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TipSheet: City Council, 7.29.20 & 7.30.20

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week’s regular City Council meeting has been divided into two meetings. If you look at it as one meeting, it promises to be a long one. However, if you choose to view it as two separate meetings, they promise to be two long meetings. In an attempt to make the meeting manageable, the agendas have been divided, so today Council will consider the consent agenda (which includes contracts, items from Council and other policy issues). Thursday’s meeting will be the second opportunity for Austinites to speak on the proposed budget, public hearings and zoning cases. We are keeping our eye on a long list of items that might prove interesting. The agendas for Wednesday and Thursday can both be found online.

Wednesday

Item 17: Authorize negotiation and execution of a professional services agreement with Joint Venture of Miro Rivera Architects Inc. and Tatiana Bilbao SC (staff recommendation) or one of the other qualified responders for Request for Qualifications Solicitation No. CLMP297, to provide professional design services for renovation and expansion of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center in an amount not to exceed $2,500,000.

Monitor’s Take: It has been 13 years since phase one of the MACC’s development was completed, and at long last, it’s time to move on to phase two. This contract would do exactly that, increasing space, storage and connectivity to nearby hike and bike trails. The new addition will also pay tribute to Mexican architect Teodoro González de León, and includes a “grand promenade” to welcome visitors to the cultural center.

Item 23: Approve a resolution amending the Resolution No. 20200507-023 criteria for the Childcare Fund to remove the 2-star rating and to allow businesses to apply that have received SBA Paycheck Protection Program funding.

Monitor’s Take: After creating the Austin Childcare Business Relief Grant, the city learned that some of its established criteria were too restrictive, and is now working on revisions to those standards. According to a staff memo, the current criteria “significantly limits the number of eligible childcare centers for this program. Specifically, the Texas Rising Star rating disqualifies many childcare centers serving east and northeast Austin neighborhoods. Furthermore, information provided by the United Way of Greater Austin shows only 52 of 182 Austin-based childcare centers could be eligible for funds due to eligibility criteria related to the Texas Rising Star certification and the Paycheck Protection Program.” This will likely pass, allowing the program to help more child care centers impacted by the pandemic.

Item 24: Authorize execution of an interlocal agreement with Texas Facilities Commission for services provided by the Center for Alternative Financing and Procurement to support the Creative Space Acquisition and Improvements process in an amount not to exceed $500,000.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Tuesday, it looks like the city is finally moving forward with allocating $12 million in creative space funding approved by voters in 2018. Read the latest, courtesy of Chad Swiatecki.

Item 36: Authorize negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to accept 215.148 acres out of the T.J. Chambers Survey, Abstract No. 7 and the Albert Sillsbe, Abstract No. 744, in Travis County, Texas, known as the Bright Leaf Preserve, located at 4113 Old Bull Creek Road, from Austin Community Foundation.

Monitor’s Take: Here’s news that Austin is getting a new 215-acre park, which was left to the community by Georgia B. Lucas. According to the backup, the new preserve is home to two endangered species: the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) and a rare plant, the bracted twistflower (Streptanthus bracteatus). Here’s a map of where it is!

Item 37: Authorize negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to acquire in fee simple Lot 3, Resubdivision of Lot 1 Westcreek Section 10, Phase G, according to the map or plat thereof, recorded in Volume 88, Page(s) 198 of the plat records of Travis County, Texas, located 4616 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin, Texas from Brodie Animal Hospital, L.P., a Texas limited partnership, for a total amount not to exceed $1,241,103.00, including closing costs.

Monitor’s Take: For context of just how valuable the gifted preserve above is, check out this $1.2 million, 2.6-acre future park on Williamson Creek. Here’s a map!

Item 38: Authorize negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to acquire in fee simple Lot 1, Chapman’s Acre, a subdivision in Travis County, Texas according to the map or plat thereof, recorded in Volume 32, Page 26 of the plat records of Travis County, Texas, except for 266 square feet of land, more or less, conveyed to the City of Austin by instrument recorded in Volume 5158, Page 2033, Deed Records of Travis County, Texas, located at 8803 Georgian Drive, Austin, Texas from Andy Quang Anh Bui, for a total amount not to exceed $361,000, including closing costs.

Item 39: Authorize negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to acquire in fee simple Lot 2, Chapman’s Acre, a subdivision in Travis County, according to the map or plat thereof, recorded in Volume 32, Page 26 of the plat records of Travis County, Texas, located 8805 Georgian Drive, Austin, Texas from Michael J. Mullin and Deborah S. York, for a total amount not to exceed $231,826.00, including closing costs.

