to revisit parkland dedication fees; both newly proposed fees for commercial development and a retread of the existing residential fees. Here at the Austin Monitor we consider this topic to secretly be the most contentious item at City Hall, and developer-types have made it clear that they aren’t happy with the proposals on the table, so we’re braced for the usual sturm und drang. Bring it on!

We’re guessing that the fairly endless discussions about the city’s HealthSouth tract could also eat up a bit of time. It looks like staffers need a little more time to finalize the details for the property at 1215 Red River St.

The proposal for a historic district that would preserve Sixth Street is back for a vote. With development pressure building from Stream Realty, which is looking to redevelop the area, time is of the essence for a historic district to be effective, and it has already been delayed once. 

In other planning news, Council is set to (at last) codify what a “music venue” is – and offer incentives to venues, to boot! Council will also consider amending downtown density bonus rules to allow fees-in-lieu when projects can’t participate in the Great Streets portion of the program. 

In terms of public safety, Council will again take up the possibility of reinstating license plate readers for APD. The amount of money isn’t much, but during work session, it appeared that several Council members – perhaps even a majority – had serious misgivings due to privacy concerns. 

Council is also poised to make it official and put a now $350 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot. Given her statements to the press, we’re expecting a possible “no” vote from Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, but everyone else seems rather on board. 

Speaking of Kelly, her resolution asking for homeless point-in-time counts to be conducted as often as required by HUD indicates she is clearly frustrated that one has not been conducted in Austin since 2020. 

It looks like Council is taking a stand on the possibility of the hit CW television series Walker walking away from the city – and will vote on $245,000 in incentives to keep the show filming in town. And though it’s been an ongoing deal for a while now, we’ve gotten word that Council will interrogate the long-standing funding of the ACC fashion incubator and whether the $55,000 annual contribution was intended to continue indefinitely. Here’s a memo that offers a little background. 

A resolution from Council Member Kathie Tovo shows that plans to relocate Waller Creek Boathouse operations to the old youth hostel site are moving forward.

It’s worth noting that Council has two (!) items that concern Supreme Court decisions. Council Member Kathie Tovo has sponsored a resolution denouncing the corporate personhood enabled by the Citizens United decision. And Council Member Leslie Pool has a separate resolution “condemning the Supreme Court’s rulings in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and the court’s attacks on American freedom, health and safety, and urging state and federal support for measures protecting clean air regulations and reproductive rights.” 

Pool also has a resolution that seems to be taking a page from the recent vote of “no confidence” from the city’s Animal Advisory Commission. Her resolution asks for an audit of the city’s Animal Services Department and current no-kill practices.

Speaking of looking at things more closely – Austin is looking at a new group to run the ARCH homeless shelter after Front Steps failed to meet performance goals. But all may not be so sunny with the new provider either.

Changes to the governing document for East 11th and 12th streets are back today, with a promise that those who support more cocktail lounges (and such) in the area will be back to support the amendments.

And finally, the interminable process to change the name of “Confederate Street” to “Maggie Mayes Street” continues to limp along today.

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