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Thursday, November 21, 2019 by Chad Swiatecki
Austin Fast Start, a partnership between the Economic Development Department and Austin Young Chamber, will close its application process on Sunday for consumer packaged goods startups interested in receiving a cash prize and an assortment of business resources. CPG companies based in Austin that are in the early revenue stage and less than two years old are eligible to enter into the pitch competition. Each quarter, Fast Start focuses on a different sector in the city’s startup community, with the intent to assist young entrepreneurs looking to fuel growth for promising companies. The pitch competition will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 9 at the Eastside Tech Hub on East Sixth Street. Four finalists will be selected from eligible entrants, with a five-minute pitch and a question-and-answer session used to determine the winner of $2,500 and more than $4,000 in in-kind services.
Thursday, November 21, 2019 by Tai Moses
The North Lamar International Merchants Association is holding a ribbon-cutting to introduce the community to their new food forest-style community garden. An announcement from the merchants association says, “The North Lamar International District Food Forest will be open to the community to enjoy as a green space and, once the plants are mature enough to produce, anyone is welcome to harvest their fruit, free of charge. The goal of the food forest is to address the critical need for every person, regardless of income, to have access to fresh, healthy, organic food, and to contribute to the beauty of the community.” Of course, food forests don’t grow overnight, and this one was the result of a collaboration with the city’s Economic Development Department and the Community Tree Preservation Board with support from TreeFolks, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Park Rangers, and the Downtown Austin Community Court. Ribbon-cutting happens Saturday, Nov. 23, 1-2:30 p.m., 1310 Kramer Lane.
Thursday, November 21, 2019 by Tai Moses
An incredible variety of bird life inhabits the lakes and meadows of the Hornsby Bend water treatment plant. According to the city, “more species have been found at Hornsby Bend than at any park in Austin.” To celebrate six decades of bountiful birding at the facility, Travis Audubon and Austin Water – with help from Eldorado Cafe, Land Sea & Sky Co. and the Sierra Club – are hosting a day of festivities on Saturday, Nov. 23, that includes a daylong bird survey, guided birding walks, information tables and activities in the Austin Water Center for Environmental Research. The evening program starts at 4 p.m. and includes dinner and a photography presentation by Greg Lasley. See the full schedule of events and the location.
Most people have heard of the gender pay gap – data from the U.S. Census Bureau has found that women make about 82 cents on the dollar compared to men. But Latinas experience an even more drastic pay gap, earning only 54 cents on the dollar compared to men – yet Latinas are often the sole providers for their families. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and other Austin leaders are trying to draw attention to this inequity by holding Latina Equal Pay Day today, Nov. 20. Said Garza in a press release, “The Latina pay gap is not an abstract concept. Families in Southeast Austin are living it every single day.” She continued, “When you combine lower incomes with a stagnant minimum wage, preemption on paid sick leave, and numerous other policy issues, you understand how these compound the impact on families and on the Latino community.” Garza and others invite community members to wear black clothing with red accessories today and to post pictures on social media with the hashtags #LatinaEqualPayDayATX and #BlackOutPayInequality.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 by Jo Clifton
On Friday, Hays County, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, is scheduled to purchase 530 acres of the former Boy Scout ranch known as El Rancho Cima. The $13 million acquisition will be partially funded through use of Hays County bond money designated to protect the land and habitat of an area 18 miles west of San Marcos along the Devil’s Backbone. Laura Huffman, regional director of the Nature Conservancy, said in a news release, “In partnering with Hays County to protect this property, we have a rare opportunity to simultaneously safeguard this iconic piece of our state’s history and culture while meeting conservation goals and increasing the possibility of public access to nature in the fast-changing Texas Hill Country.” Huffman said much of the credit for the agreement goes to Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell, who led the effort on the Commissioners Court. Huffman concluded, “Collaborative land conservation deals like this are the only way to protect the nature we have left in a way that benefits both people and the environment.” Shell said, “Hays County appreciates once again collaborating with the Nature Conservancy in Texas to help safeguard our natural lands, which are quickly disappearing in our fast-growing county.” He noted that a previous collaboration with the conservancy resulted in the creation of Jacob’s Well Natural Area.
The Parks and Recreation Department’s Brush Square Master Plan has been recognized by the American Planning Association Texas Chapter with a Planning Achievement Award in Urban Design. According to a city press release, “The master plan envisions Brush Square as a unique park for downtown Austin that is distinct yet complementary to other downtown squares and public spaces. Brush Square is one of three remaining historic public squares from the 1839 Waller Plan for the City of Austin and is located in the southeast area of downtown. It is home to the Susanna Dickinson Museum, O. Henry Museum, the Austin Fire Museum, and historic Central Fire Station #1.” PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley thanked the APA for “recognizing the sense of place that the Brush Square Master Plan will create. This important urban square provides space for residents and visitors to learn about Austin’s unique culture and enjoy healthy recreation opportunities.” The award was presented at the APA’s Annual Planning Conference on Friday, Nov. 8, in Waco.
