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TipSheet: City Council, 5.20.21

Thursday, May 20, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

After a doozy of a work session on Tuesday, Austin City Council’s regular meeting might seem a little tame in comparison. Right now, just over 50 speakers are signed up to speak on the agenda, which can be found in its entirety here. This TipSheet takes a look at a few of the items from this week’s agenda that caught our eye. 

Though the aforementioned work session delivered the most dramatic homelessness news this week, there are a number of items related to homelessness on this agenda as well. Specifically, Council will take up items 17, 18 and 56, which deal with establishing permanent supportive housing. Council will also waive about $4.3 million in fees with Item 55  for the expansion of Community First! Village. Recently, the village has been held up as a model solution to solve homelessness. Under the established phases I and II of its development, it houses more than 500 residents in tiny homes and RVs. These waivers apply to the next two phases of construction, which are projected to add 500 and 800 homes.

And with Item 39, Council will consider an update to the Strategic Housing Blueprint that supports homes for 3,000 people over the next three years. 

Finally, in related news, Council will vote on an agreement with the SAFE Alliance for a new, city-owned domestic violence shelter that will operate in one of the hotels recently purchased by the city after a shift away from building a homeless shelter in South Austin.

Elsewhere on the agenda – specifically, Item 13 – Council will take up a proposed design for the new Dougherty Arts Center. We’ve covered the plans before, but yesterday, Save Our Springs sent out a call to consider the preservation of Butler Shores in the redesign, so expect that to be a point of contention today. Weirdly, Butler Shores also makes an appearance in Item 60, which will explore the idea of making the area a City Cultural Park, so we’re guessing the sponsors of that item will be receptive to SOS’s concerns….

Crossing the river, today might be the day that the city gets new Downtown Density Bonus Fees as well. After a few cases on Rainey Street, Council members seemed to agree that the current fees needed to be recalibrated. But hammering out the new fees took a minute, and with Item 9, Council will consider the result of that hammering

Today’s agenda also includes two items that deal with the city’s water conservation plan, Water Forward. We have a recap from the Council committee of items 63 and 65, if you want a primer. 

Along with general discussion about how to spend American Rescue Plan Act money, Council will consider Item 60, which reflects on using $25 million of the funding “to stabilize the Austin cultural arts and music communities as they combat the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and Winter Storm Uri.” Discussion at the work session centered on which live music fund was referenced in the resolution and how the money should be used in relation to Hotel Occupancy Taxes (which are obviously down this year, creating a shortfall). It got a little complicated on Tuesday, and we expect the discussion to continue today. 

Finally, in zoning, there are a number of cases we’ve been following. (Though as usual, it’s anyone’s guess what will be postponed; we are anyone, so we guessed.) First up is the Delta Kappa Gamma house, which is looking to transform into a tower at 416 W. 12th St. Though the fight at this point is about height, Council has given the project an initial nod in a 9-0 vote on first reading. The Springdale Green PUD, which will be built on the site of a former east side tank farm, is also up today. And the Sunrise Mini Mart rezoning, which has apparently launched a Bouldin temperance movement, is ready to be heard after a postponement the last time around

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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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