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TipSheet: City Council, 8.27.20

Thursday, August 27, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week, Austin City Council returns to regular meetings after a spate of budget hearings and other special-called meetings due to Covid-19, protests and other 2020 chaos. It’s worth noting that while this week’s agenda is largely normal, the meeting will still be held virtually. That means speakers will be taken up in two chunks. The first group of speakers will be up at 10 a.m., and will address the consent agenda. The second group, which will speak about zoning cases, will be heard at about 2 p.m., or whenever Council gets back from its executive session. As always, we’ve highlighted the agenda items we are most interested in below, and the entire agenda can be found online.

Item 4: Approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20200409-061 to end the fee waiver for extra trash that is unstickered beginning on September 7, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: Earlier this year, Austin Resource Recovery waived fees associated with extra trash pickup as part of an overall effort to encourage Austin residents to stay at home. That fee waiver is now coming to an end, and the backup notes that $60,000 in extra garbage fees were waived from April through August. Reinstating the fee is expected to generate $32,000 in garbage fees in the month of September.

Item 10: Authorize negotiation and execution of a professional services agreement with Design Workshop, Inc. (staff recommendation) or one of the other qualified responders for Request for Qualifications Solicitation No. CLMP295A, to provide master planning services for the Zilker Metropolitan Park Master Plan Reissue in an amount not to exceed $600,000. [Note: This contract will be awarded in compliance with City Code Chapter 2-9B (Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program) by meeting the goals with 15.80% MBE and 15.80% WBE participation.]

Monitor’s Take: First of all, the city is no longer using the term “master” plan – presumably, the vision plan for Zilker Park was initiated prior to that language change, so here we are. At any rate, this contract will pay for a plan to guide restoration, development and programming for the park as well as creating a business plan “through a robust public engagement process.” The backup also notes that approval of this contract will not interrupt current operations but, “If City Council does not approve this item, Zilker Metropolitan Park will not have a guiding document or vision to help direct strategic future investments and the current challenging issues that face Zilker Park will continue to exist and will only be magnified in coming years.”

Item 15: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Downtown Austin Community Court Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) authorizing 6.0 full-time equivalent grant funded positions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Emergency Solutions Grant to serve homeless individuals impacted by Covid-19 at City-operated protective lodges.

Monitor’s Take: This past year, the city has concentrated its efforts to help those experiencing homelessness. Funding six new positions will provide staff for temporary shelters that have been created due to the pandemic, but it looks like the staffers will help people find places to live after the shelters have ceased operation.

Item 16: Approve a resolution adopting the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, doing business as Visit Austin, 2020-2021 Marketing Plan and Proposed Budget of $11,901,976; setting the contract payment as required by Chapter 351 of the Texas Tax Code; and authorizing the City Manager to file approved documents with the City Clerk’s Office as required by the Texas Tax Code.

Monitor’s Take: Tourism is down this year, obviously, and so is the budget for Visit Austin. In fact, this proposed budget is less than half that of years prior which is both noteworthy and expected, given the pandemic and the cancellation of just about everything.

Item 20: Approve a resolution authorizing the acceptance of $1,243,558 in grant funding from the Office of the Governor, Public Safety Office, Criminal Justice Division to assist in covering costs related to Covid-19.

Item 32: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $662,339 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled APD Victim Crisis Intervention Project.

Item 33: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $259,804 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled First Responder Mental Health Program.

Item 34: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $128,019 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department program titled Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Item 35: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $168,670 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled APD Violence Against Women Investigative Project.

Item 36: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $241,800 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled Sexual Assault Evidence Testing Project.

Item 37: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Austin Police Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) to accept and appropriate $241,800 in grant funds from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division for the Sexual Assault Evidence Testing Project.

Item 38: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with Austin-Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center d/b/a Integral Care to provide staff to assist the Austin Police Department with handling 9-1-1 calls for mental health emergencies.

Item 39: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with Travis County for the City to administer the 2019 Justice Assistance Grant Program on behalf of the City and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Item 49: Authorize an amendment to an existing contract with GT Distributors, Inc., to provide public safety vehicle light bars and siren equipment, parts, and accessories, for an increase in the amount of $81,250, for a revised total contract amount not to exceed $406,250.

Item 59: Authorize award of a multi-term contract with Capital Area Occupational Medicine D/B/A St. David’s Occupational Health Services, to provide drug and alcohol testing services, for up to five years for a total contract amount not to exceed $975,000.

Item 65: Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with Remotec Inc., for Power Hawk Assembly remote devices, in an amount not to exceed $71,644.

Item 66: Authorize award of a contract with NTT Enterprises, Inc. D/B/A Tyler Camera Systems, to provide a multifunctional seating platform and rappel attachment for an Austin Police Department helicopter, in an amount not to exceed $88,750.

