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TipSheet: City Council, 4.22.21

Thursday, April 22, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today, Austin City Council will hold its regular Thursday meeting. With about 50 people signed up to speak on the agenda, it looks like it might be a reasonably quick affair. We’ll note that at their last meeting, Council members took up public comment at the beginning as they have been doing during the past year (or so) of virtual meetings, but now are delineating comments by item number, which makes the whole thing much easier to follow. So that’s nice! As usual, the entire agenda can be found online, but we’re focusing on the items that we’re watching. 

As part of today’s agenda, Council will look at some of the practical follow-through involved in the city’s vow to reimagine public safety. Item 20 is a laundry list of such items; it’s pretty extensive, so we recommend reaching for the backup if you want to know what is being considered. In short, the city is moving services now administered by police to other departments and creating a standalone Emergency Communications Department that would receive 911 calls and dispatch police officers. Item 53 specifically addresses the issue of regulating alarm permits and alarm systems, moving that authority from APD to the Development Services Department. 

As we reported Wednesday, Council will take up an attempt to recalibrate the Downtown Density Bonus program today. Adjusting the amount of money developers pay toward affordable housing appears to be long overdue. It was to be part of the perpetually doomed Land Development Code rewrite that has been in limbo forever, but how it will be adjusted is still a matter of some debate. Council Member Kathie Tovo has taken the reins on the change with Item 39. You can read more about her position on the matter on the City Council Message Board.

We also covered the work session discussion about the Airport Hilton (items 3-6 on today’s agenda). In short, revenue is down and Council isn’t super-eager to hand over money to the enterprise without a deeper dive into what is going on. 

In somewhat-nerdy infrastructure news (yay!), Item 2 establishes a pilot program for “alternative onsite water reuse systems” for commercial and multifamily developments. The pilot will allow Austin Water to issue incentives for the installation of such systems – up to a total aggregate amount of $1 million/$500,000 for each project – to encourage water conservation in line with the city’s Water Forward Plan. In different infrastructure news, Council will also look at about $1 million in improvements to the Red River Cultural District. The money will pay for better lighting, sidewalks and art, as well as alley closures.

Texas is set to receive $18 billion for K-12 education from the federal government to offset the impact of the pandemic. With Item 37, Council is asking the state to, you know, actually give that money to schools

And in zoning today, Council will consider the Springdale Green PUD (Item 47), which is on the site of a former tank farm. Here’s our coverage of what happened when the development was at the Planning Commission. Council might also consider the long-postponed Montopolis Acres rezoning (Item 48). Developers are asking for a change from SF-6 to Multifamily zoning, and the neighborhood objects to the plan, which residents say is too intense for the site. And finally, Council may look at a project on South First that recently won over the Planning Commission

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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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