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TipSheet: City Council, 2.9.17

Thursday, February 9, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council will hold its regular meeting again today, and below is a list of items we’re watching. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda. The Office of the City Clerk posts a copy on its website, here.

4. Authorize negotiation and execution of a professional services agreement with HDR ENGINEERING, INC., (staff recommendation) or one of the other qualified responders for Request for Qualifications Solicitation No. CLMP211, to provide Engineering Services for the Corridor Improvements Project in an amount not to exceed $8,000,000. This item implements a component of the 2016 Mobility Bond Program.

Monitor’s take: Two firms scored highly, but there were a lot of questions about the point-awarding system used to determine the best company for the job at Tuesday’s work session. Those questions looked to be resolved, but they could continue today. As a fun, “probably true” fact, we think this may be the first official contract to come out of November’s Mobility Bond.

5. Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapters 2-3 and 2-7 relating to the duties and functions of the City Auditor and the Ethics Review Commission, the code of ethics, and financial disclosure; and creating an offense.

Monitor’s take: Last week, questions, complications and a sort-of general confusion led to this item being postponed. It’s unclear whether those questions have all been answered in the interim, but this ordinance would, in (very) short: clarify the role of the city auditor’s office in regards to investigations; codify how city employees and members of the public report alleged offenses of city employees and officials; expand and clarify the jurisdiction of the Ethics Review Commission (and give them subpeona powers); prohibit city employees and official from using their official position to harm others; and shore up some financial disclosure regulations.

8. Approve a resolution adopting a joint resolution related to legislative priorities for the 85th Legislature for Austin-Travis County partners, including Travis County and Central Health.

Monitor’s take: This officially sets the city’s state legislative priorities which stress local control, school reform, 1115 waivers, improvements to I-35 and a revamp of community mental health services, “including the revitalization of the Austin State Hospital campus,” among other things.

Neighborhood Housing and Community Development

Monitor’s take: This week, items 11-21 are affordable housing projects competing for tax credits. As part of that (highly competitive) process, the city is asked to endorse the projects, which in turn gives the projects an extra point or two that goes towards determining which will ultimately get the tax credits. The city has made a practice of endorsing all of the projects in the city, which are up against a larger region, in the hopes that it will mean more extremely affordable housing for Austin. So, though the resolutions of support are not likely to yield much meeting drama, it is a good opportunity to see what projects are planned – and where they are located. This round has one District 2 project, three District 3 projects, one each in districts 4 and 5, three District 9 projects and two District 7 projects, including Elysium Park which is also on later in the agenda for a zoning change. Last year, three projects received the 9 percent tax credits, all in Georgetown.

24. Authorize negotiation and execution of an exclusive negotiation agreement with RedLeaf Properties, LLC, and Ryan Companies US, Inc. for acquisition of 5.164 acres and improvements on the southwest corner of Middle Fiskville Road and Highland Mall Boulevard at the Austin Community College Highland Campus, and earnest money in an amount not to exceed $650,000. (District 4) (Related to Items #6 and #7)

Monitor’s take: As we wrote about Wednesday, the plan to move some city departments and parts of city departments – including the planning departments – up to Highland Mall, is not being universally embraced.

28. Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 13-3 relating to escort vehicles and processions.

Monitor’s take: These new rules come after the death of Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq in September 2016, who was working as a funeral procession escort. According to the backup, the changes will improve safety for those in and near processions, and those escorting them by allowing escort vehicles to display red and blue emergency lights and have a siren. APD is recommending the changes be enacted to allow for safer and more flexible regulations, which they say are needed due to increased population and safety.

29. Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with RALPH ANDERSEN & ASSOCIATES, GovHR and TRANSEARCH, or RUSSELL REYNOLDS to provide recruiting services for the selection of a new City Manager, in a possible amount not to exceed $122,800, depending on final firm selection.

Monitor’s take: The search for a city manager continues! Well, OK, that hasn’t technically started yet. However the search for the search for a new city manager is still going strong. Council is expected to decide on a search firm today, and then it is ON. Here’s our recap on the current choices on the table for the meta-search.

33. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to provide information and options to fund and complete work on various landmarks and projects in the eastern area of downtown Austin.

Monitor’s take: Remember the mayor’s “downtown puzzle?” Here’s a piece of it. Steve Adler’s resolution asks city staff to assess the needs of things like people experiencing homelessness in the downtown area; the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center; Brush Square and the Historic Downtown Museums; the Red River Cultural District; the Convention Center; Waller Creek Park; the Palm School and associated parkland; and East Sixth and the various means of funding those things as potential solutions to the puzzle.

34. Approve a resolution initiating amendments to the City Code relating to council committees and task forces and directing the City Manager to draft an ordinance incorporating the amendments.

35. Approve a resolution initiating amendments to the City Code relating to council meeting and agenda procedures and directing the City Manager to draft an ordinance incorporating the amendments.

Monitor’s take: Both of these items are attempts to bring much-needed efficiency to Austin’s public process. It’ll be a while before they return as ordinances, probably, and the discussion about how to fix things promises to be complicated (if Tuesday is any indication), but godspeed! We support this endeavor!

43. C14-2016-0050 – Plaza Saltillo Tract 1/2/3 – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 901, 1011, and 1109 E. 5th Street (Waller Creek Watershed) from transit-oriented development-neighborhood plan (TOD-NP) combining district zoning to transit-oriented development-central urban redevelopment-neighborhood plan (TOD-CURE-NP) combining district zoning.

44. C14-2016-0049 – Plaza Saltillo Tract 4/5 – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1211 and 1301 E. 5th St. (Waller Creek Watershed; Lady Bird Lake Watershed) from transit-oriented development-neighborhood plan (TOD-NP) combining district zoning to transit-oriented development-central urban redevelopment-neighborhood plan (TOD-CURE-NP) combining district zoning.

45. C14-2016-0051 – Plaza Saltillo Tract 6 – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 413 Navasota St. (Lady Bird Lake Watershed) from transit-oriented development-neighborhood plan (TOD-NP) combining district zoning to transit-oriented development-central urban redevelopment-neighborhood plan (TOD-CURE-NP) combining district zoning. Staff Recommendation: To grant transit-oriented development-central urban redevelopment-neighborhood plan (TOD-CURE-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s take: This here is going to be a fight. The development of the six tracts of land just east of I-35 and just south of East Fifth Street has long been in the works. Its owner, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, settled on Endeavor Group to develop the land a few years back, and plans have been moving forward since then, basically. On Tuesday, Council Member Pio Renteria said he would be looking for a 78-foot height cap, instead of supporting the current plan to build a 125-foot tower. That may have caught some Council members off guard, and it also may be at the behest of neighborhood opponents who, according to a Wednesday press release, will show up in force to oppose the new plan for increased height, as well as a reduction in the proposed number of affordable units (from 200 to 141 units, with 100 of those units being built five years after the first phase of construction).

46. C14-2016-0063.SH – Villas at Vinson Oak Rezone – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 4507 and 4511 Vinson Drive (Williamson Creek Watershed) from family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to townhouse and condominium residence-neighborhood plan (SF-6-NP) combining district zoning. Staff Recommendation: To grant townhouse and condominium residence-neighborhood plan (SF-6-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s take: Though much less high profile, this other District 3 project also promises to be contentious. With a valid petition against it, the rezoning from SF-3 to SF-6 on just about two acres will need nine Council members to support it. The plan is to build 16 condos. Though staff says it is a “classic case of neighborhood infill,” the neighbors that oppose the rezoning say it is incompatible with the surrounding area. The discussion is set for a time certain of 4 p.m.

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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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