Public Notice: What Goes Around ...
Last Week's News, Again
So, putting SXSW aside, two of the juiciest news tidbits in last week's paper are back again, with a fresh coat of paint, but a still a ... sniff sniff ... faint odor about them. To recap, in case you missed last week's episode, and presented for your consideration without comment:
Uber and Lyft at ABIA
Last Week: The city Aviation Department announces that it has reached an agreement with Lyft to operate legally at the airport for one year, for a concession fee of 10% of their gross, or a minimum of $25,000. Uber declines a similar deal, and appears ready to continue operating illegally.
This Week: The city Aviation Department announces that it has reached an agreement with both Lyft and Uber to operate legally at the airport for 45 days, for a flat fee of $2,500 each. The previous agreement with Lyft is presumably nullified, and as Ben Wear reported in the Statesman Tuesday that city officials "would not say specifically what events or conversations prompted the about-face," we are left to imagine what those might have been.
The Planning and Development Review Department
Last Week: Under considerable pressure from the public and several City Council members, PDRD released a draft copy of the much-anticipated Zucker Report, a consultant's study that is highly critical of the department, and largely confirms the long-standing impression that the department pleases no one. Environmentalists and neighborhood organizations say the system is way too cozy for developers and their lobbyists. Meanwhile, those same developers (and anyone pulling a building permit) say PDRD is slow and inefficient in processing even routine applications. Neither side has faith in the department's ability to interpret and enforce its own building code.
This Week: City Manager Marc Ott announced that – in a move that has been long-planned and has nothing to do with any thoughts regarding whatever may have been said about the Zucker Report – he is splitting the PDRD into two separate departments: "The Planning and Zoning Department will include zoning case management, annexation, historic preservation, CodeNEXT, comprehensive planning and urban design," and be run by current PDRD director Greg Guernsey. "The Development Review Department includes the permit center, plans review and inspections," and will be headed up by Rodney Gonzales, who has, until now, been deputy director of the city's Economic Development Services Office. Because that office's job is to facilitate, and occasionally fast-track, big economic growth drivers (Formula One, the Domain, HelioVolt, Apple), one might ask why he's the guy to put in charge of review and permitting of those sorts of developments, but so far, no one has.
Speaking of SXSW, Capital Metro would like to remind you about its enhanced train and bus services this week:
• MetroRapid Service runs Wed.-Thu. until 12:30am, Fri.-Sat. until 2:30am, and Sun. until 10:30pm.
• MetroRail runs Wed.-Thu. until 12:30am, and Fri.-Sat. until 2:30am. No service on Sunday.
• Night Owls run every 10-35 min. Wed.-Sat. until 4am
• E-Buses run every 15-30 min. Thu.-Sat. until 3:30am
"Your Neighborhood Park: Learning how to partner with city departments and other organizations" is the subject of a town hall meeting hosted by Austin City Council Member Sheri Gallo for her District 10 constituents to meet with representatives from PARD, the Public Works Department, and Alison Alter, chair of the recently successful Ramsey Park Renovation project. Get ideas about renovating, upgrading, or addressing problems with your neighborhood park or open space, from 1-3pm Sat., March 21, at the Austin Board of Realtors, 4800 Spicewood Springs Rd.
It's algae bloom season! That's the time of year when many Austinites "notice an unusual taste and odor in your drinking water," as the Austin Water utility puts it. But while the naturally occurring algae bloom in Lake Austin may "impart a musty or fishy taste to the water," the utility assures us it does not affect the safety of the drinking water. Still, AW has enhanced its treatment process by adding activated carbon into the process to absorb compounds that the algae release, and upping that dosage just this week – in an effort to avoid "any potential taste and odor event."
Art in Public Places, a program of the city's Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department, invites the Montopolis community to meet the artists commissioned to design and fabricate an artwork for the Montopolis Neighborhood Center. See a preview of the proposed artwork, with the artists on hand to listen to comments and answer questions: 1-3pm Tue., March 24, at 1416 Montopolis Dr.
Honk if you love honking. HONK!TX Festival of Community Street Bands will be back next weekend: March 27-29. See full band lineup, locations, and times at www.honktx.org.
Reminder: The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, and the FYs 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program. Info at www.campotexas.org. Meetings on the 2040 Plan continue for the next couple of weeks in each of the six counties CAMPO covers; Travis County meetings are Mon., March 23, at Pflugerville Public Library, 1008 W. Pfluger, and Wed., April 1, at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd. # 325 – both 5:30-7:30pm.
Saturday, March 28, is the deadline to enter the Austin Humane Society's 11th annual AHS Car Raffle, for a chance to win a brand new 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club, donated by Roger Beasley Mazda of Austin. For just $20, you can buy a raffle ticket, and provide a night of safe shelter to an animal in need. Or buy 3 tickets for just $50; all proceeds go to AHS. See more info at www.austinhumanesociety.org.