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TipSheet: City Council, 3.12.20

Thursday, March 12, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week, Council convenes again for its regular Thursday meeting that will go on, disasters or not. Once again, we are looking at the prospect of a shorter meeting, though we have highlighted the items that may take up some time below. As always, the entire agenda may be found online.

Item 16: Approve an ordinance waiving requirements of City Code Chapter 14-3 and authorizing negotiation and execution of all documents necessary or desirable to provide relocation assistance and authorize the payment of relocation funds to the tenants located at 2711 South Interstate Highway 35 in an amount not to exceed $320,000.

Monitor’s Take: In November, Council gave the OK to convert the Rodeway Inn in South Austin to house people experiencing homelessness. A slight hitch in this plan is that, in doing so, the city is displacing those who currently use the hotel as a residence. This item provides services to relocate those people, for obvious reasons.

Item 24: Authorize an amendment to an existing contract with Movability, Inc., to develop and administer a transit pass incentives program, for an increase in the amount of $100,000, for a revised contract amount not to exceed $550,000. (Note: This contract was reviewed for subcontracting opportunities in accordance with City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program. For the services required for this contract there were no subcontracting opportunities; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established.)

Item 35: Approve negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority to purchase transit passes in an amount not to exceed $700,000 for use in a pilot program to increase transit ridership.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Wednesday, this particular plan to get more people to ride the bus is to give them free passes. Though some on Council weren’t crazy about just giving away free bus passes to for-profit corporations, we’ll have to see how this one plays out.

Item 40: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to investigate and bring forth a recommendation for a fee-in-lieu option for the Great Streets requirement of the Downtown Density Bonus Program.

Monitor’s Take: As the draft resolution for this item notes, there are current cases where the Texas Department of Transportation has declined to allow Great Streets requirements to go through, and there is no current recourse that would allow the city to capture the funds for use in other areas of town. So this resolution, which comes out of Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office, would allow that money to be applied elsewhere.

Item 41: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to work with parks nonprofit partners to create opportunities for partnership agreements that benefit the community, and to outline roles and responsibilities between those groups and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Monitor’s Take: Basically, this resolution explores the idea of partnering with nonprofits to help manage and maintain city parks, as well as establishing guidelines for said partnerships.

Item 42: Approve a resolution relating to individuals experiencing homelessness, permanent supportive housing programs, and rapid rehousing programs.

Monitor’s Take: Oh look, another resolution about homelessness. This one sparked some conversation at the work session with Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, notably, saying he was “struggling with what we’re adding to the conversation given how much conversation we’re having on this topic.” Reading through, and gleaning from the conversation Tuesday, it looks to reaffirm a commitment to dedicate funds to the issue and supply permanent supportive housing.

Item 45: Approve proposed bylaw amendments for the Mexican American Cultural Center Advisory Board to change the name of the board.

Monitor’s Take: This item changes the name of the board, officially, to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center Advisory Board, which reflects the name of the center.

Item 47: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance regarding floodplain variances to convert a vacant portion of a building into a parking area at 1000 N. Lamar Blvd that is within the 25-year and 100-year floodplains of Shoal Creek.

Monitor’s Take: Though the owners of this property previously got a variance to build in the floodplain, they’ll need another to move forward with first-story parking for the building. Staff does not recommend the variance – the first level will be underwater if it floods – but the neighborhood association, OANA, supports the variance. Its reasoning? According to a letter of support, “denying the variance would create more risk to the public … cars parked on the first floor at 1000 N Lamar are: Not parked unprotected on neighboring streets; and not at risk of being swept into Shoal Creek during a flood event (because they are protected by steel fences).” No word on what happened to the original plan, which was approved by Council, and had parking on the second and third floors (well out of the way of floodwaters).

Item 48: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Section 25-13-45 relating to compatible residential uses in Airport Overlay Zone Three (AO3).

Item 66: NPA-2018-0005.01 – 1501 Airport Commerce Drive-Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20010927-05, the Montopolis Neighborhood Plan, an element of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, to change the land use designation on the future land use map (FLUM) on property locally known as 1501 Airport Commerce Drive, (Carson Creek Watershed) from Commercial to Mixed Use land use.

Item 67: C14-2019-0029 – 1501 Airport Commerce Dr – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1501 Airport Commerce Drive (Carson Creek Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from general commercial services-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (CS-CO-NP) combining district zoning to general commercial services-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (CS-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: As we have reported, these three cases are connected. Though the current airport overlay allows for some residential development, the city is looking to change that here. The reasoning, as seen at the Planning Commission, is that expansion of the airport will push airport noisiness outward, which is not a healthy environment for a home.

Item 60: C814-2018-0154 – Austin Green PUD – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by zoning property locally known as 11600-12337 Harold Green Road (Elm Creek Watershed; Colorado River Watershed). Applicant’s Request: To zone and rezone from unzoned and development reserve (DR) district zoning to planned unit development (PUD) district zoning. The ordinance may include exemption from or waiver of fees, alternative funding methods, modifications of City regulations, and acquisition of property.

Monitor’s Take: This 2,000-acre PUD has been making its way through the city’s boards and commissions, and today it lands at the feet of City Council. For a look at what’s going on here, see our previous coverage from the Planning and Environmental commissions.

Item 70: C14-2019-0155 – 4011 Convict Hill Rezoning – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 4011 Convict Hill Road (Williamson Creek Watershed-Barton Springs Zone). Applicant’s Request: To rezone single family residence-standard lot (SF-2) district zoning to townhouse and condominium residence (SF-6) district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Though pulled by Council Member Paige Ellis during work session Tuesday, this is now likely to move forward with new Save Our Springs support. Here’s our previous coverage, for those looking for background.

Item 74: Approve a resolution ratifying a Declaration of Local State of Disaster in response to concerns related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and consenting to continuation of the disaster declaration for a period of more than seven days.

Monitor’s Take: On Friday, the city declared a disaster in light of public health fears about COVID-19. Though those fears persist, the declaration will expire this Friday without this extension – which will go through April 5 or until terminated by Council. Travis County did the same thing Tuesday, and we got some clarification about what a state of disaster entails. Likely, we’ll get similar information from the city today. In addition, with Item 74, Council could extend the appointment of the interim health authority and add three alternate health authorities, in yet another sign that this pandemic could be a sustained issue.

Item 78: Discuss legal issues related to requirements to fill a possible vacancy in the position of an elected official (Private consultation with legal counsel – Section 551.071 of the Government Code).

Monitor’s Take: There has been some back-and-forth about what would happen if Council Member Greg Casar leaves his current position to run for the now-empty seat of state Sen. Kirk Watson. This item will get to the bottom of that, and though it will be discussed behind closed doors, we look forward to learning what is decided.

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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 2015, 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 as of 2015, 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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