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TipSheet: City Council, 1.31.19

Thursday, January 31, 2019 by Elizabeth Pagano

Welcome to this week’s TipSheet. Austin City Council is back, with two brand-new members: District 1’s Natasha Harper-Madison and District 8’s Paige Ellis. Today’s agenda looks like a brief one, but we’re eager for the meeting nonetheless, so on to what few items promise to be interesting. For the rest, the Office of the City Clerk posts a copy on its website, here.

Item 11: Authorize negotiation and execution of a sublease from the City of Austin to Austin Creative Reuse, a Texas nonprofit corporation, for approximately 4,758 square feet of retail space from the Austin Public Library Recycled Reads Store located at 5335 Burnet Road for a 36-month term.

Monitor’s Take: As discussed at Tuesday’s work session, this sublease could signal an end to Recycled Reads. That prospect was alarming to enough people that it will almost certainly be postponed today and sent to the Library Commission for more discussion. If you want to catch up on the issue in the meantime, we’ve got you covered.

Item 16: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Schedule of Fees, Fines, and Other Charges to be set or charged by the City (Ordinance No. 20180911-002) by eliminating the Austin Public Health Department’s fee requirements for general environment/licensing inspections and food establishment permits for qualified high quality child care centers. Related to Item #17.

Item 17: Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 10-3 related to food enterprise permits for qualified high quality child care centers. Related to Item #16.

Monitor’s Take: These two items represent an interesting tack that the city is using to encourage affordable child care. Basically, City Hall is doing its best, in the form of fee waivers, to reduce the cost of operating high-quality child care in the city, to make it easier for such establishments to remain affordable.

Item 28: Authorize negotiation and execution of a multi-term contract with Front Steps Inc., to provide shelter operations and services for the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, for up to five years for a total contract amount not to exceed $13,500,000. (Note: Social Service contracts are exempt from the City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established).

Monitor’s Take: As discussed at the work session, the main sticking point on this contract is an extra $380,000 that would allow those working there to earn at least $15 an hour. This is up for more discussion, so expect to understand this better by the end of the day.

Item 30: Approve a resolution authorizing negotiation and execution of two ‘Agreements to Contribute Right of Way Funds’ with the Texas Department of Transportation in a total amount not to exceed $3,301,401 for the Oak Hill Parkway project. Related to items #31 and #32.

Item 31: Approve a resolution declaring the City of Austin’s official intent to reimburse itself from proceeds of general obligation bonds to be issued for transportation and mobility-related expenditures in an amount not to exceed $3,305,000. Related to Items #30 and #32.

Item 32: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Austin Transportation Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20180911-001) to increase appropriations from the 2016 Mobility General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $3,305,000 for improvements to the corridor on which the Regional Mobility project for Old Bee Cave Road Bridge is located, namely increasing the lanes of controlled access highways and frontage road on US 290 from west of RM 1826 to SL 1 and on SH 71 from US 290 West to Silvermine Drive (Oak Hill Parkway project). Related to Items #30 and #31.

Item 34: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to collaborate on stormwater management and environmental protection for state highway projects within the city limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Monitor’s Take: Today Austin’s City Council will decide whether or not to contribute $3.3 million toward a Texas Department of Transportation rebuild of U.S. Highway 290. And though residents (and everyone else!) have long complained about traffic at Oak Hill, it looks like there might be some pushback on this item, which is set for a time-certain of 4 p.m. Our inbox tells us that Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods and other groups are against the current incarnation of the project, which they say will cause years of construction headaches and division in the community. Whether or not that hinges on the city’s relatively small monetary contribution (the project is expected to cost $486 million in total) remains to be seen, but it’s looking like the project as a whole might come under the microscope this afternoon.

Item 39: Approve a resolution initiating amendments to the North Burnet/Gateway Regulating Plan relating to alternative equivalent compliance with front and street side upper-story building façade setback development standards.

Monitor’s Take: According to this post on the City Council Message Board, it looks like the intent of this change is to allow more creative, pedestrian-friendly design in the North Burnet/Gateway Regulating Plan. If it’s something more nefarious than that, there’s plenty of time to suss it out – approving this would send it through the lengthy, public code amendment process before it returns to City Council for final approval.

Item 59: C14-2018-0004 Braker Office/Condo Park – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1308 East Braker Lane (Walnut Creek Watershed) from multifamily residence low density-conditional overlay (MF-2-CO) combining district zoning to general office-mixed use (GO-MU) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: There was quite a bit of discussion when this case was at the Zoning and Platting Commission, and we are expecting more of the same at Council. The main concern heard from the neighborhood is traffic – both how much the project could generate and how vehicles will access the project when it is complete.

Item 62: C14H-2018-0103 – Philip D. Creer House – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning the property locally known as 1605 Gaston Avenue from family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district to family residence – historic landmark – neighborhood plan (SF-3-H-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Staff is supporting making this home a historic landmark (and giving owners the tax abatement that goes along with that distinction). However, the home has changed quite a bit since its construction. Is the weight of its historic association with the first chair of the city’s Historic Landmark Commission enough to ignore all that? Stay tuned to find out!

Item 77: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to retain a qualified third-party that will comprehensively evaluate the Austin Police Department’s processing and investigation of reported sexual assaults and that will provide a written report detailing its findings and recommendations.

Monitor’s Take: From this week’s Reporter’s Notebook, an explanation of this item, by sponsor Alison Alter: “Alter told the Austin Monitor that after the DNA testing debacle and the lawsuit against the city’s handling of sexual assault cases, it was time to change the way these cases were handled. ‘Now we really need to understand the “why” behind that and I think this very human-centered approach coupled with the data (from the audit) is going to allow us to take the steps forward that we need to in order to create a system that our city expects and deserves in relation to how we address sexual assault,’ she said. She noted that she expects the resolution to pass.”

Item 78: Approve a resolution relating to a pilot project to provide immediate shelter and support services for those experiencing homelessness.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Wednesday, this resolution kicks off a renewed focus on homelessness, an issue that is expected to dominate a lot of the city’s energy this year. This resolution establishes a timeline to build emergency shelters to house the population of homeless, with the aim of getting the shelters up and running by Sept. 30. Ambitious!

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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