Many property owners living around Lake LBJ and Inks Lake are still recovering from the October 2018 floods. In order to help these residents repair docks and other structures that were damaged, the Lower Colorado River Authority has scheduled drawdowns of lower Lake LBJ and Inks Lake from Jan. 2-Feb. 28, 2020. According to a press release from LCRA, “Lake LBJ will be lowered four feet, and Inks Lake will be lowered eight feet.” John Hofmann, an LCRA executive vice president, said, “LCRA normally doesn’t lower the same lake two years in a row, but we are making an exception after hearing from local officials and residents about needed repairs and maintenance resulting from the historic flooding last year.” Lowering water levels makes it easier to “remove debris, dredge, and repair and maintain docks, retaining walls and other shoreline property. Lowering the lakes during cold winter months also helps curb the growth of nuisance aquatic vegetation.” Find more information on the drawdowns here.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 by Austin Monitor
Think you know as much about Austin as your elected officials do? Now’s your chance to prove it. Join Glasshouse Policy, the Austin Monitor and KUT on Wednesday, Nov. 20, for a chance to test your knowledge of all things Austin against a group of City Council members. In quick trivia rounds hosted by KUT’s Jimmy Maas, you can go head-to-head with Council members. Doors open at 5:30, so be sure to get there on time to sign up your group for a chance to compete in “Family Feud”-style trivia rounds. Note that each group will only be allowed a max of five people. You do not need to have a trivia group to sign up, but having a group may increase your chances of being selected. If trivia isn’t your thing, that’s OK; we will begin screening the Democratic debate starting at 7 p.m. and play a few rounds of debate bingo. For more information and to get your tickets, visit our event page.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 by Chad Swiatecki
Some possible food for thought during the ongoing evolution of the city’s Land Development Code comes via a new study from RentCafe that finds growing demand for apartment housing and rising land values are causing developers to think vertically. The study of three decades’ worth of apartment construction in major metro areas found that mid- and high-rise apartment buildings made up more than one-third of all apartment building projects from 2010-2018. That total – with high-rises representing 7 percent of all projects and mid-rise buildings accounting for 29 percent – reflects a drastic shift from 1990 through 1999 when every apartment project in the area was a low-rise, one of only five areas in the study with no tall apartment buildings constructed. The trend toward taller residential buildings is expected to continue as higher land values force developers to create more units per square foot wherever allowed by zoning regulations. Austin’s numbers roughly mirror the national totals for the markets included in the study, which showed low-rise buildings make up 63 percent of all new apartment projects, and mid- and high-rise buildings coming in at 31 and 7 percent, respectively.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 by Tai Moses
The Splash! Exhibit at the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center is due for a face-lift and the parks department wants the community’s input. PARD invites community members to come a public meeting to share their ideas for revitalizing the education center, which is part of the Barton Springs Bathhouse. Tens of thousands of locals and out-of-towners alike have been coming to the education center every year since 2000 to learn about the habits and habitat of the endangered Austin blind salamander and the Barton Springs salamander. The first community engagement meeting will be held on Dec. 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Barton Springs Bathhouse Rotunda, 2201 William Barton Drive.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 by Tai Moses
The Dove Springs Recreation Center now has a new mini-pitch soccer/futsal court, thanks to the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, local nonprofit Soccer Assist, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and community donations. The state-of-the-art soccer play space – formerly an unused tennis court – is the “first U.S. Soccer Foundation mini-pitch collaboration in central Austin and part of 1,000 safe places to play mini-pitches that the U.S. Soccer Foundation is installing with partners across the country by 2026,” according to a city press release. The project came out of the parks department’s Community Activated Park Projects program, which enables community members to initiate improvements on public parkland.
Monday, November 18, 2019 by Elizabeth Pagano
Council is once again scheduled to discuss a revision of the Land Development Code today. According a post by Mayor Steve Adler on the City Council Message Board, Council will aim to finish its discussion by 1 p.m. in order to give those scheduled to attend a Capital Metro board meeting enough time to scramble across town to make the meeting. According to that same post, Council will hear a staff presentation and ask questions about that presentation for the first hour, then take up “Residential House-Scale Zones (Text and Map); Transition Zones (R4-RM1; Text and Map); Residential Multi-Unit, Mixed Use, Main Street, and other Zones (Text and Map); Affordable Housing (Density Bonuses, etc.); Non-Zoning (Drainage, Water Quality, Transportation, Tree Protection, Parkland, Signs, etc.); and Process (Site Plans, Subdivision, Variances, etc.).” The last 15 minutes are earmarked for the scope and process for first-reading deliberations, scheduled for Dec. 9.