Monitor’s Take: Another park! This one is much smaller, just about an acre, but in an area of District 4 that is park-deficient. Here are two maps, because this park is made up of two parcels.

Item 40: Approve the renaming of the Metz Recreation Center to the Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Mendez Recreation Center.

Monitor’s Take: After a lengthy public process, City Council will most likely officially approve renaming Metz Recreational Center after Rodolfo “Rudy” Mendez.

Item 48: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with Bastrop County to provide Bastrop County access to the City’s COVID-19 online self-assessment software platform to schedule and administer COVID-19 testing and vaccines for Bastrop County residents from July 6, 2020 through July 6, 2021 in an amount not to exceed $16,684.

Item 50: Authorize ratification of an interlocal agreement with Williamson County to provide Williams County access to the City’s COVID-19 online self-assessment software platform to schedule and administer COVID-19 testing and vaccines for Williamson County residents from May 6, 2020 through July 6, 2021 in an amount not to exceed $16,437.

Monitor’s Take: We may be creating new parks, but no one has forgotten that we are in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, there are a number of coronavirus-related items on this week’s agendas, but these two caught our eye. Both items authorize Bastrop and Williamson counties to use the city’s software platform for scheduling and administering testing and vaccines for the virus in what appears to be a nice, neighborly side hustle.

Item 64: Authorize award of two multi-term contracts with Texas Disposal Systems, Inc. and Balcones Recycling Inc., to provide trash, recycling, and organics collection services for City facilities, each for up to five years for total contract amounts not to exceed $7,500,000, divided between the contractors. (Note: This solicitation 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 solicitation, there were no subcontracting opportunities; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established).

Monitor’s Take: This contract has been a long time coming. When last we checked in with the contract to manage waste at city facilities, the problem had been patched with a temporary contract. Here, at last, is a slightly longer fix.

Item 74: Authorize negotiation and execution of a multi-term contract with Relief Enterprise of Texas, Inc., to provide cleanup services for overpasses, under bridges, and in the transportation right of way, for up to three years for a total contract amount not to exceed $1,725,000.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported, the Zero Waste Advisory Commission unanimously recommended this contract to clean underpasses – a contract necessitated by TxDOT’s handing over the responsibility to the city after the most recent legislative session.

Item 85: Approve a resolution establishing the Juneteenth holiday as a City holiday each year beginning in 2021.

Monitor’s Take: In a rare progressive moment for Texas, Juneteenth has actually been an official state holiday since 1980. (Don’t get too excited – the state also continues to celebrate Confederate Heroes Day on Robert E. Lee’s birthday.) This resolution from the office of Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison would establish Juneteenth as an official city holiday, which means that city employees would be paid for the day off.

Item 87: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to convene a collaborative working group to develop recommendations regarding amendments to the food enterprise permitting process and related fees for charitable feeding organizations and encouraging the City Manager to cease enforcement, in order to reduce the barriers of providing access to healthy foods for our community’s vulnerable and food insecure populations

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which comes out of Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza’s office, aims to lower the barriers for charities that want to get food to those who are food-insecure. As a first step, this resolution convenes a working group to look at things like permitting and other barriers for the network of charities that look to provide food to those who need it. In addition, the resolution “encourages the City Manager to cease enforcing structure-based requirements that do not impact life-safety and health at least until December 31, 2020, to avoid losing this valuable network of resources, especially during the upcoming demands that we will see due to Covid-19 related lay-offs.”

Item 88: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to bring for Council consideration an ordinance amending City Code Section 4-9-1(B) to remove Designated Areas where public consumption of alcohol is prohibited.

Monitor’s Take: Currently, the city has a patchwork of areas where public consumption of alcohol is prohibited. The reason for some, like the area around UT, and Dirty Sixth, are practical. The reason for others are prejudiced. This resolution seeks to remove the prejudiced ones.

Item 89: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to develop recommendations and take action to address the current and imminent child care challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Monitor’s Take: The city is looking for ways to mitigate the looming child care crisis. This resolution essentially does just that – it looks for ways to help and asks for a list of “actionable recommendations” from staff by Aug. 13.

Item 90: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to enhance funding for displacement mitigation and provide options for implementing and funding active transportation.

