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TipSheet: City Council, 9.17.20

Thursday, September 17, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

In what we can only imagine is extremely exciting news for TipSheet readers, today’s meeting marks the triumphant return of citizen communication, which will take place at the traditional noon hour for the first time in City Council’s virtual meeting history. In addition, Council will entertain speakers at three separate times today: on the consent agenda at 10 a.m., zoning at 2 p.m. and the AHFC agenda at 3:30 p.m. And yes, three separate pots of speakers does mean this meeting is likely to be a long one. We’ve highlighted a few reasons why that might be the case below, and the entire agenda is also posted online.

Item 12: Approve a resolution initiating code amendments to City Code Title 25 (Land Development) to establish a contractor registration program for building and demolition permitting.

Item 67: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 related to demolition permits, including notification and utility service requirements.

Monitor’s Take: Changes to the city’s demolition policy have been in the works for a long time, with a direct line to these two items tracing back to a 2017 city audit. The fact that it has now morphed into a contractor registration program was a point of concern for Council Member Jimmy Flannigan during Tuesday’s work session, and we’re expecting more scrutiny of these planned changes in the future.

Item 13: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to award, negotiate and execute cultural arts services contracts for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 in an amount not to exceed $3,582,971, and authorizing payment in the amount of $60,000 for Zachary Scott Theatre Center maintenance required under a separate operations agreement.

Item 14: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to award, negotiate, and execute historic preservation fund service contracts for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 in an amount not to exceed $16,079,216 for historic preservation and restoration projects.

Monitor’s Take: Though there isn’t anything particularly controversial within these proposed contracts for cultural arts and historic preservation programs, it is interesting to note how this year’s Hotel Occupancy Tax will be divvied up. A list of historic preservation projects can be found here, and a list of cultural arts projects is here.

Item 17: Approve a resolution adopting the City’s State Legislative Program for the 87th Texas Legislative Session.

Monitor’s Take: That’s right, the Texas State Legislature is coming back for its 87th session soon. As a result, the city is putting together its list of priorities for the session. That list is in the backup (sans pictures) here. In addition, Council is likely to adopt a few tweaks to the agenda.

Item 18: Authorize negotiation and execution of an amendment to the legal services agreement with Hornberger, Fuller & Garza for legal services related to the expansion of the Austin Convention Center in an amount not to exceed $250,000 for a total contract amount not to exceed $310,000.

Item 48: Authorize an amendment to an existing contract with Conventional Wisdom, for continued technical advice on Austin Convention Center operations and expansion initiatives, for an increase in the amount up to $815,000, for a revised total contract amount not to exceed $1,109,000.

Item 51: Authorize negotiation and execution of a multi-term contract with Isabella Rizer, to provide real estate consulting services, for up to three years for a total contract amount not to exceed $200,000.

Item 95: Authorize negotiation and execution of an exclusive negotiating agreement with all necessary parties for acquisition of a real estate interest and improvements located on all or part of Block 16 of the Original City of Austin, Travis County, Texas, according to the plat on file at the General Land Office of the State of Texas, and Block 32 of the Original City of Austin, Travis County, Texas, according to the Plat on file at the General Land Office of the State of Texas, and earnest money in an amount not to exceed $6,300,000.

Monitor’s Take: As we have reported, these items would be another step forward for plans to expand the convention center, after an earlier vote that generally embraced the idea to expand the center and establish a funding framework. As of Tuesday, Council members seemed to be in general agreement about these steps.

Item 21: Ratify a master agreement with multiple grantees to provide emergency outreach for COVID-19 impacted households who are in need of emergency rental assistance through the Relief for Emergency Needs of Tenants program, not to exceed $400,000 for the term of August 17, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Item 25: Authorize negotiation and execution of a one-year contract plus an optional one-year extension with Austin Tenants’ Council to fund and administer the Tenants’ Rights Assistance Program that provides community education and information about tenant protection laws in an amount not to exceed $287,223.

Item 28: Authorize negotiation and execution of a one-year contract with Family Eldercare Inc. to fund and administer the Emergency Rental Assistance- Homeless Assistance Program for households impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $1,000,000.

Monitor’s Take: These items concern the second round of emergency funding for those having trouble paying rent due to the pandemic and resulting economic hardship. Here are more details from last week’s Housing and Planning Committee.

Item 30: Ratify an agreement with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid to provide emergency eviction counseling and prevention services for COVID-19 impacted households in an amount not to exceed $220,000 for the term August 17, 2020 through August 31, 2021.

Monitor’s Take: In addition, the city is working with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to help tenants navigate the complicated eviction landscape that has been created by Covid-19.

Item 31: Approve adoption of the Vision Plan for John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park at Morrison Ranch as developed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol LTD and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Monitor’s Take: If you are interested in the vision plan for this park, you might want to check out Tuesday’s work session, where Council heard a briefing. If you’re interested in a vote, however, you’re going to have to wait until October, as this item will be postponed.

Item 62: Approve a resolution that directs the City Manager to explore and identify ways to support and to increase the survivability of those most vulnerable in Austin’s hardest hit sectors: childcare, music and arts venues, restaurants and bars.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which will allocate funds to a variety of businesses in Austin that are struggling to survive during the pandemic, is supported by Council, but will still likely be one of the biggest items due to speakers and a number of expected amendments (which can be previewed on the City Council Message Board). In addition, it’s an opportunity for Council members to talk about the impact of Covid on local businesses and what the city can do to mitigate some of the damage.

Item 66: The Mayor will recess the City Council meeting to conduct a Board of Directors’ Meeting of the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. Following adjournment of the AHFC Board meeting the City Council will reconvene.

Item AHFC001: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with DMA Development Company, LLC & Big Medium or other qualified respondent to the 900 Gardner RFP to develop approximately 6 acres for affordable housing purposes located at or near 900 Gardner Road.

Item AHFC002: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with MRE Capital & Imagine Art or other qualified respondent to the 1127 Tillery RFP to develop approximately 5.15 acres for affordable housing purposes located at or near 1127 Tillery Street.

Monitor’s Take: Typically, Austin Housing Finance Corporation agendas pass without much fanfare. Not so today! More than 40 people have signed up to speak on these proposed affordable housing projects. Most are against the projects, due to the fact that the contracts have been awarded to larger firms that plan to partner with arts organizations, which opponents view as a gentrifying move that does not represent the desires of the community.

Item 99: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with WorkSource Greater Austin Area Workforce Board, dba Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board, to fund and administer child care services for essential workers for the COVID-19 response in an amount not to exceed $945,170 for a 12-month term beginning October 1, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: In yet another attempt to alleviate the economic damage caused by the pandemic, this item will help fund and provide child care for essential workers.

Item 106: Approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20200729-115 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: Again, this is an ordinance that is supported by Council, but we note it here because of the discussion that took place at this week’s work session, where Council members expressed concern about what will happen when the moratorium on evictions ends and rent comes due. As of yet, there’s no clear answer, but each month brings mounting worries about what could happen.

Item 83: 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) district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: In the one zoning case we are noting this week, here’s the Schlotzsky’s PUD, which faces a bunch of neighborhood opposition, though not enough to form a valid petition against the rezoning. Here’s a story from the Planning Commission for those wanting to get caught up.

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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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