Item 67: Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with Waters Technologies Corporation, for the purchase of an ultra-performance liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer, in an amount not to exceed $214,582.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Tuesday, the next piece in City Council’s pledge to “reimagine public safety” is a look at how it deals with grants. The main consideration here is whether accepting these grants will undermine the reform work the city professes it wants to do.

Item 24: Authorize negotiation and execution of a master interlocal agreement with The University of Texas at Austin to provide research, consulting, and technical assistance on individual project agreements for up to five years for a total amount not to exceed $7,500,000.

Monitor’s Take: It’s not unusual for the city to team up with UT Austin – in fact, the university is a tried and true resource when the city wants research done on something like gentrification or the future of convention centers. But this agreement is a new idea; essentially, it puts the two bodies in an existing interlocal agreement that can serve as a framework. Within that framework, new studies can be commissioned without having to strike a new deal each time.

Item 81: 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: The last time this case was before Council, they had a lot of questions. Basically, the owner of this new building would like to be able to increase the parking allowed in the floodplain by expanding it to the ground floor in a place that has seen plenty of flooding through the years. We’ll see if anything has changed since the request was put on hold in March.

Item 97: 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: This case, which would rezone a tract in the Montopolis neighborhood, is one of a spate of upzonings that has seen neighborhood opposition. This particular rezoning would allow 25-30 units to be built on the 2.16-acre site, which is quite a change from what is allowed under current single-family zoning.

Item 100: NPA-2020-0014.01 -7135 E. Ben White Blvd. -Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20021010-11, the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan (Southeast), 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 7135 E. Ben White Blvd. SVRD EB, (Carson Creek Watershed) from Industry to Multifamily land use.

Item 101: C14-2020-0042 – 7135 E. Ben White Blvd – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 7135 East Ben White Boulevard Service Road Eastbound (Carson Creek Watershed). Applicant’s Request: To rezone from limited industrial services-neighborhood plan (LI-NP) combining district zoning to multifamily residence-moderate-high density-neighborhood plan (MF-4-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Despite staff objections, the Planning Commission endorsed this rezoning. Planning commissioners determined that the need for more housing outweighed staff concerns that limited industrial zoning is incompatible with residential use and their own concerns that industrially zoned land is become more and more scarce within city limits.

Item 116: 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: Some would argue that a 96-foot-tall building at 218 South Lamar Boulevard is keeping in character with the nearby Zach Scott Theatre and, well, downtown. That was the thinking of the Planning Commission, which approved this proposed Schlotsky’s PUD earlier this year. However, some in the neighborhood disagree and argue that the proposed development does not conform to design or VMU standards for the corridor. We’ll hear more discussion about that today, definitely.

Item 117: NPA-2019-0015.02 – 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 118: 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: We don’t know a ton about this case, but we do know that there is a valid petition against it, which means that in order to get the zoning change, the applicants will have to sway nine members of City Council to vote in its favor. Reading through the backup, it looks like those in the neighborhood who oppose this development are most concerned with its size and the risk posed by flooding.

Item 86: Conduct a public hearing related to an application by MHP City Heights, Ltd., or an affiliated entity, for housing tax credits for a multi-family development that will be financed through the private activity bond program to be known as City Heights, located at or near 4400 Nuckols Crossing Road, Austin, Texas, 78744, within the City, and consider a resolution related to the proposed development, the application, and the allocation of housing tax credits and private activity bonds.

Item 122: NPA-2016-0014.01.SH – Nuckols Crossing Rd – SMART Housing-Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20021010-11, the Southeast 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 4400 Nuckols Crossing Road (Williamson Creek Watershed) from Single Family to Multifamily land use.

Item 123: C14-2017-0010.SH – Nuckols Crossing Road – SMART Housing – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 4400 Nuckols Crossing Road (Williamson Creek Watershed). Applicant’s Request: To rezone from single family residence standard lot-neighborhood plan (SF-2-NP) combining district zoning to multifamily residence moderate-high density-neighborhood plan (MF-4-NP) combining district zoning, as amended.

Monitor’s Take: This development, which will help provide affordable housing for seniors with the help of tax credits, is also facing neighborhood opposition. For background on the case, which has been working its way through City Hall for a couple of years now, here’s our coverage from the Planning Commission.

Item 125: C14-2020-0031.SH E MLK Rezoning – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 5201 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Fort Branch Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to multifamily residence medium density-neighborhood plan (MF-3-NP) combining district zoning, as amended.

Monitor’s Take: Well, this case is kind of a doozy. Naturally, we’ve already written about it. We recommend taking a minute to go back and read that story, but in a nutshell, it looks like most people are in agreement that a rezoning to MF-3 would be okay, and the initial request for MF-6 causes a bunch more trouble.

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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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