Monitor’s Take: We’ve actually spilled a lot of digital ink about this proposal to fund bike paths, sidewalks and whatnot. The resolution here doesn’t explicitly decide whether the proposal should be a separate bond or part of Project Connect. Instead, the resolution asks the city manager to lay out both funding options, and Council will decide what will be on the November ballot later.

Item 91: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to take certain actions related to renaming city assets that are in memoriam of white supremacy or confederate history.

Monitor’s Take: Since about 2018, the city has been looking in earnest at the monumental task of renaming city assets that honor Confederate history and bolster white supremacy. The city’s Equity Office released a memo detailing all of the things that would qualify for renaming, which includes “Austin.” Though there seemed to be no political will at the time to enact a complete renaming, that might have changed in the past two years. This resolution digs in deeper and asks for a more concerted effort than we’ve previously seen. The entire resolution can be found here.

Item 98: Approve a resolution authorizing the filing of eminent domain proceedings for the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Project for the fee simple acquisition of two tracts of land being approximately 11.390 acres (496,148 square feet).

Monitor’s Take: Surprise! It’s more parks. This item is a bit more complicated than the parks farther up the agenda, as we reported today: $4.5 million for about 11 acres will connect the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt trail, but this is initiating eminent domain proceedings because the city has thus far been unable to purchase property at 6315 Spicewood Springs Road, because the owner does not agree with the price the city can pay, and also he does not want to sell. Dramatic!

Item 113: Approve a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, directing the City Manager to address racism as a public health crisis, and asking State of Texas leaders to take similar actions.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which comes from Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, asks the city to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to address it as such. Specifically, the resolution not only asks the city to improve public health in communities of color, but to dismantle racist systems that harm the health of those community members.

Item 114: Approve a resolution urging the federal government to pass the HEROES Act, or similar federal COVID-19 relief legislation, that includes additional support for communities, workers, small businesses, and local governments.

Monitor’s Take: Essentially, this resolution officially signals support for passage of the federal Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (or similar legislation). If passed, the HEROES Act would provide financial assistance to communities, workers, small businesses and local governments that are in crisis due to the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Item 115: Approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20200507-056 to extend the applicability period and the expiration date applicable to Ordinance No. 20200326-090, which relates to requiring notices of proposed eviction.

Monitor’s Take: Both the mayor and county judge have extended a moratorium on initiating evictions until Sept. 30. This ordinance mirrors that extension and changes the expiration date of the existing ordinance to Sept. 30.

Item 116: Approve a resolution asking the State of Texas to address the urgent needs of the state’s critical child-care infrastructure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monitor’s Take: In the third attempt on this agenda to address the child care crisis caused by the pandemic, this resolution from Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza’s office asks for clear guidance and help from the state. As per the resolution, it will be delivered to the governor, lieutenant governor, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, the chair and commissioners of the Texas Workforce Commission, the chair and commissioners of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and Austin’s state legislative delegation if passed.

Item 117: Approve a resolution affirming the new vision for the St. John Property, supporting the City Manager initiating a Request for Proposals process and supporting the financial tools that may be necessary to reposition the property, and initiating rezoning and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) amendments for the properties located at 7211 North IH-35 and 7309 North IH-35 to commercial services mixed use-vertical mixed use building-neighborhood plan (CS-MU-V-NP) combining district.

Monitor’s Take: Council Member Greg Casar has been working on the redevelopment of a former Home Depot site for years. At last, the city is moving forward with a vision for the property, which we outlined earlier this month.

Thursday

Item 12: Conduct a public hearing and consider the proposed rate and fee changes for Austin Resource Recovery as part of the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed Budget.

Item 13: Conduct a public hearing on the proposed water and wastewater rate changes for Austin Water as part of the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed Budget.

Item 72: Conduct a public hearing on proposed rate and fee changes for Austin Energy as part of the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed Budget.

Monitor’s Take: Along with a new budget come new utility fees. For those who are interested, the new trash collection fees, which are proposed to be raised, are here. The new water fees, which are proposed to be raised, are here. And the new Austin Energy rates, which are complicated and many, are here.

Item 17: Conduct a community input session to receive public comment on the City of Austin Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed Budget.

Item 70: Approve a resolution adopting a maximum proposed property (ad valorem) tax rate that will include an increase of 3.5% for the operations and maintenance of the City, and an increase over that rate for Project Connect that the City Council will consider for Fiscal Year 2020-2021; and setting the date that the Council will hold the hearing and adopt the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 property (ad valorem) tax rate (Suggested date and time: August 12, 2020 at 10:00 a.m., Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin TX and via electronic means as authorized by Governor Greg Abbott for participation in Open Meetings).

Item 71: Authorize the City Manager to provide public notice of the date, time, and location of the public hearing on the City of Austin Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed Budget. (Suggested date and time: August 12, 2020 at 10:00 a.m., Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin TX, with public participation also being authorized via electronic means in accordance with Governor Greg Abbott’s emergency orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Texas Open Meetings Act).

Monitor’s Take: As was certainly the case last week, this week we are expecting another long public hearing on the budget. Our understanding is that Council will once again be taking testimony, but is unlikely to get involved in any discussion. That will be saved for a full-day work session on Aug. 4, with an expectation that Council will decide on and pass the budget on Aug. 12. Item 71 actually establishes that date to pass the budget, and in addition, clarifies whether or not the meeting can be held online. Though most meetings are exempted from normal open meetings regulations due to the pandemic and emergency declaration, this extra authorization makes it clear that applies to the budget hearing as well.

Item 19: Conduct a public hearing and consider a request for a waiver from the 300 foot minimum separation distance between a business selling alcoholic beverages and a school, as required by City Code Section 4-9-4(A), from Two Hands, located at 1011 S. Congress Ave., Building 2, Unit 170, a property that is within 300 feet of the Texas School for the Deaf, a public school at 1102 S. Congress Ave.

Monitor’s Take: Properties that are within 300 feet of schools must obtain a special waiver from the city in order to serve alcohol. Typically, AISD opposes all of these waivers, and the Texas School of the Deaf doesn’t take a position. In the past, this has meant Council has not allowed waivers near AISD schools, but has near the school for the deaf. That seems to be the case for this restaurant as well, so we’d guess Council will go along with staff’s recommendation and approve the waiver.

Item 28: C14-2020-0038 – 508 Kemp Street – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 508 Kemp Street (Country Club East Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from family residence – neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to townhouse and condominium residence – neighborhood plan (SF-6-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported, there are a slew of redevelopment projects slated for the Montopolis neighborhood. This one, which proposes to build 25-30 units on a lot currently zoned for single-family use, is the first to come before Council. As promised by neighborhood leaders, it’s doing so with a valid petition. That means it will need nine, not six, Council supporters to be approved.

Item 30: C814-2018-0121 – 218 S. Lamar -Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 218 South Lamar Boulevard ( Lady Bird Lake Watershed) Applicant Request: To rezone from general commercial services-vertical mixed use building (CS-V) combining district zoning to planned unit development (PUD) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Here’s another contentious zoning case for an already busy day. The so-called Schlotzsky’s PUD does not have a valid petition against it, but it does have some loud opponents from the Zilker neighborhood. As we reported when it was at the Planning Commission, those opponents argue that a 96-foot-tall building goes against the intention of the Waterfront Overlay. Of course, the project’s supporters argue that the project is perfectly reasonable for the area of South Lamar just south of the river.

Item 31: NPA-2019-0015.02 – 3500 Pecan Springs Residential – Conduct a public hearing and approve second and third readings amending Ordinance No.021107-Z-11, the East MLK Combined 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 3500 Pecan Springs Rd., (Fort Branch Watershed) from Single Family to Higher Density Single Family land use.

Item 32: C14-2019-0164 – Pecan Springs Residential -Conduct a public hearing and approve second and third readings of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 3500 Pecan Springs Road (Fort Branch Creek Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to townhouse and condominium residence-neighborhood plan (SF-6-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: And because this is just that kind of week, Council is set to hear another case that has a valid petition against it from neighbors who argue the proposed development is too dense and too big for the area, and not in line with the neighborhood’s Future Land Use Map.

Item 69: C14-2019-0129 – 10801 Wayne Riddell Loop – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by zoning property locally known as 10801 Wayne Riddell Loop (Slaughter Creek Watershed; Onion Creek Watershed). Applicant’s Request: To zone from interim-rural residence (I-RR) district zoning to multifamily residence-moderate-high density-conditional overlay (MF-4-CO) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: And finally, a case that had several dozen speakers at the Zoning and Platting Commission, that proposes to build up to 750 apartments on what is currently a rural tract of land. Primary among the neighbors’ concerns are drainage and density, and we expect that residents will show up in force to state their case against this rezoning.

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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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